New Federal District Will Not Stabilize the North Caucasus

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 20

Against the backdrop of the unavailing year in 2009 for Russian soldiers in the North Caucasus, Moscow is trying to explain to the Russian people why other countries want to interfere in its internal affairs (, January 16). Of course, one would think that it is the fault of neighboring Georgia, which for some time has been blamed for all of Russia’s misfortunes and has edged out even such deadly enemies as the United States, Europe and Israel (, January 14). Georgia, which until 2002 was itself having troubles with the North Caucasus militants, is the party least interested in aggravating the situation in the region today. However, the Russian side has been accusing the Georgians of sponsoring militants since the times of President Eduard Shevardnadze. The Georgian government instead has been providing full-scale assistance to international observers in order to disprove the fantasies of Russian generals.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin is trying to stabilize the situation in the region in a very original manner –by creating a new federal district. Increasingly it appears that the Kremlin does not recognize the commutative law of addition: a sum is not changed with the rearrangement of its addends. By separating the North Caucasus Federal District from the Southern Federal District, Moscow will gain nothing either politically or financially. On the contrary, new funds from the federal budget will have to be allotted to maintain additional management institutions for the new federal district. The arguments that the new special presidential envoy to the North Caucasus will be a financial manager do not stand up to scrutiny. What prevented Moscow from simply appointing a financial manager instead of the negligent envoy Vladimir Ustinov, who is the head of the Southern Federal District? Moreover, the status of vice-premier makes the new envoy Aleksandr Khloponin directly subordinate to the prime minister rather than to the president, as was planned before.

It is worth noting that the small Republic of Adygea has no chance of maintaining its national identity in this political remapping of the region. The fact is that the indigenous population of Adygea comprises only a quarter of the entire population of the republic. The indignation of the Adyg people at the national level is unprecedented. Some suggest writing letters to the president, which is, of course, busywork ( Without any letters from the Adyg community, President Medvedev knew that the Adyg people were a part of the broader Circassian community (Cherkess, Adyg, and Kabardin). But Moscow has its own agenda: diluting the Adyg minority in the absolute majority of Russian speakers into Krasnodar krai. That is why the inclusion of the Stavropol krai (an absolute majority of whose population of 3 million is ethnic Russian) into the new district is to create a counterbalance to the North Caucasian people (Chechen, Avar, Ingush, Ossetian, Kabardin, Kumyk), whose population together comes to 6.2 million (

In other words, a smaller clone of the Southern Federal District was created, but it will not change the situation in the region. It is clear that the North Caucasus has not become calmer in recent years. Otherwise, why would one turn it into a separate federal district (, January 20)? In a way, it is recognition of the inefficient policies implemented under the rule of Vladimir Putin. Moreover, President Medvedev expressed himself unequivocally: “There is a lot of money in the region,” he said. “That is why a financial manager is needed, as opposed to just a hard man” (, January 24). It is not hard to figure out that the remark was aimed at Ramzan Kadyrov.

Many are unsatisfied with the creation of the new federal district. People who thought it would simplify their lives are particularly upset ( Even Ramzan Kadyrov, who does not believe that the problem could be solved just by appointing a special envoy, was criticized. Kadyrov said that he did not want to resolve his problems through a middleman ( He wants to communicate with the leadership of the country directly, without an intermediary appointed by Moscow. Shortly after Khloponin was introduced to journalists, one could notice that Kadyrov was a little bit perplexed (, January 20). In all likelihood, Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Kremlin’s administration, told Kadyrov something that disturbed him greatly. One may assume that the local leaders were told to address all their issues to the administration of the new federal district, as opposed to turning to Moscow for advice. It is worth noting that the small city of Pyatigorsk was named the center of the new district.

It is another matter that the district will likely be the first move towards the consolidation of smaller federal subjects into bigger districts, where the national identity will be watered down as much as possible. That was exactly the initiative of the speaker of State Duma, Boris Gryzlov. He believes that all unprofitable federal constituencies have to be deprived of their status and be merged into big federal entities that will be self-sufficient financially (, January 21). On January 23, Prime Minister Putin held a meeting with the head of the new federal district and the heads of the regions within the new district. At the meeting, Putin called for an economic breakthrough in the region, stating that: “We shall never let anybody intervene in our internal affairs” ( If one takes into consideration the fact that such statements have been made for the last ten years, then it is easy to assume that Moscow is not offering anything. It means it has neither any plan, nor any understanding of the situation that is the offspring of Putin’s Chechen risky venture.

Meanwhile, for the last two weeks (since January 13), Kadyrov has been making statements on Chechen national television about the necessity of eliminating the leader of the North Caucasus armed resistance, Doku Umarov ( Kadyrov considers the militant commander to be the main obstacle to reaching the goal of obtaining calm in the Chechen republic. In reality, neither Kadyrov nor Russia stands to gain much from the elimination of Doku Umarov (other than a short-lived PR campaign). Nothing will give them a solution to the problem in the region. If Umarov is killed then he will be replaced by his apprentice, Supyan Abdulaev, and if Abdulaev is killed, he will be replaced by Emir Seifullah (Anzor Astemirov). If he is also killed, then he will be replaced by Emir Magas (Akhmed Yevloev), and so on. Thus, it is not specific individuals that should garner our attention. We are not talking about 20 people. We should keep in mind that the ideas to which the militants ascribe themselves have already become the guide for living for part of the region’s populace –not only in the North Caucasus, but also in Moscow, Astrakhan, and parts of Siberia and the Volga Region.

For example, since the December 31, 2009 death of the leader of Dagestan’s Sharia Jamaat, Emir al Bara, not much has changed for the jamaat. They continue to strike all across Dagestan almost daily, just as they had done before. Therefore, in the absence of a strategy from Moscow, the militants have a chance to be more active and achieve great results in the business of popularizing their radical causes within society.