Thursday, April 9, 2020

Moscow Backs Restoration of Chechen District in Daghestan but Makhachkala Drags Its Feet

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 6 – In yet another indication that Moscow tilts toward Chechnya in Grozny’s relations with its neighbors, the Russian economics ministry has allocated 616 million rubles (9 million US dollars) over the next three years to create the Aukhov District in Daghestan and its neighbor the Novolak District. But Makhachkala isn’t prepared to spend the money.

            This might seem a small administrative change, but it involves two things that make it anything but. On the one hand, Chechens in Daghestan have long sought the restoration of the Aukhov District which was a Chechen area in Daghestan before the deportations. And on the other, Moscow is now weighing in to back the Chechen position.

            Given that many Daghestanis oppose restoring the Chechen district because they see it as a prelude to demands by Grozny for its inclusion in Chechnya, a fear made more plausible given Chechnya’s absorption with Moscow’s backing of 10 percent of Ingush territory, Makhachkala has opposed steps in that direction.

            Now, a telegram channel is reporting and the independent Daghestani news portal Chernovik is reposting a story that the Daghestani government won’t be able to use these funds because of objections from below to the construction projects these call for.  That seems to be a “non-political” way of objecting to a very “political” move.

            While the complicated ethnic mosaic of Daghestan make it unlikely that the republic would follow an Ingushetia-like scenario if the region were restored and there were moves toward its being annexed by Chechnya, there is an even greater and perhaps more immediate danger.

            Not only could this lead other groups in Daghestan to make demands for their own territories or changes in current borders but it could trigger anti-Moscow attitudes among the Daghestanis as a whole who have often seen Moscow as a broker among their various groups rather than a partisan for one.

            Either development could lead to more instability in the North Caucasus and especially along the Caspian littoral and its north-south rail and road connections between the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan and Iran.


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