Staunton, June 10 – The Kumyks, an ethnic group numbering more than 450,000 and forming more than one-seventh of the population of Daghestan, are beginning to protest new Daghestani laws governing land use that they say threatens their survival as a nation, yet another way that rural overpopulation and land shortages complicate any border shifts in the region.
Until 1970, summer pastureland in the highland regions of the republic was under the control of the municipalities rather than the republic government. Since then, the republic authorities have had control, and they are increasingly acting in ways against the interest of Kumyk herders, Kumyk activists say (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/364822/).
That has allowed Makhachkala to threaten the survival of the Kumyks in two ways. On the one hand, they have restricted the ability of Kumyk herders to take their flocks into the mountains in the summer months, forcing them to remain in the valleys and destroying the grasslands there.
And on the other, the republic authorities have opened the way for businesses and representatives of other ethnic groups to move into the highland areas, thus precluding any possibility that the Kumyks can return with their herds and survive as the agrarian population they have always been.
What has infuriated the Kumyks over the past year in particular, activists tell Kavkaz-Uzel is that the powers that be in Makhachkala have not only failed to consult with the Kumyks who are affected in drafting this legislation but have refused to respond to Kumyk petitions that they take the views of their nation into account.
As a result, Kumyk activists have been organizing meetings, something Makhachkala has sought to prevent in the name of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and demanding that the republic authorities give back to the municipalities control of such pasture land so that the Kumyks can continue to use it.
The problem, of course, is that other ethnic groups are also rapidly increasing in size. Most won’t go into the mountains, but to the extent the Kumyks are diminished as a people economically, some of these groups are now moving into what have been Kumyk-dominated valleys from time immemorial.
According to the activists, there is now a real danger that there may soon be interethnic clashes as the Kumyks try to defend what they see as properly theirs against such interlopers, the kind of clashes that will intersect with discussions about modifying Daghestan’s borders with Chechnya and make any progress yet more difficult.