Friday, July 5, 2019
Decade of Relative Stability in North Caucasus Coming to an End, Neroznikova Says
Staunton, July 3 – The decade of relative stability in the North Caucasus, a period during which the authorities were not able to resolve “the basic problem of the region,” the clash between Islamic fundamentalism and a corrupt and lawless civil power, is rapidly coming to an end, according to Yekaterina Neroznikova, a journalist who has long worked in the region.
She tells Sovershenno Sekretno commentator Anton Krivenyuk that there are likely to be leadership changes in Daghestan and Chechnya as well as more corruption scandals and that these things will only exacerbate the underlying problems of a region that remains divided into “ethnic quarters” (sovsekretno.ru/articles/kto-mozhet-rabotat-toporom-/).
According to numerous Moscow sources, Vladimir Vasiliyev, the head of Daghestan is ready to move on, acknowledging that he has made little progress against the corruption endemic there. But that should surprise no one because federal subventions to that republic and others create the conditions for corruption as Moscow tries to buy off the regional elites.
There are also rumors that Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya will be shifted as well, but Neroznikova suggests that “it is difficult to imagine Kadyrov in another republic or another region.” Many places would resist having him because he would only work to suppress them rather than develop or represent their interests.
At the same time, the journalist stresses, the region is increasingly diverse, making Moscow’s one-size-fits-all approach ever less appropriate and effective. North Ossetia “is becoming ever more modern,” she continues, while Daghestan is moving in the opposite direction especially outside of the capital.
Chechnya is different as well because the rising generation is both more religious and more traditional, albeit traditional in a new way. There is a greater willingness on the part of men to impose their religious-moral views on others, there is a growing cult of personality, and there is a respect only for force.
Because Kadyrov embodies all these values, many Chechens are drawn to him; and that is all the more so because he has been able to provide both jobs and a rising standard of living, as a result of the subsidies he gets from Moscow. To be sure, these improvements look more impressive because the republic started from such a low base.
“Ingushetia, unfortunately, is a republic which has marched in place as far as development is concerned,” the journalist says. Its society is more traditional and religious than that of Chechnya – but at the same time, Ingushetia has more human rights activists ready to protest than does Chechnya. It is impossible to imagine Chechens protesting as Ingush do.
Chechnya today, “exists completely autonomously” from the rest of the country, Neroznikova says. Kadyrov maintains tight control but only by asserting his ties to Islam and the Chechen nation even as he takes money from the center. But he recognizes that Islam is a threat to him as well not only because it alienates Moscow but because it challenges his pattern of rule.
The journalist agrees that “while there is money [coming from Moscow], there will be stability” but says that “sooner or later,” it is going to run out and none of the republics in the region is going to be able to exist on its own. Their economies will collapse, and Islamism will increase – and tensions among them will grow because of border conflicts.
Across the North Caucasus, albeit in different ways, Neroznikova says, “the ethnic is giving place to the religious, and the problem of the clash between Islam and traditional values is every more obvious. Islam, of course, is stronger, because the young are the bearers of its ideas, and the older people who are the bearers of adat are dying.”
But at the same time, “the most interesting thing here,” she continues, is “the third factor,” the rise of secular features in portions of these societies. Thus is being formed “a triangle, religion, traditions, and the contemporary world,” something that “makes the Muslim Caucasus unique” but also promises to make it increasingly unpredictable and unstable.