Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 147

A large meeting of some 20 Chechen political parties and movements was held in Djohar-gala last week. Convened by the "Islamic Order" league led by Chechen first deputy prime minister Movladi Udugov, the forum was billed as an attempt to unite Chechnya’s squabbling parties and movements. Its main aims were described as "strengthening the independent Chechen state, consolidating the political forces of the Northern Caucasus, uniting the peoples of the region, and establishing Islam throughout the world." Attention was devoted to resisting "Zionist-Christian expansion into the North Caucasus." Of most immediate interest was the fact that the forum gave itself the mission of "restoring Dagestan to its historical borders." (Russian agencies, July 26)

Until 1944, there was an Aukhovsky district in Dagestan, where the Akin Chechens (one of the ethnic groups that make up the Chechens) lived. After Stalin’s deportation of the Chechens, the district was dissolved and its territory was divided between Dagestan’s Khasavyurt and Novolaksky districts. In the early 1990s, the Akin Chechens began to call for the restoration of Aukhovsky district and a sign bearing the seal of Dudaev’s Chechen republic was put on the border. Bloody scuffles took place between local Chechens, Avars and Laks, leading to the dispatch of armored Interior Ministry and special forces units to put down the conflict.

Until now, Djohar-gala has not officially made any territorial claims to the territory of the former Aukhovsky district. In June, the Dagestani newspaper Molodezh Dagestana published what purported to be a draft decree of Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov calling for the transfer of the territory to Chechnya and the deployment of Chechen peacekeepers there. This "draft" elicited a sharp protest from Makhachkala and Djohar-gala declared it to be a forgery. The resolution of last week’s forum, which is led by one of the most influential members of the Chechen government, amounts to the first formal declaration of Djohar-gala’s claims to Dagestani territory and seems certain to lead to a worsening of relations between the two republics.

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