Sunday, November 25, 2018

New Wave of Calls for Border Changes in North Caucasus Confronts Moscow with a Hobson’s Choice, Legal Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 25 – The rapid multiplication of calls by ethnic activists in the North Caucasus to change the borders among the federal subjects in that region or even carve out entirely new ones is confronting Moscow with an almost impossible dilemma, according to Alim Beshanov, Russia’s representative to the international legal organization PraeLegal.

            If Moscow agrees to a proposed change, it will trigger more demands for change elsewhere; if it doesn’t, it will only allow the problems to fester; and if it doesn’t react at all, Beshanov says, that lack of a response will have the effect of calling its authority into question and radicalizing those involved as well as others (

                The legal specialist says that the lengthening list of such issues in the North Caucasus reflects problems “which did not arise yesterday or today. They are systemic” and are now being raised in additional places because of the attention that the dispute over the Ingush-Chechen border changes has attracted.

            And the legal specialist notes that in almost all cases what various ethnic groups are proposing are within the legal and constitutional fields of the Russian Federation, making it difficult if not impossible for the center simply to ignore them or portray them as radical extremists whose proposals must be ignored ab initio.

            For Svobodnaya pressa, Anton Chablin, a specialist on the Caucasus, provides a list of those disputes which have taken on a more active form in the wake of the Ingush protest. They include:

1.      The Cherkess and Abazas of Karachayevo-Cherkessia have launched a petition drive on seeking either to allow the two and the territory in which they are predominate to leave that republic and join the Stavropol Kray or to form a republic of their own.  The first of these is rooted in history given that the Cherkess were part of Stavropol until Khrushchev’s time. The second would be explosive because it would be the first step toward the formation of a restored Circassia.

2.      Some Ingush already mobilized by the border accord with Chechnya are suggesting that they will raise the issue of the inclusion of the Prigorodny District of North Ossetia into Ingushetia. That would potentially revive the violent clashes of the fall of 1992 in which hundreds died and thousands became refugees.

3.      Cossacks in Stavropol are demanding that the borders of the kray with Chechnya be modified to transfer two districts, Naur, and Shelkov, from Chechnya to Stavropol. Those two districts were part of the kray prior to 1956. 

4.      Russian nationalists in Stavropol have also made claims on the Mozdok District of North Oseteia and the Kizlyar District of Daghestan, which Stavropol lost in 1944.

In addition, there is one Chablin does not mention but that has also intensified over the last few weeks:

5.      Chechnya has expressed interest in absorbing or at least assuming a protectorate role over Chechen-populated districts in neighboring Daghestan.

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