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Is ‘Dual Power,’ A Feature Of Russia In 1917, Returning In Russia’s Regions? – OpEd


Because of the outcome of the events of 1917 in which left-wing parties set up soviets that first served as an alternative government and then its replacement, Russian officials have always worried about the possible reappearance of such “dual power” and their opponents have always viewed such an arrangement as a path to power.

Those attitudes make what is happening not only in the North Caucasus republics but elsewhere as well intriguing because as one observer on the scene puts it, “the powers that be are calmly watching as one after another the levers of administration are taken away from them” (

In an article on a Radio Svoboda site yesterday, Prague-based analyst Ramazan Alpaut describes in detail how this is taking place in Ingushetia and suggests that this state of dual power is in varying degrees taking shape in other republics and regions of the Russian Federation as well.

Alpaut begins by noting that “researchers have pointed out as one of the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire the weak effectiveness of the civil administration in comparison with the military and the lack of willingness of the state to react in a necessary way to changing realities” in the society they are charged with controlling.

“In several regions of Russia,” he says, “societal institutions, operating not on the Constitution of the country but on the laws of the mountains are actively beginning to compete with the state.” That has already happened in some North Caucasus republics; it is now very much in evidence in Ingushetia.

A few days ago, Alpaut continues, residents of the village of Nesterovsky in the Sunzhen district of the republic met and voted to expel someone that the government had not punished in the way they thought necessary, acting much as they might have before Russia took control of the region and without much regard for the current regime and its laws.

To be sure, he continues, the population aided and abetted by some officials only suggested that the individual and his family leave whereas in the past they would have used force to expel them. But such actions have no basis in Russian law and thus represent a kind of civic activity which is a direct challenge to the authority of the state.

Magomed Mutsolgov, the director of Ingush human rights organization Mashr, points out that “these actions of the authorities and individual residents in no way correspond to the shariat or adat or even more to Russian law. In essence, this is the popularization of political speculations and intrigues” and from the point of view of law potentially dangerous.

Ruslan Karayev, a former media minister in Ingushetia, says that in his view it is more than that: it is “a powerful attack on the powers that be” who are failing to recognize the ways in which this undermines their powers and the rights of the population. If they consider what the jamaats have done in Daghestan, they will recognize how bad things could get.

“If this process isn’t stopped,” Karayev continues, “there will be ever more cases of the violation of basic constitutional guarantees.”

And Sergey Markedonov, an instructor at the Russian State Humanities University and a specialist on the Caucasus, says that this case of “’popular creativity of the masses’” is far from unusual and that similar cases have occurred in Stavropol, the Kuban and even Rostov oblast, where Orthodox groups are behaving in much the same way.

But all the experts agree, Alpaut says, that the rise of “parallel legal systems in the North Caucasus” shows that these social institutions are ready and able to compete with official state organs which “Russia had not had the strength to introduce into the region.” Thus, it is more a measure of the weakness of the state than the strength of society.

However, if people begin to feel that, they may act in unpredictable and even revolutionary ways, as those in the soviets did against the Russian Provisional Government one hundred years ago.

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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