Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Is Meusisha in Daghestan Going to Become a New Shiyes?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 1 – For the last month, the residents of Meusisha, a Dargin village 150 kilometers from the Daghestani capital of Makkhachkala, have held meetings in opposition to the Daghestani government’s plans to build what they say is a totally unnecessary and overpriced canal. During this time, officials both local and republic-level, refused to meet them.

            Then, two days ago, 300 of them organized a protest meeting to block the arrival of construction equipment.  The authorities responded by sending in FSB and OMON units in the hope of calming the situation. No one was arrested, but several people were hospitalized after clashes between the village residents and the forces of the authorities.

            The people decided to continue their demonstration on a 24-hour basis. Relatives and friends of those taking part have been bringing them food and supplies. In short, the people of Meusisha are following the scenario of those in Shiyes in the hopes of blocking something they were not consulted about and very much oppose.

            But there are three important differences, each of which is likely to have an impact on developments. Each of them makes it probable that the protesters in Meusisha are unlikely to get the attention that those in Shiyes have but also that if their actions continue, they may have even more severe consequences.

            First, the fight in Meusisha is between villagers and the republic authorities not between a a region and Moscow. On the one hand, that guarantees that what the residents in Meusisha are doing will receive less media attention and attract outside support than is the case of demonstrators in Shiyes,

            But on the other, the residents of Meusisha are overwhelmingly – some statistics say 99.8 percent of them are members of a single ethnic group, the Dargins, outnumbered only by the Avars in the republic. As a result, the conflict over the canal is almost certain to become a clash between the two largest nationalities in that North Caucasus republic and thus more explosive.

            Second, the Meusisha protests are about an issue that simply doesn’t have the resonance that the Shiyes demonstrations against plans to dump Moscow trash in the regions. But at the same time, precisely because it isn’t as important to people in Moscow, many in the Dargin village can act without the certainty that the Kremlin will mobilize against them.

            And third, the Meusisha demonstrators have based their objections to the canal project not only on the fact that they say it is unnecessary but that it is overpriced, almost certainly an indication those behind it hoped to profit themselves or their allies. The powers will want to keep this quiet, but the population, already hard pressed, will be more inclined to continue their action. 

            The best source for this relatively obscure case so far is Daghestan’s independent Chernovi, which has already faced problems with the authorities for its reporting. See, for example, and; cf. and

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