Monday, July 24, 2017

Daghestan Now Outstrips Capitals on Number and Intensity of Protest Activity

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 23 – Daghestan, the most ethnically diverse and most Muslim republic within the borders of the Russian Federation, now is the location of more protests and demonstrations than anywhere else in that country, including the two capitals which in the past have been the leaders, according to a new study by the Federal Press portal.

            And precisely because far more of the conflicts in Daghestan reflect ethnic and religious conflicts, they are certain to be more intense and longer-lasting than the typically short-term demonstrations elsewhere, posing yet another problem for Moscow which has not yet figured out how to end or even manage such conflicts.

            The Federal Press portal, which routinely produces maps of protest in various parts of the Russian Federation, supported by the Institute for Strategic Communications and Social Projects, ranks the various federal subjects in terms of protest activity both by counting the number of demonstrations and asking a panel of 150 experts to evaluate them (

            According to the portal, “the number of conflicts is gradually increasing in the regions of Russia. In April, there were 285 such conflicts identified; in May, 302, and in June, 394, although the number of sizeable protests dipped in May to 126 from 157 the month before only to increase again to 222 last month.

            In the second quarter of 2017, the panel said, the most conflict-ridden federal subject was the Republic of Daghestan, a reflection of the deteriorating economic situation there and the way problems of that have become ethnicized given the extreme national diversity of that North Caucasus republic’s population and the use of ethnicity in elite struggles for power.

            The experts divided the federal subjects into three groups, a “red” group where protests are most likely and to which most attention should be devoted; a “yellow” category where protests are somewhat less likely but nonetheless can be expected, and a “green” one where protests may happen but are least likely.

            In the “red” group are Daghestan, the city of Moscow, Moscow oblast, and Krasnodar kray. In the “yellow” are 20 federal subjects, including St. Petersburg, Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, Sverdlovsk and Volgograd oblasts, Perm kray, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, and the city of Sevastopol in occupied Crimea. In the “green” group are 47 others.

            Evaluating Russia as a whole, 16 percent of the experts suggested that the situation is positive, 24.1 percent said the social situation in Russia is “unsatisfactory,” 46.7 percent gave it middle marks, and 13 percent found it difficult to give any answer.

            Perhaps most usefully, the experts identified 17 different types of conflicts, including “the authorities vs. society,” “business vs. society,” “business vs. business,” “the authorities vs. political parties,” “silovikis vs. business,” “silovikis vs. society,” and so on. They then ranked the eight federal districts:

            In first place in terms of conflicts was the Southern Federal District, where increases in conflicts in Krasnodar kray more than made up for a decline in occupied Crimea.  In second place was the Siberian FD, where the most common kind of conflicts were between the government and society.

            In third place was the Volga FD there “the chief kind of conflicts involved the struggle of the population against the worsening of living conditions.”  In fourth place was the Urals FD, “one of the most politicized” in which civil society activists were able to mobilize the largest number of participants.

            In fifth place was the North Caucasus FD where “high levels of unemployment and low levels of industrial development” contributed to struggles over land “which routinely are politicized and taken on an ethnic coloration.” In sixth place was the Central FD, where protests were about all-Russian issues more often than elsewhere.

            In seventh place was the Far Eastern FD “in which protest activity significantly declined in comparison to the first quarter” of this year.  And in eighth and thus last place was the North West FD “in which the overwhelming share of conflict activity occurred in St. Petersburg. Also important were Murmansk oblast and the Komi Republic.

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