Monday, February 12, 2018

Daghestan Could Become Putin’s Uzbek Affair and Trigger New Separatist Challenges, Orientalist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 12 – Many governments view anti-corruption drives as a way to solidify their positions by winning the support of the population against corrupt officials; but oftentimes, governments that choose such a strategy fail to see that corruption exists almost everywhere and that they cannot limit it as they want.

            Indeed, what may look like a winning strategy when it is applied to a single portion of the country or a single part of the elite can become the first step to a major defeat when people begin to ask why this region or this segment of the ruling class is so different from all the others with whom they have experience.

            That happened in the closing years of the USSR when Moscow launched an anti-corruption campaign against Tashkent officials, only to discover that the “Uzbek Affair “ as that came to be known, raised questions about the Soviet system as a whole, questions that contributed to the demise of that system (

            Now some analysts are suggesting that Moscow’s anti-corruption campaign in Daghestan could have the same effect not only because the Kremlin itself has promised to take similar actions against other “corrupt” regions but because Russians can see that corruption is hardly limited to a small republic in the North Caucasus but exists everywhere in the Putin system. 

            One analyst, orientalist Anatoly Nemiyan who blogs under the name El Murid, makes this argument extremely directly in a comment for an article prepared by Ruslan Gorevoy of the Versiya portal (

            “The solution of the problem of the borderlands is always considered a task of fist importance for any country. Everywhere these resolutions have an extremely serious and unbelievably long-drawn-out character.” And one must always remember that what is true in one place is true at least in part in many others.

            What is happening in Daghestan today, Nemiyan says, could “without doubt” happen tomorrow in “Tuva, Karelia,, and the Russian North and possibly Buryatia and Sakha.” But for that to occur, Moscow will have to transform the governors into “governors general who will rely on force from outside the republic.”

            Such a strategy may seem for a time to be a winning one, he continues, “but such an active purge of elites” as the one now being conducted by outsiders backed by Moscow in “unsettled and multi-national Daghestan” may come to “play against the federal center” if it makes mistakes as it is likely to.

            Any such action, Nemiyan argues, must be pursued very carefully and with regard to what can happen if the lessons of the past are ignored.  The Kremlin needs to recall “the history of the cotton affair in Uzbekistan where Soviet power demonstrated its decisiveness against the background of a collapsing economy.”

            “We remember how that turned out,” the orientalist concludes.” It led to the growth of “separatism in the borderlands and the flight of the republics from the USSR.”

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