Since the re-establishment of the
Russian state as a reformed asymmetric federation, after the collapse of the
Soviet Union, with the acceptance of Federal Constitution of 1993 a number
of ethno-republics within it have come into the limelight for the tensions
within them between the titular and non-titular nations, such as the
Republics of Bashkortostan, North Ossetia-Alania, Adygeya and Tuva.
language laws that put Russian and the language of the titular nation of the
republic concerned on equal footing or the laws that are designed to lure
members of the Diaspora of the titular nation to settle in the homeland
to tilt the balance of demography to the advantage of the titular nation
have created much controversy.
these cases, Adygeya has attracted the greatest attention of the Russian
national media as well as specialists in the Russian Caucasus. A number of
articles have appeared in the Russian newspapers in the last few years that
even accused the republican government of conducting an “apartheid policy ”
towards the Russian majority.
paper is aimed to explore the local politics in the Republic of Adygeya in
the light of the local conditions of ethnic relations as well as the
nationality policy of the federal centre in the last decade.
Part I is
to provide the necessary information on Adygeya and the history of its
titular nation, the Adyge. This is essential if one wishes to understand the
motives behind the strong desire on the part of the Adyge intelligentsia
elite to continue with the Soviet ‘policy of positive discrimination towards
the titular nation’ within the local political and legal realms even after
the Soviet state collapsed.
is concerned with the contentious issues and the political actors of the
republican politics. Consequently, the role of the nationalist organisations
the Adyge Xase and the Union of Slavs of Adygeya will be investigated.
last part, the recent developments with regards to the latest presidential
elections in Adygeya and Moscow’s role in the future of this republic and
its multinational people.
PART I: THE REPUBLIC OF
ADYGEYA AND THE ADYGE
republic of Adygeya, extending from the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains
to the Kuban Plain in the Northern Caucasus, lies landlocked in the middle
of Krasnodar Krai.
Adygeya, which is a small republic with 7800km2-land
area, has no borders with any other North Caucasian republics. According to
1995 figures, the population of the republic is 541.000 of whom 22 % are
Adyge. The Russians and the other Eastern Slavs who make up 68 % of the
population are in the absolute majority in Adygeya,
making the republic demographically the most “Russianized” national unit of
the whole Northern Caucasus. However, there are around 40.000 more Adyge
living in the adjacent areas of Krasnodar Krai, apart from their ethnic kin
the Cherkess, the Abaza and the Kabardians living further east.
was founded as an autonomous region in 1922 and until it was upgraded to
republican status in July 1991 it had been subordinate to Krasnodar Krai.
Because of their coexistence for more than 50 years within the same
administrative unit, there are close economical, cultural, historical and
ethnic ties between Krasnodar and Adygeya both for the ethnic Adyge and the
Russians including the local Cossack population.
Alievich Dzharimov, an ethnic Adyge, has been the president of Adygeya since
its becoming a national republic in 1991. He had been the First Secretary of
the Communist Party’s Regional Committee in Adygeya as well as being a
People’s Deputy of the USSR between 1989-1991, representing Adygeya. He won
two presidential elections, in 1992 and 1997. In the 1997 elections, when he
competed against two other Adyge candidates, he gained 57.88 % of the valid
votes. In the all-federation level politics, he is known to have been a
supporter of Our Home is Russia and later the Unity Movement.
He is a Soviet–era apparatchik as the likes of Mintimer Shaimiev of
Tatarstan and Murthaza Rakhimov of Baskhortostan who after the collapse of
the Soviet Union have turned into moderate nationalist leaders who reigned
in the more radical nationalists within their own ranks but, nevertheless,
also challenged Moscow on the issues of the rights of the republics
vis-à-vis the Centre.
Xase as an organisation is an all-Circassian nationalist movement with
branches in the Republics of Karachai-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria and the
Shapsough populated areas of the Krasnodar Krai. Although these branches are
independent establishments, they are nevertheless part of the wider
Circassian umbrella organisation the International Circassian Association (ICA),
whose declared aim is to protect the rights of the Circassians wherever they
live and to facilitate the return of the substantial portion of the
Circassian Diaspora to the Circassian inhabited lands of the Northwest
Caucasus to change the demographic structure where the Circassians
constitute the minority of the population.
Although the Xase has lost considerable strength in Adygeya and
Kabardino-Balkaria, it still is a very powerful public movement in the
Republic of Karachai-Cherkessia which it wants to break up into separate
Circassian and Karachai national units.
early 1990s, the Adyge Xase was the most powerful opposition movement to the
leaderships of Dzharimov, whom radicals within the Xase even labelled an
enemy of the Adyge nation.
However, once Adygeya was upgraded to republican status and the rights
of the Adyge as the titular nation were enshrined in the republican
constitution it became a staunch supporter of the president and the
status quo, to the extent that its current chairmen Ruslan Peneshov has
served in the successive republican governments under Dzharimov’s
presidency. The organisation’s major objective is to keep the “positive
discrimination” for the Adyge secure and to attract the members of the large
Circassian Diaspora to Adygeya so that the Adyge can become a majority in
of Slavs of Adygeya led by Boris Karataev and Nina Konovalova was created in
1991 as a counter-balance to the Adyge Xase but failed to gain much
However in the early 1990s it categorically opposed the separation of
Adygeya from Krasnodar Krai and later the upgrading of its status to a
republic. At various times the Union advocated a referendum on the return of
the capitol City of the republic, Maikop, which is overwhelmingly inhabited
by Russians, to Krasnodar Krai.
paper, I intend to draw attention not to what has happened in Adygeya
after the collapse of the Soviet Union but, on the contrary, to what has not
occurred, which was expected to occur, that is no major rallies or protest
meetings have occurred in Adygeya for years and that there has been no talk
of the Adyge Xase or the Union of Slavs creating paramilitary forces in
preparation for a ‘coming’ conflict. Instead, multicultural dance and art
festivals attended by the representatives of the Russians, the Adyge and the
other peoples of the Northern Caucasus are regularly organised. President
Dzharimov’s every public speech is addressed to “the multinational people of
the Republic of Adygeya” not to the Adyge people, which is a sign of a new
republican identity emerging against all the odds.
Traditionally, the Adyge and the Russians have shared the governmental
posts. The current Prime Minister and the chairman of the upper wing of the
local parliament are Russians.
republican identity beyond one’s ethnic affiliation seems to have given way
to a new voting pattern in the last presidential election that took place on
13 January 2002. For the first time since the foundation of the republic of
Adygeya, candidates of different nationalities participated in the
presidential election regardless of their knowledge of Adyge language, which
was the result of the suspension, for ten years, of the language law which
requires the president to be bilingual in Adyge and the Russian.
The local Adyge businessmen
Khazret Sovmen, who owns gold mines in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia and is known
across the whole federation as a philanthropist, won the election, as was
expected, by taking 68 % of the valid votes by securing the support of the
bulk of the population, Russian and Adyge alike, who have been suffering
from the economic hardship for years and have been ready to lay their hopes
not on his ethnic background but on his managerial skills, to govern
the republic. In this race, the old foes, the incumbent president Aslan
Dzharimov, and the leader of the Union of Slavs Nina Konovalova received 9 %
and 8 % of the vote respectively.
Although no official statement has
been made by Moscow about the result of the election, the outcome must also
be welcomed by Putin administration for he is more than happy to see Aslan
Dzharimov, just as Ruslan Aushev of Inghushetia, leave his post as Dzharimov,
like Aushev, has long been an outspoken critic of Putin’s re-centralising
policies and an advocate of the rights of the republics vis-à-vis the
the success of Sovmen will evidently surpass the ethnic boundaries for the
near future, in the long term, however, Moscow should take into account the
local conditions of the Northern Caucasus, especially the case of the
Adyge’s ethnic kin, the Abkhaz and the war in Abkhazia that has set an
example of how a titular nation, that is made minority in its own
country, can resist outside pressure to abolish the positive
discrimination for the titular nation. This is a region where the past
is not only a distant memory but also an everyday reality. It is constantly
reminded and reproduced by local elites.
allowing to remain intact the above mentioned language law, that has a great
symbolic meaning for the Adyge, and thus offering a incentive to the local
Russians, who want to hold governmental posts, to learn the language of the
titular nation- a decision which may even pave the way in the end for an
Adyge speaker of Russian majority to become president-can Moscow ensure that
Adygeya can put aside its problems of ethnic nature and instead concentrate
on implementing economic reforms and creating a democratic, prosperous
society where the particularities of the Adyge are also respected alongside
the wider republican population and taken into consideration.
Chirikova and Natalia Lapina, Political Power and Political Stability in
the Russian Regions in Contemporary Russian Politics, edited by
Archie T. Brown, p. 384-397, Oxford University Press, New York, 2001
3)Alexei M. Lavrov and Alexei G. Lakushkin, The Fiscal Structure of
the Russian Federation: Financial Flows Between the Center and the Regions,
East West Institute, New York, London, 1999
Matveeva, The North Caucasus: Russia’s Fragile Borderland, The Royal
Institute Of International Affairs, London, 1999
Valery Tishkov, Ethnicity, Nationalism and Conflict In And After The
Soviet Union: The Mind Aflame, Sage Publications, London, Thousand Oaks,
New Delhi, 1997
population figures are taken from Robertson’s Russia &Eurasia Facts
&Figures Annual, volume 22,1997, pp 20-23 as cited in Anna Matveeva,
The North Caucasus: Russia’s Fragile Borderland, page 82.
Moscow: Situatsionny tsentr pri Presidente RF, FAPSI, 1997 as cited in
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