The Russian Caucasus: integration and current threats

Timur Utsayev, Grozny, exlusively to VK
Vestnik Kavkaza
Fri, 07/13/2012

The 1150th anniversary of the birth of Russian statehood was widely celebrated in Grozny. Academics from Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, Kalmykia, Adygea, Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria gathered in the format of the All-Russian Academic Conference "Russia and the Caucasus: Past and Present." They spoke on the necessity of developing a regional policy capable of developing the potential of Russian influence in the Caucasus and agreed that the North Caucasus was the region where the Russian state was tested on its political viability.

Elena Zhiruhina from the Institute of Socio-Economic and Humanities Research of the South Research Center spoke on the strategy of fighting extremism in the region: "The international practice of fighting extremism and terrorism includes rehabilitation programs for individuals sympathetic to radical ideologies and those who have already committed crimes. The important aspect in the dialogue with the representatives of radical groups is giving them a chance to return to society. During the process of rehabilitation it is necessary to consider the reasons that prompted them to join the illegal groups, from social protest to attempts to get some funds through criminal activity with extremist slogans. Each particular case requires a particular approach. In the North Caucasus, projects based on certain principles of restorative justice – social reintegration of the offender – are implemented in the form of commissions on the adaptation of former extremists to civilian life in Dagestan, Ingushetia and Karachaevo-Cherkessia. During the Commission’s work in Dagestan, 37 applications for adaptation were received, and 32 of them were considered. In Ingushetia, the declared number of people returning to civilian life is 74. However, at this stage the initiatives are not quite transparent and do not enjoy a reasonable degree of confidence on the part of society. Another serious problem is the prescriptive and not compulsory nature of these decisions. Development and adoption of the mechanism of providing amnesty for people, who have not directly taken part in terrorist acts, should be a priority "

At the same time, according to the participants of the conference, in terms of unemployment, social vacuum and permanent instability, the formation of “peace initiatives” becomes a challenge. The strategy of countering extremism must be part of the comprehensive development of the North Caucasus and the basis of security, ranging from the level of mentality. From the perspective of Arthur Atayev, a research scientist of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, in the North Caucasus republics it is necessary to form a network of pro-Russian civil non-profit organizations, which would interact on a horizontal level and produce successful civil practices: "The system of grants and target competitions has also proven its effectiveness and feasibility. However, in spite of its small demand on resources and high efficiency, it is not used to the necessary extent by regional and local authorities. We have to admit the disappointing fact that civilian resources of countering terrorism have not yet been used to their full capacity in most of the republics of the North Caucasus."

"The fact that Russia is one of the states engaged in the successful fight against terrorism is partly based on the fact that since 2000 the Russian Federation has adhered to a conservative strategy to combat terrorism. Using a conservative strategy influenced the reformatting of terrorist tactics – if, before September 2004, terrorist attacks were carried out with the seizure of a large number of hostages, after that members of illegal armed groups carried out smaller-scale attacks, usually with the use of suicide bombers. Against this background, taking into account the ongoing revitalization of the destructive forces of terrorism in the region, the role of not only federal and regional political elites but also civil society institutions has increased. Non-profit organizations and foundations; religious communities; informal authoritative organization, uniting the elders; family and clan associations can really influence the reduction of the social base of terrorism in the current circumstances in the North Caucasus republics," Atayev thinks.

Along with this, according to Khazret Blyagoz, the rector of Maikop State Technological University, there are still many problems in the field of ethnic relations: "We need to reflect on the state of ethno-political and ethno-social situation in the country. Against the background of the painful socio-economic transformation, social stratification, and a significant reduction in the standard of living of most of the Russians, ethnic mobilization became one of the possible ways of resolving the accumulated contradictions in ethnic-state relations. In historical terms, Russia has the preferred scenario of ethnic and cultural processes based on the preservation and strengthening of federal relations. This is the way of ethnic, cultural and political integration, the path of gradual patient adaptation of the ethnic entities of various nations in a process of forming the multinational people of Russia. In this regard, federal democracy is a unique model for the arrangement of relations between the peoples of Russia today. Only an advanced field of national and cultural relations takes the edge off in the sphere of interethnic relations."

According to scientists, the relationship between national cultures always includes constraints, isolation and separateness that do not allow national cultures to identify with each other. Any political attempt in this direction does not make sense. We can talk about mutual influence and mutual enrichment of national cultures; the experience of one national culture can cause corresponding changes in other national cultures. Thus, each national culture experiencing the impact of other national cultures absorbs their experience and assimilates it, keeping its originality and certainty.

The participants of the conference have recommended that the historians studying the peoples of the Caucasus should proceed from the indisputable fact that in the XVI-XVII centuries the most important component of Russian statehood was good-neighborly relations with nations. "The North Caucasus is an integral part of our great country, and the Caucasian peoples are proud of it, never forgetting the rich and glorious history of the relations between the peoples of the North Caucasus and Russia in the sphere of culture, art, science, and, of course, common feats of arms," the participants of the conference concluded.

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