Monday, April 29, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Draft Quota Changes Lead North Caucasians to Ask: ‘Do We Still Live in One Country?’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 29 – Reductions in the number of men drafted from the North Caucasus supposedly to combat dedovshchina in the ranks and then Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu’s promise to restore at least part of the draft quota for that region have sparked questions in that region which have serious political consequenes.

            In an article on the portal on Friday, Milrad Fatullayev, the editor of the Daghestani weekly, “Nastoyashchyeye vremya” and a contributor to Moscow’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” argues that perhaps the most serious is “do we live in a single country?” -- or at least a common legal space?  (

                With regard to the reduction and then elimination of draft quotas for the North Caucasus repubics, Fatullayev says, there is an obvious question: “On what basis” was that decision taken? What were its legal foundations?  The answer of course, that there weren’t any, and no one has explained why this happened.

            If draftees violate military rules, they must be disciplined, and if the military fails to do that or decides that the only way it can cope with such violations is not to draft people from one or another region, Fatullayev continues, then it is clear that “the state system cannot cope with draftees who violate the law.” Moreover, such a step is “a crude violation of the Constitution and of human rights.”

            Such questions are especially urgent now that Moscow has decided to restore all quotas in whole or in part.  That too requires an explanation, the editor continues, and it is obvious that in this case too “the law isn’t working.”  And involving the republics in supervising draftees from them is not only a diversion but itself a violation of the constitution and laws.

            Daghestanis “want to serve,” Fatullayev says. If one of them doesn’t or if he will not live according to the military rules, then he should be discharged from the military and sent home.  Only “those who are required or those who want to serve” should be in the military. “I don’t see problems here,” the editor argues.

            Those who don’t want to serve and are sent home certainly know that they won’t get a position in the police or the force structures or possibly elsewhere in the bureaucracy, but that is their choice.

            Why then did the Russian military behave in this way?  “It is possible,” Fatullayev writes, “that the former army leadership calculated that if there were to be a large number of Caucasians in the Russian army this would be a threat to Russian statehood” because those who served could use the skills they obtained against the state.

                But imposing “such limitations on the basis of ethnicity is not only a crudely mistaken but also a criminal decision of the higher leadership of the Army,” Fatullayev argues, but it represents a clear “path to the segregation of the country along ethnic, territorial, religious and other lines.”

             “A situation when the laws of the Russian Federation are applied selectively to its territories, nationalities or confessional groups is one road that leads the country to collapse” because it is “yet another line of division.” And what makes the whole situation still worse is that limitations applied to North Caucasians were not applied to the Muslims of the Middle Volga.

            The General Staff took this decision on its own, without legal basis, and tried to hide it, first cutting back quotas – seven times, according to Fatullayev’s information --  under the guise of a reduction in overall force levels and then finally forced to provide some kind of explanation when the military could not hide what it was doing any longer.

            This whole sad story – the reduction of quotas, the return of quotas, and the establishment of special oversight responsibilities to North Caucasus governments is not only illegal but “speaks about the weakness of the state, about the weakness of the administration, and about laws which do not work.”

            Residents of the North Caucasus are now asking themselves questions like: “Do we live in a single country?” “Do the laws apply to all alike independently of ethnicity or territory?” “Can we trust such a state?” and “Does the state trust us or not?” Clear and precise answers to these questions are absolutely “necessary.”

            “If the state does not trust an entire region,” he says, “that means that the residents of this region have a logical basis for having doubts about their trust in this state,” which appears to view them as aliens or worse, good only to be “driven into national, political or some other reservations.”

                The fact that these questions are being asked represents a serious political problem, he argues; the fact that they have not yet been answered represents a potentially even more serious one.

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