Staunton, June 3 – Officials in both Grozny and Makhachkala say they are ready to begin talks to delimit and demarcate the border between Chechnya and Daghestan, a border that is far from settled because of Chechen claims to a district in Daghestan and the use of pasture land by farmers in each republic in the other.
The path forward is likely to be anything but easy not only because memories are fresh about what Chechnya’s acquisition of land in Ingushetia provoked there but also because Grozny has not allowed anyone to forget about its claims on territory within Daghestan populated by Chechens either now or in the past.
But officials in both republics now say they are willing to talk about the entire border, a step forward from a situation in which each side viewed the border question as something too explosive to touch (capost.media/news/obshchestvo/sdelat-granitsy-mezhdu-chechney-i-dagestanom-uslovnymi-predlozhil-chinovnik/, doshdu.com/v-chechne-privetstvovali-zhelanie-dagestana-ustanovit-vzaimnye-granicy/ and kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/364578/).
Controversies over the border have deep roots extending back to Soviet times when after the Chechens were allowed to return from exile, their republic was not given back a Chechen area that had been transferred to Daghestan and to the immediate post-Soviet period when Chechen efforts to achieve independence precluded any talks between the republics.
Beginning in 2008, both republics took steps to demarcate the border according to their respective positions; but the situation exploded in the spring of 2019 when Moscow called on all republics to settle their border disputes and residents from the two republics clashed violently when Chechens erected border posts clearly inside of Daghestani territory.
(On those clashes, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/08/on-border-issues-chechnya-united-but.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/07/russian-forces-now-keeping-chechens-and.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/06/chechen-daghestan-land-swaps-wont-solve.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/06/kremlin-doesnt-care-lot-about.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/06/moscow-which-had-pushed-for-border.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/06/agora-hopes-to-achieve-in-daghestan.html, and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/06/chechen-daghestan-border-controversy.html.)
Fearful that any discussion of the border could lead to violence, Daghestan refused to enter into negotiations (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/06/mass-protests-now-likely-in-daghestan.html). That position reflected not only these fears but also Chechen actions that many Daghestanis viewed as provocative.
In February 2020, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov sent permanent officials from his government to take part in the commemoration of the deportation of Chechens from what is now Daghestani territory. They joined some 10,000 Chechens who came from Chechnya and Ingushetia in a move clearly intended to reaffirm Grozny’s claims to the Aukhov District of Daghestan (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/02/kadyrov-again-highlights-his.html).
Pointedly, Daghestani officials ignored the celebration, a continuation of playing down Chechen claims. A year earlier than this, Makhachkala used the pandemic as an excuse to cancel Chechen plans for a congress in the Aukhov District to prevent Chechens from exploiting such a meeting against Daghestan (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/361098/).
The willingness of Chechnya and Daghestan to talk now likely reflects three things: pressure from Moscow to get a border agreement, Daghestani fears that Chechnya will take more offensive actions if there aren’t talks, and the belief of Grozny that Daghestan is now in a weakened position and that border talks will work in its favor.