In a search for solutions to the problem of the North Caucasus, the Russian government is returning to the practices of Russia’s Tsarist rulers. It is unclear who in the Kremlin is advocating and directing this approach, claiming that things were better under the tsars, but the fact is that pre-Soviet methods of governance are increasingly being put forward by Russian politicians in a bid to cement greater regional control over the North Caucasus.
This time it was the head of the Russian Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, who attended a cadet initiation ceremony in Stavropol. The year since the start of the cadet program in Stavropol, which is run under the auspices of the Investigative Committee, was deemed to have been successful (https://www.interfax.ru/russia/news.asp?id=334279). Bastrykin stated that the Investigative Committee would open cadet corps in all of the North Caucasian republics, with the first cadet units to be set up in Dagestan, the Chechen Republic and Kabardino-Balkaria (https://argumentiru.com/education/2013/10/290486). “Much has been done to return peaceful life to the Caucasus and we will also set up cadet corps there—not based on ethnicity,” Bastrykin said, accepting the oath from the Stavropol cadets (https://polit.ru/news/2013/10/13/cadets/). The authorities intend to use these cadets as the future generation of law enforcement officers. Why is the government creating cadet corps, when there are so many people willing to study for law degrees at the universities anyway?
Prior to the establishment of the cadet corps for future investigators, military cadet corps were established in the North Caucasus. Divisions of Suvorov schools were opened in Chechnya—in Grozny and in Tsentoroi, Ramzan Kadyrov’s ancestral village. The first cadet corps in Chechnya was established in Tsentoroi in 2007 (https://www.edu.ru/mon/index.php?page_id=5&topic_id=6&sid=2294&ntype=nuke). Fifty young men were in the program, which was designed for those wanting a career in the military. Later, another similar corps was set up in Grozny. All children in Chechnya registered by the police for any infractions are obliged to undergo a month-long internship in this cadet corps, where they will be taught military skills and Islam (https://chechnya.gov.ru/page.php?id=8767&r=126).
In Ingushetia, a Mountaineers cadet corps of more than 460 young people was set up in 1994 by the republic’s then president, Ruslan Aushev (https://www.ingushetia.ru/m-news/archives/012832.shtml). This corps became one of the most popular educational institutions in Ingushetia (https://ingushforum.ru/viewtopic.php?id=1280).
A cadet corps existed in Vladikavkaz as far back as the period of the Russian Empire (https://lostosetia.ru/object/659/). Russia’s current defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, decided to restore the North Caucasian Suvorov School on the site of Vladikavkaz cadet corps (https://u-f.ru/News/u250/2013/08/29/660496). Three cadet corps have been established in Dagestan—the First Dagestani Cadet Corps, the Caspian Cadet Naval Boarding School and the Cadet Boarding School in Derbent.
Thus, Russia is trying to create a pro-Russian group in the North Caucasus by rearing young children from an early age. With the law enforcement agencies experiencing a severe lack of recruits from the local population, these children are expected to replenish the ranks of the army and the law enforcement agencies to compensate for the lack of local cadres.
The fact that Moscow has decided to entice children in the North Caucasus to attend military schools is indicative of the current situation in the country. Previously, Suvorov schools were out of reach of most residents of the North Caucasus. Only a few chosen people could be accepted into these prestigious schools.
The latest government initiative appears to target children at a young age in order to bring them up in the spirit of loyalty to the Russian state. Despite its outward novelty, this is a fairly old policy in the North Caucasus: the Russian Empire employed this method in the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. Children from the North Caucasus were taken to Russian cities and brought up in the spirit of loyalty to the Russian monarchy. The government hoped that by removing children from the North Caucasus and bringing them up among Russians it would turn them into future officials loyal to the Russian crown.
In fact, the moment the Russian Empire collapsed in 1917, those supposedly pro-Russian elites organized to pave the way for secession from Russia (https://chechen.org/archives/1359). A one-time personal guard to Emperor Nikolai II, Chechen millionaire Abdul-Mezhid Chermoe, led the mountaineers’ movement for independence, while lawyers from St. Petersburg, Gaidar Bammat and Alikhan Kantemirov, were the most important figures in the formation of the Mountaineer Republic. General Mikhail Khalilov, agronomist Vassan-Girei Jabagiev, Dr. Ismail Shakov and hundreds of others who were educated to support the positions of the Russian Empire were among the first who spoke out against Russia.
Russia is making the same mistake over and over again. In the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and in the contemporary Russian Federation, the Kremlin has bet on a group of loyalists who would support Russia. However, this group is tied to Russia only for purposes of self-preservation and cannot become a power to be reckoned with among the North Caucasians. Betting on the clans, on millionaires, on criminals, etc. does not make the federal center closer to the North Caucasians.
Thus, Moscow repeatedly misses the point that the region needs a different approach. The North Caucasus is not simply another peripheral province of the Russian Federation. Pretending that Ryazan oblast in central Russia and Chechnya are the same results in the North Caucasus drifting further and further away from Russia. Russia’s misperception of the North Caucasus is making things worse, especially against the backdrop of the armed underground movement.