Ethnic Tensions Break out in North Caucasian Federal District Capital of Pyatigorsk

By Valery Dzutsati
A massive fist fight between Ingush students and ethnic Armenians in Stavropol region reignited the discussion about North Caucasian migrants in Russian regions. The incident took place in the city of Pyatigorsk, on February 15, but became widely known only in March. An estimated group of 70 Ingush and an unknown number of Armenian young men decided to use violence to settle their differences (, March 3). Interestingly, a local newspaper described the incident as a fight between “the newcomers [the Ingush] and the representatives of the local Armenian diaspora,” as if the Ingush students were not Russian citizens. After the police became involved, 22 Ingush students from the colleges in Pyatigorsk were removed from their programs and sent back home to Ingushetia (, March 3).
While the Ingush authorities reprimanded the parents of the Ingush students for the lack of control over their children (, March 3), some Ingush academics defended them. Anzhela Matieva said that the Ingush young men were right to protect their dignity after the Armenians allegedly disparaged the flag of Ingushetia (, March 9). Moreover, it appears that mass street fights between the Ingush and the Armenians in Stavropol region have become a regular occurrence in the past several years.
The Russian government’s strategy of trying to promote a “melting pot” solution for the North Caucasians by sending more students to the predominantly ethnic-Russian regions has been marked by scandals. In Stavropol region, especially in its southern part known as Kavminvody (acronym of Kavkazskie Mineralnye Vody), it appears that various ethnic groups clash particularly often. The latest violent episode in the region and its aftermath indicate that the various ingredients of the Russian “melting pot” may not be incorporating harmoniously; and the government clearly chooses to employ collective punishment to deal with these resulting inter-ethnic conflicts.