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New head elected in Daghestan’s troubled Nogay District

20 July 2017
Protest in Nogay district on 4 July. (Kavkaz.Realii)

The Daghestani authorities have finally managed to appoint a new head of the Nogay District, after two previous attempts were blocked by demonstrators and the local District Assembly.

Local businessman and patron of the arts Mukhtarby Adzhekov has now been named acting head of the district.

‘This was done to finally normalise the situation in the Nogay district; the businessman, Adzhekov proved to be the best candidate, he provided jobs for the local residents, he is respected and trusted’, RIA Derbent quotes Chairman of the District Assembly, Ruslan Nasyrov, as saying.

According to the Russian Constitution, local government is separated from the federal government, and is not directly accountable to it. Accordingly, any appointments from above are illegal.

The election of the Nogay District head has been delayed since the end of June. On 29 June and on 3 July, several hundred local residents gathered in front of the local administration office to express dissatisfaction about the delay.

[Read on OC Media: A victory for protestors in Nogay District highlights dysfunction and discontent in Daghestan]

It emerged on 3 July that that Daghestan’s central authorities had appointed Baymagomed Yarlykapov as acting head. However his candidacy was opposed by local residents and the District Assembly. At one point, protesters broke into the office of the administration and ran into the meeting hall, expressing their displeasure. Yarlykapov left the building in silence.

The next day he returned with four guards and took his seat as head of the district administration, resulting in further uproar from locals. As result of protests Yarlykapov was again forced to leave, while the District Assembly appointed Ruslan Nasyrov as acting head.

On 14 July, elders of the Nogay District left for Pyatigorsk to meet with the plenipotentiary of the President of Russia in the North Caucasus Oleg Belaventsev. They were planning to tell him about the problems of the district, including the delayed elections and local land disputes, but the meeting failed to take place because he and his deputy were attending a forum in Karachay–Cherkessia.

Local activists have repeatedly protested that the republic’s authorities are trying to appropriate pastoral land which belongs to the public. The dispute has already lasted for a number of years and has so far remained unresolved.

A video released on YouTube in early June depicting a man demanding that Head of Daghestan Ramazan Abdulatipov ‘leave the Nogay people for good’ was widely viewed in Daghestan. The man goes on to warn that ‘otherwise it will be bad’.

The video was followed soon after with another, in which he apologises personally to Abdulatipov. ‘I spoke many words of foul language, as I was in a drunk condition. I am asking you to forgive me in the name of Allah’, he says.

On 12 July a third video was posted on YouTube depicting the man, and another resident of Nogay. The two, flanked by two other men, have ripped clothes and are badly bruised, clearly having been beaten. The two apologise to Abdulatipov once again, and one of their apparent guards appeals to the head of the republic asking, ‘if there is a possibility, forgive these misguided people in the name of Allah’.

The announcement on 18 July that Adzhekov would take over as head of the district has been seen by many as a compromise from Daghestan’s authorities, in order to avoid a new conflict.

Zakir Magomedov, a journalist from Kavkaz.Realii told OC Media that ‘the visit of the elders in Pyatigorsk might have influenced this decision at some point. Moreover, residents of the district several times arranged gatherings, and this could have affected it as well. The Daghestani authorities had no choice but to do this, as they didn’t need more conflict, considering that simultaneously with the conflict in the Nogay District there was a conflict of Aukh district’, Magomedov told OC Media.

The Nogay are an ethnic group from the North Caucasus, with more than 40,000 living in Daghestan. There are compact groups living in areas of Chechnya, Stavropol Krai, and Karachay–Cherkessia. They speak Nogay, a Turkic language and one of the 14 official languages of Daghestan.

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