Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Faced with Pandemic, North Caucasians Set Aside Politics to Help One Another

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 5 – Across the North Caucasus, local people have set aside political and land issues to help one another deal with the common threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, organizing assistance to the poor and homebound as communities and businesses rather than expecting the government to take the lead.

            Those involved say that this is the traditional response of people there even though now it is more likely to be organized via the Internet than via the mosque and that it reaffirms the importance of community and faith after a period in which many have been divided politically (

            To the extent that this activity gives the nations in this region a sense of community and efficacy, however, it is likely to have political consequences in the future, giving people the sense that they have powers to act that they did not know they had and making them more willing than in the past to part company with the authorities.

            The Kavkaz-Uzel news agency surveyed people in Daghestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia on this development. In Daghestan, a Derbent businessman said that businesses can’t stand aside from this effort, and a Makhachkala writer added that people have their priorities right and are helping each other rather than fighting with one another.

            In Ingushetia, ecologist Yakub Gogiyev says that the epidemic has driven the territorial and prisoner conflicts out of the center of attention.  People are sewing masks, gathering money and food, and helping their neighbors rather than focusing on the political concerns that have been the focus of their lives for almost two years.

            Other Ingush activists agree, saying that everyone is doing something, with people quietly leaving food for others rather than attracting attention to themselves and what they are doing and young people displaying an even greater respect to the elderly and infirm than they did in the past.

            In KBR, Aslan Beshto, president of the Karbardin Congress, says that confronted with the pandemic, “Caucasus society is ready to put aside all disagreements.”  Tensions have fallen as people focus on their common humanity and recognize that the things that have divided them are less fundamental than some had thought.
            Zaur Zhemukha, a Circassian activist, adds that he is certain that what the republic is seeing is the reassertion of the traditional means of self-preservation and self-organization there. And he adds that “the critical character of the situation has created conditions when all talks have lost meaning.”

            Volunteer activity is springing up spontaneously almost everywhere, he continues.  People see their neighbors in need and are rushing to help, especially the elderly who are more at risk from this pandemic than younger people.  Others confirm that and are expressing pride in their national traditions of self- and mutual help.

            And in North Ossetia-Alania, philologist Tamerlan Kambolov says that what is especially striking is the leading role young people have taken in such volunteer groups, They have come together and are doing what they can to help their elders, taking them food and medicine and generally showing that they care.

            Anzhela Kudzoyeva, a professor of language and literature at the North Ossetian State University, speaks for many: “For the first time in many years,” she says, “we face a threat … that threatens everyone regardless of nationality, status or anything else. Caucasus society now is ready to come together and forget all disagreements and direct its efforts toward this struggle.”

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