Baku, March 18 – The traditional building blocks of Ingush society – its extended family groups known as “taips” – have become the foundation for what appears to be an increasingly successful campaign to form an alternative popular government and force out the Kremlin’s widely despised man on the scene, republic President Murat Zyazikov.
Not only have these groups served as a kind of caucus for the election of what is in effect an alternative government there, but they have attracted the attention of a filmmaker whose movie about their heroic efforts was shown on Moscow’s REN TV on Sunday (http://www.ingushetiya.ru/news/13647.html).
And despite Zyazikov’s confident public position, there is growing evidence that he is very much on the way out. Yesterday, Gazeta reported, the Ingush head had been dropped as leader of the republic’s pro-Kremlin United Russia party organization, almost certainly not at his own request (http://www.gzt.ru/politics/2008/03/16/220000.html).
Because of their special and to many unexpected role in Ingushetia, a new article by Sergei Markedonov, one of the most thoughtful commentators on social and political developments in the North Caucasus, on the current role of Ingushetia’s “taips” is especially noteworthy (http://www.polit.ru/author/2008/03/13/inush.html).
Because Zyazikov refused to engage in a dialogue with Ingush groups beyond his own narrow and very corrupt family, he recounts, other Ingush decided to organize an alternative “Popular Assembly.” Given the difficulties of doing that, they turned to what they knew best, their own family structures “the taips.”
But he continues, the role of these extended family groups, often reinforced by common attachment to Sufi structures, is not what it was in the past, as the situation in Chechnya in the early 1990s showed. And thus it is incorrect to view them as a simple survival of the past. Instead, they have been transformed and put to a new use.
“The opposition in Ingushetia is trying to find alternative social connections (because today the government does not listen to them or try to understand their motivations) and to create alternative institutions” with popular authority that can stand up to Zyazikov.
The Ingush use of the taips, he says, is thus the result “not only of a crisis of legitimacy of power but also of a crisis of communication,” a situation where in Ingushetia “there is no dialogue between civil society and the administrative elite, and the entire opposition is equated with extremist tendencies.”
“Of course,” Markedonov acknowledges, “in Ingushetia, there are Islamist militants with whom one must struggle and with whom negotiations are impossible.” But there are other people as well, completely respectable with whom the current Zyazikov regime will not hold talks.
“The absence of a normal ‘feedback loop’ thus is provoking a return to an archaic form,” the Moscow analyst writes. “An ineffective and non-contemporary state --at all levels -- is thus giving birth to a non-contemporary social order,” one that only seeks to defend its members from those who refuse to listen to them.
This trend promises “nothing good,” Markedonov continues. “The collapse of the state … is leading to the atomization of society. The powers that be do not provide an effective defense” for members of that society and “consequently,” the latter are forced to try to defend themselves in any way they can.
Simply putting more troops into the republic will not solve the problem, but that is precisely what some in Moscow are advocating. “Unfortunately,” Markedonov says, “the powers that be there are reacting to challenges from below in the traditional Soviet manner, shifting bureaucrats from one place to another” and backing them up with force.
Zyazikov was following that model when he sacked his government last week. Many now think that he will have to be shifted out of Nazran as well. But “it is necessary [and important] to recognize that the problem [there] is not in the person of Zyazikov” as such.
“It is possible that his successor will be much more successful than the current president,” but even if he is personally more clever, Markedonov says, the return of the taips to prominence shows that “it is necessary to transform the system of administration not only in the smallest republic of the North Caucasus but in the region as a whole.”
“And to do that simply by changing one bureaucrat for another, one government for another, will not be enough,” Markedonov concludes. Some would add, although the Moscow analyst does not, that a similar systemic change is needed not just in the North Caucasus region but in the Russian Federation as a whole.
UPDATE for March 19. Ingushetiya.ru provides a link to a video of the film on the new role of taips in Ingushetia (http://www.ingushetiya.ru/news/13680.html). Because of this film, Zyazikov tried and failed to get Moscow to block REN TV broadcasts to his republic (http://newtimes.ru/news/2008-03-18/2008-03-18-9/).