Staunton, February 25 – For several years, it has been a commonplace that Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechnya is part of Russia in name only and that its relationship with the rest of Russia reflects Kadyrov’s ties with Vladimir Putin rather than the commitment of either Grozny or Moscow to ensure the Chechen Republic lives according to the Russian constitution and laws.
But there has been less attention to the fact that another republic in the North Caucasus – Daghestan – has also been slipping out of the Russian legal system and no longer can be said to be part of that system or even to have a special relationship between its leader, Ramazan Abdulatipov, and the Russian president.
Moscow’s repeated claims that everything in the North Caucasus is getting better, that the insurgency is over, and that the authorities have everything in hand has distracted many from recognizing that Daghestan may be on its way to becoming a more lawless and less controlled republic than even Chechnya under Kadyrov.
On Wednesday, some 50 officials and activists from Daghestan met in Moscow to discuss the problems of the republic at a forum organized by Maksim Shevchenko, a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, and with the significant title “Let Us Return the Russian Constitution to Daghestan” (chernovik.net/content/respublika/iz-moskvy-s-trevogoy).
Speaker after speaker argued that “the social, political, and economic situation in the republic is close to catastrophic – ‘the people are getting poorer while the powers that be are getting richer’ and the level of trust by the population in the authorities is within the margin of statistical insignificance.”
According to the report in the current issue of Makhachkala’s Chernovik, the speakers pointed to “the hostile attitude of the powers to a significant portion of Muslims, the lack of work with young people, legal arbitrariness,” and the spread of disease in the population because officials did nothing.
Many said that Makhachkala had openly falsified elections and all “recommended” that Abdulatipov retire “’if he in fact loves Daghestan.’” They indicated, however, that the republic’s problems weren’t limited to Abdulatipov because in the words of one, “there isn’t one Abdulatipov; there are thousands of Abdulatipovs.”
And they did not spare Moscow and the Kremlin either in their critique. Magomed Abdulkhabirov, a member of the Russian Social Chamber, said that instead of paying attention to letters from Daghestanis, officials in the Russian capital simply send them back to Makhachkala where measures, often repressive ones, are taken.
Besides calling for the ouster of Abdulatipov, the participants in the Moscow meeting also demanded direct elections of the head of the republic, representation of all groups in the republic government, and greater transparency in the way that the republic authorities operate so that Daghestanis can ensure they again work within the law.
Summing up, Shevchenko said that under Abdulatipov, the cities of Daghestan had decayed and the regions had been “thrown to their fates.” The powers that be now operate entirely outside the law and the constitution, and they “conceal from the center the situation in the republic and deceive the president.”