Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Tells Regional Officials Not to Draft North Caucasians or Muscovites

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 3 – Moscow has ordered regional officials not to draft North Caucasians or Muscovites, according to military commissar of Raduzhny in the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Republic in northern Russia, a prohibition that he said was intended to prevent both dedovshchina and the appearance of more Wahhabis in the ranks of the Russian army.

The official, Sergey Rossomakhin, told “Surgutskaya tribuna” that he had received specific instructions from the center in that regard, an interview that has been picked up and further disseminated by the regional news agency, ( and

            The reference to Muscovites appears to be part of the same ban on drafting North Caucasians, many of whom want to serve in the Russian military but can’t because of artificially low draft quotas in their home republics and who thus move to the Russian capital in particular, as well as to other parts of the country, in the hopes that they will be drafted from there.

            Rossomakhin said that Daghestanis at home pay bribes of up to 150,000 rubles (5,000 US dollars) to be drafted. Those who can’t afford to pay that or who aren’t drafted anyway often move to other regions where they think they will be drafted. In November and December 2012, he said, 29 “such guests” arrived in Raduzhny; in May and June 2013, “another 18.”

            Dedovshchina, conflicts within the military often along ethnic or religious lines, have been a longstanding problem in the military, the commissar continued. In Soviet times, they were kept under control because officers could enforce discipline. But now, commanders are afraid to do the same lest their actions spark protests within the ranks and beyond them.

            “Open disobedience” of orders is increasingly common among Muslim troops, Rossomakhin continued. They often refuse to shave, and “the majority” of them are “infected with the ideas of Wahhabism,” something that the “softness” of contemporary commanders has allowed even though that inevitably compromises good order in the military.

            The problem of preventing the drafting of North Caucasians into the military and thus preventing an influx of Islamist views into the ranks may be especially intense in the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Republic.  On the one hand, military commissars have been told to increase their draft from 743 so far this year to twice that.

            Give that approximately half of the population there consists of migrant workers and their families from the North Caucasus, Central Asia and Azerbaijan, reaching that goal by taking only ethnic Russians and members of indigenous nationalities will be hard and could by itself exacerbate ethnic tensions if Russians ask why their sons are being drafted while young men from the North Caucasus are not.

            And on the other hand, there is some evidence that the number of followers of radical Islam in that republic may be as high as 2,000 to 3,000.  According to the Ufa-based Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD), Raduzhny is today “one of the strongholds of Wahhabism” in the Russian Federation.

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