The Federal Security Service (FSB) this week described the latest killing of a person from Dagestan in its usual manner. According to an official report, a man fired two shots and threw a grenade at the police in the vicinity of the village of Padinskoe in Novoselitsky district on July 21. The attacker was killed by return fire. The police found a TT handgun and a grenade next to the criminal (news.1777.ru, July 21).
The widow of the man who was killed identified the victim as Almaz Abdulnasyrov, a resident of the village Kara-Tyube in Stavropol region’s Neftekumsk district, and she rejected the police’s version of the events. The Stavropol branch of the Russian Investigative Committee stated that the identity of the slain person had still not been established (Kavkaz Uzel, July 23).
According to his widow, Almaz Abdulnasyrov never has had any issues with law enforcement agencies. “He himself served in the armed forces in Chechnya for several years and could not have had any relation to the ‘forest’ [the colloquial term often used to describe the insurgents], as you can imagine,” she said. She added that Abdulnasyrov had lately engaged in small time trade. Thus, a very interesting picture emerges. An ex-professional soldier who fought Chechens in Chechnya had retired from military service and engaged in small time trade. One day, having sold his melons in Stavropol region, he called his wife and told her that he would be coming home soon. On the way home, he bought grapes and then suddenly, for some reason, decided to fire two shots at police officers and was killed by return fire. The authorities consider this story entirely plausible and expect people to believe it.
In fact, there have been several similar incidents in the Stavropol region that appear to be part of a larger pattern. On June 13, 27-year-old Zamir Taibov, a resident of Stavropol region’s Neftekumsky district and an ex-police officer, disappeared. That same day, he had been summoned by the FSB, according to relatives who suggested he was kidnapped. On June 14, district residents organized a rally, demanding that the authorities find Taibov. Neftekumsky district police officers told the gathering that the corpse of a bearded man had been found near the Stepnovsky police checkpoint. Taibov’s relatives identified his body and said they found signs of torture (ansar.ru, June 16).
Late last year, Ibragim Nurov, a 25-year-old resident of the Neftekumsky district village of Abram-Tyube, was killed. Unidentified individuals reportedly snatched Nurov from the mosque in the city of Neftekumsk on December 27, according to his relatives. Only three days later, on December 30, Nurov was found dead near the village of Kayasula. The police claimed that two armed people had fired shots at police officers after they asked them to lay down their weapons. Nurov was killed by police return fire. At the time, Nurov was the deputy mufti of Stavropol region (Kavkaz Uzel, December 31, 2013).
These cases are not just a series of coincidences, but rather appear to represent a clear pattern of the followers of Salafism in Stavropol region being killed by police. “The Muslim community of the region is convinced that this is a way of putting pressure on the region’s Salafist community,” said a Muslim resident of Neftekumsky district who personally knew Abdulnasyrov. “That is my opinion too. I do not believe that even one of these crimes will be properly investigated” (Kavkaz Uzel, July 23).
Police pressure is particularly strong on the people of Dagestani origin, who have massively migrated from Dagestan to Stavropol region over the past two decades. According to demographers who study Stavropol, the percentage of the ethnic-Russian population in the eastern part of the region is clearly diminishing: “For example, while 80 percent of the entire population of the Stavropol region is ethnic Russians, in Kurskoy district the ratio of ethnic Russians to ethnic non-Russians is 50/50. If illegal migrants are taken into account, then there are some settlements where ethnic Russians are already in the minority” (svpressa.ru, August 7, 2012).
In the past, Krasnodar regional governor Alexander Tkachyov called for the creation of Orthodox Christian militia groups to combat the mountaineers, stating that Russia had already lost Stavropol region to the mountaineers, and Krasnodar region had to become a barrier to their entry into Russia (lenta.ru, August 3, 2012). The Krasnodar governor was not afraid of the consequences when he openly called the mountaineers enemies who had to be kept out.
The Russian Orthodox Church also has fought the process of settling North Caucasians on the soil of the Stavropol region. The church initiated the resettlement of Cossacks from Semirechensk in Stavropol region in areas where ethnically non-Russian Dagestanis reside in large numbers (kavpolit.com, August 15, 2012). The Semirechensk Cossacks live in the southeast of modern Kazakhstan and Northern Kyrgyzstan.
The Stavropol region is suddenly turning into a region where Moscow is unofficially engaged in balancing the situation in favor of ethnic Russians through forcing North Caucasians back to their ethnic republics. The repeated killings of suspected Salafist sympathizers there indicate that the government considers them more dangerous than others. The reason for such an attitude toward the Salafists is not their radical stance against the Russians in the region, but rather because of their higher vitality, organization and solidarity. Despite persecution and repeated blows from the government, the Salafist community does not appear ready to abandon the region, but appears to be spreading across Stavropol’s territory.
The killings of Salafist adherents in Stavropol region will continue and they will follow the same pattern—people are killed after allegedly resisting the police. No one will investigate those cases. The police in Stavropol region increasingly are taking responsibility for special operations that are in fact conducted by the FSB. Thus, there is no reason to believe the situation in this region will become less tense in the near future. On the contrary, as the Salafist community strengthens, the situation may slip out of the authorities’ control. The Nogai jamaat, which disappeared from the political scene, may now be resurrected and, unlike before, the group may have wider appeal to local Muslim who resent the attacks—particularly Slavic converts to Islam in the region.