Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 27

The killing of Rasul Makasharipov came after a series of terrorist attacks in Dagestan, including the July 1 bombing of a public bathhouse in Makhachkala that killed eleven Russian Interior Ministry commandos (see Chechnya Weekly, July 7). The upsurge in violence and instability has clearly become a growing source of concern for Moscow. Most notably, Moskovsky komsomolets on July 8 published an article outlining a leaked report on the situation in Dagestan prepared in May by the working group of Dmitry Kozak, the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District.

The report, entitled “Report on the Situation in the Republic of Dagestan and Measures for Its Stabilization,” cited polls conducted by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion on Social and Economic Questions, which found that 7 percent of Dagestanis are ready to “use weapons,” 8 percent are ready to “seize buildings and block transportation routes,” and 29 percent are ready to take part in unauthorized protests. According to the report, more than 20,000 ethnic Russian have left Dagestan over the past four years, while Akkin Chechens, the ethnic Chechens who live mainly in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district, are “at daggers drawn” with the republic’s ethnic Avars and Laks. Meanwhile, the Sadval movement is demanding the reunification of the Lezgin people in Dagestan with their ethnic counterparts in Azerbaijain, with movement radicals calling for an independent “Lezgistan,” the report stated. At the same time, the politicization of Islam has been accelerating in Dagestan. “Religious communities are keenly participating in elections to organs of state power and local self-government and religious authorities are having an increasing influence over the leaders of municipal formations in mountainous areas of the republic,” the report stated. All of these processes are taking place against the backdrop of massive corruption within Dagestani officialdom, examples of which are cited in the report.

Moskovsky komsomolets said the report concluded that Dagestan’s accumulated “unresolved socioeconomic and political problems” are approaching critical mass. “Further disregard of these problems (or an attempt to ‘bury them down deep’ by force) could in the short term bring about a dramatic increase in protests and civil disobedience, the uncontrolled development of events, the logical conclusion of which will be overt social, group, interethnic, and religious conflict,” the reported stated. “At the same time, the increase in the influence of religious communities, particularly at the level of local self-government, could lead in the medium term (10-15 years) to the emergence of distinct ‘sharia enclaves’ in mountainous regions of the republic. It is quite possible that the explicit territorial concentration of the ethno-political problems will provoke extremist forces into the de facto setting up of quasi-state formations in northern, southern, and central Dagestan, which will in effect bring about the breakup of the republic.”

An article published on June 7 in the government daily Rossiiskaya gazeta expanded on some of the points in Kozak commission’s report on Dagestan. The article’s author, Valery Vyzhutovich, quoted the chairman of the Dagestani People’s Assembly as saying that there “is not a single post to which one could be appointed without a bribe.” According to Vyzhutovich, a low-level position in the police force costs $3,000-$5,000 (he notes that such jobs remain sought after despite the growing number of assassinations of police officers), the post of district administration chief costs $150,000 and the position of republican government minister costs $450,000-$500,000. Those who end up in such jobs, he wrote, must also find “lucrative positions” for members of his clan, given that in Dagestan, unlike elsewhere in Russia, “it is not business that saves up to buy a position for its man, but the clan.”

According Vyzhutovich, “local observers” link the murder of republican officials to competition for control over federal subsidies, credits and other transfers. “The murder of ministers representing influential clans and criminal groupings associated with them represents a bloody carve-up of budget money,” he wrote, adding that the “struggle for power” in the republic is a struggle for “access to resources,” including potential ones like energy resources from the Caspian Sea. Meanwhile, there is wide unemployment in Dagestan – 22 percent, according to Ali Nurmagomedov, the republic’s first deputy economics minister; as high as 35-40 percent, according to independent economists. “When a young Dagestani is without work this does not make him apathetic,” Vyzhutovich wrote. “He looks for and finds a means of feeding himself and his family. In the process, he sees how much injustice there is around him. And if he is a believer and you give him an assault rifle, you have a ready-made Wahhabi.”

Gadzhimurat Kamalov, editor-in-chief of the independent Dagestani newspaper Chernovik, told Ekho Moskvy radio on July 8 that neither the Dagestani authorities, headed by Dagestani State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov, nor the republic’s political opposition, will be able to stabilize the situation in the republic before 2008. “I can tell you that the people are increasingly going to the mosques already with the fully-conscious understanding that the laws of the Russian Federation cannot operate in the Republic of Dagestan, but that the alternative traditional laws work,” Kamalov told the radio station. “To be more precise, [that] those with a basis in Sharia law work… And neither the opposition, nor the regional authorities, faced with this fully-formed third force, are able to handle this.”

Nezavisimaya gazeta on July 7 quoted Vasily Petrov, a Rostov-based political analyst, as saying that Dagestan has become the most “fertile ground” for “another Caucasus War.” “At 75, republican State Council head Magomedali Magomedov no longer has the strength to keep the situation under control,” Petrov told the newspaper. “The Kremlin seems to be engaged in an intensive search for a candidate who will suit all the ethnic elites. Unless such a person is found in the very near future, it will not be possible to halt the bloody chaos being observed in the republic right now.”