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Vladimir Putin:"We will reinforce our positions in Dagestan"
"We will reinforce our positions in Dagestan," Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday. "We will do this. We know about the situation there; this problem must be solved, and we will solve it." Putin said this after Vice Admiral Yuri Startsev, the commander of the Caspian Flotilla, spoke about the complicated situation in the region. Shortly before that, the Provisional Commission of the Federation Council (upper house) discussed the situation in Dagestan, a small republic in the North Caucasus with a population of barely 2 million, where terrorist attacks have become an almost daily occurrence of late. The victims of these attacks are mostly the leading staff and members of the republican interior ministry. Terrorist acts have been staged there since late 1999, but the recent events were too much. What are the reasons? Terrorists most probably attack law enforcers in revenge for the measures they took to repel the Chechen invasion of Dagestan in 1999 and subsequently to restore order in the republic. There are also ideological reasons: Terrorists, who operate under "the Green Flag of the Faith" (Islam), regard the current republican regime as "godless" and so use all methods at their disposal to undermine it. Other goals of the terrorist leaders are to attract the world's attention to the situation in the republic and to discredit the local authorities. We must admit that they have attained them. Total corruption has provoked an open displeasure of the economically active part of the population of Dagestan, which bears the brunt of its effects. It is anybody's guess how many young people have joined the extremists for this reason. The crisis is compounded by the fact that the powers of the State Council, the collective body of supreme authority in Dagestan, will expire in 2006. Under the new constitution of the republic, it should have a president instead. All players on the republican political scene know that there will be major changes soon, no matter if the current head of the State Council, Magomedali Magomedov, stays or goes. The current authorities and the opposition will use the remaining time to attain their goals - the former to maintain the situation and the latter to come to power. Paradoxically, both sides are smartly using internal instability and continued violence to their ends. The authorities are trying to prove that the current political system protects Dagestan from a slide into total chaos and instability, while the opposition blames the obtaining situation on the authorities, which should be replaced. The federal center seems to have taken a time out to analyze the situation and prepare for the unavoidable, long overdue and most probably painful change. So far, Moscow is spotlighting security and the republic's political system, putting off the solution of many other serious problems and social contradictions for later. But the trouble is that these neglected problems can blow up in republic's face. National quotas in power bodies are one of such problems, because the new constitution and the new system of election to representative bodies do not stipulate them. This is a major problem for the multinational Dagestan, where ethnic elite groups strictly control their representation in the bodies of power. According to official data, there are 14 big nations in Dagestan, though ethnographers say the figure is over 40. The long-simmering territorial problem of the Aukhov (Novolak) district, which provoked a confrontation of three nations in Dagestan, has been put on ice. In 1944, Stalin deported Akkin Chechens from the district and gave their land and houses to Laks. Now the descendants of the deported Chechens demand their land back, but the transfer of Laks and Avars, who live there now, to other territories is taking too long. Akhmet Yarlykapov is a senior researcher at the Institute of Ethnic Studies and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the opinions of the editorial board
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