Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Drafts More Dagestanis But Fewer than Makahchkala Wants It To

Paul Goble

Staunton, November 27 – The Russian military authorities say they will draft 1335 Daghestanis during the fall campaign, twice as many as during the spring cycle and seven times as many during the fall of 2012 but far fewer than Makhachkala had sought and far fewer than the number of Daghestanis in the prime draft-age cohort would require.

                According the officials at the military commissariat in that North Caucasus republic, the first group of new draftees will depart for the Far East on November 14. A week later, a second group of 149 will follow them. Intriguingly, 60 percent of the draftees from Daghestan have higher educations ( and

            Beginning several years ago, the Russian military reportedly decided not to draft young men from the North Caucasus because of what commanders perceived was the likelihood that they would clash with Slavic soldiers. Moscow denied that this was official policy, but since 2011, it has drafted very few Daghestanis: it took only 179 last fall.

            (According to media reports, Daghestani draftees have been involved in such clashes at least five times in recent years: in the Kuriles in August 2006, in the Altay in 2009, in Kaliningrad in 2009, in Saratov in 2011, and in Ekaterinburg in 2012.)

            Faced with a large number of draft-age males many of whom are unemployed, the Daghestani government had pressed to increase the total to as many as 5,000 a year lest the men join the ranks of anti-regime militants and a figure that would still mean Moscow was drafting a smaller share of Dagestanis than of ethnic Russians in predominantly Russian areas.

            In order to secure Moscow’s agreement to take more Daghestanis into the ranks, Makhachkala had to agree this year to provide two or three individuals to guarantee the good behavior of the draftees.  Before anyone could perform that service, he or she had to undergo a background check to make sure there was no connection to illegal band formations.

            As angry as many officials and young men in Daghestan have been about the Russian military’s unwillingness to draft in that North Caucasus republic – military service is the only job available for many and is the basis for getting a position in the local government  -- the consequences of not drafting North Caucasians are far greater both there and elsewhere.

            By not drafting young men from the North Caucasus, Moscow was effectively saying that it did not view the people of that region as full citizens of the Russian Federation, a position that helped the militants recruit many to their ranks. And it was telling Russians they would have to serve at disproportionately higher rates to compensate, something many of them did not like.

            Moscow has decided that these are more serious problems than the likelihood that growing xenophobia about ethnic Russians in the ranks will guarantee more conflicts among the soldierly. But the general staff is proceeding very carefully and still taking a smaller share of the draft pool there and then only the most educated.

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