Friday, June 20, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Officials in North Caucasus Already Outnumber Local Ones There Two to One, Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – Even before Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev this week signed off on the creation of a ministry for North Caucasus affairs, the number of officials in federal bureaucracies in that region exceeded the number of republic-level official by “almost twice,” according to Enver Kisriyev, a leading specialist on the region.

            Kisriyev, a senior scholar at the Academy of Sciences’ Center for Regional and Civilizational Research, said that the time had come “to leave the North Caucasus in peace, to remove the army of bureaucrats, [and] to allow the North Caucasus to choose by a democratic path its own leaders from the village, district and city up to the level of republics” (

            He argued that local people know local conditions better than any outsider and that the people they choose will be able to enforce the laws. But with the creation of the new ministry and with Putin’s elimination of elections at ever more levels, the region and Russia as a whole are moving in just the opposite direction (

            Although Kisriyev does not address the broader consequences of this trend, it has at least three major consequences, all of which will make it more not less difficult for the central authorities to pacify the re-integrate this restive region.

            First, because so many Moscow bureaucracies are involved, it is inevitable that their respective representatives on the scene will at a minimum compete with one another, delivering mixed messages to the population and working intentionally or not at cross-purposes, all of which will lead to a further deterioration of government effectiveness there.

            Second, because Moscow has such a heavy official presence, local officials are likely to feel less responsible rather than more.  They can always deflect responsibility onto the Russian officials at least in the eyes of the local populations, and they may even be interested in supporting or at least not opposing challenges to Russian as opposed to their own rule.        

            And third, by signaling that it has little confidence in local officials and by extension the non-Russian peoples there, the current Russian government is creating a potential nightmare for itself. On the one hand, it will be ever less able to control the situation by drawing on the expertise of officials who know the local language and culture.

            On the other – and far more seriously – it is changing the pattern of inter-ethnic relations in ways that are inimical to continued Russian control. In the past, the central authorities following Stalin generally arranged things so that the anger of non-Russians was directed at other non-Russians rather than at Russians in the first instance.

            But now, with such a large and growing Russian apparatus in the region, that will inevitably change and the non-Russians may becoming increasingly inclined to view the country in the borders of which they live as an empire and the Russians not as fellow sufferers but as the source of their problems.

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