Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 22


In his first “state of the nation” address to the Chechen people and parliament on May 29, President Alu Alkhanov said that the North Caucasus needs to modernize its political system, Itar-Tass reported. “Not only the Chechen Republic but also other North Caucasian regions need reforms that would alter their primitive clan-based political system,” Alkhanov said. “There are no quick fixes and, above all, there is no real political alternative — local civil society — to North Caucasian clans. Even if we start intensive formation of a local civil society with federal support, we will obviously need a lengthy transitional period until civil society instruments start functioning. One should also bear in mind the inevitable resistance of influential groups, which do not want a reform of the existent political system.” In Chechnya, Alkhanov said, there is a need to “fill the ideological vacuum in the republic with Caucasian traditions and norms for enhancing national awareness of people of the republic.” Chechnya’s priority tasks, he said, are “the attainment of political stability, maintenance of law and order, social, economic, and ecological security,” Itar-Tass reported. Alkhanov also pointed to “the need to define the basic trends of the economic policy,” stating that Chechnya has “a delayed reaction” to economic problems. “This is explained by an acute shortage of skilled professionals and the lagging behind of the legislative base,” he said.


A report on the Beslan tragedy prepared by Yuri Savelyev, a State Duma deputy with the nationalist Rodina (Motherland) party, found that federal troops fired grenades into Beslan’s School No. 1 while hostages were still inside and that the commandos’ actions may have prompted the bloody firefight that killed 331 hostages, more than half of whom were children. The Moscow Times noted on May 29 that the report, part of which Savelyev presented on May 25 to a parliamentary commission investigating the September 2004 attack, “sharply contrasts” with earlier investigations by the parliamentary commission and the Prosecutor-General’s Office, which asserted that troops neither used excessive force nor were responsible for the bloody denouement to the three-day standoff. Savelyev’s account mirrors testimony given by survivors of the tragedy during the trial of Beslan hostage-taker Nur-Pashi Kulaev, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on May 26. The survivors and other eyewitnesses reported that troops armed with grenade launchers had fired incendiary projectiles at the school that could have set fire to the roof of the gym, where most of the hostages were clustered, and caused the roof to collapse. Most of the casualties occurred in the blaze.