Descendants of Shamil Continue to Resist Authorities in Dagestan

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 200

Special anti-militant operation in Khasavyurt, Dagestan, October 28 (Source:

On the night of October 28, another special operation aimed at detecting potential militants was conducted in the mountainous Avar village of Gimry in Dagestan’s Untsukul district. Gimry is known as the birthplace of two famous Dagestani imams of the 19th century, Gazi-Magomed and Shamil. Several residents of the village were arrested and were being prepared to be escorted to the police headquarters ( However, the government forces’ plan did not work. Despite the late hour, Gimry residents rallied in support of the detainees, demanding their immediate release. Faced with the villagers’ resolve, the authorities were forced to give in to their demands, and those arrested were released by 1 a.m. (

The Dagestani media ignored the nighttime rally, while extensively reporting on dozens of other events that night. The swift and resolute protest by the Gimry villagers was not accidental: they had previously experienced disappearances among their fellow villagers, as well as lengthy blockades by government forces ( The longest siege of the village lasted for nine months—from the end of 2008 to August 2009 ( This year has not been an exception. In January 2012, a police special operation in Gimry was accompanied by brawls between the police forces and local residents. Access to the village was cut off for several days and there were reports of beatings and looting by the police ( Gimry has a population of 5,000. According to unofficial information, the unemployment rate in the village is approaching 98 percent. However, the authorities’ claims that high unemployment in the village is the root cause of the persistent rebellion there is not correct; rather, it is the historical legacy of the village, which has fought anti-colonial wars since the Russian-Caucasian war of the 19th century. Gimry residents have the reputation for being staunch adversaries of the government, although such a view is unjustified. It is also unlikely that this village has more Salafis than many other Dagestani villages. In fact, the authorities create problems for themselves by engaging in extralegal persecution, which revives memories of Imam Shamil among Gimry residents, who oppose the government in an organized fashion—as a village.

The operation in Gimry was not the only one carried out by government forces in Dagestan on the night of October 28—another one was conducted in the city of Khasavyurt, near the border with Chechnya ( Police surrounded two suspected militants in a house on the outskirts of Khasavyurt, and found three corpses inside the house after they stormed it ( A handgun and a machine gun were found along with the three dead people. However, following the announcement that three suspects had been killed, news agencies started to report that the third person had actually been captured ( It is unclear why news agencies announced three people had been killed if one of them voluntarily left the house before it was stormed and surrendered. The person who surrendered turned out to be Yusup Gajiev, brother of one of the remaining people in the house, Ali Gajiev. According to the Russian National Antiterrorist Committee, those killed were 21-year-old Mikail Akavov of the village of Babayurt, who was on the federal wanted list, and 20-year-old Ali Gajiev of Khasavyurt, an active supporter of the insurgency (

As usual, the police blamed several high-profile crimes committed in Dagestan earlier on the dead rebels. Ali Gajiev had formerly been an employee at the police detention center in Khasavyurt. It is useless to look for any information on the slain people in earlier police reports in Dagestan, given that such information is normally absent. It has become a rule in the North Caucasus that the police habitually pin several high-profile crimes on every slain rebel. This was the case this time as well. The National Antiterrorist Committee, for example, stated: “Akavov participated in multiple terrorism-related crimes. In particular, he was involved in an attack on police officers. Thus, on May 9 of the current year, he participated in an attack on a road police outpost near the village of Babayurt. Five police officers were injured in the attack. In August 2012, Akavov killed a fellow villager, Police Captain Rasul Kachmazov ( There is no information about the slain 20-year-old Ali Gajiev. One of the Gajiev brothers, either Yusup or Ali, was probably the owner of the house that was stormed by the police. Since one of the brothers was captured, there may be additional information that will clear up the situation and make it possible to ascertain whether the official information about the brothers being militants was correct.

As of October 28, the militants’ news sources had not commented on whether those killed belonged to the armed resistance in Dagestan (, although the insurgency’s inconclusive response may be due to the time lag in information coming from Dagestan. This is the usual practice, as it takes the insurgency’s news outlets several days to receive information from the scene, depending on the circumstances.

Thus, the situation in Dagestan has not changed despite the deployment of additional troops there and official approval to use the Russian military against the armed resistance. Moreover, there are no indications that the situation might change in the republic in the near future. On the contrary, it appears that, in Dagestan, Russia may get a much more dangerous version of Chechnya because of the proliferation of Salafi ideas in Dagestani society. This means the war in Dagestan will be an ideological one and therefore will be bloody, long and have an impact on all of Dagestan and its neighbors.