Tuesday, April 19, 2022

More Soldiers from Daghestan have Died in Ukraine than from Any Other Non-Russian Republic, Leaving It Deeply Divided about Putin’s War

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 10 – Men in Daghestan in order to escape poverty often pay bribes to get into the Russian army, and some are even willing to sign up as contract soldiers for longer periods if that is the only way out. But now, many of these have died in Ukraine leaving the republic deeply divided about Putin’s war there.

            Officials have admitted that more than 60 Daghestanis have died, but local people say that reports of funerals suggest that the real number is already more than 100. And experts say that means Daghestan has lost more soldiers in Ukraine than any other non-Russian republic (kavkazr.com/a/desyatki-voennosluzhaschih-iz-dagestana-ubity-na-voyne-v-ukraine/31754032.html and kavkazr.com/a/novye-dannye-ob-ubityh-v-ukraine-pyatj-voennyh-iz-dagestana-i-po-odnomu-iz-osetii-i-kubani/31767286.html).

            That has left Daghestani society deeply divided, Meduza commentator Vladimir Sevrinovsky says, with many viewing the dead as heroes and the cause the fought for as correct but others saying that they were foolish to join the Russian army and that the war in Ukraine is anything but justified as far as Daghestanis are concerned (meduza.io/feature/2022/04/10/vam-russkim-ne-o-chem-bespokoitsya-kavkaztsy-vse-sdelayut).

            Some older Daghestanis say that the war in Ukraine is necessary because Stalin didn’t “destroy all these nationalists” in 1945. Others see the participation of Daghestani soldiers as reflecting a desire to escape poverty and to show social solidarity but not necessarily as an indication that anyone in Daghestan backs the war.

            One young Daghestani with whom Sevrinovsky spoke said that if anyone had attacked Russia, he would go to fight immediately. But no one has. He says he isn’t prepared to fight for a regime that worries about the yachts of oligarchs while doing nothing for the people especially in Daghestan.

            The mother of one Daghestani soldier who died in Ukraine said that she doesn’t understand how the Russian state could have taken him away. He was her only son, and earlier they didn’t take only children. Now that families are smaller, ever more people who lose a child are losing their only offspring.

            The woman says that she and her family supported her son’s decision to join up but now they wish they hadn’t. “If we had known” what was going to happen, we wouldn’t, she now says.

            But an elderly Makhachkala resident offered another perspective. When a Muscovite told him that he was against the war, the Daghestani responded: “You Russians needn’t worry. The Caucasians will take care of everything. For the Motherland, for Stalin, and for Putin!”

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