Dagestanis, Inspired by Abkhazia, Demand Republic Leader Resign

June 3, 2014
Extraordinary Congress of the Peoples of Dagestan. 31 May 2013. Photo via Caucasian Knot

Staunton, 3 June – In an echo of the success Abkhazians had in pressing for the ouster of their republic’s leader, 271 delegates to a May 31 meeting in Makhachkala calling itself “the Extraordinary Congress of the Peoples of Dagestan” has demanded that Moscow fire Ramazan Abdulatipov as republic head and replace him with one of three Daghestani politicians.

The unofficial group which has focused on rehabilitation issues had wanted to meet April 19-20, but the republic authorities blocked that session. Then in the middle of last month, its leaders said they would meet on June 15, but that announcement, one of their number told Kavka-uzel.ru, was a ruse intended to mislead the authorities.

Ruslan Rasulov, the head of the Union of the Defense of the Rights and Freedoms of Peoples, Individuals and Citizens and one of the organizers, said that at Saturday’s meeting, speakers “had expressed their lack of trust in the authorities of Dagestan and unanimously passed a resolution demanding the retirement” of Ramazan Abdulatipov.

The resolution said that Dagestan is “in deep crisis” and that “the measures taken by the head of the republic are not adequate to the existing situation and will lead to its further destabilization. The constitutional rights of the citizens of the Russian Federation living on the territory of the Republic of Dagestan are being massively violated.”

Moreover, it said that Abdulatipov bears “all responsibility for the destabilization of the social-political situation in the Republic of Dagestan” and that he should “voluntarily retire in the name of the preservation of peace and stability” in the republic. Further, the resolution urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to promote that end by stripping Abdulatipov of his powers.

“The Congress demands that the only acceptable form of state administration in Dagestan be recognized as a parliamentary-presidential form of administration, which will provide for the representation of each people in parliament and the election from each people in turn a president for a term of four years.”

The three Dagestani politicians the congress proposed that Putin choose among to be the first republic leader are Gajimurad Omarov, head of the regional branch of Just Russia, Senator Umakhanov, and Khasavyurt Mayor Saigidpasha Umakhanov.

Three aspects of this event make it highly significant. First, it is an indication that what has happened in Abkhazia is having an impact on republics within the borders of the Russian Federation and that some in these republics see the way in which power was transferred in Abkhazia as a model for their own behavior.

Second, it shows that the politicians in Dagestan and likely elsewhere are prepared to be extremely clever in advancing their demands, combining declarations of loyalty and deference to the Kremlin and its goals while demanding that Moscow get rid of the leadership it had not so long ago installed with much fanfare.

And third, the Dagestani demands, which involve a return to political arrangements based on ethnic quotas and rotations that Putin had dispensed with, may leave Moscow with few good choices even if some in the Russian capital are calculating that they can use such demands to strengthen the center’s hold in the North Caucasus.

Instead, the echoes of Abkhazia are likely to weaken Moscow’s control across the North Caucasus and perhaps more generally, yet another blowback from the actions that the Russian government has been taking in eastern Ukraine and one that must be added to the real costs of Putin’s Ukrainian adventure.