Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Chechnya, Daghestan Simultaneously Announce End of Border Talks

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 17 – In what almost certainly is a move ordered by Moscow lest further discussions of the border between Chechnya and Daghestan provoke the kind of protests that have roiled Ingushetia since last September, the parliaments of Chechnya and Daghestan have announced the two are ending discussions about demarcation of the border.

            This represents a remarkable turnaround in Moscow’s policies, which had pushed for the resolution of border issues among the federal subjects in order to avoid violence, and in the Kremlin’s unwillingness to challenge Ramzan Kadyrov’s aspirations to become the arbiter of affairs in the North Caucasus.

            On the one hand, it clearly reflects fears that any border changes, especially those that Chechnya is likely to seek, could in fact spark protests in Daghestan, something Moscow does not want at present especially given the continuing problems in Ingushetia (

            And on the other, it appears to reflect a growing appreciation in Moscow that any border shifts, no matter how minor, if they appear to be taken behind the scenes and against the wishes of the populations involved, are fraught with danger not only in the North Caucasus but across the Russian Federation.

            Chechnya’s unruly Kadyrov has not yet reacted in public to this decision, but he and his government are certain to be deeply offended, especially since all indications last fall were that the Kremlin fully supported his land claims, possibly to keep him happy given its inability and unwillingness to provide him with even more money.

            This latest development in the North Caucasus border disputes suggests three larger conclusions: First, Moscow is likely to go slow on making border changes for the foreseeable future, possibly putting on hold any new efforts at regional amalgamation requiring border changes. De facto amalgamation without border changes, however, could go forward.

            Second, Chechnya may become even more unruly domestically either because Kadyrov will have been shown to have lost some of his clout in Moscow and thus be at risk of challenge from below. That could lead to risings especially outside of Grozny and almost certainly will cause him to be even more repressive than he has been in defense.

            And third, Moscow’s apparent decision to freeze talks on the Chechen-Daghestani border will certainly lead many in the Ingush opposition to redouble their efforts to reverse the September 26 agreement transferring 26,000 hectares of Ingush land to Chechnya. After all, what the center decided not to allow now is exactly what it permitted, even sponsored, then.

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