MinKavkaz to be abolished. The resignation of Russia’s government on 22 January will have a direct impact on the North Caucasus (also see below), as the federal Ministry of North Caucasus Affairs (MinKavkaz) is set to be abolished, Caucasian Knot reports. MinKavkaz was established in 2014 and has functioned as a federal body meant to coordinate federal and regional policies, often involving the North Caucasus autonomous republics and international partners on a project basis. Among the larger initiatives that involved Minkavkaz is the north-south corridor set to connect Dagestan, Azerbaijan and Iran, announced August of last year. Now, the functions of the Ministry will be incorporated into the Ministry of Economic Development.
New Presidential Envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District. As part of the 22 January shuffle, the North Caucasus Federal District (comprising all North Caucasus autonomous republics plus Stavropol region and minus Adygeya) has a new presidential envoy, former Attorney General Yuri Chaika, Caucasian Knot reports. He replaces former KGB officer Alexsandr Matovnikov. Federal districts are meant to facilitate the governing of the Russian Federation by grouping several contiguous federal subjects and assigning a presidential envoy to each one. The envoy reports directly to the office of the president and is tasked with ensuring the regional implementation of federal policies.
Chechen-Dagestani border demarcation complete. On 20 January, Magommed Daudov, Speaker of the Chechen Parliament, declared that Chechnya’s border with Dagestan has been completely demarcated, OC Media reports. Since the Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, launched the process in 2018 to redress Chechnya’s borders, a move seen by some as a part of Chechnya’s expansionist ambitions, the North-East Caucasus have felt the consequences. Notably, major protests erupted in Ingushetia in late 2018 (see next item) and occasional protests in Dagestan throughout 2019. The border demarcation process with Dagestan was suspended in June 2019.
Crackdown in Ingushetia continues. Throughout January, arrests continued against the participants of the 2018 and 2019 protests against the border demarcation deal between then-Head of the Republic of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Kadyrov, OC Media reports. Since the protests winded down in March 2019, several of its organisers have been arrested, with four of them receiving charges of extremism. Moreover, on 27 January, Caucasian Realities reported that the republic’s office of the prosecutor has requested that the organisation ‘Ingush Committee for National Unity’, born out of the protests of 2018, be dissolved and declared an extremist organisation.
Government dissolved in Ingushetia. Following the dissolution of the Medvedev government, Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov, Head of Ingushetia, dissolved the Republic’s government on 27 January. However, the cabinet of ministers was not be shuffled, and only the Prime Minister, Konstantin Surikov, left the post. While no reason for the decision was given, Kalimatov commented that Surikov resigned due to ‘family concerns’, Caucasian Knot reports. Surikov will continue to work for the government, albeit as an advisor on investment policy.
Digor dialect taught at Ossetian schools. Four primary schools in Vladikavkaz will begin to teach pupils the Digor dialect from September of this year on, Caucasian Realities reported on 13 January. Before, pupils could only study the language in Digor-majority areas, outside of the capital. The Ministry of Education plans to expand this measure to the entire city in due course. Ossete is a language spoken by roughly half a million people in Russia, mostly in North Ossetia. It has two main dialects, Digor and Iron. The former is spoken by about 100,000 people, compared to several hundred of thousands of Iron dialect-speakers. Together with Yaghnobi language of Tajikistan, Ossete is the only North-Eastern Iranian language still in use.
Main Sources: OC Media [EN/RU], Caucasian Knot [EN/RU], Caucasian Realities [RU].
TEXT: to change things up a bit, here is a poem from Ossetian writer Kosta Khetagurov. He is credited with creating the modern literary Ossete language and is celebrated to this day in North Ossetia. Taken from the Facebook page ‘Ossetian for everyone’.
Зонын, æфсармæй кæудзыстут,
Бавæрдзыстут мын мæ мард,
«Рухсаг у, рухсаг, — зæгъдзыстут, —
Ницæмæн уал уыд дæ цард!»
Зонын, æргæвддзыстут исты, —
Мардыл ма чи дары ком?
Алчи æфсæстæй мæ хисты
Ссардзæн арахъхъæй мæ ном.
Иу бон æгъгъæд у мысынæн,
Иу бон кæндзыстут мæ дзырд,
Уый фæстæ ферох уыдзынæн,
Ничиуал зондзæн мæ цырт.
I know ye shall weep, for it is the custom.
Ye shall bury my corpse
And cry: ‘woe is him, woe!
His fate is forever sealed’
I know ye shall lay the table —
Who shall fast for me?
All ye shall raise your cups
And toast my name in araqqa*
One day of mourning shall suffice,
One day ye shall remember me;
Then I shall be forgotten
And no one will know where my grave lies.
*Арахъхъ /araqq/ = An Ossetian alcoholic drink.
Ivan Ulises Kentros Klyszcz is a PhD student in international relations at the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, University of Tartu, Estonia. He specialises in the North Caucasus and in Russia’s foreign policy. You will find him on Twitter @IvanUlisesKK
Featured photo by Malik Butayev/OC Media