On October 6, the head of Kabardino-Balkaria, Arsen Kanokov held a meeting of his government’s anti-terrorist commission in the town of Baksan. Kanokov met with the parents of suspected insurgents. The town of Baksan was chosen for the meeting because Baksan district is known as one of the three most volatile places in the republic, according to Kanokov, who said that out of 16 militants killed in the republic recently, 12 were residents of the town of Baksan and four were Baksan district residents. In addition, 23 residents of the district were arrested for “active support” of the insurgency. Moreover, Kanokov pointed out that young people from Baksan district continue joining the rebel underground, but the reason for this trend is not the unfavorable economic situation. “In Baksan district, people are not any worse off than in other districts of the republic,” he said (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 6).
Baksan district is located north of Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria’s capital, and borders Stavropol region. The whole district has a population of 60,000 people and is relatively small in area compared to several other districts in the republic. The town of Baksan, which is administratively not part of Baksan district, has a population of 37,000 people; the population of the town plus the area surrounding it is almost 100,000. Over 90 percent of the people of Baksan district are ethnic Kabardins (aka Circassians).
On January 24 of this year, Kanokov signed a decree setting up the government commission for the adaptation of militants who surrender to the authorities. However, as of mid-September, the commission had received only 38 appeals. As republican official Boris Kyasov evasively stated, most of those appeals were not directly related to the purpose of the commission for adapting rebels. In bureaucratic-speak, this probably means the commission received no appeals at all from insurgents seeking to surrender. Unexpectedly, Kanokov lashed out at commission officials, complaining that the body had yielded few results. The relatives of the militants said that a large part of the problem is connected to police brutality. The leadership of Kabardino-Balkaria decided to hold town hall meetings in the most volatile towns. However, a relative of an insurgent who participated in one of the meetings, Galimat Lampezheva, expressed doubt about the effectiveness of such meetings. “Ordinary people are afraid to voice their opinion,” she said. “We speak up because we have nothing to lose.” Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) calculated that during the period from July to September 2012, 25 people were killed and 10 were wounded in attacks in Kabardino-Balkaria (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 6).
On the morning of October 8, the FSB introduced a counter-terrorism operation regime in the Nalchik suburb of Belaya Rechka and part of the adjacent Chegem district following an armed clash between government forces and an unidentified armed group. The counter-terrorism regime was lifted by the evening on the same day, and the police reported no tangible results (www.rian.ru, October 8).
On October 4, a meeting of the Public Chamber of Kabardino-Balkaria took place in Nalchik. The participants in the meeting reached the conclusion that if the authorities did not interact with the republic’s youth and a more socially equitable order was not introduced, the socio-political situation in the republic was bound to deteriorate further. “For the past two weeks, five people from the town of Nartkala left for the forest [a euphemism for joining the insurgency],” Valery Khatazhukov, a member of the Public Chamber and rights activist, said. “Such facts, according to rumors, have taken shape also in the town of Baksan.” One of the leaders of the Public Chamber, following the good old Soviet tradition, decried the absence of a state concept for the “spiritual-ethical upbringing of the youth,” which was supposedly responsible for the moral decay of the young (kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 5).
Ironically, this is exactly the same argument often made by radicals in the North Caucasus: that young people are morally corrupt and need salvation through conversion and participation in jihad. The government willfully chooses to ignore the fact that the fundamental problem underlying Kabardino-Balkaria’s problems is the lack of opportunities for youth, which ultimately derives from the stagnant political and social life in the region.
Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence continues to mount that Kabardino-Balkarian youth have unofficially been excluded from conscription into the Russian military. Boris Uyanaev, head of the employment center at the agricultural college in Kabardino-Balkaria, said that none of the 470 graduates of the college in 2012 was drafted for military service, which is mandatory for all young men in Russia. “It is amazing, but one needs to give a bribe in order get drafted into the army,” Uyanaev complained (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 5). Unlike Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria does not have a very high birthrate, so there are not too many young people in general. Therefore, the decision to stop drafting young people from the North Caucasus was apparently a political decision and most probably taken at the highest level in Moscow.
It appears that Russian society is ready to cut off the North Caucasus from Russia, and it is only the country’s political leaders who are holding onto the region because of their geopolitical ambitions and issues of prestige. However, while holding on to the region, Russia offers few solutions to the North Caucasus’s mounting array of problems.