Conflict In Dagestan Displays Entrenchment Trends

By Valery Dzutsev
In September-October 2011, the North Caucasian journal Dosh conducted a survey in several cities and villages of Dagestan. Over 2000 people were polled on the causes of insurgency in the republic. Answering the question about why Dagestanis join the insurgents, half of the respondents, 49.4 percent, said people were driven to rebellion by law enforcement’s abuses, to protect their lives or to take revenge for their relatives. According to 20.8 percent of the respondents, the main motivation for Dagestanis to join the insurgency’s ranks is unemployment and the poor economic situation (, October 31).
The authors of the survey admit that their primary respondent base was made up of people and their relatives who were protected by rights activists and were treated by the police as suspicious. Still the survey results show that practically an entire class of people has formed in Dagestan that deeply distrusts Russian state institutions, especially the police. Even the Dagestani government’s spokesman, Zubairu Zubairuev, admits that some of the rebels joined the insurgency movement out of social protest, although he regards them as marginal forces that do not fit in with the rest of modern society (, October 31).
A Russian Internet-TV crew conducted its own research in Dagestan in the summer of 2011. According to its findings, the government-enforced monopoly of one particular kind of Sunni Islam causes dissenters to radicalize. Corruption and widespread poverty are cited as another major reason for youth radicalization in Dagestan. The authorities, according to the authors, pursue the policy of “driving everybody [all dissenters] to the forests [into the insurgency’s ranks].” The law enforcement agencies reportedly have vested interest in keeping up the levels of violence to receive additional funding and power (

Since there are no popular elections of regional governors in Russia, the government of Dagestan does not bear the costs of radicalization of its constituency. This allows the Dagestani authorities to outsource dealing with the radicals and dissenters to the police without fearing for their own political survival. In the long run, however, this may result in a backlash as the Dagestanis will increasingly perceive the civil conflict as a Russian-Dagestani war.