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The Dynamics of the Ethnopolitical Situation and Conflicts in the North Caucasus* J arissa J . Khoperskaya North Caucasus Territorial Office Ministry of Nationalities and Federal Affairs retrospective analysis of political processes in the late 1990s attests to the fact that, as the year 2000 approached, tendencies toward a deepening crisis of the Russian state were intensifying. In the North Caucasus, this was expressed in · the existence of political (an understanding of the nature of the federation as a federation of ethnoses), legal (discrepancies between re- gional and federal legislation on fundamental questions), and organiza- tional (the creation of unconstitutional organs of power) conflicts between the federal center and federation subjects, primarily republics, which were claiming full sovereignty and priority of local legislation above Russian legislation · the involvement of new participants in the Chechen conflict (Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechen diasporas in other federation sub- jects) · the intensification of the struggle for regional influence among political groups formed along ethnic and religious lines; that is, the politi- cal crisis in the Karachai-Cherkess Republic and the intensification of Ossetian-Ingushetian relations *Translated from the Russian by Rita S. Guenther. 120
ETHNOPOLITICAL SITUATION AND CONFLICTS IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS 121 · the widening of the spectrum of local and intrasubject conflicts; that is, interethnic, interteip [clan], religious, political, and socioeconomic conflicts, including Struggles for Influence between political groups created along ethnic and subethnic lines based on membership in various teips or virds [autonomous religious sects] or residence in particular villages or settle- ments (in Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, and Kabardino-Balkaria) ~ local conflicts between resident populations and non-Slavic mi- grants, for example, Chechens, Dargins, Meskhetian Turks, Kurds, and others (in Rostov, Volgograd, and Astrakhan oblasts, Krasnodar and Stavropol krais, and Adygeya) ~ conflicts with adherents of nontraditional denominations and faiths, especially Wahhabists · the intensification of conflicts between Russian Federation subjects in the regions on various grounds, including ~ territorial: conflicts resulting from territorial disagreements, such as those between Ingushetia and North Ossetia-Alania (Prigorodny Region) and Kalmykia and Astrakhan Oblast (the Chernye Zemli area) ~ ecological: conflicts connected with questions of ecological safety, which affect not only the interests of the two federation subjects involved but also those of their neighbors. One such example is the dis- pute between Karachaevo-Cherkessia and Stavropol Krai over the coordi- nation of joint environmental protection activities in the Caucasus Min- eral Waters district. This conflict was caused by violations of natural resource utilization rules and the initiation of agricultural activities (live- stock grazing, timber cutting, and so forth) in ecologically protected ar- eas. In addition, the interests of the two federation subjects were also at odds on questions regarding the joint use of existing water management systems, including the Great Stavropol Canal and other water engineer- ing facilities. ~ religious-political: conflicts connected with the consequences of aggression (Dagestan-Chechnya) and the export of Wahhabism from ar- eas beyond the borders of the Russian Federation. The Wahhabi factor is closely linked to terrorism and is considered an instrument of interethnic conflict, which destabilizes the internal political situation in multiethnic republics. A fundamental change in the tendencies and dynamics of the ethnopolitical situation in the North Caucasus occurred in 2000, when the
22 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES newly elected president of Russia, in one of his first decrees, began a process of administrative-state reforms primarily aimed at strengthening vertical chains of command and enhancing federalism. The ultimate goal was to introduce a system of federal districts and create the new posts of plenipotentiary representatives of the president of the Russian Federa- tion. Almost a year and a half after the decision was made to implement the reforms, it is possible to draw some initial conclusions and evaluate the activities of the plenipotentiary representatives using as an example the most difficult and conflict-prone district in Russia, the Southern Fed- eral District. The Southern Federal District was created in accordance with presi- dential decrees No. 849 of May 13, 2000, and No. 1149 of May 21, 2000. Its administrative center is located in the city of Rostov-on-Don. Viktor Kazantsev has been appointed as the plenipotentiary representative of the president of the Russian Federation for this district. The Southern Federal District occupies 3.5 percent of the territory of Russia and consists of some 589,200 square kilometers. It has a population of more than 21.5 million (14.3 percent of the population of the Russian Federation). It is one of the most multiethnic and multireligious regions in the world. Representatives of more than 100 ethnic groups, belonging to various language groups and professing belief in all of the world reli- gions, reside in the district. The district is composed of 13 Russian Federa- tion subjects 8 republics, 2 krais, and 3 oblasts. The plenipotentiary representative is pursuing the strategy of strengthening vertical chains of command in several respects, as outlined under the following headings. CREATION OF POLITICAL, ADMINISTRATIVE, AND SOCIOECONOMIC INTEGRATIONAL STRUCTURES AND MECHANISMS South Russian Parliamentary Association (SRPA) An agreement on the formation of the SRPA was signed by represen- tatives of the parliaments of 11 federation subjects on April 25, 2001. The agreement highlights the principles on which the association is founded: voluntary commitment, independence, and self-governance. The primary tasks of the association are · promoting the development of democracy, parliamentarianism, and government based on the rule of law · coordinating activities aimed at strengthening parliamentarianism and constitutional forms of government
ETHNOPOLITICAL SITUATION AND CONFLICTS IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS 123 · developing a coordinated approach to political, economic, and so- cial reforms · strengthening contacts and dialogues among parliaments Aleksandr Popov, chairman of the Legislative Assembly of Rostov Oblast, has been elected as chairman of the SRPA. The Consortium of South Russian District Legal and Law Enforcement Agencies One of the first members of the consortium, the Office of the General Prosecutor for the Southern Federal District, was created in February 2001. The three tasks facing this office are · ensuring the observance of Russian constitutional provisions and other federal laws in the sphere of state-building and federalism in the district · monitoring the observance of laws by federal agencies in the dis- trict that perform pretrial investigations, inquests, and operational inves- tigative activities · investigating criminal cases involving the most dangerous and so- cially significant crimes Under difficult sociopolitical circumstances conducive to a high inci- dence of crime, the office is facing an expanded range of problems. It has been assigned responsibility for conducting antiterrorist operations in the Chechen Republic, participating in the resolution of Ossetian-Ingushetian conflicts, suppressing the anticonstitutional activities of certain regional leaders, and combating particularly dangerous crimes, such as terrorist acts, kidnappings, and assassinations. Other subsidiary legal and law enforcement agencies have also been created, including a district office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a council of heads of local offices of Russian Federation security agencies in the Southern Federal District, a district branch of the tax police, and a district justice administration. Each of these organizations has been as- signed specific responsibilities. Federal Targeted Program for the Socioeconomic Development of Southern Russia Through 2006 This program was considered and adopted on July 5, 2001, at a meet- ing of the government of the Russian Federation. Conceptually, the pro- gram includes a wide range of political, organizational, legal, economic, social, scientific-technical, and cultural activities. It involves international
24 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES and federation-wide projects as well as those between and within federa- tion subjects. Cooperation at all of these levels has been outlined in the six components of the program, with priority to be given to development of the energy, manufacturing, transportation, agricultural, tourism, and so- cial sectors of the economy. The program addresses the socioeconomic problems of 12 federation subjects located in the Southern Federal District. The inclusion of only 12 subjects (rather than all 13, with Chechnya being the 13th subject) is due to there being a specific 2001 federal program for the economic and social recovery of the Chechen Republic, which will be continued through 2002- 2003. Subsequently, the problems of socioeconomic development in the Chechen Republic will become part of the federal targeted program for southern Russia. The program calls for the implementation of more than 700 projects at a cost of more than 150 billion rubles, with about 18 percent of the fund- ing to be provided by the federal budget. Implementation of the program will · build or renovate hundreds of facilities and enterprises and im- prove their financial condition create more than one million jobs promote the resolution of housing problems for forced migrants increase freight shipment and oil transport volumes by 400 percent ensure at least a tripling of revenues accruing to government bud- gets at all levels The structure of the program focuses considerable attention on mat- ters related to rebuilding a unified state transportation system as a major stabilizing factor for the economy. Proposals have been made to the Gov- ernment of the Russian Federation regarding the creation of a centralized civilian air traffic control system in the Southern Federal District. A favor- able decision has been made on the idea of creating a single enterprise to handle airspace utilization and air traffic management. Headquartered in Rostov-on-Don, the Southern Air Transport Administration of the Rus- sian Ministry of Transportation has been given lead status for the entire Southern Federal District. It has been assigned special functions in the area of civilian aviation throughout the territory of the district. The program also provides for the reorganization of communications companies in southern Russia, as these enterprises are vitally important for the functioning of the state and its institutions. The reorganization will make it possible to increase tax receipts and share liquidity, accelerate telecommunications development, and introduce unified standards for
ETHNOPOLITICAL SITUATION AND CONFLICTS IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS 125 the provision of communications services in the Southern Federal Dis- trict. Specific questions regarding the implementation of the southern Rus- sia program will be handled by a specially created executive director's office reporting to the plenipotentiary representative and the Russian Ministry of Economic Development. CONTROLLING FUNCTIONS Above all, the post of the plenipotentiary representative was created to help control the process of bringing regional legislation into compli- ance with federal law. At present, many legal acts contradict federal legis- lation, particularly in the sphere of economic activity. This is most typical of Stavropol and Krasnodar krais, the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, the Kabardin-Balkar Republic, and Volgograd Oblast. In a number of federation subjects, for example, in Astrakhan Oblast, violations of fed- eral legislation have become widespread in the signing of international contracts and agreements. Considerable violations have also been discov- ered in regulations governing the organization of elections in federation subjects in the federal district. By October 2001 the justice authorities and the office of the public prosecutor had uncovered more than 1,200 legal acts in contradiction with federal legislation. More than 700 have since been brought into com- pliance with federal law, and work is nearly complete on revising ap- proximately 150 more local laws and other regulatory acts. Work to create a unified legal space in the district and bring regional legislation into compliance with federal laws and the Constitution of the Russian Federation has already produced results. Most regional regula- tions concerning questions of government structure and the observance of human and civil rights and freedoms have been brought into compli- ance with federal law. The most typical violations found in regional legis- lation are connected with the violation of the constitutional principle re- garding the definition of jurisdictions and authorities between the federal government and local authorities within the various federation subjects. This is true of almost all of the federation subjects of the district. The enforcement of a number of laws has been halted, but they have not been repealed. At the same time, in reviewing inconsistencies be- tween federal and regional legislation, it must be recognized that reality objectively compels the local authorities to violate a host of outdated or ineffective federal laws. In accordance with presidential decree No. 741 of tune 21, 2001 ("On the Russian Federation Presidential Commission on the Preparation of a
26 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES Plan on Defining the Jurisdictions and Powers of the Federal Authorities, Authorities of Federation Subjects, and Local Self-Government Bodies"), a special commission was established in the Southern Federal District to prepare the appropriate plan. Working groups were formed on the fol- lowing topics: · general matters regarding the organization of state authorities and local self-government · legality, law and order, and protection of civil rights and freedoms · management and disposition of natural and other material re- sources · interbudgetary relations · sociocultural development economic development environmental safety in populated areas · agreements regarding the division of jurisdictions and authorities Analogous structures have also been created in the various federation subjects, and they submit materials prepared by bodies of state power and local self-government for the district commission to analyze and syn- thesize. The plenipotentiary representative also monitors the implementation of judicial reforms and the improvement of the operation of the entire system for legal rights protection in the various federation subjects. Spe- cial attention is being focused on creating a system of justices of the peace, who will be called upon to relieve the regular courts of less significant cases, and on monitoring the effectiveness of the operations of the regular courts and arbitration courts in the Southern Federal District as well as the activities of regional units of such governmental departments as the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Customs Committee, and the tax police. RELATIONS BETWEEN THE PLENIPOTENTIARY REPRESENTATIVE AND REGIONAL ELITES The political life of the Southern Federal District is increasingly shaped by events connected with election campaigns. In 2000, elections for posts at various levels were held in 7 federation subjects, and in 2001 such elections either have taken place or are expected in 9 of the 13 sub- jects. The task of the plenipotentiary representative as defined by the Russian president is to ensure the exercise of citizens' constitutional rights and prevent violations of federal law, while working jointly with law enforcement agencies to keep criminal forces from coming into power. In
ETHNOPOLITICAL SITUATION AND CONFLICTS IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS 127 this regard, the plenipotentiary oversaw the election process at all stages: the formation of electoral commissions, the nomination procedures for all candidates, the financing of and preparations for the elections, the resolu- tion of problems of informational support in the campaigns, and the orga- nization of voting and vote counting. He was also responsible for any violations of voting laws. The plenipotentiary's involvement was limited to gathering and ana- lyzing information on the candidates for the various electoral posts, inas- much as he was not in a position to become an independent political actor capable of advancing his own candidates for regional and federal posts. This conclusion was confirmed in the September 2001 elections for the head of the Rostov Oblast Administration, as a result of which the exist- ing regional elite maintained all the positions it had previously held. In the coming months, presidential elections are scheduled in North Ossetia-Alania and the Republic of Ingushetia, and the campaigns prom- ise to be intense. Three assassinations have already been committed in the course of the ongoing preelection campaign for heads of municipalities in Karachaevo-Cherkessia. In this context, it is especially clear that the pleni- potentiary representative still has no effective mechanisms for influenc- ing the regional elites and preventing fierce rivalry between political groups. Consequently, there is also no guarantee that political stability will be preserved in these federation subjects. An important indicator of the nature of relations between the pleni- potentiary and the administrative-political elites is his reaction to the draft federal laws proposed by local parliaments. Here, events could de- velop in two different ways. The plenipotentiary could support the project and lobby for it at the federal level, which would result in the positive development of relations with local elites, or he could refuse to support it, consequently resulting in conflict with regional political actors. In the context of bringing regional laws and regulations into compliance with federal legislation and clarifying principles governing the division of au- thority between the federal government and federation subjects, this ques- tion is taking on fundamental importance. In the opinion of existing regional elites, the reforms of 2000-2001 have already achieved undoubtedly positive results, while at the same time creating new problems. In particular, after the reform of the Federa- tion Council of the Russian Federal Assembly, leaders of the legislative bodies of the various federation subjects faced the question of organiza- tional forms and mechanisms of participation in the development of fed- eral legislation. The formation of a legal space for the country, founded on unified legal principles, should take into consideration the regional and ethnocultural diversity of the Russian Federation. It is necessary to re- member that the North Caucasus is a territory with particular local cus-
28 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES toms and traditions that differ greatly from those in other parts of Russia. This is one reason institutions and legal norms that do not fit the frame- work of general Russian legislation may arise there. Primarily, this relates to the legal basis for resolving problems of forced and uncontrolled mi- gration and countering extremism and terrorism rooted in ethnic and religious differences and resulting from the actions of radical sects and religious-political organizations that are untraditional for southern Rus- sia. In the opinion of local elites, a serious set of problems is connected with the need to improve federal and regional laws regarding elections to offices at the republic, oblast, krai, or local levels. In particular, this prob- lem has been raised by the People's Assembly of Dagestan, which pre- sented an initiative on amending the federal law "On Fundamental Guar- antees of Voting Rights and the Right to Participate in Referenda for Citizens of the Russian Federation." The proposals included in the initia- tive focus on the need to take the ethnic composition of the population into account during elections to republic and municipal bodies. In this case, the initiative recommends that attempts to replicate Dagestan's ex- perience in creating ethnic electoral districts should be made in all multiethnic subjects of the Russian Federation. Another example is connected with the draft federal law "On Migra- tion in the Russian Federation," which was jointly developed by the legis- lative bodies of the Republic of Adygeya and Krasnodar Krai and submit- ted for consideration by the State Duma of the Russian Federation in early 2001. The bill calls for making migration policy substantially stricter. Up to now, Viktor Kazantsev has not rejected such initiatives, but he has reacted extremely cautiously to them, which suggests that he does not see supporting them as a means of establishing a positive dialogue with regional elites. He uses different means to create a positive public image, primarily including the following: · direct influence on the development of the military situation (the shift from the military to the police stage in the counterterrorist opera- tion) and the political situation (the development of the draft constitu- tion) in the Chechen Republic · personal participation in the resolution of severe conflict situations (the Ossetian-Ingushetian conflict, the political crisis in the Karachai- Cherkess Republic in 2000) and the investigation of terrorist acts commit- ted in the district (Caucasus Mineral Waters Region in 2001) · organization of interest group meetings with Muslim and Ortho- dox clerics, leaders of Russian (Slavic) communities, heads of municipali- ties, journalists, the business elite, members of the armed forces, and so
ETHNOPOLITICAL SITUATION AND CONFLICTS IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS 129 forth, at which operational orders are given for the handling of specific situations · initiation of and support for various activities at the federal district level, for example, the South Russian Festival of the Press, and the cre- ation of districtwide public associations, for example, the Southern Archi- tectural Society of the Union of Architects of Russia or the district branch of the All-Russian Public Organization "Business Russia" · implementation of projects aimed at forming a unified information space in the Southern Federal District, by means of supporting and creat- ing publications under the patronage of the plenipotentiary · creation of a multitude of consultative bodies reporting on such topics as Cossacks, veterans, sports, and so forth, to the office of the plenipotentiary Thus, a year of active engagement by the plenipotentiary of the Presi- dent of Russia in the Southern Federal District has shown that he has, with varying degrees of success, used all possible legitimate means of weakening regional authorities, including · strict demands to bring local legislation into compliance with fed- eral laws · assistance in strengthening the roles of local branches of federal agencies in the region, especially those connected with law enforcement · initiation of integration processes · isolation of the second (commercial) and third (noncommercial) sectors, which were not involved in active cooperation with the existing administrative elites in the various federation subjects · formation of a unified informational space in southern Russia These tendencies generally suggest the appearance of a tactic of re- structuring the elites around the plenipotentiary. On the one hand, such a tactic is in accordance with the basic task assigned to the plenipotentiaries by the president of the Russian Federation, namely strengthening the vertical chains of command through which presidential power may be exercised. On the other hand, a clear picture has already emerged of the purposeful formation of a social base for Kazantsev's future political ac- tivities and his transformation into an independent political figure. The dynamic of the ethnopolitical situation attests to the search for new ways of resolving and preventing conflicts and demonstrates the existence of a specific strategy guiding the activities of the plenipotentiary of the president of the Russian Federation in the Southern Federal Dis- trict, namely that of transforming the district into a new socioterritorial and sociopolitical community.