Ingushetia’s President Loses his Luster in his First Year in Office

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 210

October 31 marked exactly a year since Yunus-bek Yevkurov was appointed as President of Ingushetia. Yevkurov replaced Murat Zyazikov, who was removed by Moscow (, October 31, 2008). The change of leadership in this small North Caucasus republic took place after it became impossible to hide from the Russian public that Zyazikov, Moscow’s protégé, who happened to be a silovik –a regular FSB major general– could not make state institutions fight against armed opposition represented by the Ingush jamaat led by emir Magas (Akhmed Yevloev).

In an attempt to distance himself from his predecessor, President Yevkurov tried to establish direct contact with the public at large. He started going to mosques and listening to people’s complaints. He set up a special telephone line, so that people could call him directly and speak out live on the air on local television. Seemingly, all that it would have facilitated, if not respect for the new president, was at least an acknowledgement of his desire to do something for the population of the republic. But neither has happened, because all his positive deeds have been accompanied by a continuation of the tactic of eliminating young people who are accused after their death of having been involved in the armed opposition. The authorities view anyone who simply disagrees with Sufism as a potential ally of the armed resistance.

During Yevkurov’s year in power, the battle between the authorities and the armed resistance in the republic has been particularly fierce. Just a portion of the chronicle of events in Ingushetia in ten days between October 29 and November 9 illustrates this. Early on the morning of October 29, Mahsud Mahloev was kidnapped from his house by unknown security forces. On October 31, the mother of Bilan Kariev, who had disappeared without a trace, appealed to the Malgobek police, while Alihan Tarhoev, a Malgobek local, was detained in his town by armed representatives of the security forces wearing masks. That same day, two people were killed and one wounded when an automobile was fired on in Nazran, while the body of an ethnic Russian resident of Ordzhonikidze was found in the village with bullet wounds. On November 1, the Nazran regional police station was fired on while a citizen of Kazakhstan, Alexei Samborsky, was shot dead in the town of Karabulak. On November 4, Alihan Pliev was taken away from his house by the unknown security forces (,, October–November 2009). The chronicles go on and on. It is always all the same: kidnapped, killed, fired on, detained by police.

Today, it is clear that Yunus-bek Yevkurov has disappointed the Kremlin. That is exactly why an outsider, Alexei Vorobyov, who is not from Ingushetia, was recommended to him as Ingushetia’s new prime minister (, October 16). Because of the unsatisfactory state of affairs in the republic, Ingushetia’s interior minister was replaced (, November 12) and all of Ingushetia’s security structures were put under the command of Chechnya-tested Colonel-General Arkady Yedelev (, August 24).

It increasingly appears that the Kremlin is already actively searching for a new president for Ingushetia. This will be relatively easy, given that this past summer’s suicide bombing attack on Yevkurov’s motorcade, in which he was badly wounded, means a medical discharge of the current president will not be a problem.

One possible sign of this search for a new Ingush president might be the dropping of all criminal charges against the richest and most famous Ingush Mikhail Gutseriev (, October 28), who has taken up temporary refuge in Great Britain. Gutseriev was a member of the administration of Ruslan Aushev, the first president of Ingushetia, who had to resign under pressure from then Russian President Vladimir Putin. If Gutseriev makes up his mind to return to Russia, then he, or his protégé, may be seriously considered for the presidency in Ingushetia. It is worth noting, however, that Gutseriev’s reputation is not unequivocal in Ingush society.

Having fallen out with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, Yevkurov can still play his last trump card: refugees from Ossetia. If he succeeds in returning the Ingush refugees who left their homes after the Ossetian-Ingush conflict of 1992, then he can create the illusion of control of the situation in the republic. But those issues are decided exclusively in the Kremlin’s backrooms. If there is no clear signal from the Kremlin regarding concessions to be made by the North Ossetian administration, then Yevkurov will fail in his attempt to play this card.

The problem that Ingushetia is facing today is that the authorities and many civil society leaders in the republic are too fixated on ancient customs and societal arrangements. These things do not have the influence that many political figures would want them to have in Ingush society. The first to understand this were the members of Ingushetia’s Sharia Jamaat. That is why their structure has been functioning successfully for the last nine years. The jamaat recognizes that Ingush society has specific characteristics, but believes that this does not resolve the essence of the problem. Ingushetia’s clan structure is an atavism that not only does not help today’s Ingush society, but disorganizes it. For instance, the owner of the opposition Internet-portal, Magomed Yevloev, was killed by Ibragim Yevloev. Another more famous Yevloev, Ahmed (emir Magas), embodies the armed resistance in Ingushetia. In other words, just by looking at a single family it is possible to conclude that an Ingush teip (clan) cannot represent one position, because all of its members have their own understanding of the development of the Ingush society. No teip is capable of resolving the situation. The problem of Ingush society is tightly bound to the problems of Ingushetia’s neighbors. That means that its resolution within the boundaries of the republic is simply unrealistic today.