ISSN 2330-717X

Three Reasons Daghestan Events Will Exacerbate Nationality Problems Across Russia – OpEd


There are three reasons for thinking that what Moscow is doing in Daghestan now is going to exacerbate nationality problems across the North Caucasus and other regions as well, Valery Dzutsati says, by ending any illusions about self-government in the regions and about the basis of Russian rule over them.

First, in the absence of an ideology like the Soviet one, Moscow can claim success for its purges if and only if they produce a significant improvement in the lives of the peoples of Daghestan. Given that Moscow is unlikely to be able to achieve that, Dzutsati says, Moscow’s claims will be seen as illusory (

Second, by inserting outsiders and especially ethnic Russians, the central Russian government is showing that it doesn’t trust or even respect the non-Russians and will use ethnic Russians or heavily Russified others whenever there is a problem. That too will undermine any basis for loyalty among non-Russians like the Daghestanis but hardly just among them.

And third, the Radio Svoboda commentator says, Moscow’s turn to the use of sticks – that is, repression – shows that it is rapidly running out of carrots – that is the possibility of buying loyalty by providing assistance as it has done for most of the last two decades in the North Caucasus. People there already recognize this and are drawing conclusions.

This doesn’t mean that there is suddenly going to arise a massive drive for independence: Putin’s Moscow still has sufficient coercive resources and a willingness to use them in a brutal fashion to keep people in line for awhile longer. But the latest moves in Daghestan put Moscow and the non-Russians on a collision course.

That is suggested, Dzutsati says in another commentary (, but what happened in North Ossetia in 1981, when Leonid Brezhnev was in power and communist ideology at least nominally governed what the center did. That situation, now almost “forgotten,” very much resembles the one in Daghestan now.

In that year, he writes, “after a massive popular uprising in North Ossetia, Moscow also interfered in the situation by replacing the local leadership which consisted of Ossetins with ethnic Russians.” The period that followed, from 1982 to 1988, is still known as the Odintsovshchina after the name of the obkom first secretary Vladimir Odintsov.

Installing ethnic Russians in place of Ossetins, he continues, “did not have an effect on the standard of living of the population of North Ossetia.” It did however significantly worsen “inter-ethnic relations both between ethnic Russians and Ossetins and between Ossetins and Ingush.” In 1992, that led to armed conflict between the latter two.

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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