Conference “Ethnos and Policy in North Caucasus-“Circassian Issue”

Posted by globalresearcheng on Jan 27th, 2014 and filed under Conferences. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Akhmet Iarlikapov- Chief scientist-employee of Ethno-Political Research Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology Russian Academy of Sciences
The opinion was expressed that the Islamic dimension still exists and is very serious, and even influential in the sense that the Islamic factor has serious affect on developments ongoing in the whole Caucasus region, not only in North but South as well. Today I want to present a little overview on how Islam develops in North Caucasus, Islam development trend in 1989-2013- how it has been developing and in what condition it is now.
Look at the map, as you can see, Georgia borders practically all Islamic region, except Adyghe, which is placed in form of enclave within Krasnodar Krai. Practically the entire north and north-eastern parts of Georgia borders regions populated with Russia’s north CaucasusMuslims.
Islamic part of North Caucasus, before dissolution of the USSR was simple, not complicated, as far as this region is basically populated with Sunnites – clearly divided betweenHanafi and Shafi.
Mixed population was only in North Ossetia includingSufis.Sufis are the followers of mystic-ascetic movement of Islam, which is not within any of the directions of Islam, i.e. it is common movement of Islam, but mostly Sufis were Shafis.
Shiites were only presented in southern part of Dagestan. Majority of them are Azerbaijanis and one Lezghian village Miskinja. By the way, the oldest mosque of Russia, cathedral mosque of Derbent was always Shiite, Shiites and Sufis share ittoday.
In my opinion, very important issue is what was in North Caucasus by the end of Soviet Union. What exactly happened, revival or re-islamizationafter the collapse of Soviet Union? In my view, re-islamization took place in north-west Caucasus; as a matter of fact there was no Islam in north-west Caucasus, i.e. there was high level of secularization, there were lots of nonpracticing Muslims and almost no educated personnel. Actually, people had accepted Islam anew.
They remembered that they were Muslims and would convert again;as for north-east Caucasus, even being under the Soviet rule for 70 years, there still were very strong Sufigroups, Islamic theologians, Islamic system of education still remained, though it was weak and etc. it was retained as a system.
Besides, during deportation years, in cases of deportation of Chechen or Ingush, close ties established between Islamic practitioners and Teips, it grew stronger and thus since 1989 we have been watching the revival of Islam.
In north-west Caucasusforeign missionaries,as a rule Turks,played an important role in revival of Islam. This mainly occurred in Adyghe, but in Kabardino-Balkaria and Circassia there were missionaries from Chechnya and Dagestan and local youth as well, educated abroad. There were no foreign missionaries in the north-west Caucasus; Islam was being thrived withlocal forces plus the youth, educated abroad,contribituted as well.
The link between politics and Islam is very interesting, although under the title “Islamic” were considered severalparties, the only real Islamic political party, which was represented in the region, was Islamic Revival party of the Soviet Union.
Two well-known Dagestanians were represented in the party, the leader of the party-Ahmad-Kadi Akhtaev- Dagestanian, a scientist and also Dagestanians-Abas Kebedov and Bagautdin Magomedov, who were members of the council of Ulama, i.e.members of the council of scientists of this party.
Nevertheless, political activism in the form of political parties could notgain a foothold in the region; Islamic Revival Parties,as well as other short-lived political parties that were set up, could not become popular in the north Caucasus, and finally in 1994 the party collapsed and since then Islamic activism in this form does not exist.
However, there are other forms, for instance Dagestanian Sufis. Murids of Sufi Sheikhs, as political actors, actively participate in the parliamentary elections in Dagestan;governmental authorities are under their influence, especially through those ministers, who express their sympathy towards Sufis.
Sufis are actively holding positions at municipal levels and if not personally, they still influence on decision making, becauseeven head of administration and chief of the police always consider to what these people think and address them for consultations.
But often these people become governors of the village and so on. Such form of political activity integrates local Sufis within local governmental systemquite successfully.
For example, when Islam comes to public space-there are quotations from Quran in Russian language, written on the houses in the city of Makhachkala, so that everybodywill have the opportunity to share Islamic values in such way, this also represents the part of Islamic policy or generally entering into public space. Another example is advertisement of electric-good store with Islamic symbols; it is actively used in public,as Islam has taken very distinctplace in people’s awareness.
But apart from Suficparticipation in politics, there are so called “Salafi” and “Wahhabi” projects. Chechen wars played significant roles, as Chechnya in the awareness of the north-Caucasian Muslims became the first Muslim territory.
Although the first Chechen project had secular character, Chechnya was considered as the best territory for Jihad. Amir Khattab and Basayev talked about it. They had formed special Islamic territory, even outside of Chechnya, in Dagestan so called Kadar zone.
Sharia rule was declared under the command of Amir Jarula. Theyestablished Shariat court and the area had virtually become independent from Russian government. However, theproject could not last, the territory ceased existencedue to the military operations in September 1999.
Other project-Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which was secular after several years of existence transformed from secular into Islamic and consequently, Doku Umarov announced declaration -of Caucasus Emirate in 2007. If Chechen Republic of Ichkeria tried to become perfect state with its- territory, government, ministers and etc. the Caucasus Emirate was in fact terrorist network, which exists only as the Emirate on the internet.
In fact, it is a true network of diverse terrorist cells, which in most cases do not know anything about each other, except that they exist. Now, let’s say a few words about mosaicity of Islamic environment in the north Caucasus.
When we are talking about Islam in the north-Caucasus, we should not forget that it is very fragmented and does not represent one whole. Let’s say traditional Islam- first of all, we do not know traditional Islam, as the united form of traditional Islam does not exist. In Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia it is Sufism. They consider Sufism as traditional Islam, and on other territories there is no Sufism, so it is hard to understand what traditional Islam is.
There is such a misconception that traditional Islam is very peaceful. In fact, in many cases it does not prove to be so, as Sufis that they bring as an example and claim that they are peaceful, still there are several Sufi groups in Dagestan, who recognize legitimacy of armed Jihad against Russia, in other words they state- yes, we shall implement armed Jihad but now we have neither power nor means for it, thus we can’t, we will just have minimum relation with Russian authority, live isolated and then sometime afterwards will have power and carry out armed Jihad.
Therefore, the myth that traditional Islam exists and is peaceful in fact simplifies the image and misleads us. At first we shall realize that it is hard to define and secondly such classifications does not lead to discovering peaceful Islam. We shall seek for peaceful Islam in something else.
Salafist groups are represented in Islamic mosaic…. We say Salafist, in fact it is very complex part. First of all there are so called “Wahhabist”, why so called? Because there are no real Wahhabists in the region.
Real Wahhabists shall understand Hanbali, but they are not Wahhabists in the classical sense of the word. There are so called new Muslims young Jamaats, Dagestanian salafists, who stand completely separate, Madhalit Salafists, Salafists who want to carry out Hijra and thus they have Sheikhs e.g. in Waziristan or somewhere else, in conclusion these setting isdiverse, mobile and very serious and hard discussions take place between Salafists.
Let’s say one of them says: “we shall implement Hijra, we shall resettle” and among them are those who really resettled in Egypt, Turkey and etc. There are others who say: “no we don’t have right to resettle and there is no need for war”. There are those who say: “we shall go to forest” and whole this setting is seething and the discussions are actively going on.
Thus when we talk about Salafists, we shall not be mistaken and say that there are Salafists as unity. Absolutely not. In most cases theseare group of people who havecompletely different interest and understanding on which direction to go.
In this Islamic mosaic is for instance, Nurjular. Russian government considers them Turkish agents. However, these people might be the most peaceful among Muslim groups, as they are mostly busy with reading works of Said Nursi. But they know Turkish language very well as they read works in original. Hizb ut-Tahrir, which appeared in the north-Caucasus very late, approximately in the midst of 2000s and now they actively compete with Salafists.
So called “Krachkovsky’s” – a sect from Quran group, who deem that Quran shall be read in native language. Islam in the north-Caucasus does not represent any unity, anything simple, that can be peacefully handled. We have to deal with totally different groups, who have completely different interests, thus in fact the state has very difficult task.
Now, there is the sense that state tries to forget the old rhetoric, when Islam was divided into traditional and nontraditional.The grounds for dialogue between Sufis and Salafists have been laid.
Although one group was selected from Salafists and Sufis are represented by one group too, aspiration towards dialogue between these groups is very serious. The state tries to support Islamic education in order to ensure that the system, which is developing on other areas of the north-Caucasus to be loyal to the state. Another interesting issue is what else apart from Islam hinders, what goes deep in this Islamic mosaic.
First of all nationalismand, as Nikolay had mentioned in his report, Habzizm, Circassian folk invented religion. In addition, there is a very successful Christianization project in Dagestan, because Pentecostals had achieved great success, about three thousands Christened Dagestanians are Muslims, they work among Muslims, although at the expense of huge losses, for as I think their leader was murdered in 2010, but nevertheless, there are other ideologists who can be successful.
Question: you talked about groups, who believe that Jihad shall be carried out. How they explain necessity of Jihad? What is the reason? Was this thenatural process or was it supported?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: At first, regarding the legitimacy of Jihad, they are based on the arguments of the 19th century, i.e. Shamil’s time and since then they deem that the essence of Russian state has not changed and thus Muslims need armed Jihad in order to release the territory of Islam.
Dagestan is understood as the abode of Islam, which shall not be governed by non-Muslim rulers, accordingly, Jihad is reckoned legitimate by these Sufic groups, although being in minorities they still exist.
As for revival in the 80-ies in Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia, it was Islamic Revival Movement that was coming from below and, actually, there werenot any outside participants in the north-east Caucasus, who could affect on the revival processes.
So those processes were taking place independently, based on internal resources. The north-west Caucasus: it is hard to talk about the independence, as outside participants were indeed more active there and they were generally from abroad, that I talkedabout Turks, the same was happening in Dagestan, Chechnya, preachers who arrived and actively took part in it, as well as local preachers, I mean Soviet Union, i.e preachers from Muslim republics used to arrive there from Tajikistan and etc.
Nana Devdariani: I have such question: Does constitution of Russian Federation recognize parties under national or religious sign? For instance, in our country, such thing can not happen; regional party can not be Islamic party at the same time.
Nikolay Silaev: the constitution does not specify this issue, but there is a law on political parties, which was adopted in the beginning of the 2000s and it prohibits regional and ethnical classifications.
Akhmet Iarlikapov: The laws ban, but it is not the reason why Islamic parties in the north-Caucasus does not exist; they would still exist if people wanted them. People just do not understand this kind of activity. They do not understand what the party is needed for and thus they do not exist.
Question: what is the attitude there towards Christians?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: In fact theattitude towards Christians is different, basically tolerant. Conflict situation arose in Dagestan and only with Protestants, because they conduct very active preaching.
This Proselytism is very active, as Christian texts mainly the Bible is translated into Dagestanian language. Translations are really good and they have good tactics regarding the evangelization of the population. Thus, Protestantism causes negative attitude, however at the initial stage of their activity such open serious alienation did not occur.
Question: and how will the Russian Orthodox Church represent itself?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: I can not tell anything about defined official position of Russian Orthodox Church, but there is an interesting moment in their activity. For instance, active erection of crosses in the entrance of the villages and settlements. This leads to protests from Muslims in Stavropol, Circassia; we can not say anything about Kabardo-Balkaria.
Question: do they hinder construction of the mosques?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: yes, there is resistance when building mosques, but this happens in regions, Stavropol district and so on. Similar problems take place in Krasnodar Krai as well. Authorities also face big problems as they do not allow anyone except Shapsugian villages to build mosques. Thousands of Muslims are in Krasnodar Krai.
These people go to Adyghe villages and settlements for Friday prayers and ultimately the situation in Adyghea is quite tensed…Believers from Krasnodar are very diverse, but ethnically there are Daghestanians, Chechens, Afghans and many others. If there were mosques in Krasnodar, they would stay there but they have to go to Adyghea and the situation in Adhygea very much depends on the impact that comes with the people, the Friday migration creates additional tension in Adyghea.
Question: what are the recent trends of religious directions regarding armed resistance, mainly
Akhmet Iarlikapov: In fact, today Muslim fighters associate themselves with Caucasus Emirate…
Question: I asked about theological directions…
Akhmet Iarlikapov: theological direction is very complicated to define, as they are those Sufis who say that the battle is possible, the Salfists but Salafists completely….
Their theology is simple, i.e. today they slightle enter in theology. Yasin Rasulov was an ideologist who is no longer alive, he was killed. He used to say that today armed Jihad in the north-Caucasus has consistent nature, i.e. it is not over, its main idea and many others share this idea that armed Jihad against Russia is not over yet, it began in 19th century and today exactly the same Jihad continues. This is the main idea.
Question: you have shown us division of Caucasus into western and eastern parts, I will not delve with the details, what threat shall we -the north-Caucasus and Russia, expect?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: thank you for the question, it is simply considered that north-west and north east Caucasus will get far more estranged from each other from the point that north-west Caucasus will mainly be secular and will have less profound character than north-east, i.e. Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
Moreover, many experts mention that Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan suffer from civilizational drift, i.e. culturally they become increasingly much more, so to speak middle-easterns… let’s assume, north-west Caucasus, it is much more secular, European concepts and Islam are part of national awareness, but not as much important. For Dagestanian Islam is part of culture, often-predominant part of identity.
Question: Does Islam become mosaic in north Caucasus? How does it respond to the last conclusion?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: yes, but Islam is considered as a whole. Yes, it becomes increasingly mosaic.
Question: how powerful is the Emirate?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: thank you for the question, The Caucasus Emirate represents the only force which now can resist Russian power, but it can resist owing to the fact that it has transformed into very conspirative network, through weak direct links among cells.
It is hard to “disrupt” such a network. Thus it’s hard for Russian government to deal with all things; in addition Emirate does not have mass support of the population. If there would be massive support from the population, the Caucasus Emirate would not be virtual, but would have its own territorial component. But today, it is so for on one hand it is the only opponent strength, but on the other it does not have mass support.
Question: what happens if Emirate gathers them?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: Emirate? Emirate will not be able to completely collect this mosaic and this is the main point that Islam will never be united political power in the north-Caucasus, as it is the mosaic….
Question: and what are the relations are with Turkey?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: Truly, Dagestanian Muslims actually do not have direct contacts with Turkey.
Question: but they are funded…
Akhmet Iarlikapov: if we take the Caucasus Emirate, then today it is self-financed, i.e. they collect donations…one of the moments: they collect so called Zakat. Zakat is religious paymentthat all Muslims are obliged to pay.
But how do they collect them? They threaten and extort moneyfrom businessmen, only in this way…. real Turkish influence almost does not exist. This influence was only in early 90-ies and was swiftly suppressed by Russian government, as they saw threat in it and since then real Turkish impact, especially theological does not exist except very small group of Nurjulars. They are just few people i.e. insignificant small group.
Question: so, they provoke their theological centres and orientations towards middle-east?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: I mean in terms of culture, this is civilized, so people feel more and more comfortable in this environment, than entirely in Russian environment.
Question: one more question, if I don’t bother you, describe the relations between Muslims of north and south Caucasus.
Akhmet Iarlikapov: Sunnite-Shiite relations in north Caucasus nowadays are quite tensed and Sunnites have very sceptical relations with Azerbaijanian secular projects, because the form in which Azerbaijan exists now is not what they wanted….
Question: but do Ordinary Muslims like Azerbaijanians?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: In general, they do not have complaints against each other; the complaints are mainly with the authority of Azerbaijan, as a state but not with ordinary people.
Question: and where do Muslims receive education? Abroad?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: It depends on the region. Let’s take Dagestan, there are 13 Islamic universities in Dagestan and more than 100 madrassah and many Maktabs. Thus majority of Muslims received local education.
There are small group of people, who receiveeducation in Turkey, Syria, Saudi-Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar. Syria was very popular because both Dagestan and Syriaare Shafi regions.
Situation is the same in Chechnya, but they can not point to anybody. They do not represent main acting characters, or those giving orders to what the education system of Dagestan should be like, they are people who received traditional Sufic education.
Question: lately, there is a great effort for islamization of society in Chechnya. Do you think that Chechnya has such prospect in the conditions created by Russia?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: the point is not in perspectives but you have mentioned correctly, Kadyrov carries out islamization of Chechnya, in absolutely calm and regular manner. Thus the thing is not in threat but it is actually done.
But of course, there won’t be separate busses or education in Chechnya, as it needs certain formalities. Nonetheless, islamization process is very seriously carried on including, for example fields such as folk medicine.
He has actually destroyed such kind of activity. Now he has Islamic healing centre in Grozny, where all doctors according to Islam shall cure people by Quran, other things should not exist. So, islamization is going on together with strengthening his personal influence.
Question: Is Quran taught at schools?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: now there are perfect opportunities in schools, thanks to Medvedev, we have brought basics of religious culture and secular ethics. Therefore, Islam is taught in nearly 100 % of Chechen schools and you can study Quran and whatever you wish. Because there is not strict control over how all this is passed down.
Vaso Kapanadze: mosaicity, splitting of society is not accidental and striving towards Middle East countries and those processes that occur there are not accidental.
I think that north-Caucasus is Achilles’ heel for Russia and the national policy towards north Caucasus, the term “Person of Caucasus Nationality” is perception of north-Caucasus people of being secondaryand this contributes to integration.
I remember in the 90-ies, there is such a politologist Pozdniakov, he had notion of national interest and even the perception of this term was not in line with the state interest, which supports disintegration.
Akhmet Iarlikapov: Thank you for the question. Undoubtedly, these things are taught on the background of certain global processes, Muslim world map, Muslim environmentis very global; it is sharply changing and becoming mosaic.
Even in Saudi Arabia itself, where everything is strictly controlled, there is dividing line between Wahabist preachers and boundaries between them becomes much more visible.
Therefore, it’s natural that everything is reflected on the north-Caucasus. As for the north-Caucasus integration, as the heel of Achilles of Russia, I think that on the contrary north-Caucasus is the region that Russia got as a gift, as there are real challenges for Russian statehood, identity and etc.
But at the same time I think that north-Caucasus is an ideal environmentto develope projects in the north-Caucasus itself, including entire political nation of Russia and etc. another thing is when there are too many mistakes in national policy, state rhetoric, on the contrary I deem that in case of the worst-scenario, if Russian federation collapses, north-Caucasus will be the last region to come out from the Russian Federation.
Question: do you have any data on how many Chechen militants are among Syrian insurgents or north-Caucasian in Afghanistan, mostly for which region are they and how do you think is there state practice that fights against these threats in the north-Caucasus?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: I can tell you for sure that they are not thousands. The point is that sometimes the north Caucasians fight on the territory of Syria independently, i.e. they formown independent forces and enclaves, similarly to free Sharia territory as it was for instance in Kadar. They form such enclaves, troops in Syria and struggle.
Unfortunately, I can not name the figures. Of course there are attempts ofresistance, firstly interference to going there and secondly encouraging militants to return, however in my opinion, what is happening now for instance, in Dagestan is actually ineffective, they are trying to work with parents of those people who went there to fight, but work in the threatening way so it’s not the best way.
Cetainly you need other ways, totally different, but so far it is so…. Yes, there are attempts of resistance, to return people but yet very inefficient, I could say completely ineffective.
Question: will it turn into certain threat or not?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: certainly, it is a threat for state. These people fight; they gain warfare practice to wage religiously motivated war.
Question: these emissaries, different people, who fight there-return. Do they affect on the situation inside Russia?
Akhmet Iarlikapov: Russian authority has already dealt with emmisaries and direct outside influence in the north-Caucasus, almost there is no overseas funding. You don’t meet foreign preachers in the region, but don’t forget that phenomenon of “electronic” muftis, when you can access the internet from everywhere and read anything you wish, i.e all those authorities who write about Jihad or about similar things, nowadays it is available through all phone.

Comments are closed

Log in / Global Research Center |