Friday, April 12, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Stavropol Kray Becoming ‘Russia’s Kosovo,’ Moscow Paper Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 12 – Despite claims by Russian officials that the situation in Stavropol is stable or even improving, a “Moskovsky Komsomolets” journalist says, conversations with ethnic Russians there show that the kray is rapidly becoming Russia’s “Kosovo” as a result of massive in-migration of people from the republics of the North Caucasus.

            Igor Karmazin said in an article published yesterday that “inter-ethnic peace” exists “only on paper” and that “the region has become a new zone of instability” in the southern rim of the Russian Federation (

            Having just visited the region, the journalist continued, he concludes that Stavropol is “the most ordinary region of the country but it borders on the most unusual, Daghestan, Chechnya, and Ingushetia, where everything is anomalous – birthrates, crime, and support from Moscow.”

            Because the indigenous Russian population is suffering as a result, Karmazin noted, people from there are “voting with their feet” and fleeing the region. And because of that and the influx of non-Russians, “it is possible to say that five to ten years from now, the region will have an entirely different face.”

            What is especially striking to any visitor, the journalist recounted is “the paradox” in which longtime residents can barely make ends meet with those “coming from the non-Russian republics are flourishing,” the result of the fact that the latter often don’t pay taxes and have corrupt relations with the local authorities.

            Yevgeny Boyarsky, a local activist of the Novaya Sila movement, told the Moscow journalist that he sees direct parallels between what happened in his native Chechnya 25 years ago and what is happening in Stavropol kray now: non-Russians are taking over and Russians are fleeing.”

            Exacerbating this situation, Karmazin continued, is the far greater support that Moscow is giving to non-Russian areas and the indifference of officials local and federal to the sad state of the Russian community, including open denials that attacks against it are not ethnically motivated.

            Yury Yefimov, a demographer at the Stavropol State Agricultural University, told the “Moskovsky komsomolets” journalist that “Stavropol really can become a Russian Kosovo.”  The Russian population is falling because of low birthrates and departures, while the non-Russian is growing because of higher fertility rates and  arrivals.

            Twenty years ago, there was “a flood” of ethnic Russians into Stavropol from the North Caucasus republics, Yefimov said, but that supply “has exhausted itself,” and many of those who arrived earlier have now left, creating a dangerous situation in the eastern regions of the kray where the non-Russians are approaching or even exceeding 50 percent of the population.

            According to Yefimov, however, the main conflict in Stavropol is neither ethnic, between Russians and non-Russians, or religious, between Christians and Muslims. Many indigenous non-Russians such as the Nogays and Turkmens are suffering as well. Instead, the clash is between the indigenous population and the new arrivals.

            Local officials and especially Cossack leaders are very much aware of this and blame the Russian state for allowing this to happen.  Aleksandr Perepelitsyn, the local ataman, said that “the main problem consists in the fact that [his] village] has been forgotten by the state.” There is no work and no market for agricultural products. 

            He noted that his daughter is a pupil in the third grade. There are 24 students in her class. Right now, it is divided 50-50 between the children of longtime residents of the kray and children of the new arrivals from the North Caucasus republics.  Unfortunately, things are “changing” and not “for the better for the local side.”

            But the Cossack ataman said he would hold on at least for now because “like the captain of a ship, I will be the last to leave.”

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