Saturday, February 18, 2023

Daghestan Deeply Divided on War in Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 15 – Perhaps no other federal subject in the Russian Federation is as deeply divided by the war in Ukraine as Daghestan, whose young men have even gone to Chechnya to serve in the army but whose mothers have led some of the largest protests against the war so far.

            Daghestanis have a long history of wanting to serve in the military and moving to other federal subjects to get around the hitherto limited draft quotas for that North Caucasus republic. But they did so in the past and they do so now not out of patriotism but out of poverty and the need for a military ticket to get a good job.

            But they also have a tradition of defending their own national communities, and many women in Daghestan have grave doubts that there is any reason for their sons to fight in Ukraine – “what have the Ukrainians done to us?” they ask – and last fall staged some of the largest protests against the war so far.

            The Riga-based Important Stories portal has long tracked these competing positions in Daghestani society (e.g., and now offers a new window into the thinking of Daghestanis by interviewing people on both sides (

            These conversations suggest three conclusions: First, Daghestanis serve in the military not out from patriotism but because of poverty and thus as long as the republic is poor, some will be willing to be part of the Russian military. Second, Moscow is doing a terrible job in convincing their parents and especially their mothers that the Ukrainian war is worth fighting.

            And third and most important, the longer the war goes on and the more casualties dead and wounded return home, the fewer Daghestanis are going to be willing to go into the army; and the more of them are going to take to the streets to protest, even if the authorities crack down as they have since last fall.

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