Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 184

On Saturday in Derbent, during the celebration of City Day, a demonstration organized by Mugudin Kakhrimanov–leader of the radical wing of the Lezgin national movement “Sadval”–took place. A resolution was read which accused the Dagestani authorities of insufficiently financing southern Dagestan and insulting its people with the appointments it made to local government posts. Participants in the demonstration demanded that a referendum be held in the region on the creation of an autonomous Derbent district, a region which would be directly incorporated into the Russian Federation, and thus not fall under Dagestani jurisdiction.

“Sadval” chairman Ruslan Ashuraliev categorically disassociated himself from the Derbent demonstration and announced that “Sadval” neither organized it nor participated in it. At the same time, Ashuraliev said he agreed with the complaints voiced during the demonstration about violations of norms concerning personnel policy in Dagestan. However he declared himself categorically opposed to the creation of an autonomous Derbent district (Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 6).

A majority of the population of southern Dagestan are Lezgin, and they comprise about 12 percent of the entire Dagestani population. About the same number of Lezgin live in the adjacent territory in Azerbaijan. There are periodically mass protests in both Dagestan and Azerbaijan, in areas where Lezgin live compactly. Lezgin on both sides of the border tend to act in concert. Thus in 1992 “Sadval” organized mass campaigns by Lezgin on both sides of the Russia-Azerbaijani border, demanding the creation of a single republic of Lezginistan, to be part of the Russian Federation.

It would be hard to consider Saturday’s demonstration in Derbent a coincidence. Next Saturday, presidential elections are scheduled in Azerbaijan. The Lezgin card has already been played more than once for various reasons, including the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. This it is impossible to exclude that the most recent demonstration in Russian Lezginistan might be supported by Azerbaijani Lezgin.