Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 224

President Boris Yeltsin has signed a decree setting a commission for the socioeconomic development of the North Caucasus. According to the official statement announcing the new commission, its goals are to carry out a unified state policy for the region’s socioeconomic development and on coordinating the activities of federal executive organs and local executive organs in the North Caucasus which are involved in socioeconomic development. First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov has been named the commission’s head. His deputies will be Ramazan Abdulatipov, Russia’s nationalities minister and Vyacheslav Mikhailov, first deputy secretary of the Security Council. Several other heads of federal government ministries and agencies will also sit on the commission, as will the presidents of the North Caucasian republics and the governors of Russia’s southern regions (Nezavisimaya gazeta, December 3).

Along with factors which characterize Russia–economic collapse, arrears to state workers and pensioners, and so forth, the North Caucasus region has specific problems which sharply increase the possibility of open conflicts. These include the arbitrary boundaries between republics, the multi-ethnic and multiconfessional nature of the region, the problem of rehabilitating ethnic groups repressed during the Soviet period and many others. The Kremlin’s policy in this distinctive region, however, has differed little from its policy in ethnically pure Russian regions. Moscow’s policy for resolving conflicts has consisted of monetary subsidies, which often remain unfulfilled promises. Now, however, the Kremlin appears to have decided to develop a precise conception of its policy in the North Caucasus. As Ivan Rybkin, Yeltsin’s representative to the countries of the CIS, told “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” the Security Council is working up documents concerning ways to guarantee security and the preservation of Russia’s national interests in the North Caucasus, and concerning a national policy in the Caucasus in general (Nezavisimaya gazeta, December 3).

It is quite clear, however, that Chechnya plays the key role in Russia’s North Caucasus policy. Thus it is not possible to create any kind of program for developing the region in isolation from the Chechen authorities. Deputy Prime Minister Abdulatipov recently declared that the Russian government’s program for rebuilding the Chechen Republic has failed (Nezavisimaya gazeta, December 3).