Monday, July 20, 2020

After Crackdown on NGOs, Primordial Groups in Ingushetia Now Key Actors in Civil Society

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 18 – “Civil society” is usually thought to include only groups formed on the basis of common secular interests thus excluding religious or clan structures, viewing them as “primordial” and therefore not properly part of civil society. But in Ingushetia, with the NGOs under siege, one set of primordial groups – the teips – have become key actors in civil society.

            In part, this is because the teips themselves had collectively articulated an NGO, the Council of Teips of Ingushetia, that acted as a combination of civil and primordial ties and that has now been banned by Moscow and Magas as an NGO. The individual teips, the clan structures all members of Ingush society are members of by birth, has taken up the slack.

            But in part, such primordial groups have always had the capacity to play a role in civil society; and it is the definitions of social scientists that have often failed to recognize that reality. In many countries, primordial groups including both ethnic and religious play the role of NGO civil society activists,

            It is just that in Ingushetia, where the local society had moved furthest in the North Caucasus region toward the formation of a civil society, people clearly view these groups as a worthy or at least necessary substitute if the Russian government and its representatives in Ingushetia block the operation of NGOs, classically defined.

            And that adaptability underscores why the broad attack on non-governmental organizations there may fail because Ingush activists inside primordial groups are more than ready to act in ways that many social scientists suggest only NGOs properly can, a testament to the vitality of civil society among the Ingush even when that society is under attack.

            That vitality is shown today in a statement released by the Bekov teip concerning the republic’s Popular Assembly (

            In it, the teip calls on deputies to take the initiative in promoting and passing laws not only for the return to residents of the republic of popular voting for the head of the republic, long part of the agenda of Ingush activiss but also for the elaboration of a mixed system of voting for deputies of the Popular Assembly of Ingushetia.

            “The adoption of such laws is the holy responsibility of deputies of the Popular Assembly since this assembly much respond to demands which the people present and not to those from the powers which go against their own people, powers which falsify the results of voting and participation both on the constitutional amendments and in elections.”

            The teip continues by arguing that “only by democratic means can the republic overcome the difficulties which have piled up.” And it reminds the deputies that “society knows how you received your mandates.” You must respond to the people and not to the powers, this primordial clan group says.

            Once you have become deputies, the Bekov teip concludes, you must “defend the interests of the people and not shame such a high assembly by putting out laws which do not correspond to the demands of the people.”

            That statement was paired by an Ingush commentary that if anything is even more remarkable as an indication of the evolution of Ingush society away from its traditional patterns or Soviet and Russian-imposed arrangements.

            Fatima Albakova says that the world has changed and made the people and the institutions they articulate more important and the efforts of the powers to impose post-truth ideas or tradition left-right divisions increasingly irrelevant to the concerns of the population (

            The model which so many have accepted for so long that there is a tiny elite which makes decisions and a larger populace that goes along is wrong. “Today we are all an elite, responsible for our present, past and future, for the rising generations and the people as a whole,” she says.

            On the basis of Ingush experience over the last two years, “we know that the protests have had several positive effects – intergenerational divides have been overcome and stereotypes that democratic civil institutions are possible only on the basis of historically evolved ideologies, conservative, liberal, socialist or their variations.”

            Now, “traditional (ethno-cultural, religious and other) social organizations in fact are showing they are a unique and effective resource of self-organization, promoting and speaking out on behalf of socially significant problems.” These “traditional social institutions have shown their capacity to fit themselves into the contemporary context and function.”

            The Ingush people, recognizing that they can’t count on Moscow to support them against Magas, recognize that they can count on no one but themselves, Albakova says. Neither Moscow nor Magas will enter a dialogue with us. Instead, we must act on our own to defend our interests using the organizations we have.

            “Tomorrow has arrived today!” she continues. “Today we all can influence the anti-people decisions of people who ‘by a strange misconception’ have decided that the people will always be quiescent, that the Ingush are indifferent to their fate, and that they will all ‘swallow’ whatever the powers dish out and forget their own concerns.”

            Those in power who think that way must be disabused of such notions. The people using both new institutions and old ones must act to defend what is most important so that the Ingush people and the Ingush republic will not only survive but flourish.

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