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Round table Political and Economic Development of the Northern Caucasus: Diagnosis and Forecast took place in YABLOKO

Press Release
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 YABLOKOs 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 the Caucasus.

Photo: Galina Mikhalyova

YABLOKOs 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 governments 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 stressed.

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 Alexander Khloponin.

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, Khloponions 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, he added.

Natalya Dmitriyeva, Chair and Coordinator of the Council for Consolidation of Womens 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 said.

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 in Kabardino-Balkaria.

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 YABLOKOs 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 will.

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 YABLOKOs Political Committee and one of the authors of Russias 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 of Chechnya.

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 YABLOKOs 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 said.

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.


See also:

Situation in the Northern Caucasus

Human Rights




Press Release
April 7, 2011

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