Arsen Kanokov: "I do not want such a regime for my republic"

This interview was originally published in Official site of the president of Kabardino-Balkarian Republic on 5 October 2009 in Russian.

12 Oct. 2009 - The President of Kabardino-Balkaria told Olga Allenova, the journalist of the Publishing House ''Kommersant'' (Коммерсантъ) about the reasons of extremism in the North Caucasus.

"People began realizing what the extremities in Islam can lead to".

-The topic of religious extremism was really urgent not so long ago. How did you manage to reduce tension?

 -What was the main problem in early 2000s? The authorities lacked thoughtful and regular work to resist religious extremism, they preferred use of force. It was much easier to forbid attending mosques, and to rank those who attended them with supporters of Vakhabism. In that way law-abiding citizens and radicals who do not observe the law were included into one list. It goes without saying that a true believer is filled with indignation if he is taken to the police department just because he goes to pray to the mosque. That was our mistake. But I don't think we committed the mistake consciously. Perhaps the authorities and law-enforcement bodies did not know how to manage the situation. We should have worked more with the Ecclesiastical Directorate of the Muslims of KBR (EDM).

-But it was EDM you had the conflict with.

-Yes, but we had to have separated extremists from true believers. We should have supported the EDM and we hadn't done that. EDM did its job better or worse. But it was confronted by Islamic radicals. The law-enforcement bodies without being supported by EDM, without understanding the specific character of the question began pressing everybody indiscriminately. Thus, the authorities committed a mistake and law-enforcement bodies failed to look into the situation adequately. Now we are actively cooperating with the EDM and we've got mutual understanding. We pay salaries to the imams in the districts from the off-budget sources. We also work with the youth, explain the harmfulness of radicalism. I think these measures slightly reduced the tension in the question of the religious extremism. People begin to realize how to bring up children and what the extremities in Islam can lead to. You know, we are a more temporal republic, our Islamic roots are not so deep. In Kabardino-Balkaria customs and traditions have always been given preference to. I think played its important role.

-But the Muslims we are talking about do not observe your customs and traditions considering them repugnant with Islam...

-I know that it is pretty hard to make those who adopted this ideology change their mind. They are so fanatic that even their parents cannot bring them over their point of view. It is like narcotic. That's why I think the most important thing is to take preventive measures. We must do our best to prevent them from adopting this ideology. But if we are late we must keep our eyes on the way they behave. If they violate the law, measures must be taken. But if they are law-abiding no matter how mistaken they may be we have to live, cooperate, work with them. We've got no other choice. They are citizens of our republic, of Russia. When you treat people severely just because they are of different religion you get an adequate response that will cause a chain of new crimes. We say "good brings good and Evil bring evil".  In any case even if we punish the guilty, their relations will not agree with it and never forget it. And I am afraid it can lead to civil confrontation. There is another way out - to be prepared for action any moment to beat down any outbreak. I wouldn't want such a regime for my republic. 

-Heightening of tension usually results in the counter-terrorism operation regime. It is established from time to time in your republic, isn't it? But they say you manage to abolish it quickly. Is that true?

When the counter-terrorism operation regime was declared in Prielbrussie I kept the situation under control. The very moment the problems were solved the regime was abolished. We did the same in Prokhladny district. The head of the Federal Security Service of KBR and I apply this mechanism carefully. Of course, it would be better if there was no need in such mechanisms. People get scared because they remember what happened in the neighboring republics. I would like to emphasize that such measures are taken to protect our population and I think people can bear it for a couple of days until the proper order is introduced.

If the head of the republic does not enjoy authority with law-enforcement bodies, there will be no order.

-I heard from some of the heads of the North Caucasian republics that they regularly have problems with members of the top brass. They do not report directly to the heads of the republics. Different lines of command are developed - regional and federal. They poorly cooperate with each other.

-I think we must come up with some solutions when the head of the republic can influence the personnel problems in law-enforcement bodies. I am the leader of the one of the federal subjects and I am responsible for the situation - for terrorism, Islam, for everything. But sometimes I lack power.  Of course, I work with members of the top brass; hold meetings, sessions of Security Council, bring my point of view to their notice. If the head of the law-enforcement body is an honest and decent man, if he is a patriot of Russia we are lucky. But if he is unscrupulous I don't have enough power to influence his actions and decisions. For example, a prosecutor, or a judge, or an officer from the Ministry of Home Affairs takes a bribe and then withdraws the action. People will say to it: "Kanokov and Federal Center encourage them. So one person in the power chain brings discredit both on me and the federal power. I think if the head of the federal subject republic does not enjoy authority a priori with law-enforcement bodies, there will be no order. But it stands to reason that together with the power I am ready to bear responsibility for the situation in the region".

-Are you talking about particular officials?

-No. To my mind our head officials work quite properly and I work effectively with them. But there are people in the second, third echelons of the law-enforcement bodies who do harm. I can't call them to full account. 

"I owe nobody but my people, the President of Russia and God"

- While analyzing the situation in Ingushetia, Dagestan and Chechnya I draw a conclusion that the main problem is not a religious or political one but economic.  Am I right?

- Yes, you are. We attach high priority to the republican economy. The budget is the backbone of the economy. Our budget of 2006 made up 7 billion roubles and today it is 22 billion roubles. It means that today we can pay more attention to social problems - to the construction of schools, Culture Houses, good roads. Dotation level has decreased from 72 to 54 % within 4 years, we plan to cut it to 49 %. This figure is a kind of psychological standard which will allow us to say that we can earn more than spend. We have increased our support for the small business almost four times, we subsidize credit interest rates. Having lifted the administrative obstacles to whatever extent possible we managed to find a common language with businessmen. Business was pressed pretty hard when I assumed office of the President of Kabardino-Balkaria in 2005. We agreed with the new Minister of Home Office to severely stop any attempts to throw obstacles in businessmen's way. I used to run a business in Kabardino-Balkaria myself and I was also unlawfully pressed. Unfortunately, those who did it are still working, but we warned them that we'll catch them red-handed and punish in accordance with the law.

We have taken another important step. We have founded a 100 % state Agency on Investment and Development with 500 million roubles of authorized capital stock.  The Agency together with businessmen and bankers consider all investment projects developed in the republic. I ask the bankers: "Will you finance the project". They answer: "We won't". To the question "Why?" they answer: "The applicant doesn't have a credit history", or they just don't like the applicant.

That is why we established a mortgage fund under the authority of the Agency on Investment and Development. The Agency works with banks to ensure money for the project. The state holds the controlling interest of 51 %. The businessman compensates the state investment, the Agency steps out. And it works. We have launched three projects this year following this scheme. We have opened a textile mill for 500 jobs in Nalchik, equipment and technologies are brought form Turkey. We are also constructing a new furniture factory. They are joint enterprises. The foundations of   the so called intensive foothills gardening is laid, we have already opened a greenhouse. I know personally the heads of the enterprises. We discuss all problems they have and try to solve them at the Agency meetings. They always feel my personal control.

But we can't solve all problems at the cost of internal resources. We need extra investment. If we yearly realize 15-20 billion roubles projects we shall increase the level of taxes raised. We shall improve the social situation. What do we need to achieve this goal? The line of credit from Rosselkhozbank in Kabardino-Balkaria is 5 billion roubles while in Krasnodar Region it is 100 billion roubles. Our population is 1 million, and it is 5 million there. It means that to compete with them our loan portfolio is supposed to be 20 billion roubles. If we don't get that money, much of what we would like to do becomes unrealizable. Miracles do not happen. We've got the same situation with Sberbank. Now I am analyzing volumes of our neighbors' loan portfolio. I am going to discuss the situation with the Executives of Sberbank.

- You have a social president's fund, like Kadyrov's one. Do you think the authorities can't manage the situation properly or is it just a matter of your image?                         

There is no point making secret of it. In some way it supports my image. But it is not the point. I finance "Spartak-Nalchik" football team because it is important for the citizens of Kabardino-Balkaria. You can't imagine how inspired everybody was when our team got into the Premie Leaque. We have no rights to maintain the team on the budget money. I also help the indigent who do not have any other way of support. If a person needs an urgent medical treatment we take money from the fund because he needs it now but not in a year. By the way, it is my money; I don't take it from anybody else. It is important because if you ask money for the fund from a businessman, he will ask you something in return because you owe him - it is a kind of dependence. I owe nobody but my people, the President of Russia and God."    

Source: Official site of the president of Kabardino-Balkarian Republic


Arsen Kanokov was born on February 22, 1957 in the village of Shitkhala, Kabardino-Balkar Republic.  

In 1981 he graduated with a degree in Economics from Plekhanov Russian Academy of Economics.  

From 1981 to 1983 he served in the Soviet Army.  

From 1983 to 1987 he worked in the Moskvoretsky Fruit and Vegetable Company (his last position - division head)  

In 1987 he registered a "Kodex" trading and purchasing cooperative.  

In 1991 he founded a "Syndica" holding Company, which is being specialized in multifunctional trading centers, banking, investment market and the sphere of building in Moscow.  

From 1991-1998 shareholder and a director of ZAO "AKB TsentroCredit".  

From 1998-2003 Deputy to the Permanent Representative of Kabardino-Balkar Republic at the President of RF.  

On December 2003 he became Deputy of the State Duma of the fourth convocation under the federal list of the LDPR election association. A year later he joined the "United Russia" party. He was a Deputy coordinator of the Southern Coordination Council of "United Russia", Deputy Head of the State Duma's budget and tax committee, member of the State Duma commission on problems of North Caucasus.  

In Kabardino-Blakaria Arsen Kanolov became known as a patron and sponsor of various programs in the sphere culture. He personally financed the construction of the cathedral mosque in Nalchik, the monument to the victims of the Caucasian war, the reconstruction of the "Intourist" Hotel and "Elbrus" restaurant. Besides, he has been financing local football team "Spartak- Nalchik".  

On September 27 2005 the President of the Russian Federation Valdimir Putin submitted the candidature of Arsen Kanokov for presidency to the KBR Parliament.  

On September 28 2005 at the extraordinary sitting of the KBR Parliament all the 105 members approved him as President of Kabardino-Balkar Republic.  

He is doctor of Economics, Full member of the Russian Academy of Economic Sciences and Entrepreneurship.  

Arsen Kanokov is the author of a number of monographs and articles on hypothec crediting and peculiarities of the State regulated market economy of Russia in transition.