Staunton, January 24 – Daghestan should not be part of the North Caucasus Federal District, a structure which “by its nature has not and cannot resolve the problems of the regions” but rather become part of a new federal district which would also include adjoining Russian regions on the northern shores of the Caspian, according to a Makhachkala scholar.
Abdul-Nasir Dibirov, the rector of the Daghestan Institute of Economics and Politics, told the Regnum news agency that the North Caucasus Federal District “was created not so much as an organic part of the power vertical but as a kind of buffer in advance of in advance of the 2014 Olympic Games” (www.regnum.ru/news/polit/1491219.html).
Specifically, Dibirov added, that district represented an attempt “to isolate the problematic North Caucasus republics from Krasnodar kray. But Moscow made a mistake by including Daghestan within the districts borders because that republic “is not only a North Caucasus region but above all a Caspian littoral one.”
Indeed, “Daghestan’s future to an ever greater degree was connected not with the North Caucasus but with the Caspian,” all the more so, Dibirov said, because “with the conversion of the Caspian into an international sea,” the republic’s “geopolitical situation” and “economic possibilities” will be fundamentally changed.
According to the Makhachkala analyst, “it would be more organic to establish not a North Caucasus Federal District but a Caspian Federal District which would include Daghestan, Kalmykia, Astrakhan oblast and Volgograd oblast,” an arrangement in which “the industrial potential of the northern regions would be combined with the agricultural potential of the south.”
In any case, Daghestan must “break away” from the problems of the North Caucasus, Dibirov insisted.
Asked by Regnum whether Moscow’s ideas of creating a resort cluster in the North Caucasus will “solve the systemic problems” of that reason, the Makhachkala scholar said that “such a project “hardly will be realized in the conditions of an undeclared civil war,” a place where counter-terrorist operations are frequently declared.
Instead, Dibirov continued, “one must begin with the development of what already exists.” Roads need to be constructed so that private enterprise will develop rural areas and so that rural people will be able to remain in their villages among people of their own ethnicity and culture but travel to urban regions for employment.
Dibirov said that in his opinion, “the elimination of federal districts is hardly likely to occur.” Gubernatorial elections “will return,” he continued, “but not because the powers have any particular love for democracy but rather as the result of pressure from society.” Indeed, these elections will make Moscow even more interested in preserving the federal districts.
What everyone needs to understand about the North Caucasus, the Makhachkala scholar argued, is that “in essence” it “has departed from the legal field of Russia. Here laws operate only selectively and are viewed” by the population as simply covers “for the corrupted powers that be” who are “closely connected with the criminal world.”
The Russian state does not yet have a well-developed policy for the North Caucasus, Dibirov said, adding that “the impression has been created” that Moscow wants to use threats from there to justify its approach to rule, all the more so if Russian leaders want to use nationalism as a source of legitimacy.
“Today,” Dibirov argued, “we see a power which at one stage attempted to eploid liberalism, at a second stage conservatism, and now ever more is shifting to nationalism, attempting to ride Russian ethnic nationalism. This is a very dangerous policy,” the Makhachkala scholar said, but that is how things look from Daghestan.
He rejected the suggestion that Moscow had created the North Caucasus Federal District not because of the Olympics but on the basis of “historical experience,” Debirov says that the Soviet-era North Caucasus kray with a capital in Pyatigorsk is generally considered a failure, a view he said he shares.
Indeed, even in Soviet times, “the leadership of Daghestan at all times struggled in order to excape from this kray and to subordinate itself directly to Moscow.” Once again, that is taking place because “the future of Daghestan is tied to the Caspian” more than to the troubled republics of the North Caucasus.
While Dibirov is only one voice, his remarks are important for at least three reasons: First, as he suggested, Moscow is more likely to retain the federal districts if it gives way on the election of governors. Second, his remarks are a reminder that the borders of these districts are likely to be the subject of disputes between Moscow and individual federal subjects.
And third, Dibirov’s comments underscore that the policies of Vladimir Putin in the North Caucasus have succeeded only in creating the simulacrum of control, one that may make for good propaganda but does not solve the problems the region faces or makes it the stable backdrop for the Sochi Olympics that Putin and his supporters argue will be the case.