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Problems of Maintaining Ethnopolitical Stability and the Prevention of Conflicts in the Volga Federal District* Venaly V. Amelin Chair of the Committee on Internationality Relations Orenburg Oblast Administration he Volga Federal District comprises 15 subjects of the Russian Fed- eration. Of the 32 national-administrative entities in Russia, 7 are located in the district, and 6 of these are considered republics (Bash- kortostan, Udmurtia, Mary-El, Mordovia, Tatarstan, and Chuvashia). The total population of the district is 31.5 million. More than 100 nationalities live in the district, including 22.5 million Russians (71.2 percent), 3.6 mil- lion Tatars (12 percent), 1.4 million Chuvash (4.7 percent), 1 million Bash- korts (3.2 percent), 787,500 Mordovians (2.5 percent), 598,500 Udmurts (1.9 percent), and others. Adherents of 58 religious denominations may be found here. The Volga Federal District represents a minimodel of Russia. Historically, through the course of many centuries of coexistence and cooperation among various ethnic groups within the territory of the district, traditions of mutual understanding and respect, interethnic dialogue, and religious tolerance developed among the Slavic, Turkic, and Finno-Ugric peoples. Unlike the North Caucasus region, the ethnopolitical situation in the Volga region is relatively stable. Outbreaks of separatism and so-called status conflicts in the republics have receded into the past, extinguished as a result of agreements reached on the division of powers and spheres *Translated from the Russian by Rita S. Guenther. Chopin, V. Y. 2001. Ethnic-religious map of the Volga Federal District and survey of inter- ethnic communication, Ethnopanorama 3:15. 112
PREVENTION OF CONFLICTS IN THE VOLGA FEDERAL DISTRICT 113 of authority between the federal and lower-level governments. Work is currently under way in the regions to bring republic constitutions and laws into accordance with federal laws and the constitution of the Rus- sian Federation. This process is close to completion. Of 1,100 legislative acts passed at various levels that did not comply with federal laws and the constitution of the Russian Federation, only 11 have yet to be brought into compliance, of which 6 are in the Republic of Tatarstan. Changes will be made in the constitution of the Republic of Tatarstan. According to a statement by the president of the republic, Mintimer Shaimiev, a constitu- tional commission will review the constitution in the near future.2 At the same time, a number of problems existing in the sphere of political life and interethnic relations in Russia are especially characteris- tic of the regions of the Volga Federal District. The unequal access to power of various ethnic groups could become a potential conflict-generating factor, with the republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan being possible examples. An analysis of the makeup of the higher leadership of the republics indicates an obvious predominance of representatives of the titular nationalities above other ethnic groups. In the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Bashkortostan, 59.6 percent are Bashkorts, and among the heads of local government administrations, 54.8 percent are Bashkorts, although that ethnic group comprises 21.8 percent of the republic's population. Meanwhile, 28.5 percent of the re- gion's population is Tatar, although they make up only 11.1 percent and 16.4 percent respectively of the membership in the above-mentioned gov- ernmental bodies. In Bashkortostan, Russians make up 39.3 percent of the population. Representatives of the Russian ethnic group make up 25.9 percent of the membership of the Cabinet of Ministers and 23.3 percent of the heads of local government administrations. An analysis of the ethnic composition of the two most recent convocations of the State Assembly of the Republic of Bashkortostan likewise provides evidence of the predomi- nance of deputies of the Bashkort nationality, which does not correspond to the proportion of this ethnic group in the overall population of the republic. The proportion of deputies who are ethnic Russians is nearly half the proportion of the Russian population of Bashkortostan, and con- versely, the proportion of Bashkort deputies is twice as high as the pro- portion of that ethnicity in the overall population. This is partially a result of the policy developed by Stalin in which distribution of the key posts in the regions was conducted along ethnic lines and according to which indigenous nations have been assigned a leading role in the regional gov- ernments. In the opinion of researcher Ildar Gabdrafikov, the ethnic fac- 2Kalashnikova, M. 2001. Regional leaders return. Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 28.
4 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES for is the most effective mechanism for sharply constricting the social base of potential contenders for higher state posts. Furthermore, the researcher believes that subethnic, local, and clan factors still play a shadowy role.3 Border-related problems represent the next serious conflict-generat- ing factor. They are particularly intense in Orenburg Oblast. The great length of the Russian-Kazakh border that forms one of the oblast's bor- ders 1,876 kilometers (one-third of the length of the entire Russian bor- der with Kazakhstan) remains a critically important factor determining the ethnopolitical situation in the region. The region has become a sort of cordon sanitaire, restraining the penetration into Russia of narcotics and contraband goods from the countries of Central Asia and beyond. In 2000 the volume of contraband shipments totaled tens of millions of rubles. In the last two years, up to 3 metric tons of narcotics (marijuana, opium, and heroin) have been seized. The volumes of heroin confiscated range from one gram to tens of kilograms. The increasing prevalence of heroin is evidenced by the fact that it has become comparatively cheap on the black market in the cities of the oblast, including in the border city of Orsk, where it sells for one-third the price that it does in the city of Orenburg. The widespread public opinion is that heroin is transported and sold mainly by nationals of the Central Asian states. However this is no more than part of the negative stereotypes developed in the public perception of these nationals. The facts suggest that a significant portion of drug-related crime is perpetrated by the citizens of Russia itself. From lanuary through March 2001, 1,033 crimes related to the illegal narcotics trade were registered in Orenburg Oblast. One reason for the influx of narcotics may be found in the multitude of border problems that remain unresolved. These problems require op- erational solutions. One example is the situation along the Orenburg sec- tion of the Western Kazakhstan Railroad, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy. This 110-kilometer section of the railway and the junction station Ilek-1 belong to the Republic of Kazakhstan. This makes it difficult to institute full and effective customs and border controls. Surveys of the residents of the border regions of Orenburg Oblast have shown that the respondents have their own ideas regarding how border security should be handled. Opinions were divided into two posi- tions supported by approximately equal numbers of people: 41.4 percent believe that the border should be strictly secured, while 43.4 percent be- lieve that it should be relatively free for contacts between citizens of Rus- 3Gabdrafikov, L M. 2001. Ethnic and general-citizen aspects of nationalities policy in the republics of contemporary Russia Based on materials from the Republic of sashkortostany. Ethnopanorama 3:24-25.
PREVENTION OF CONFLICTS IN THE VOLGA FEDERAL DISTRICT 115 sia and Kazakhstan, with a developed network of transit points. It should be noted that tensions regarding the border are increasing in the public consciousness. Whereas in 1998, 20.4 percent of Russians polled felt that the border should be strictly secured, by 2000, 46.4 percent of Russians felt that way. There was a similar change in the position of Russian Kazakhs.4 In 1998, 11.7 percent and in 2000, 28.2 percent supported strict enforcement of the border. At present, a Russian-Kazakh group is con- tinuing its work on delineating the state border between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan.5 Another conflict-generating problem is connected with the border, namely, immigration processes. Because the oblast is located on the bor- der and its territory is crossed by heavily used transportation routes, it is among the areas in the Russian Federation receiving the highest number of migrants. From 1992 through 2000, refugee and forced migrants status was granted to 67,800 of the 73,200 people who applied to the migration service. Over- all, during this period, some 200,000 migrants arrived. For a region with a population of 2 million, 200,000 is a fairly large number. The main influx of migrants came from the Central Asian states, in- volving 86.5 percent of the total number of immigrants from 1992 through 1999 and 95 percent in 2000. Moreover, the percentage of those coming from Kazakhstan is increasing.7 Whereas it was 34 percent in 1994, it was 36 percent in 1995, 39.4 percent in 1996, and 64.1 percent from 1999-2000. Among Kazakhs, there is a wave of migration under way, meaning that much of it is undocumented. Of the total number of registered migrants from 1992 through 2000, Russians composed 69.3 percent; Tatars, 9.1 percent; Ukrainians, 9.6 per- cent; Bashkorts, 1.9 percent; Chechens, 1.4 percent; Germans, 1.2 percent; Kazakhs, 1.1 percent; and Mordovians, 1.0 percent. The Armenian and Azerbaijani diasporas are also growing intensively. Migrants represent a rather good resource for the oblast. For example, of the 47,000 migrants aged 16 and over, 7,100 are university graduates, 4Russian political scientists and sociologists often use the term Russian Kazakhs, Russian Uzbeks, etc. when referring to the migrants of Russian nationality that formerly lived in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and other former USSR republics or CIS countries. 5Tishkov, V. A., and E. I. Filippova, eds. 2001. Interethnic Relations and Conflicts in Post- Soviet States. Annual Report 2000. Moscow: Russian Academy of Sciences, pp. 124-125. 6The term forced migrant is introduced in the corresponding Federal Law of the Russian Federation. There are two major laws regulating migration in Russia, namely the Law on Refugees and the Law on Forced Migrants. Forced migrants are virtually economic mi- grants. 7This percent includes migrants of different nationalities (Russian, Tatars, Kazakhs, etc.~.
6 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES and 16,500 either have completed two years of university study or have graduated from specialized vocational schools.8 However, the problems of the migrants place an additional burden on the infrastructure of the oblast (housing, jobs, day care). The situation is further aggravated by the fact that Russia has still not affirmed an overall concept governing state migration policy. These factors decrease the tolerance of local residents. This is another conflict-generating factor. Among the negative consequences of migration, the local population notes · reduced availability of jobs · reduced availability of housing · increased crime rates · aggravated interethnic relations · possibilities of the spread of infectious disease Incidentally, as sociological surveys demonstrate, the migrants them- selves have an overly positive estimation of the way in which the local population views them. The migrants perceive the attitude of locals as mainly loyal, however reality often overturns this perception. On the whole, of the group of respondents who were asked the ques- tion "Are there any nationalities toward which you feel hostility?" 28 percent answered yes in 1998, while in October 2001 this figure had risen to 49 percent. Intolerance is primarily expressed towards people from the Caucasus and Transcaucasus, Chechens, Armenians, Azeris, and Roma. Migration processes are also characteristic of other regions in the Volga Federal district. In Perm Oblast, approximately 9,000 forced mi- grants have been registered,9 and in Saratov Oblast, statistics on migra- tion inflows have previously shown up to 58 percent of arrivals coming from Kazakhstan, 15 percent from Uzbekistan, and 4.2 percent from Tajikistan and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).10 Another potentially conflict-generating factor is becoming particu- larly acute in the regions of the Volga Federal District, namely internal contradictions within the Muslim umma (community of believers). For example, in Ulyanovsk Oblast there are three functioning muitiyats (Mus- 8Amelin, V. V. 2001. Problems of social adaptation of migrants in Orenburg. Ethnopano- rama 3: 60. 9Sergeeva, S. 2001. The migratory process. The Bulletin of the Network of Ethnological Monitoring 15Qune 16-30~:21. 10Tarasova, T. 2001. Migratory movements of the population. The Bulletin of the Net- work of Ethnological Monitoring 6(February 1-15~:18.
PREVENTION OF CONFLICTS IN THE VOLGA FEDERAL DISTRICT 117 km councils), which are involved in an intensifying battle for believers. The two muftiyats of the cities of Buguruslan and Orenburg have been in conflict for several years. Moreover, on tune 7, 2001, the Central Spiritual Board of Muslims (CSBM) in Orenburg Oblast, based in the city of Buguruslan, was officially registered with the justice administration of the Russian Federation for Orenburg Oblast. Mufti Ismail Shangareev of the Buguruslan Muftiyat became its chairman. The Orenburg muftiyat includes 80 religious organizations and is subject to the Central Spiritual Board of Muslims of Russia and the Euro- pean Countries of the CIS headed by the chief mufti of Russia, Talgat Tadzhuddin. The Buguruslan muftiyat includes 35 organizations. It is affiliated with the Council of Muftis of Russia, led by Ravil Gainutdin. The registration of the new religious organization once again agitated the community in Orenburg Oblast. The following press publications in tune 2001 may serve as corroboration: "Dead SBMs" (Southern Urals), "Schism" (Moskovsky Komsomolets in Orenburg), "Today Allah Akbar, To- morrow Hands Up" (Orenburg Week), "Muslims of Orenburg, Unite!" and others. These articles trace the development of the conflict, including the seizure of mosques by supporters of the Buguruslan muftiyat two years ago in the city of Buguruslan and the village of Asekeevo. Further, the articles discuss the generous charity of Saudi Muslims, who have given tens of thousands of dollars to build a mosque in the city of Buguruslan, and they cite statistical data on students (shakirds) from CIS countries who attend the madrassa that was opened at the mosque. Accusations of Wahhabism are made. Worried by the conflict within the Muslim community, the Council for Orenburg Regional Tatar Ethnocultural Autonomy issued a statement expressing concern that the situation would create unnecessary intra- denominational tensions, which could easily lead to tensions within the Tatar community as a whole. The Orenburg muftiyat called a special emergency conference of Muslims of Orenburg Oblast. More than 100 Muslims attended, including 59 delegates from the various parishes of the Orenburg muftiyat. Also in attendance was Talgat Tadzhuddin, the chief mufti and chairman of the CSBM of Russia and the European Countries of the CIS. Participants in the conference disagreed with the renaming of the Buguruslan muftiyat as the CSBM of Orenburg Oblast Based in the City of Buguruslan until a joint conference of the two mufityats was held to discuss unification into a single spiritual administration and the Orenburg muftiyat approved the registration. Conference participants sent a telegram to the leadership of the coun- try concerning the illegal registration of the muftiyat. In it, they requested that the matter be investigated and that the introduction of Wahhabism
8 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES into Russia be halted. In turn, the chairman of the newly registered CSBM of Orenburg Oblast, Mufti Ismail Shangareev, convened a meeting of his organization on July 13, 2001. Taking advantage of the poor training and shortage of Islamic clerics in Russia, adherents of radical strains of Islam are making active propa- ganda efforts among believers, striving to gain their sympathies. This will certainly lead to destabilization in society, the growth of separatist atti- tudes, and the split of the umma into traditional and true Muslims. In this regard, the practice of training Islamic clerics abroad arouses the anxieties of government officials and the public. Today, hundreds of young Muslims, including those from Orenburg Oblast, are being edu- cated at Muslim theological institutions in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey, and other countries. Open displays of religious intolerance in the region have not been observed, but hidden mutual hostility exists between peoples of various faiths, as illustrated by data from sociological surveys conducted in the region. For instance, a survey taken in November and December 2000 showed that 20 percent of those polled believed that mutual hostility exists between peoples of various faiths in the region, while 25 percent of the residents of border areas are convinced that Islam and the activities of Islamic organizations contribute to the exacerbation of interethnic rela- tions. The authorities are striving to prevent the situation from getting out of control and to prevent possible (even local) conflicts, and they are successfully bringing scientific expertise to bear in their efforts. Directed by Valery Tishkov and coordinated by Venaly Amelin, the Network of Ethnological Monitoring and Early Warning of Conflicts is now in its second year of operation in the Volga Federal District. Approximately 20 independent experts analyze and monitor the situation in the regions and issue assessments, which are published in a special biweekly bulletin. The bulletin is then disseminated to the Federal Assembly, the Government of the Russian Federation, regional leaders, and research centers. To maintain ethnopolitical stability in the regions of the Volga Fed- eral District, a series of programs on regional ethnic policy is being devel- oped. One such program is successfully functioning in Orenburg Oblast. The program is particularly relevant, since Orenburg is a border region with a multiethnic population, including representatives of 80 nationali- ties and 20 denominations. The program provides for the maintenance and development of ethnic cultures and native languages, addresses the religion factor, and includes systems of measures to develop native-lan- guage mass media and counter ethnic extremism. Similar programs are being undertaken in the Udmurt and Bashkortostan republics and Sa- mara, Saratov, and Perm oblasts.
PREVENTION OF CONFLICTS IN THE VOLGA FEDERAL DISTRICT CONCLUSIONS 119 In the regions of the Volga Federal District, overall ethnopolitical stability will be maintained. Meanwhile, a number of conflict-generating factors will continue to influence the situation in the Volga region. They include · intradenominational conflicts within Islamic communities, conflicts between muftiyats, and intensified competition for believers in regions where there are two or three muftiyats with different orientations · increased flows of narcotics from adjacent states, as well as illegal immigrants from more distant countries · decreased tolerance toward immigrants from the Caucasus, which may lead to local conflicts · increased migration flows in the border regions of the Volga Fed- eral District as a result of an aggravation of the situation on the border with Tajikistan and Afghanistan.