Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 152

A long-simmering territorial dispute between the Akkin Chechens of Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district and the Avars living in the village of Novo-Mikhelta of Dagestan’s Novolak district has come to the boil in the past three weeks. Some Akkin Chechens, descendants of people who were exiled from the former Aukhovsky district, have seized plots of land in Novo-Mikhelta. A group of Chechens, mostly women and children, are blockading the Khasavyurt-Novolak highway (not the Baku-Rostov federal highway, as some of the Russian media had erroneously reported) to back up their demand for land in Novo-Mikhelta. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, August 7)

Until 1944, Aukhovsky district was predominantly inhabited by Akkin Chechens. In that year, Stalin ordered all the Chechens to be deported to Central Asia, and Aukhovsky district was administratively abolished. Other people, mainly Avars and Laks, settled on the land that had belonged to the Chechens. In 1991, under pressure from the Akkin Chechens, the Dagestani parliament passed a law on the gradual restoration of Aukhovsky district. A special government commission was set up to tackle the issue, headed by First Deputy Premier Nabiula Magomedov.

Last month, Magomedov’s commission announced that plots of land would soon be issued to some 3,000 Akkin Chechens on a 400-hectare stretch of land near Khasavyurt. Some of the Chechens were dissatisfied with this decision, and have demanded plots in Novo-Mikhelta instead. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, August 7)

In fact, it is the federal government, not the Dagestani authorities, who are responsible for the fact that the issue of Aukhovsky district continues to fester. Dagestan is the only republic in the Russian Federation that has passed legislation on the territorial rehabilitation of deported peoples. The republic authorities have tried to implement the law conscientiously, and have offered land elsewhere to the Laks and Avars who now live in what used to be former Aukhovsky district. The Laks and Avars, initially unwilling to move, have been persuaded to build houses elsewhere so that the Akkin Chechens can return to the land where their parents and grandparents used to live. At present, however, all these efforts are being stymied by a lack of federal funding.