Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Yevkurov Creates Systems to Help Ingush Adapt to Russian Army and Russian Cities

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 3 – Ingushetia President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov is quietly setting up committees of soldiers’ fathers to help Ingush draftees cope with the rigors of the Russian military and a network of republic representations to smooth relations between Ingushetianss working in Russian cities and regions.

            In a 4500-word interview posted online yesterday and more likely to attract attention for his remarks about possible links between his officials and militant groups, Yevkurov elaborates about these two new sets of arrangements that, if successful, are likely to be copied by other North Caucaus leaders (

            Like his counterparts, the Ingushetia president has been pushing hard for the Russian army to re-open its ranks to more men from his republic despite opposition of Russian commanders because of the reputation that North Caucasians currently have for causing problems there.

             Yevkurov said that he had met with the chief of the Russian General Staff in order to press his case in this regard and had agreed to create “committees of soldiers’ fathers” in all garrisons where Ingush draftees would serve to assist commanders of Ingush troops by ensuring that the latter live within the rules.

            Such committees, he suggested, would go a long way to reassure Russian officers about Ingush soldiers and, by smoothing relations, allow the army to help prepare them to return to civilian life with the skills necessary to become policemen or workers in variouis construction trades.

            The role of the army in preparing policemen is especially critical for the republic, Yevkurov said. In Soviet times, militiamen put on their civilian uniforms only after learning the meaning of discipline in the military, but now “many come into the police without understanding in general what service is and what epilettes mean.”

            The republic president added that he also was supporting efforts by Ingush to become officers in the military. And he  said that “if even 50 percent of those young men who have initially expressed a desire” to go ito the service “do so” and achieve their goals,”this will be a big plus for the republic and we will thereby fulfill  a complex of tasks.”

            Yevkurov said the bad reputation that Ingush and other North Caucasians have in the Russian military is almost entirely undeserved.  The few individuals who have created problems have become the basis for an image in which all of them “do not serve” but only fight with other soldiers, one that is “a catastrophe for the entire Caucasus.”

            When he served in the Soviet army, Yevkurov continued, there were indeed problems with discipline, but 90 percent of these problems were caused by soldiers from other regions of the country – and that even those were the result of the brutality of officers toward those in the ranks.

            He said his republic is doing everything it can to make sure that Ingush draftees are not a source of any problems, first by screening potential draftees itself even before the military commissions do in order to weed out those who should not serveand then helping commanders by creating committees of soldiers’ fathers to travel to bases where Ingush men are serving.

            These committees, Yevkurov suggested, represent the military counterpart to an arrangement he has promoted on the civilian side.  Like other non-Russian republics, Ingushetia has a permanent representation office, a kind of embassy in Moscow to represent its interests, but it now performs a broader task as well.

            Officials at the representation not only travel to various regions of the Russian Federation where Ingush are working to help smooth relations between the North Caucasians and local governments, businesses, and populations but are setting up unofficial counterparts of the Moscow representation to ensure that such cooperation continues.

            Yevkurov said these bodies offer consular-type services to the Ingush when there are difficulties – difficulties he suggested were far smaller than the media often suggests – and added that he is doing what he can to reward those in the diasporas who help with this task for their “colossal assistance.”

            This system has already proven its worth in Russian regions, the Ingush president said, and he is extending it to other places where people from his republic are working, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and in certain unnamed “European states, where our citizens [now] live and work.

            These twin institutional innovations are likely to prove more effective than the much-ballyhooed Chechen code of conduct that Ramzan Kadyrov has come up with, but they are likely to have another consequence as well, one that may cause some in the Russian capital to worry about the future.

            In Soviet times, the permanent representations of the union republics served and were known to serve as their de facto embassies to Moscow. They were often featured in non-Russian fiction, visited by republic leaders – most famously by Heydar Aliyev after the Black January events in Baku in 1990 – and became the foundations for real embassies in 1992.

            While Yevkurov is entirely sincere that his new set of arrangements is intended to ensure the integration of Ingush in the Russian army and Russian life more generally, other Ingush and other North Caucasians may view such institutions as something that can promote an entirely different and more independent future for themselves.

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