table “Political and Economic Development of the Northern Caucasus:
Diagnosis and Forecast” took place in YABLOKO
April 7, 2011
Round table “Political and Economic Development
of the Northern Caucasus: Diagnosis and Forecast” took place
in YABLOKO. Galina Mikhalyova, Executive Secretary of YABLOKO’s
Political Committee, noted opening the discussion that it
was very important for the party to conduct such a discussion
with experts so that to develop an alternative policies for
Photo: Galina Mikhalyova
YABLOKO’s leader Sergei Mitrokhin said that the situation
in the Caucasus aroused such concern” according to official
data the number of acts of terror there in 2010 exceeded the
number of acts of terror in 2009 by two times. YABLOKO would
like to continue to oppose the government’s policies in the
Northern Caucasus as it was during the two Chechen wars.
“The method of maintaining peace in Chechnya chosen by the
government arises many questions. The method of making a stake
on one of the clans which has shown more loyalty to the federal
government and thus was granted a feudal type property title
over the republic. As soon as some weakening the federal government
happens, other moods will get back there and it is unclear
how this clan would behave in such a situation,” Mitrokhin
Photo: Sergei Mitrokhin
Andrei Yepifantsev, political scientist and an observer of
the Noah's Ark paper analysed the situation in the region
and the activities of Presidential Envoy to the Northern Caucasus
“Khloponin has made what his predecessors failed to do –
he has brought in strategy. And the main thing there is fight
against dependency in the Caucasus: Caucasian regions demonstrate
a high rate of dependency based on federal budget subsidies
– from 56 to 95 per cent. However, Khloponion’s policies based
on economic upsurge is doomed to failure,” he said.
Photo: Andrei Yepifantsev
“As the problem lies in the system of relations between the
federal centre and regional elites, rather than economy or
high level of unemployment. Demonstrating outer loyalty Caucasian
clans grab of the key assets – the federal budget tranches
[allotted to these regions],” he added.
“The elites of the Caucasian republics have been leading
their republics to a split of Caucasus from Russia for the
past 20 years, but our authorities have been also replying
on the people leading our country to a split-off,” he said.
According to Yepifantsev, an alternative to these developments
can be found in a “standard set of institutions”: civil society,
abolishing of appointing governors and return to gubernatorial
elections, public support, fair elections.
Sergei Buryanov, Co-Chair of the Institute of the Freedom
of Conscience, drew attention to the difficult situation with
the freedom of conscience in the region. Ethic-and-confessional
issue is fundamental here: the state is not neutral here –
the governments have been strongly supporting Sufism persecuting
“defective” Muslims. These persecutions and growing clericalisation
of the society lead to Muslim radicalism.
Photo: Sergei Buryanov
According to Buryanov, the federal law on interaction to
extremist activity should be abolished as it does not contain
the key definition – what extremism is – and thus allow to
“persecute anyone for anything”. The problem of the freedom
of conscience should become an element of the political agenda,
Natalya Dmitriyeva, Chair and Coordinator of the Council
for Consolidation of Women’s Movement, as a solution to the
splitting-off of the state, proposed to conclude a new federative
treaty envisaging a possibility to limit federal budget subsidies
to the regions defaulting on their obligations. This proposal
provoked a number of critical remarks.
Photo: Natalya Dmitriyeva
Andrei Zakharov, Editor of the Neprekosnovenny Zapas (Survival
Kit) magazine, said that the present problems in the Caucasus
are connected with the problems of federalism. In Russia the
institute of federalism had been yet “sleeping”, he said.
However, this could led to more problems, as “we will switch
on the federative rules of the game when political appointees
will get maximum force. They will use uncivilized methods
– trading without rules or restrictions, and the parties [to
these trades] will be mercenary and tough agglomerations.
And this is extremely dangerous for a federative state,” he
Konstantin Tasitz, expert on the former Soviet states of
the Russian Institute of Strategic Research, spoke about the
attempts of the government to get the insurgents “out of the
woods”. “May be these measures will work,” he added.
Photo: Dmitry Alexandrov and Konstantin Tasitz
However, Konstantin Tasitz and his colleague in the Russian
Institute for Strategic Research Dmitry Alexandrov expressed
their believe that civil society institutions should be used
in the Caucasus with care: the measures efficient for a modern
society are unlikely to be so for a traditional society.
In such societies democratic institutions, such a free elections,
may lead to development of nationalism and aggravation of
the situation, when some ethnic groups (or clans) could dread
to be surpassed by other larger ethnic groups. This can lead
to destabilization in the region as have already happened
“Speaking about state support to traditional Islam - if it
is so – I do not see anything wrong here. In the Northern
Caucasus we have to deal with a lot of radical groups; and
they are nourished by a developed system of non-state financing
and clandestine struggle. In such a situation traditional
Islam is defenceless,” Alexandrov said.
Semyon Charny, journalist from the Caucasian Knot magazine
could not agree with them. There should be support of private
safety of imams, but islamisation of the region is another
problem. Pakistan showed us all an example how difficult it
could be to overcome such a situation, he stressed.
Photo: Semoyn Charny
“Thus, in a number of regions sales of alcoholic drinks are
prohibited during the month of Ramadan, however, if alcoholic
drinks are allowed for sale over the country, then they should
be sold everywhere. And it is for believers to choose whether
to go to the shop or not. In Dagestan women are not allowed
to swim, and several women have simply tripped mines that
were specially put,” he added.
He also proposed that migration from the Northern Caucasus
to other Russian regions may solve the problem. And the Penza
region gives a good example here.
Konstantin Tasiz added that “development of industries is
required for social and economic development there.”
Coordinator of YABLOKO’s Political Committee Boris Misnik
also stressed that remaining industrial enterprises in the
region support the infrastructure of the cities they are situated
in. But further development of industry implies political
Photo: Boris Misnik
“however, our authorities can only make a deal, like the
one they concluded with Kadyrov: they granted him a whole
republic and he governs it and organizes exhibition football
matches there,” he said. He also agreed with Zakharov that
“federalism may be awakened in conflict forms”.
Viktor Sheinis, member of YABLOKO’s Political Committee and
one of the authors of Russia’s Consitution, noted that the
“ chain reaction” in Chechnya emerged because then President
Boris Yeltsin could not come to an agreement with then President
of Chechnya Dudayev. Speaking about the present situation
Sheinis noted that he doubted that the federal government
may find an alternative to Kadyrov in the post of President
Photo: Viktor Sheinis
He spoke about a need of a “flexible and differentiated polices”
in the Northern Caucasus.
Summing up the results of the round table YABLOKO’s leader
Sergei Mitrokhin noted that concluding a new federative treaty
could be very dangerous “when profitable for one party to
the agreement, this would mean a step toward a collapse.”
He also said that the key problem was still “informal relations
between the federal centre and the Caucasus,” and a “private
union between Putin and Kadyrov.”
“The scenario of splitting off of the Caucasus is possible
and this will be made as a religious conflict. Against this
threat the activities of the authorities look miserable, and
the motivate of the government is also unclear,” Sergei Mitrokhin
Mitrokhin added that for overcoming such a situation the
Caucasus should be integrated into the legal, educational
and cultural space of Russia. “It is important to have the
same approach to the all the Russian citizens independent
of their nationality or ethnic origin,” he stressed. “If we
fail to propose an alternative, Islam will become a foundation
for development of a radical Isalm,” he said.
“This discussion is only a beginning of a very difficult
discussion, as it is difficult to propose right now an efficient
strategy for resolving of conflicts in the Northern Caucasus.
There are diagnoses, but it is more difficult when we speak
about forecasts,” Mikhalyova concluded.