Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Some North Caucasians Say Moscow Representatives, Not Local Elites Chief Source of Corruption

Paul Goble

Baku, May 12 – It has long been an truism for Moscow journalists and Western analysts that ethnic clans are the primary source of corruption in the North Caucasus, but a new poll in the capital of Karachayevo-Cherkessia finds that residents there consider the representatives of Moscow agencies rather than local officials to be the main source of corruption.
And that finding is especially intriguing because the Cherkessk residents have a somewhat more positive view of Moscow’s policies in general than do the residents of other North Caucasus republics, possibly as a result of the Kremlin’s recent decision to replace the republic’s leadership.
Between April 27 and May 5, representatives of the Caucasus Times news agency queries 400 residents of the capital city of Karachayevo-Cherkessia about their experiences with corruption. More than nine out of ten of the Cherkessk residents – 91 percent – said they had encountered it (
That percentage, the news agency pointed out, was slightly higher than in the capitals of two other North Caucasus republics. In Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, 79 percent of the residents said they had had experiences with corruption; and in Makhachkala, Daghestan, 86 percent had told Caucasus Times they did.
As in the other two republic capitals, the residents of Cherkessk identified as the most corrupt structures, health (49 percent), law enforcement (43 percent) and education (31 percent), a finding typical of surveys about corruption in the Russian Federation and one that reflects both the low pay of people working in these area and the frequent contact the citizenry has with them.
But the most intriguing finding of the Cherkessk poll is that n contrast to Vladikavkaz, where 81 percent said that local officials were the chief source of corruption, 54 percent of Cherkessk residents said federal officials bear primary responsibility, with only 46 percent saying that local officials do.
Such conclusions do not reflect two other findings of this poll. On the one hand, Cherkessk residents report roughly the same pattern of experience with corruption as do the people in other North Caucasus capitals – largely with local institutions – and on the other, they say their local law enforcement organs are more corrupt than those in neighboring republics.
Another difference between Cherkessk and the others concerns the trend in the amount of corruption. While a larger share of those sampled there than elsewhere believe that corruption is getting worse, it is also the case that a larger portion of the sample in the Karachayevo-Cherkessia capital than in the others found it difficult to answer than question.
This pattern might lead some to conclude that it reflected a negative view of Moscow among the Cherkessk population, but in fact, according to the Caucasus Times agency, the attitudes toward the Russian government were much more favorable than those found in other North Caucasus capitals.
“More than half of the respondents in Cherkessk (58 percent) said they had a generally positive attitude toward the policy of the federal center in the Caucasus, a sharp contrast to the situation in Vladikavkaz where only 28 percent had a similar attitude and where 58 percent had a negative assessment of Moscow’s approach.
According to the Caucasus Times analysts, the reason for this more favorable attitude toward the center among Cherkessk residents was Moscow’s recent decision to replace an unpopular republic leader whose son in law had been found guilty of killing seven people there and the honeymoon his replacement still enjoys.
` But if that is the explanation, Moscow should not assume that Karachayevo-Cherkessia will continue to have a positive attitude toward the Russian government for long. According to this poll, the residents of its capital city point to the same unresolved problems those in other North Caucasus republics do – unemployment, corruption, and the lack of social services.

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