Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 117

Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin has met with the candidate for the post of head of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, former Russian ground forces commander Vladimir Semenov. Stepashin and Semenov discussed measures to stabilize the situation in the republic. The two discussed issues of personnel and cooperation between law enforcement agencies, among other things (NTV, June 15).

Following the decision by Karachaevo-Cherkessia’s Supreme Court to recognize the electoral victory of Semenov, who is Karachaev by nationality (the final verdict will be rendered by the Russian Supreme Court), supporters of the loser, Cherkessk Mayor Stanislav Derev, who is an ethnic Cherkess, began a protest demonstration in the capital’s central square. The demonstrators have been demanding that Cherkessk lands be returned to neighboring Stavropol Krai (see the Monitor, June 14). According to Semenov, Derev is aiming at uniting the Adygs–the general term for three closely related groups, the Cherkess, Adygeits and Kabardinians. After this it will be possible to call the Adygs an “exiled” people (following the Caucasus War in the 19th century, a majority of Adygs fled to Turkey) and “win for them the right to get dual citizenship and so on.” This, in Semenov’s view, would be a “wick” in the North Caucasian “powder keg.”

Such a point of view is rather typical for the linguistically Turkic Karachaevs and Balkars, who live in Kabardino-Balkaria. The two groups witnessed the first attempt to unite the Adygs two years ago, when the leadership of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Adygea signed an agreement to form a joint inter-parliamentary council. The large Karachaev public organization, “Alan,” at that time denounced the idea, charging that it violated the Russian constitution.