Sunday, October 20, 2019

Could Daghestan Dissolve into Two New National Republics and a Caspian Oblast?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 17 – The Russian policy of promoting inter-ethnic compromises and the balance of interests among the various nationalities of Daghestan has “completely discredited itself;” and that has sparked discussions in Makhachkala about the possibility of the republic’s division into three parts, Andrey Chumakov says.

            These would be a Nakh Confederation, including 14 numerically small peoples each of which would have a national autonomy, a Kumykh Republic including the Kumyks and Azerbaijanis, and a Caspian Oblast including the cities of Makhachkala and Kaspiisk (

            This may seem fanciful in the extreme, especially given Putin’s preference for reducing rather than increasing the number of federal subjects.  But there are three compelling reasons for thinking it isn’t but rather a trial balloon to see how people in Daghestan and in the two bi-national republics (Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria) would react.

            From Moscow’s perspective, it would give the Russians far more effective control over the Caspian coast where it recently relocated the main base of the Caspian Flotilla and isolate the mountainous portions of the republic from the sea, thus limiting their ability to make contact with others.

            From the perspective of the smaller nationalities who would become part of a Nakh confederation, it would offer a chance to get out from under the dominance of the Avars and Kumyks (and the Russians) and gain their own republican institutions, something they don’t have now.

            From the point of view of the Kumyks, this would be a big victory, not only because it would allow that Turkic nation to escape from the control of the Avars and Russians but also because it would give them the chance to link up with their fellow Turks, the Azerbaijanis, in a far larger unit.

            The big loser, of course, would be the Avar nation, historically the dominant non-Russian nation in the region and the source of many of the militants who have fought against Moscow there.  Some Avars would likely contest any change, possibly violently, something that may be enough to put on hold any change.

            But the fact that such possibilities are being discussed at least behind the scenes suggests that the North Caucasus is far less stable and its future far more open than almost anyone thinks possible.  And such talks in Daghestan almost certainly are occurring in the two bi-national republics where Turkic peoples and Circassians, each for their own reasons, want change.

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