North Caucasus Monthly Digest: Minority Language Rights in Peril, and PACE Visits Chechnya4 min read

 In Caucasus, News, Politics, Russia

– The self-immolation of the Udmurt-language professor Albert Razin on September 10th shocked those concerned with the development of the indigenous languages of the Russian Federation. His suicide was carried out in protest against the neglect of Russia’s minority languages. In the North Caucasus, a region with over 30 autochthonous languages, the news of Razin’s suicide prompted civil society organisations in North Ossetia-Alania and Karachay-Cherkessia to request a review of the law on languages. In July, 2018, the federal upper chamber brought in a new law on education that made studying indigenous languages an optional subject at schools across the federation. 

– September 2019 marks twenty years since the invasion of Dagestan, when guerrilla groups from Chechnya (then de facto independent) crossed the border into Dagestan and raided several villages. Their defeat by local and federal forces marked the start of the Second Chechen War (1999-2009). On September 12th, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Dagestan to join the commemoration, meet with veterans and former Dagestani government officials, and praise the defence of Dagestan as an example of people rallying in the face of danger.

– On September 16th, the liquidation of the Muftiat of Ingushetia was upheld by the supreme court of the republic. This represents a new episode of a years-long conflict between republican authorities and the republic’s religious leaders. As Caucasian Knot reported, this event follows the conflict that former head of the republic Yunus Bek Yevkurov had with the republic’s religious authorities. In May, 2018, the mufti of Ingushetia expelled Yevkurov from the Muslim religious community.

– Frank Schwabe, rapporteur for the Council of Europe (PACE) on human rights in the North Caucasus, carried out a visit to Russia between the 18th and 20th of September, including a one-day visit to Chechnya. As Caucasian Knot reports, he met with Chechen authorities and members of civil society to discuss issues of rule of law, Chechen refugees, and reports on LGBT+ persecution. After the visit, Schwabe called for a change in attitudes among European governments towards Chechen refugees. This was the first visit of a representative of the PACE to the North Caucasus since Russia’s membership rights to that organisation were restored in June of this year. Russia was suspended from PACE in 2014 as a response to the annexation of Crimea. 

– On September 20th, the annual day of the Circassians (Adygei) was celebrated in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, showcasing traditional arts and handicrafts. Last year, the celebration took place in the context of a dispute between Kabard (the local branch of the Circassians) and Balkar activists. Circassians are one of the autochthonous groups of the North Caucasus and their subgroups are spread throughout the region, with diaspora groups in the Middle East and Europe.

– On September 20th, the head of the Republic of Adygea met with the Italian consul to discuss future investment opportunities in the republic, particularly in the agriculture sector. The meeting follows last year’s business mission to the North Caucasus organised by the Italian embassy in Russia, and highlights Italy’s enduring commercial interest in the region.

– The story of Rauf Arashukov, suspended senator of Karachay-Cherkessia (KCR), continued this month when the Moscow court handling his case extended his arrest to the 30th of December. The senator, a Circassian born in 1986, was arrested on the 30th of January on charges of masterminding the 2010 murders of an activist of the Karachay-Cherkessia branch of the youth movement Adyge Khaze and of an advisor to the president of that republic. The members of the Adyge Khaze branch said in 2010 that the murder was political. Arashukov’s arrest and the charges brought to him have continued to grab headlines throughout Russia. 

– Kazbek Kokov was inaugurated as the new governor of Kabardino-Balkaria (KBR) on October 3rd. He was unanimously elected by the republic’s parliament. Prior to this role, Kokov had been the acting head of the republic, since 2018, when he was appointed to the role directly by the Kremlin. As Caucasian Knot reports, Kokov’s father, Valery Kokov, was the head of the republic from 1992 to 2005.

– PUBLICATION: on July 16th, a new report was published by the Conflict Analysis and Prevention Centre on the evolution of Russian federalism with a focus on Dagestan and Tatarstan. The report offers a comprehensive study of the political system in these two regions, giving an insight into the opaque ruling institutions of Dagestan. It can be found in English and Russian here.

Main sources: RIA Novosti [RU], Caucasian Knot [RU/EN]

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