Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 230

Nadir Khachilaev, who since the beginning of this year has been chairman of the Union of the Muslims of Russia (UMR), was elected to the Russian Duma on December 8 from a constituency in his native Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan. Khachilaev was elected to the seat vacated due to the assassination last August of Dagestan’s finance minister. He defeated Communist candidate Khapisatu Gamzatov and former world wrestling champion Magomedkhan Gamzakhanov. (Interfax, December 9)

The energetic Khachilaev, who made his name not as a religious leader but as karate champion of Dagestan, typifies a new generation of Dagestani politicians. Many are former athletes who went into business a decade ago, when Mikhail Gorbachev launched his reforms. A number of them have strong links to organized crime, and almost all of Dagestan’s national movements now have their own detachments of well-armed "bodyguards." Officially, Khachilaev has never been a businessman and holds a low-paying position as chairman of Dagestan’s boxing committee. Nonetheless, he is one of the richest people in the republic and owns a well-guarded three-story villa in the center of Makhachkala that was designed by his personal architect, as well as an estate in the mountains with a swimming pool and a small zoo. Until recently, Khachilaev had his own helicopter, but it was accidentally shot down by Russian troops. Politically, Khachilaev is expected to use his new status to mobilize broad-based opposition to Dagestan’s present government. He may also try to form an Islamic faction in the Russian Duma. The UMR, founded in the middle of last year, has been engaged in uniting Russian adherents of Islam into a consolidated political force. It sprang to national prominence during the past summer, when Khachilaev mediated Aleksandr Lebed’s first peacemaking meeting with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 23)

It is estimated that approximately 20 million Russian citizens (13 percent of the population) are Muslims. There are believed to be some 2.2. million Muslims in Dagestan; 2.5 million in Bashkortostan; 2 million in Tatarstan; one million in Chechnya; 0.7 million in Kabardino-Balkaria ; 0.4 million in Karachaevo-Cherkessia; 0.3 million in Ingushetia ; 0.2 million in North Ossetia; and 0.1 million in Adygeya. An additional 3.2 million are estimated to live in Central Russia, 1 million in the Volga region, and about half a million in Siberia and the Far East. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 25)

Still no Resolution to Sacking of Military Commander.