Enver Kisriev is a Russian sociologist, expert in the questions concerning Caucasus. He is the head of the Caucasus department at the Center for Civilizational and Regional Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is an expert in ethno-cultural and civil-political problems of modern Dagestan. He served as the advisor to the chairman of the People’s Assembly of the Republic of Dagestan in the 90-ties. We were talking about the character of the northern Caucasian conflict and possibilities of resolving the deep social, economic and political crisis in this area in the interview for the Despite Borders portal.
How could we call the current conflict in the Northern Caucasus? Is it a battle against terrorism / banditry? Or is it a (latent) civil war? Why?
A civil war comprises conflict among different segments of a civil society. In Caucasus, this aspect is present to a certain point, but the message is clear – it is the resistance of the citizens, who were abandoned by state power and left in the same power in a continual battle of the political clans which are fighting among themselves to gain power resources.
Naturally, it would be possible to talk about this in the well accepted terms such as “battle among the state authority and terrorism and banditry” or in the language of radical Islamists “jihad against the atheists and for establishing the Sharia law.” But it really does not answer what is going on. A very general reply to what is going on in Northern Caucasus is the fact, that it is a “natural” reaction of the Caucasian people to the uncontrolled misuse of power by those who have the hold of it.
There is a high level of direct tyranny of the ruling groupings of citizens in entire Russia. These groupings are made of officials from the local government or self-government, members of the force structures (heads of the local prosecution authorities, Ministry of Interior, and FSB), local oligarchs who had been permitted or are fighting their way through to the “club of elected”. They have at their disposal by them controlled groups of organized crime. The events in the stanitsa (Cossack village – editor’s note) of Kuschevskaya (1) in the region of Krasnodarsk are a clear example of what is going on in the whole country.
Groupings, uniting the top elements of the local government, force structures, privileged enterprisers and criminal elements began their life during the notorious transformation in the entire Russia. Kuschevskaya – is no anomaly but custom. It was an example of cruel and mass murder (few children included) in the village of Kuschevskaya, which could not have caused great response not even if it had been investigated in a consistent manner. And what was traced after this investigation reflects the situation as a “standard”. As the consequence of the centre administrated investigation they were able to solve the whole case and penetrate into the local well-integrated structure of power-business-crime, which occurs in the whole region. This consisted of persons, who took the key administrative posts, high posts in the prosecution and adjudicating bodies, businessmen from monopoly corporations and by them commanded criminal elements, which solve problems of “delicate” nature for them.
Of the same type are the structures, which had been created and operate in the regions inhabited by the Northern Caucasian nations. But they differ from the above mentioned in some very substantial features – in these structures the traditional connections such as a family, next of kin, clan, jamia and nationality are of the key importance. These structures know quite effectively offer “to theirs” the solution of acute problems, give support and protection. Because this type of solidary relations has its deep historical roots and Caucasian groupings are stronger and more operative. Then, Caucasian groupings have more reliable and stable vertical relations of “lower classes” strongly connected with the highest “leading edges” based on next to kin connections and other forms of traditional solidarity. Thirdly, the difference of these structures does not allow any of them reach the monopoly in a certain region, which would set visibility of “stability and peace” in it. The problem is that number of the administrative-entrepreneurially groupings in the areas inhabited by the North Caucasian nations has always been higher than it would be necessary. In the “Russian” regions the structure is usually different. So if in the big village Kuschevskaya within last 10 years the violent conflicts of interest led into the creation of one monopoly almighty governing grouping, which got torn from the “lower classes”, which had conquered everything, the whole life frightening the citizens – in the environment Caucasian mountaineers to reach monopoly of domination of one clan is almost impossible. Not even pushing the small clan away from the involvement in power privilege is possible.
And so the Caucasian clan groupings  are internally well integrated,  are not overpowered – that is trends of monopolization and finally  have deeper social support within “its” traditional segment available. This all leads to greater frequency and rapaciousness of conflicts in the Caucasian region when compared with others.
In the northern Caucasus the inter-clan battle for the political and economic power is going on. What influence does this “war” have on the security in the region? Do the different clan members change in the power in the Northern Caucasian republics or does Moscow favor only representatives of some clans and the other clans representatives must remain in opposition? Are these clans interested in solving the banditry?
From all that has been mentioned above, it should be obvious, that clan groupings (2) could only be interested in solving “banditry and terrorism”, which stand in a direct confrontation and will include and support those, who serve them. The systems of investigating and adjudicating bodies can not stand and does not stand out of the clans´ confrontation, because their core are made of people, who can not with the current conditions ignore their traditional connections.
As it is known, at the beginning of the new century, Moscow began increasing its presence and control in the areas of Northern Caucasus. The center’s policy was reduced as follows: name the head of the subject (of Federation – editor’s note) carefully chosen “strong, reliable leader” ignoring the opposite public view. Moscow ignores opinions of the area’s most influential figures mainly. The leader elected in this way has the full power and unconditional support from the centre. The content of his actions is to a great extent reduced to fulfilling the orders from the centre, where they do not understand well what is going on. This way of ruling might be suitable for regions inhabited by Russian population, but in Caucasus it has a very destructive impact.
The fact is that appointing a person to be a leader of the republic, in fact, with exceptional powers, which give him unconditional right and means for solving all the financial and personal matters, giving him the power in the force structures of Russia, that means, that the power and the means go into the hands of one of the many clan groupings. Personal camouflage is used to cover this phenomenon – the phenomenon of occurrence of the beginning of monopolization of power can be misleading but nobody from the locals will be deceived. All the other subjects are gradually pushed and distanced from the power, that is from the decision making process and from the money. This way the process of dividing power resources in favor of local traditional groupings to the exclusion of others.
Dividing of the sources is always a quite painful process everywhere, because it evokes conflict escalation among the elite groupings. The distinctiveness of this battle in the Caucasian region is in the fact, that in the dimension of its enlargement the process is getting worse, because the stronger the leading groupings are becoming the higher rate of harmony and coordination the other groupings have among themselves – these to the exclusion of which the concentration of power can be realized. If we could suppose, that the power in this process will be deprived of corruption, will enforce the rule of law and order, then this process should be recognized as constructive, despite its painfulness. Anyway, there is no reason to suppose, that in the present circumstances the leading clan could change its character. Inter-clan war remains the same inter-clan war with the usage of the specific methods. The only difference is that now there is the resource of central power on one side.
If the internal content of the inter-clan battle remains the same, then the results of this battle remain almost without a change. Before the inter-clan led into a compromised agreement and parity, because none of the subjects of power could not be tempted to gain the final victory over others. But now these methods of conflict moderation are not current. In the past all the power subjects within their conflicts were interested in the support from the centre and proved them as much loyalty as they could, but nowadays it stands in the conflict with the centre as the direct participant within the local battles on the side of the only power subject.
Because of that the opposition is being slowly radicalized against the policy of the centre. When at that time the notable volume of the conflicts of groupings could be realized in a legal form, for example during the electoral campaign into the government body or local self-government authority, parliament with the usage of sources and other means, now all these democratic steps loose their value. The real political battle takes place “under the carpet” in the sphere of hidden intrigue and direct crimes.
Now, neither the power, nor the aggrieved groupings do not need the local support of the citizens, but of the concrete groups, they can rely on support and help only in the case of clear determination whose part do they take in these conflicts. The need for usage of criminal gangs is increasing. Their activity is being marked as “terrorist attacks of Islamic extremists” in the media.
Naturally, in the battle among the well organized forces a place where spontaneous groups arise, exist and preserve religious, nationalistic or other political content or the groups of only criminal character can be found. These groups are part of the local atmosphere and confusion within the whole situation of some conflicts, acting independently or performing for the return of money concrete orders of the strong groupings.
What are the advantages of the traditional forms of government such as the Council of Elders? In the northern Caucasian republics the decay of the clan structure has not been accomplished – in this system the main meaning is in inter-clan consensus. Why doesn’t the federal government try to create jirga which will include all the important people from all clans and members of the moderated Islamic opposition? According to R. A. Kadyrov mosque should become the center of political life. What is the stand of Moscow? What importance do these conception play when solving the North Caucasus conflict?
Traditional institutions played important role in Caucasian societies in the 90-ties under the fall of the communism, when the control from the centre was reduced to the minimum. Generally in the multiethnic Dagestan in 1994 – 2006 was the Sate Council of Dagestan the supreme executive body comprised of 14 members – one member from each of the Dagestan nationality. Dagestan was inhabited with the following nations:  Russians  Chechens  Azerbaijani people  Mountain Jews  Nogais and so called autochthonous Caucasian ethnics:  Caucasian Avars  Dargwa people  Kumyks  Lezgian people  Lak people  Tabasaran people  Aghul people  Rutul people and  Tsakhur people. Beside these there were particular rules in the electoral system into the local bodies, which commissioned the proportion of national representation.
The control of the center has been strengthen also in the fact, that all of these institutions were considered for something “that was against the Russian constitution” and were abolished. There were certain attempts to count on the traditional institutions. The “Congress of nations”, “The Council of Elders” and other were created but all the institutions can not solve the situation. So, the traditional institutions are effective only then, when they maintain their full traditional authority. But when the power creates the Council of Elders with the aim to implement their own decisions, it doesn’t strengthen the power but erodes the traditional institutions. All these actions can not be called otherwise than “traditional mechanisms to solve problems”. Recently in Dagestan, the Congress of nations of Dagestan was organized. Its organization could not change anything as the motiveless manipulation of tradition denies the real tradition. The original traditionalism in Caucasus is in above described illegal organizational structures which role is to commission the living and safety of people, in the environment, where the formal institutions of power and law do not function.
Kadyrov and the leaders of other republics rely on Islam in effort to reinforce their power. But they support Islam which orders to obey the power and is built in the system and makes its inseparable part. From the religious leaders of this flow of Islam become the state clerks, who have their place in the hierarchy. That is why the mosque can not become the center of the political life, but they can become the representatives of the political influence of power over citizens.
Is there any possibility the Caucasian Emirate can participate in the political processes, or is the only effective solution the physical removal of its members? On the other hand is there the moderated political active (within Caucasian Emirate), which is in opposition now but could happen political alternative to the current power in north Caucasian republics? If so, name it.
“Caucasian Emirate” is a virtual organization, it exists because we always hear of strong actions, which are going on in here and which have their own reasons, which I included in my reply to your first question. The fact is that all the parties involved are interested in picturing the “situation” the way it really is. The legal state media as well as the illegal Islamic web pages talk about these excesses in the same coordinate system. The only difference is in interpretation and evaluation.
Both the parties talk about the secular power, which fights with the irreconcilable opposition, which wants to establish the religious Islamic regime. Both the parties making use of all the means of propagation excuse their right to physically destroy their enemies. The mosaic of the “Caucasian Emirate” fighting for the creation for the well known political project and the bodies of power, which protect the legal establishment, is being created.
Part of the population is taking either on one side or the other. A script presented this way is convenient for the parties involved. Anyway, this is not true. The core of what is going on is, that in the Caucasian Republics of Russia are a lot of partakers, who are able to reverberate the violent actions for the purpose of reaching or defending their own interests.
Realization of the media picture of these actions can be managed by “police”, “bangs of bandits” or “religious extremists”. Naturally, there is a chance to meet an incorrigible religiously eager fanatic in this as well as a responsible civil servant but the core of the dominant and what was mentioned above is the battle of the clan groupings in the conditions pointed out by us.
Naturally, there are groups of intellectuals, who want to see what is going on in terms of “Islamic jihad against the irreligious power”. They have the possibility to share their views with the public via internet. There is the interest of state elements present these matters in a way, which opposes the religious fanatics who lead the Islamic jihad against the power. There are also the altruistic “fighters for Islam” ready to die in the name of Allah. Nevertheless there is “moderated political asset” of Islamic leaderswhich works in the information area with the aim to obtain for itself a legal political share in the system.
If the mosaic of confrontation was really such as it is presented today, these “moderated groups” could be really useful.But these and the like social typologies do not define the core of what is going on in Northern Caucasus. The real process is too serious to be uncovered and presented in the media.
Are the mercenary soldiers involved in the battle in Northern Caucasus? If so, who are they paid by (and where are they from)? What is the situation like with the foreign volunteers (where are they from, etc.)? For example, R. A. Kadyrov is repeatedly accusing the United States of supporting the bandits and terrorists in the Northern Caucasus. Are these accusations based on a real ground?
There are no misgivings about the existence of the direct involvement of foreigners in the Caucasus fighters from Islamic countries – from Azerbaijan and Far East. They are usually volunteers, wandering knights, “soldiers of Allah” and adventurers. There were the cases of financial supports of some funds, individual donors, etc. There might be secret service involved, but those are just speculations. I know nothing of this. I suppose the main forces, which are in charge are the locals, who are their reasons for these actions.
If I understand it correctly, Wahhabism coming from Saudi Arabia is spread among the terrorists. In some countries, Saudi Arabia establishes Wahhabi madrasas Are there Wahhabi centers in Northern Caucasus? If so, where? Is there any influence from Saudi Arabia in Northern Caucasus? How is it shown?
Radical Islamic doctrine, which is confessed by terrorists, is called wahhabism. It is not Islamic theological term. The term was coined by the soviet historians – orientalists, to characterize the known political movement of 18.century in Arabia headed by a theologian – fighter for liberation from Turkish supremacy of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792). By this term they started to call them or to curse them at the beginning of the 80-ties in the twentieth century a new trend of Islamic worship, which appeared in the USSR. They appeared candidly in a small percentage among young people being educated in secular schools, who spent time with religious questions getting the religious knowledge not from their ancestors but from religious literature.
At this time, we could talk about two main segments of Islamic faith in Northern Caucasus. Firstly, there was the official clergy DUMSK (Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Northern Caucasus) and their worshipers from a small number of believers of the middle and older ages. Secondly, the other segment was the unofficial sufi groupings of worshipers under the leadership of a sheik (something like “Sufi cleric” – editor’s note). These were mainly among illiterate farmers in the mountainous villages. These sufi brotherhoods were not persecuted, but they were neither supported from the power. The official clergy was not numerous (in Dagestan, at the beginning of the 80-ties there were 25-27 mosques and in the other parts of Northern Caucasus no more than 5-7) (3) and absolutely controlled by the power. The declaration of the freedom of religion moved the two segments into the independent public life. Both these segments of Islamic worship started to come together despite their different, but not important conflicts.
More serious religious confrontation came with the public entrance representatives of the above mentioned (the third) stream – young Muslims. They considered neither the educated sheiks nor the official mullahs (something like “Muslim clerics” – editor’s note), who received the traditional education to be the authority. For them they represented “late” and “impure” Islam, “to an extent limited by permission of the state”. Their understanding and feelings can be compared with the modern scientologist world view. They denied the people’s faith traditionally connected with the tradition of Islam; they were spreading strict monotheism that is they denied the respect for the graves and rituals of their worship as well as other objects; they denied dead and live religious authorities, etc. This stream was called “Wahhabism”.
The fight of the “traditionalists” (traditional clergy, as well as Sufis or as we call them here “Tarikatists”) with “Wahhabists” from the mid 90-ties began the violent character. The power, being busy with its “prosaic matters”, did not want to take part at the religious disputes in the first instance with a declaration of “freedom of consciousness” and “separation of the church from the state”. But the hostility was growing and while the “Tarikatists” and traditional clergy were fulfilling the space with church services, the “Wahhabists” refused the professional clergy in Islam and wanted all to be responsible in front of Allah, strict respect for Islam law; they refused burdensome and expensive ritual. We can remind to the European reader of the times of Protestantism, its fight with the Roman Catholicism, argumentation of the parties and it become more understandable.
The power took the part of the clergy against the Wahhabists in the end, because the first did not attempt to come to power and were satisfied with offering church services to inhabitants. The persecution of wahhabists began from the force authorities and as a reaction the Wahhabists started to get radical. Under these circumstances, the majority of the Wahhabists gave up active practicing ut remained in their “own opinion” but a small number of radicals went into illegal or went to Chechnya to fight with Russia at that time.
I will no continue in how the things were going on anymore. At the moment the number of not active (philosophical) followers of wahhabism in the region is increasing year by year, and mainly among the young. Now they talk about a massive wahhabi fellowship of the young. The Wahhabists are not being radicalized nowadays because of the persecution just the way it was in the 90-ties, but all who are becoming to radicalize mark themselves as “Wahhabists” and this is not because of re-evaluating of the theological problematic or because of conversion. Now the religious ideology elementary marks itself as a confrontation between the status quo and its opponents.
It could be clear out of this all, that Saudi Arabia has only an indirect relation to everything what is going on in Caucasus and has no attempt to show whatever activity by itself. By the way, “Wahhabism” of Saudi Arabia is the law respecting legal ideology, but the “Tarikatism” (Sufi brotherhoods) at the beginning of the 19th century in Caucasus became battalion of a half-century lasting war against Russia headed by Imams. The content of theology has no meaning; the meaning is in the theological differences between the parties at conflict.
Official Wahhabi mosques do not exist, but they do not consider a mosque to be mandatory for a believer. In a Wahhabi Islam the mosque is not he temple, but simply a place, where the prayer can pray much more comfortable. Nor the Wahhabi Centers exist officially. Because they can be the subject of a persecution from the investigative bodies and the believers can be arrested (or even murdered without any further explanation) just because they wear beard and moustache typical for Wahhabists.
What is the character of relation between the traditional Islam and Wahhabism? Some of the representatives of traditional Islam have already been murdered. How can the Wahhabism be fought effectively?
I have already touched how the Wahhabism is fought against and what relations have evolved between the traditional Islam and Wahhabism.
The most effective thing would be if the authorities did not solve religious questions and aimed their goals at prevention of concrete crimes. To fight theological interpretations is impossible and useless. The majority of people does not even have a clue about the differences between the individual Islam movements. The problem does not lie in ideology. None of the religious ideologies forces to kill and to risk your own life. Religious ideology can serve as a source of motivation which forces people to violence. The reasons, the real motivation of people comes from the fact that a man in Caucasus, if he wants to exist and maintain his dignity, has to defend his status and financial position constantly. The functions of state – assign the order and discipline, the requests of justice, punishment of criminals and so on – that all is going on with the help of self-help of citizens. To rely on the state is not possible.
All the acts of violence in Caucasus, which are being mentioned in the media all the time, are the reaction to the violation being committed earlier. If we learn from the media “another terrorist has been removed” it is clear we will hear pretty soon about “killing the police lieutenant by the terrorists”. And vice versa. To present the thing, that we are dealing with “the battle of the state against the terroristic organizations”, which will never end.
For example, the news about “terrorist” attack at the market places under pretences, that “alcohol was sold there” evokes ironic smiles on faces of the Caucasians. Everybody knows that these events are episodes from “commercial wars” – from the family (clan) battles, for the place at the market, for the retail places and others. It is noteworthy, that mythological version of these excesses is contribution for all and the real participants of the excesses are the investigative bodies. For the last mentioned is such an interpretation of these processes favorable, as they “can not” investigate the true extent (as they are not allowed to do so). That’s why a terrorist is murdered first and only then they find out who he was and then they connect a previously committed crime to him. But I am not excluding, that among the criminals there are the real psychically ill “religious fanatics”, who are being taken advantage of for their “own darkness”.
The same applies to the cases of murders of religious personalities. Anyway, there are almost unambiguous and prosaic reasons. But this is of no interest for anybody; far more interesting is to state that behind the “killing of the good religious leaders” are “the bad religious leaders”.And removing “the bad religious leaders” is carried out by the investigation bodies, which protect the good citizens against “the religious fanatics” – “the enemy of the whole humankind”. I will give you an example. One of the moderated followers of Wahhabism used to go to one of the mosques on Fridays. Mullah did not want to see him because of the known “theological” reasons. A natural conflict arose between them. In the end, Mullah called the police – and the police took the moderated follower to the police station and beat him to death. A month later, on Friday was Mullah shot in public. The reasons for these two deaths are clear to everybody in Caucasus, but you can imagine how this fact was pictured in the media. I will add one fact, that the murderer of Mullah who had been seen at the time when the crime was committed will not be arrested and sent to the court. He will be killed during an extraordinary “anti-terroristic” operation.
In the 90-ties the terrorists / bandits were supported from Georgia. Does this support still exist?
I would not say that Georgia supported Caucasian terrorists in the 90-ties. The truth is they offered asylum to the Chechnya people in the Pankisi Gorge, where the “Georgian Chechens” – called Kist people living. Georgian – Dagestan relations were bad since the Georgia requested Avars villages (one of the Dagestan nations) to be removed from their land; they are called “Qvareli Avars” who settled in Qvareli (on of the mountainous regions of Georgia) in the times of tsarist Russia in the 80-ties of the 19th century. Extreme nationalism Gamsakhurdia, the first Georgian president, considerably damaged the relations between Caucasian mountaineers and Georgia. Do not forget the wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
We can expect the support from Georgia for all the hostile forces in the part of the Russian Caucasus. This support is being on already, but I have no particular information. It is a policy of different level, I can speculate about but I do not know it.
What is role of the Georgian Russian-broadcasting television “The First Caucasian”? How do you evaluate its influence on the conflict going on?
Georgian television plays its role, but I think the role is insignificant. In Northern Caucasus, mainly in Dagestan, there are some mass media which criticize the regime freely and effectively. Besides, the internet media work as well as other types of free media. This Georgian channel does not add to all these information streams. It is necessary to mention, that Georgian activities in the region are not prized by the majority of Caucasian mountaineers.
Saakashvili has announced he wants to abolish visa for the citizens of North Caucasian Republics. Why?
As far as I know the visa for the citizens of this region have already been abolished. I do not know yet what consequences it can cause. I think, that after the failure in the South Ossetia in 2008 Georgia decided to re-evaluate its policy towards Caucasian mountaineers: from the scorn as “superpower” has changed into the policy of cooperation and support of forces, which oppose the Russian regime.
Many young people from Northern Caucasus republics come to study at universities in Georgia. What fields do they study and why does Georgia offer this opportunity?
I am not aware of many Caucasusns from Russia regions of Caucasus studying in Georgia. It is unlikely.
Lately, the violence is being concentrated to officials in Northern Caucasus, who are supported by Moscow. Why?
The officials are the part of processes of distribution
and re-distribution of financial sources they themselves are of some kind of source “holders”. Violence being aimed at them – is an episode of the above mentioned battle of groupings within the process of problem solving. Actions of violence against one group of officials or businessmen can be realized by other officials and businessmen. But it can be true, that it is a revenge of a family for some injustices, which were caused by a particular official. It can be the actions of criminal gangs, which blackmail rich officials (generally the officials here are rich people), they are claiming some money in exchange for a peaceful life. It is known, that criminal groups check their recruits by ordering them to kill without a specific reason one official.
How does the regional and federal government want to deal with the bad social-economic situation and the abnormal level of corruption? What are the possibilities?
It is an incorrect image, that there is a goal-directed effort to establish order by the “federal government”, which tries to “restore order” between “troublesome mountaineers”, who do not want to live the way that would be appropriate. The federal government in Caucasian republics presents neither in words nor in actions common offfcials, who deal with the same matters as their colleagues in other regions of the country. The one difference is that in the other regions “the order in full scope” has been restored and in the Caucasian region because of the reasons mentioned above the order fails to be restored.
The level of corruption in Caucasus is no higher than in other regions in Russia. In these circumstances corruption can not be higher or lower in one or other region, because corruption determines totally the economic-administrative life in Russia. The distinctiveness of the corruption in Caucasus is that it is easier for these regions to perform different corruption schemes. The Caucasian client is more reliable and generous when offering “bribes”. Bribes, which were given by a mountaineer from Caucasus, are less risky for the receiver, because majority of displays of corruption is the internal fighting within the bureaucratic class in today Russia. Corrupted service offered to the Caucasian mountaineer is awarded in a more generous way.
As you can see, the specifics apply to aspects concerned with elements which are called “national character”. Anyway, there is no high corruption in here.
What advantages brought the creation of North Caucasian Federal District in stabilization of security situation in Northern Caucasian Republics? How would you evaluate the work of Alexander Khloponin?
The creation of North Caucasian Federal District is the result and proof of the power not being able to really solve the problems in Caucasus. Re-drawing of te borders, re-naming and other empty recent “actions” by the power are realizations of at least some reactions to the negative trends. In a better event they are useless but more often they are harmful. The thinking of those who were making the decisions of the creation of a new federal circle was following: to separate the troublesome Caucasus from the “Russian” regions of Southern Federal District; from the region, which is hosting 2014 Winter Olympics. As for the action “of openly marked borders” not to cause serious disorder with the original citizens a quite peace-loving, intelligent and very rich technocrat of a high rank was constituted as a leader. If the situation keeps getting worse, but it can not go worse anyway, so he will be replaced with “a member of force structures” with extra powers; it means that they will introduce “military administration and traditional government as a governance”, in which functioned in Northern Caucasus since the end of the Caucasian War in 1864 until the fall of the tsarist regime in 1917.
Khloponin is doing his work and is trying, as much as he can, not to cause visible worsening of the situation. He has at his hands various “development projects” substance of which is shriveling into financial injections from the centre for the alleged industrial development and the development of tourism, etc. In realty, all this leads to the fact, that the money ends up in the pockets of the local leaders , what is in particular dangerous; it leads to the seizing of the land by the local oligarchy; this land is inhabited by the local ethnic groups. This is how the social unease arises in a region, where there is long lasting acute shortage of land and where the land means more than ownership.
Many young people leave to study Islam abroad, where they are often disposed to negative influence – what is the politicization of faith. Khloponin has suggested founding secular Islamic university. In your opinion, will the students study at home after establishing a state Islamic university, which should be located somewhere in Northern Caucasus?
Yes, a lot of young Caucasian mountaineers leave to study at the eminent Islamic centers in east. The content of their education is traditional and is not and can not be politicized. They may study at home.
In Dagestan, only there you have 13 Islamic higher education institutions. Some of similar institutions are in Chechnya and in Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. All of them are orthodox in relation to theological orientation, which is supported by the government. Another Islamic education can be obtained when self-studying in secret.
The government intends to create two state Islamic universities one of which will be Shafi’i madhhab (this doctrine is followed by the Dagestan people, Chechens and Ingush people) the other one will be Hanafi madhhab (this doctrine is followed by Caucasian people in the western parts of the Northern Caucasus) (4). In this case, it is not clear what could change by creating these new institutions – the like are already in existence. Maybe by promoting their status, the state will recognize them. But the problem is that many believers do not want to have their clerical teachers, who publically serve the ruling class.
Those who study abroad, with them there is no problem, that they get radical against the regime, but the fact, that the state forces us into one type of Islamic creed. This thrust type of belief is far away from the classical Islam; it presents itself as a domestic people’s Islam, which was preached by “Sufi” sheiks. This is Islam of mysterious sacraments, worshipping of graves, ancestors, dead and live authorities and many more, which were always connected with religious traditions when they came in touch with common people. Islam does not accepts miracles carried out by sheiks, it denies religious importance of ceremonies and rituals, that is “pagan” in opinion of the orthodox – that is the Wahhabists, the members of Islamic creed, which is banned at the moment. Those, who are to preach this Islamic direction without any political attributes will be pronounced enemies.
Besides, you have to understand, that Islam stands against all the forms of “Churchification”. Islam will always keep from religious organizations and creation of hierarchy (the stages of the closeness to the God); in Islam “clergy” can not be closer to the God than the laymen. Within the Russian area there used to be a tendency to organize Muslims into structures of hierarchy, which is more or less understandable to orthodox believers. And the result comes into – DUM Spiritual administration of Muslims.
This policy leads to the fact that Islam gradually changes into a danger of the regime in the structures built by the power changing into an inseparable part of the power; and out of it Muslims deny the right to be controlled by the state loyal representatives.
The only way how to find the point of departure from this situation is to let Islam blossom as independent, geographically closed community of followers (as it used to be in Caucasus in the traditional communities), having as a head Mullah chosen by the community and for a certain time, just the way it works in the United States in protestant denominations. Any type of politicalization of their activities will not be tolerated by the community, but the political phraseology of some of the “independent Islam” political activists should be considered not from the view point of the “analysis of the theological content” their doctrine, but from the view point of their legality or illegality within the criminal or civil law. The state takes on its shoulders repressive functions now, when the sentence against the “heretic” is announced by representatives of Spiritual administration of Muslims (DUM). It is very similar to events occurring in early Modern history in Europe, when the clergy passed the execution of the punishment into the hands of state bodies.
Dmitry Medvedev has announced, that he is ready to withdraw the leaders of Northern Caucasian republics who can not manage their duties. They are only „representatives of force structures”. Isn’t it better to introduce into the office somebody with a management experience? If so, do you have any suitable candidates for presidents in the individual republics?
Not all of the presidents in the Northern Caucasian Republics are members of force structures. In Dagestan there has never been introduced into the office a representative of force structures. Only in Ingushetia currently all the leaders were appointed from the security structures. In North Ossetia-Alania, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia and Adygea Republics have not had leaders from force structures. Recently, at the beginning of February the president of Karachay-Cherkessia, Boris Ebzeyev, stepped down (under his own request); Boris Ebzeyev – Karachay, one of the greatest Russian lawyers until he was appointed president, served as the member of the Constitutional Court of Russian federation. And at the beginning of March, a 35-year old Rashid Temrezov was appointed president of the Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, who is an educated economist and experienced manager. In March 14, two days after his inauguration, in the downtown of Cherkessk, a sniper shot the director of a “Kavkazcement”, the greatest businessman in the country, who manages, as the media had put it “the only fully functioning industrial company” and “main donor” of this republic.
I have no candidates for the posts and searching for dignified people is not my duty. The problem is not that the center is not able to choose suitable people. When it comes to appointing of people for the posts in the Caucasian republics, I can not object their “professional experience” or personal qualities. They are usually strong and responsible persons. That’s not the problem; the problem is in the quality of situational systems I have described above. Processes going on in Caucasus can not be other – they can account for the given situation.
Is it possible to solve the crisis going on in Northern Caucasus until 2014 Winter Olympics and until 2018 FIFA World Cup? If so, what measures should be taken?
The Caucasian problems can be solved in a civilized manner together with solving the present situation in Russia as a whole. Another way, how to solve the problem is the most difficult and out of court terror against everybody, who oppose the tyranny. This way is being applied and realized in practice and it really helps to “keep the situation” in the same state. The approach of 2014 Winter Olympics does not give nay hope, that the problems will be changed any soon. It is very likely that the “anti-terrorist” actions of the security bodies will go on the way it goes on, that is in the regime of harsh, out of legislature attacking actions. But the development of the recent years suggests, that the resistance of illegal structures was not weaken. That means only one thing, that the illegal structures will be renewed in the same form in new generations. Places of the dead rebels will be taken by new rebels. It demonstrates that they are reproduced by social-political affairs.
I think the safety of the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2018 FIFA World Cup will be secured by extraordinary, that is by harsher measures.
(1) See a news report of the First Channel “A man and law ” (in Russian):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNVZBPaiRKc or news report of the „Russia Today” (in English):
(2) Let’s call them “clans”. In reality, these structures in different Caucasian Republic of Russia have a specific character, which should be taken into account if the policy of the center was a bit better elaborated.