Friday, July 31, 2015

North Caucasus about to Explode Again, Kabardino-Balkaria Official Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 31 – The recent decline in the activity of the Islamist underground in the North Caucasus has led some in Moscow and the region to conclude that this time, the fall-off in violence is “irreversible,” Valery Khatazhukov says. But that is “to a large extent incorrect” and makes it more difficult to deal with what is coming.

            “Every two or three years, the leaders of the underground as a result of some kind of ‘happy’ conjunction of circumstances are destroyed, and the situation quiets down for a certain time,” a member of KBR’s Social Chamber told Renata Shabanova of “Kavkazskaya politika” (

            “But in fact, all those objective causes – social, economic and political – which lead representatives of the young to share the ideology of armed jihad are not being addressed. They continue to exist, and therefore,” Khatazhukov says, “the process will continue” given that the number of young people ready to accept that ideology hasn’t been reduced.

            As evidence that a new wave of violence almost certainly is coming, he points to a recent Internet poll in his Kabardino-Balkar Republic which found that 11 percent of 600 young people who took part in it said they were attracted by jihadist ideas and were ready to join the underground. That is a large share, he continued.

            Official claims notwithstanding, however, “no real prophylactic work” among young people is being done. A few media articles have appeared, but “we do not see any serious analytic publications or see any serious statements by authoritative people” or any serious investigations, at least available to the public, of the situation on the ground.

            Any government, including that of the Russian Federation and KBR, has the right to use force if there is a need for it and if “everything is done according to law.”  But “force which is used illegally, force which contradicts the Constitution and so on absolutely does not work” to change values and reduce the threat.

            “We know,” Khatazhukov says, “that there are cases when criminal cases are falsified, when arm, drugs and so on are planted. The people who organize this consider that they are engaged in a kind of prophylactic work.”  However, what they are doing has just the opposite effect.

            Such “illegal methods often increase the flow of new forces into the underground, some of which come from groups which never thought before about taking up arms but have entered on this path in order to take revenge for their friends, relatives, and so on.”

                The KBR has announced plans to create a new minister for the prevention of extremism among young people. Khatazhukov says he isn’t sure how this will work and fears that everything could remain on paper with no real consequences.  One thing he is certain of, however, is that the minister must “not in any case” be one of the siloviki.

            Many people in Moscow think that whatever the problems are in the North Caucasus, they are self-contained to that region and will not affect the country as a whole. But Khatazhukov argues that they could not be more wrong, noting that what begins in his region doesn’t stay there.

            The idea of “a good little war” originated in the Russian Federation in Chechnya; now, it has spread to Ukraine. And the suppression of the media, kidnappings and dissappearances which first appeared in the North Caucasus unfortunately, he points out, have spread across Russia as a whole.

            There is only one way to overcome this situation, he says in conclusion. The population and the government need to recognize that none of the problems in the North Caucasus and by implication elsewhere in Russia as a whole “can be resolved without the restoration of effective control over the organs of power at all levels.”

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