Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Makhachkala Apparently Ready to Make Territorial Concessions to Chechnya

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 22 – In what may set the stage for new protests like those which have roiled Ingushetia since the end of September 2018, Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov is seeking to acquire for his republic territory now within Daghestan, something Daghestan head Vladimir Vasiliyev appears prepared to grant.

            In early December, the two men announced that they would be discussing the border between the two republics given the significant Chechen population now with Daghestan that would like to be part of Chechnya. At that time, Vasiliyev promised to take their desires into consideration (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/330614/).

            Now, Vasiliyev has gone further. In a January 20 interview with NNT disseminated on YouTube, the Makhachkala leader said that he was quite prepared to listen to those in border areas who wanted to change the borders.  Asked whether he would allow a referendum on this, he didn’t exclude that possibility (youtube.com/watch?v=SUPbQboMS20).

            Daghestanis have expressed their outrage that Vasiliyev did not reject such a possibility out of hand, especially since during the fall Kadyrov showed his sympathies for Daghestan’s nearly 100,000 Chechens and their desires to unite their territory in the northwest of that republic with Chechnya.

            Daghestanis are especially outraged, it appears, because of what happened with Ingushetia where Ingushetia’s Yunus-Bek Yevkurov agreed to hand over large portions of his republic to Kadyrov without any open discussion or referendum, an action that has led to protests there since that time.

            There are important reasons, however, why Daghestan will not be able to reach an accord like the one Kadyrov did with Yevkurov and why a massive negative reaction would be less likely than it was in Ingushetia.

            On the one hand, as the Russian Constitutional Court held, the executive agreement between Yevkurov and Kadyrov was legitimate only because no border had been demarcated between the two republics up to that point. Russian law only requires a referendum if federal subjects want to change borders rather than establish one.

            The border between Chechnya and Daghestan, in contrast to the one between Chechnya and Daghestan, has long been demarcated and accepted. If Moscow were to back Kadyrov on this move as it did in his move against Ingushetia, it would have to ignore its own settled law. That seems unlikely.

            And on the other, while the Chechens are a large community in Daghestan, they form only just over three percent of the population and occupy only a slightly greater percentage of its territory. Consequently, allowing them to leave with their land would not threaten Daghestan because the loss of Chechens and their land would not significantly reduce the republic, a sharp contrast to the situation in Ingushetia, the smallest, non-urban federal subject in Russia.

            At the same time, given the complex ethnic politics of multi-national Daghestan, there may even be some in that republic who would be glad to see the Chechens and their land leave, something that could give them a relative advantage. At the same time, however, it could be a political problem for Vasiliyev, the ultimate outsider as far as Daghestanis are concerned.

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