Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Turkic Nogays Seek Their Own Ethnic Territory in the North Caucasus

Paul Goble

Staunton, May 31 – Despite the efforts, including the use of police power, by the Daghestani authorities to stop it, the Congress of the Nogays of Russia took place in their eponymous district in Daghestan and demanded that their historical homelands in Stavropol, Daghestan and Chechnya be reunited in a common Nogay motherland.

More than 3,000 people assembled at the stadium in Terkli-Mekteb under slogans like “Our Motherland is the Nogay Steppe,” “Rebirth or Disappearance?” “Our Ancestors were Heroes; Are You?” and “Indifference is Equivalent to Betrayal” and demanded “self-determination within the framework of a single administrative territorial unit.”

Specifically, Kavkaz-Uzel.ru reported, the May 29 meeting called for declaring the RSFSR degree of 1957 “anti-constitutional and anti-people” because that Moscow action left the Nogays divided in three different federal units and without one of their own (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/186275/).

More immediately, the participants demanded that the Russian procuracy examine the Daghestani law on livestock to see if it corresponds to federal legislation. According to that law, “the lands where the Nogays live” and have from time immemorial used for agricultural purposes are being taken from them for industrial development.

And the residents of the Nogay district in Daghestan used this meeteing to call for general popular elections of the head of that district. Elections to the district assembly, which will “then choose the head of the district are expected in the fall,” according to the Kavkaz-Uzel.ru report.

The news agency also reported that “the approach to the stadium where the Congress of the Nogays of Russia took place was blocked and under militia guard,” a reflection of the opposition “a number of representatives of the powers that be had expressed” beforehand (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/186269/).

The opposition of these officials is completely understandable given the challenge that the Nogays represent. Although they number only about 47,000 in the Russian Federation itself, the Turkic-speaking Nogays claim that there are “approximately five million Nogays” living abroad, mostly in Turkey and the Middle East.

That means that like the Circassians who want the formation of a common Circassian Republic and who have support from diaspora communities and like the Turkic-speaking Balkars who have been making demands about greater protection from Moscow in Kabasrdino-Balkaria, the Nogays are in a position to trigger more tension and instability in the North Caucasus.

It is thus likely that some in Makhachkala and Moscow will try to present the Nogays as they have the Circassians and Didos as agents for Georgian or Western interests, but in fact, the Nogays, just like the others, have real grievances which the Russian Federation has so far shown little interest in addressing.

And at the very least, the Nogay demand for the restoration of a single Nogay territory is certain to have a chilling effect on the push by some in the Russian capital to do away with existing ethnic republics by reminding everyone involved that many non-Russians see these institutions as the key to their survival and that some who lack them hope to get them back.

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