Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 219

Magomed Khachilaev, the former Dagestani parliamentary deputy and leader of “Kazi-Kumukh,” the national movement of the Laksk, one of Dagestan’s largest ethnic groups, died on November 19 from wounds he received in an attack four days earlier. Khachilaev was shot on November 15 by his former bodyguard, Mirza Ramazanov, who in the same incident shot and killed Zumrud Dzhandarov, the famous Dagestani art critic. According to one version of events, the shooting was the culmination of an ordinary argument between Khachilaev and Ramazanov. But the newspaper Segodnya, citing sources from Khachilaev’s inner circle, reported that the attack was an organized hit on Khachilaev (Segodnya, November 19). According to yet another theory, on the eve of the incident, a valuable painting was stolen from the Dagestan Regional Museum, where Dzhandarov worked. Sources in Makhachkala told the Monitor’s correspondent that the shooting incident was the result of a conflict between those who had participated in the theft.

Khachilaev’s death is highly symptomatic of the contemporary North Caucasus. He was typical of the “new wave” of Dagestani politicians, who are simultaneously members of organized crime. Magomed Khachilaev and his brother Nadyr became know nationally in May 1998, when their gunmen seized the Dagestani government’s headquarters in Makhachkala and held it for nearly a day. The reason for the attack was rather strange: The brothers were insulted when the police attempted to stop a car containing Nadyr’s bodyguards. After the storming of the government building, Magomed was arrested and Nadyr managed to escape. In September 1999, Nadyr’s men joined with local Muslim fundamentalists known as Wahhabis in resisting federal troops as they attacked the Dagestani village of Karamakhi. Nadyr was later arrested in Chechnya by Russian law enforcement agents, but he and his brother were subsequently amnestied.

It is interesting to note that the youngest Khachilaev brother, Adam, lost his life in 1991 in a typical Caucasian vendetta–his murderers were the relatives of someone he had killed. People like the Khachilaev brothers are becoming increasingly influential in the political life of the North Caucasus.