Dagestan Officials Unlikely To Resolve Social And Economic Problems Due To Lack Of Control And Corruption From Local Government; Radical Forms Of Islam Likely To Continue Spreading Through Republic

Executive Summary:

Dagestani officials are unlikely to resolve the major social and economic issues due to high levels of corruption and lack of control over the region. Dagestan has become a hot spot for crime, corruption, and violence outbreaks. Local Dagestani leaders attempt to cover up the major problems claiming there is no cause for concern. It is also likely that Islamic related violence will continue to rise throughout Dagestan. The high level of dissatisfaction with the government and economic situation in Dagestan, will likely influence further conversion to the Islamic faith and perpetuate violence in the region stemming from Islamic beliefs.

Graph indicating the major problems in Dagestan as seen by its citizens

Dagestan, the largest republic in the North Caucasus in both territory and population, is home to over 2.5 million people, with over 30 ethnic groups . Islam is recorded as the most populated religion of the republic. Dagestan's local government is flooded with corruption of local officials, with general quality of life reportedly at the lowest among all the Russian Federation republics in terms of stability and growth. Despite local Dagestani leaders attempting to make the region appear peaceful and violence outbreaks under control, reality is just the opposite.

In the 1990s, a new religious movement began to spread throughout Dagestan,called "Wahhabism,". The Wahhabists turned to violence and religious conflict not only outside the Islamic community, but also within the Islamic communities. In turn, the Islamic community released a statement claiming, "Any Muslim, who kills a Wahhabist will get to Paradise." The Wahhabist movement appears to attract the youth of the region, as they view this religious sect as an "alternative way of life", rejecting the corruption seen daily in the Dagestani government. The social and economic factors of life in Dagestan often contribute as a major factor to converters to Wahhabism and many citizens turn to this radical form of Islam as a way to combat the hardships and corruption within the republic. Actions taken in order to attempt to control Islamic related violence by the Kremlin continues to intensify in the North Caucasus region, including a growing number reported cases of kidnapping and disappearances of the Muslim population. In fact, previously this year in Dagestan 18 young Muslim men were reported kidnapped between April and May, for no other specified reason, other than because they were "devout practicing young Muslims".

A main factor which arguably is behind the growing number of Muslims in the North Caucasus and more specifically Dagestan, is the low economic standards in the republic. The general consensus among the population of Dagestan is that the local officials are not working effectively enough to combat the social, economic, and security issues in the republic. The UN reports unemployment in 2007 in Dagestan having reached nearly 27 percent in Dagestan and a total of 77 percent of Dagestan's budget comes from Moscow. According to a 2006 ISN report titled, The North Caucasus On The Brink, seven percent of the Dagestani population is prepared to take up arms and engage in violent struggle and one third of the population is willing to participate in illegal protesting. The opinions of the local and regional leaders are met with great disdain, and they people of Dagestan continue to become restless awaiting a response from the local authorities concerning any type of solutions, which may prove effective in turning the low quality of living around.

In addition political, religious, and ethnic tensions within the republic contribute to area of conflict and concern, for example, the educational system is under ethnic pressure. The republic's budget concerning education has made cuts, forcing the republic to depend on second-hand materials purchased from Russia. Since Dagestan's teaching materials come from Russia, the Russian language is predominant in a large majority of the books. However, books lack teaching materials centered in Dagestan's 13 indigenous languages/nationalities. Due to suspicions within the surrounding republics of Russia, of "Russification", propaganda used by local militants claim that the lack of time spent learning indigenous material, is Russia's push to get rid of Muslim influence, therefore creating a Christian society.

Additional Comments:


Source Reliability: 7.5
Analytic Confidence: 6.5

Kathryn A. Connelly

[Return to Final Estimates or Dagestan page]