At Open Democracy, Denis Sokolov writes about the fragility of the current system in the North Caucasus in the context of Russia’s various issues. Things are set to break.
If 2015 was the year of purges of regional elites for the North Caucasus, 2016 will be the year of political innovation. And Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been first off the starting blocks.
Kadyrov began the year by announcing a new political agenda — at a federal, not just regional level. In a joint statement with two other senior Chechen politicians, Kadyrov labelled Russia’s opposition and dissenters as “enemies of the people” and “traitors”.
The North Caucasus, and particularly Dagestan and Ingushetia in the region’s east, is bound to respond to these clear (and pretty scary) signals. Especially when you consider that the local political process is already moving in a dangerous direction. Both state and public institutions are in decline. They are short of money and no longer care where and how they get it. The law of ‘might is right’ is back, and it isn’t just Kadyrov’s dog Tarzan who is sharpening his fangs.
In the 1990s, when the Russian state was ‘on its knees’, the institutional specifics of the Caucasus came to the fore in the growth of ethnic nationalist movements, a rise in religious fervour and the emergence of Islamist parties.
In its most brutal moments, the national-liberation struggle descended into open war, while global Islam became the ideology behind the ‘village revolutions’ in rural Dagestan. At one point, two villages (Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi) declared themselves an ‘independent Islamic state’.
During the gloomy years of the 2000s and the first half of the 2010s, the infamous ‘power vertical’ was built in the North Caucasus, and with it, the emergence of a new political class. This new group came from former members of the FSB and other defence and law enforcement operatives.