Staunton, July 16 – Last week, Daghestani sheepherders clashed with Chechen landowners after the latter demanded the Daghestanis leave the area they had rented for their flocks, a sequence of events that suggests Ramzan Kadyrov is trying to create facts on the ground in border regions favorable to his republic before resuming talks on border delimitation.
Local Chechens played down the entire situation, saying that it had no connection with border talks between the two republics, now suspended until next year, but rather with the fact that the Daghestanis had not signed and registered agreements with Chechen officials and might be using the land illegally (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/337896/ and kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/337944/).
The Daghestanis insisted that they had reached agreements with the landowners, that there was a long tradition of their being allowed to rent this land, that the Chechens were only too happy to take their money, and that there were no problems until a delegation came to the border region and directed the local Chechens to tell the Daghestanis to go home.
One of the reasons the Daghestanis said that the local Chechens were only too happy to rent the land to them for pasturage is this: there are no Chechen villages near this border region while there are Daghestani ones just over the border. Thus, the Daghestanis have been using fields that the Chechens weren’t.
Local conflicts between different ethnic groups over pasture land are a common feature throughout much of the North Caucasus, although one probably should accept the statements of Daghestanis in this case that the region where the two groups clashed a week ago had been relatively peaceful.
And assuming that is the case, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Grozny is trying to ensure that there won’t be any questions about its version of the border line by keeping Daghestanis out of the region even if both sides acknowledge that the territory in this case is historically Chechen.
But precisely because of such unilateral – and deniable – actions, Ramzan Kadyrov almost certainly has sparked new concerns among Chechnya’s ambitions regarding borders, something that will make it more, not less difficult to make progress on Moscow’s agenda that they be agreed to and ratified before next summer.
As a result, what Chechnya hopes others will dismiss as a fistfight, others in the Caucasus, even far from the Daghestani border, are likely to view as yet another Chechen landgrab and to react accordingly.