Thursday, February 15, 2018

Moscow Won’t Push Daghestan Purge Too Far Lest It Spark a Clan War or Arrests in Moscow, Malashenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 15 – The purge of Daghestani officials has been widespread, but it is rapidly approaching its limits, Aleksey Malashenko says, because officials there and at the center recognize that going too far could provoke a genuine clan war in the republic and lead to arrests in Moscow among officials to which Daghestanis are tied.

            The longtime Russian specialist on Islam and the Caucasus who now heads the research section at the Dialogue of Civilizations Institute says that the purge will likely affect only those who are now on the job in Makhachkala. Going further could rapidly get out of control and affect “a mass of people from president to shoemaker” (

            “The situation is further complicated by the fact that corruption for Daghestan is a completely normal thing,” and challenging it more broadly could quickly ignite a clan war.” In that North Caucasus republic, such a war would quickly become a real “war” with violence on all sides. That is something Moscow and Makhachkala want to avoid.

            But even more important, the corrupt ties that bind many in Daghestan into clans extend not only horizontally among ethnic groups and families but also “vertically” to the North Caucasus Federal District and ministries in Moscow. No one in the Kremlin wants that to happen because as is well known, “a fish rots from the head, and the head is not in Makhachkala.”

            If Malashenko is right, then the shock and awe of the last several weeks may soon end; and much will return to what it was before, just as happened the last time Moscow changed the leader and demanded that he bring order to the largest republic in the North Caucasus.  But not everyone agrees.

            Akhmet Yalykapov of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology says that he won’t exclude the possibility that the former head of the republic, Ramazan Abdulatipov, could face charges not only because he failed in his task but because Moscow now seems more inclined to jail governors as it has done with the former heads of Sakhalin and Kirov oblast.

            But the ethnographer completely agrees with Malashenko that Moscow will stop before the events in Daghestan can lead to investigations of senior officials in Moscow. That too has been avoided in the cases of the other two governors, he points out; and it is likely to be true even if Abdulatipov is charged and tried.

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