MINELRES: Caucasus Reporting Service No. 358: excerpts

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WELCOME TO IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, No. 358, September 21,
2006

CAUCASUS NEWS UPDATE SEPTEMBER 21 

CHECHEN-INGUSH BATTLE SHOCKS NORTH CAUCASUS Neighbouring republics
braced for reprisals after bloody shootout. By Umalt Dudayev in Nazran

CIRCASSIAN OUTRAGE AT ANNIVERSARY PLANS Officials in Adygeia accused of
cashing in on a fraudulent version of history. By Oleg Tsvetkov in
Maikop

GEORGIA: THE LAST COLLECTIVE FARM Land reform may be the last straw for
Georgia's Dukhobor community. By Olesya Vartanian in Gorelovka

ARMENIA: LIFE WITHOUT HOPE After the abolition of the death penalty,
Armenian lifers say they still face a bleak future. By Karine Asatrian
in Nubarashen

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CHECHEN-INGUSH BATTLE SHOCKS NORTH CAUCASUS

Neighbouring republics braced for reprisals after bloody shootout. 

By Umalt Dudayev in Nazran, Ingushetia 

An unprecedented crisis has erupted between the security forces of
Chechnya and Ingushetia after a clash between policemen from the two
republics ended in heavy casualties.

The September 13 battle near the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya left
eight policemen dead and many more wounded.

The leaders of both Chechnya and Ingushetia said called the incident a
"tragic mistake" and said they hoped it would not lead to a worsening of
relations between the two republics, whose people are close ethnic kin.

But police officers on each side are blaming the other for the deaths of
their colleagues, and are talking of revenge.

According to the Chechen version of events, officers from an OMON
special police unit were fired on without warning from an Ingush traffic
police post as they were returning home after carrying out a special
operation to detain a local Ingush.

"The group went to the village of Yandare to arrest a local resident, a
notorious criminal kingpin named Temurzayev, who is responsible for a
series of crimes in Chechnya," a Chechen policeman named Magomed told
IWPR.

Magomed said that when they returned to the police checkpoint through
which they had first entered Ingushetia, their three cars bearing the
official blue number plates of Chechnya's interior ministry came under
automatic weapons fire. He said the attackers were Ingush policemen and
civilians wearing masks, who later left by bus for Ordzhonikidzevskaya. 

The Ingush version of events is entirely different. They say the
Chechens fired first after an Ingush patrolman asked their vehicles to
stop. They said the armed men inside the car refused to present their
documents, and after the Ingush officers discovered two men inside the
vehicles wearing handcuffs and with sacks over their heads, the Chechens
began shooting.

A firefight then broke out, only ending when senior police officers from
both republics and Russian military officers arrived on the scene.

Six Chechen OMON men, including deputy commander Buvadi Dakhiev, died.
Two Ingush were killed, including a senior police captain, Magomed
Khadziev. Five Chechens and nine Ingush were wounded. 

Ingush president Murat Zyazikov and Chechnya's prime minister and de
facto leader Ramzan Kadyrov called the shootout a "tragic accident" and
called for calm. However the incident has set nerves jangling in both
republics. 

"No one has abolished the laws of blood revenge in Chechnya and
Ingushetia," said Said Suleimanov, a 55-year-old resident of Grozny.
"Even the Soviet authorities could not solve this problem. The dead and
wounded Chechen and Ingush policemen have relatives, comrades and
friends. So anything is possible."

Isa Kostoyev, who represents Ingushetia in the Federation Council, the
upper house of the Russian parliament, was much more outspoken. He said
the battle was the inevitable result of years in which Chechen security
officers has acted with impunity in Ingushetia.

"I am speechless," he told Ekho Moskvy radio. "I am fed up with this
utter humiliation of our whole republic, of our people. For several
years now, hundreds of law enforcement officers from the Ingush republic
have been dying as a result of unsanctioned and uncoordinated sorties
both from Ossetia and Chechnya. It's time to put a stop to it. By my
reckoning, around 300 interior ministry officers have been killed in
these sorties."

Kostoyev told his fellow Ingush, "If anyone comes and searches you or
detains you without members of the Ingush law enforcement agencies being
present, I urge you to resist them in every way you can - physically;
involve the whole village, the whole street."

Bashir Aushev, secretary of Ingushetia's security council, was equally
blunt, saying on the day after the tragedy, "We will not allow them to
throw their weight around in our republic. There will be no Kadyrov
syndrome in our republic."

Aushev was referring to the armed men under Prime Minister Kadyrov's
control, the so-called "Kadyrovtsy" whom critics say are accountable to
no one and are guilty of human rights abuses.

The reaction from Chechnya's pro-Moscow president Alu Alkhanov was
equally indignant. Alkhanov came from the same village, Urus-Martan, as
the dead commander, Dakhiev, and fought alongside him and other
pro-Moscow forces during the first Chechen war.

Speaking after the funeral on September 14, Alkhanov said Dakhiev and
his comrades had been betrayed. "Know and remember just one thing," he
said. "Buvadi Dakhiev and his comrades were doing their professional
duty in this republic. What happened to them was treachery."

Anna Politkovskaya, the well-known Russian journalist and expert on the
North Caucasus, said a Chechen-Ingush row has been brewing for some
time. 

"Relations between Ingush and Chechen security officials didn't worsen
overnight," she said. "It just wasn't talked about for a fairly long
time. Now it has stopped being a matter for a small circle." 

Politkovskaya said Chechen security forces had long been coming into
Ingushetia and detaining people without the consent of the Ingush
police.

"After the Kadyrovtsy were so arrogant on September 7 as to brutally
beat up several Ingush policemen, the Ingush agreed amongst themselves
that next time they found Kadyrovtsy, they would not let them in, but
would beat them and drive them out of the republic."

The Russian general prosecutor's office is now investigating the
shootout and has formed a special investigative group, which includes
neither Chechens nor Ingush. 

The authorities in both republics have promised to assist the wounded
and the families of the dead. Few believe this is the end of the matter.

"I want to believe that it won't happen again," said Markha Isayeva,
whose Chechen policeman son was killed two years ago. "It is terrible
when law enforcement officers, who are meant to protect people from
bandits and criminals, shoot at one another. The guilty parties, whoever
they are, must be punished."

Others are thinking about revenge.

"Our comrades were treacherously murdered while doing their professional
duty," said a Chechen OMON officer who did not want to be named. "And it
doesn't matter where it happened: Chechnya, Dagestan or Ingushetia. 

"We are still waiting for the results of the investigation. If all those
guilty for these murders aren't severely punished under the law, then we
will punish them ourselves - but by the laws of our ancestors."

Umalt Dudayev is the pseudonym of a Chechen journalist and IWPR
contributor.


CIRCASSIAN OUTRAGE AT ANNIVERSARY PLANS

Officials in Adygeia accused of cashing in on a fraudulent version of
history.

By Oleg Tsvetkov in Maikop

An official initiative to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Adygeia's
"unification" with Russia has angered Adygs, also known as Circassians,
who accuse the Russian federal and local authorities of distorting
history for political gain.

Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a decree on September 8 naming
2007 as a year of festivities in Adygeia to mark the North Caucasian
republic "voluntarily joining of the Russian state". Similar events are
also planned in Kabardino-Balkaria, where the majority Kabardinians are
also part of the wider Circassian ethnic group.

The events will commemorate the sending of a Kabardinian prince as an
envoy to Moscow in 1557, which resulted in a military alliance being
agreed with Tsar Ivan the Terrible.

The initiative came from the local government in Adygeia, supported by
the republic's parliament. 

"We are very serious about the planned festivities," said Yuri Udychak,
chairman of the local parliamentary committee dealing with interethnic
relations. "As a result of joining Russia, we Adygs came into close
contact with the culture of the great Russian people and became able to
develop our own culture."

"There are two universities and other educational institutions in
Adygeia nowadays," said Udychak. "The fact the Adygs speak Russian so
well proves that we are very close to the Russian people. Asked whether
Adygeia had actually joined Russian "voluntarily", Udychak replied, "No
one forced anyone. Why revise history?"

However, many Circassian politicians and activists are outraged, saying
the commemoration is a "falsification of history" which overlooks the
decades-long resistance by Circassians to incorporation into the Russian
empire in the 19th history.

Zaur Dzeukozhev, deputy chairman of the Circassian Congress, told IWPR,
"Adygea was colonised by the Russian Empire in the course of an almost
century-long bloody Russian-Caucasian war. All honest historians
acknowledge this, and we want the Russian authorities to tell the
truth."

Murat Berzegov, chairman of the Congress, said, "It's wrong to celebrate
an event that never happened historically. Had we joined Russia
voluntarily, the Russian-Caucasian war of the 19th century would not
have been a popular liberation war but an insurrection by the people
against their own tsar.... This is how a single date - a holiday which
should not be celebrated - can change the history of a people,
converting them from heroes and champions of liberty into bandits."

Another Circassian nationalist organisation, Adyge Khase, appears to be
divided on the planned festivities. 

"[Moscow] just wants to tick a box to say that they've carried out work
to improve interethnic relations, and local officials just want to make
some money," said Aly Tliap, head of Adyge Khase in the town of
Adygeisk. 

Amin Zekhov, another of the leaders of Adyge Khase, said that
Circassians had indeed served the Russian state in the past and had been
outstanding military commanders. 

"However, the truth should also be spoken about the Russian-Caucasian
war, during which Adygeia was turned into a colony. How can we talk
about voluntarily accession after so much blood was spilt?" he asked.

Despite these reservations, Adyge Khase is officially supporting the
idea of next year's celebrations, on the grounds that Circassians and
Russians had friendly relations long before the Caucasian war. 

Dzeukozhev believes the group's official support for the plans is
financially motivated. He said Adyge Khase representatives admitted in
private that the celebrations were historically inaccurate, but wanted
to earn money from them. 

"Members of Adyge Khase are 'great writers' and 'great composers,' who
want to earn some money," he said. "They don't want to spoil their
relations with the republic's bureaucrats."

The end of the Caucasian war in the 1860s resulted in the expulsion of
tens of thousands of Circassians from the Russian empire to the Middle
East and Turkey. As a result, there are now far more Circassians outside
the North Caucasus than in it. Those in the region are mainly divided
between three small autonomous republics, Adygeia, Kabardino-Balkaria
and Karachai-Cherkessia. 

Rushdi Tuguz, a Syrian-born Circassian who has recently moved to the
North Caucasus, remarked that if Adygeia's integration into Russia had
been voluntary, his ancestors would not have fled to the Middle East in
the 19th century. "If you add sweet water to bitter water, it won't be
good water," said Tuguz.

In Adygeia, Russians form the majority while the ethnic Adygei account
for only around 25 per cent of the population. However, the Adygei form
the bulk of the republic's political elite, a state of affairs that is a
constant cause of discontent among local organisations of ethnic
Russians. However, as far as the celebrations are concerned, the latter
are also critical.

"National elites have betrayed the history of their people," said
Vladimir Karatayev, one of the leaders of the Slavs' Union of Adygeia, a
Russian associations that is often at loggerheads with Circassian
groups. 

Others in Maikop see the presidential decree as a public relations
exercise by Moscow to make up for the dearth of serious policies on
ethnic minority issues in Russia's North Caucasus. 

They also say that the festivities are designed to smooth over a quarrel
between Moscow and the local elite.

Khazret Sovmen, president of Adygeia, and Dmitry Kozak, Russian
presidential envoy in the Southern Federal Circuit, were engaged in a
public row earlier this year. Sovmen threatened to resign over reports
that Kozak was backing a plan to abolish Adygeia's autonomous status and
incorporate it into Krasnodar region. (See "Adygeia's President
Confronts Kremlin", CRS 335, April 13, 2006) 

President Putin refused to accept Sovmen's resignation, but relations
between Maikop and Moscow were seriously strained.

Meanwhile, opposition deputies in parliament are planning a
no-confidence vote against Sovmen, and the republican prime minister,
Yevgeny Kovalyov, was dismissed on September 13.   

Sovmen's term in office expires in January 2007 and his successor will
be appointed rather than elected. Kozak will propose candidates for the
post for approval by the Russian president. One way to get on the list
might be to support the anniversary idea.

Oleg Tsvetkov in an independent political analyst in Maikop, Adygeia.


GEORGIA: THE LAST COLLECTIVE FARM

Land reform may be the last straw for Georgia's Dukhobor community.

By Olesya Vartanian in Gorelovka

It is only six in the morning, but there is already a commotion outside
the house of tractor driver Oleg. Amid angry shouts and obscenities,
local residents are vying to be the first to get his three-strong crew
and old machinery to mow the hay on their plots.

"They are all flocking in and all of them want to have their hay mown
immediately," grumbles Oleg. "We are working at night too, but we still
don't have the time to please everyone."

This harvest-time rush is something new for the Russian village of
Gorelovka in Georgia's southern Samtskhe-Javakheti region, near the
border with Armenia.

It is a result of a land reform which started in Georgia in 1992 but
reached Gorelovka only this summer -- now farmers have to arrange
everything themselves and good tractor drivers have more work than they
can cope with. 

Only after the haymaking had begun did villagers find out they were
entitled to land of their own. However, the news upset many villagers,
who don't want to see their collective farm - the only one in Georgia
left over from Soviet times - broken up.

Gorelovka is home to a community of Dukhobors, ethnic Russians
practicing a rare form of Orthodox Christianity, who were exiled from
Russia to the Caucasus in the middle of the 19th century for their
pacifist views and doctrinal beliefs.

Fifteen years ago, Dukhobors lived in eight villages in this region, but
today their community, once nearly 7,000 strong, has shrunk to only a
few hundred. (See 'Special Report: Last Days of the Georgian Dukhobors,
CRS 254, September 3, 2004).

Their Dukhoborets agricultural cooperative, which the Russians still
call by its old Communist name of "collective farm", was founded by the
Dukhobor community in 1997 to succeed the Lenin Collective Farm. It
remained faithful to traditions of Soviet-style collective farming. 

Only Dukhobors could use the lands of the farm, even though ethnic
Russians make up only half of Gorelovka's population, with Armenians and
Georgians accounting for the rest. Ethnic Armenians and Georgians, who
came to live in the village in the Nineties when Dukhobors started to
leave, were not allowed to work in Dukhoborets but still had to buy hay
for their cows from the farm. 

As in Communist times, the collective farm provided each Dukhobor family
with a small plot of land. The crops were divided up between the family
and the cooperative, which was the only employer for the Russians and
paid its workforce quite well by Georgian standards at around 150 laris
(80 US dollars) a month.

The land distribution commission of the local government administration
has now started to hand out land around Gorelovka. This summer, they
stripped the cooperative of almost 5,000 hectares, which was distributed
among all the local Armenians, Russians and Georgians, leaving the
Dukhoborets cooperative with only 600 hectares. 

"We gave between six and 15 hectares to each Dukhobor family," said the
head of the local administration Azat Yegoyan. "That is quite a lot for
one family."

The head of the land commission, Askanas Markosian, said no particular
criteria had been applied when the plots were being distributed.
Precedence was given to local farmers, "as they feed the state and have
people working for them".

Auctions will soon be held to sell off the rest of the land.
 
Most local officials see the collective farm as an unwanted remnant of
Soviet times, which leaders of the Dukhobor community were exploiting
skilfully to avoid sharing lands with migrant Armenians and Georgians. 

But the Dukhobors have been reluctant to give up their common farm and
few of them understand what it will mean to have private property. 

Dukhobors say the farm is far more than an agricultural enterprise, and
is instead a way of preserving their communal traditions. 

"Since time immemorial, Dukhobors have lived as a commune," explained
Lyubov Demina. "People here don't want to readjust to a new way of life.
All the other collective farms in the area were abolished, but we
reorganised ours. We did this because we thought that we would live as
long as our communal way of life did."

Like all other Dukhobor families in Gorelovka, Olga Medvedeva's family
still lives in a small hut that resembles a 19th-century Russian peasant
home. Whitewashed on the outside, the walls of the house are made of
dung bricks. The light coming in through small windows rests on
patterned embroideries, tapestries and a Russian stove that smells of
smouldering coals.

Having washed her hands in the wash-stand, Olga cuts newly-baked bread
and puts the generous slices on an old wooden table. 

She said she worked milking cows in Gorelovka's collective farm for 20
years. This year her family was given 10 hectares of land, around the
same amount as they had from the collective farm. 

"A lot of people used to work on the collective farm, and if a family
had a milkmaid and tractor driver, it was a well-off," she said with
sadness in her voice.

Tatyana Chuchmayeva, head of the Dukhobor community, said that 470 local
Dukhobors had sent applications to the Russian government to move to
Russia. They are being promised free transport, housing and benefits for
six months. 

"Gorelovka's Dukhobors are now waiting for the beginning of next year,
when the State Duma will start considering resettlement projects from
provinces, and then they will know exactly where they will be moved,"
said Chuchmayeva. 

Olga Medvedeva's family is among the applicants for participation in the
programme.

"If everyone goes, I won't stay here either," she said. "But it will be
a pity, because I've spent my whole life here." 

Olesya Vartanian is a journalist for Southern Gates newspaper, founded
by IWPR in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia.

......................

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ISSN: 1477-7959 Copyright (c) 2006 The Institute for War & Peace
Reporting 

CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE No.
358

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