How to defeat radicalism in North Caucasus

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Alexander Brod and Vladimir Zorin

The "Ways to Combat National and Religious Extremism" round table was held in Moscow yesterday. Experts discussed implementation of the National State Policy Strategy until 2025, efforts of government bodies and civil society institutions in combating extremism. A report on manifestations of aggressive xenophobia and radical nationalism in Russia in 2017 was also presented.

As member of the presidium of the Interethnic Relations Council under Russian President, deputy director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Zorin, said on the sidelines of this event, today there is a positive trend in combating these risks: "Both authorities and civil society institutions accumulated huge experience, the situation is improving, but there are risk factors - social and economic inequality, lack of social opportunities, corruption. It creates an environment that enables people who promote extremist ideas."

In order to prevent spread of radical ideology, Zorin proposed to intensify educational work in kindergartens and at work places, including in higher and special educational institutions, as well as in families. He said that ethnographic dictation, which helps to spread information about the country, traditions and customs, is a great example.

"It is necessary to improve employment rate, especially when it comes to young people who leave the North Caucasus republics to find a job. We must reorientate education process in the North Caucasus republics to meet today's market needs. Today there are too much lawyers and economists, while we really need specialists in construction and oil and gas industries," Vladimir Zorin said.

He urged to maintain dialogue with people who left the North Caucasus republics to study or work: "The Moscow Caucasian Club is actively working on this. I'm talking about legal education. Sometimes terrorism hides behind higher ideals, justice and equality. But in reality it works with criminal structures for some specific criminal purposes."

Deputy director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology believes that public opinion leaders should take more active position: "It's important to not just judge and punish, but also understand what's bad and what's good. We all must make greater contribution."

Member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, Alexander Brod, said in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza: "We're worried about current situation in the North Caucasus, where people who fought in radical groups in Syria return. Some return legally, some illegally, however, according to law enforcement agencies, recruitment continues. There are sleeper radical cells. We must be alert, we must keep situation under control. The North Caucasus region is a risk zone, there's a large number of protest groups, low standard of living, judicial authorities, municipal and regional authorities aren't always efficient. It's no coincidence that thousands of young people from the North Caucasus region went to Syria. And now, according to law enforcement agencies, this danger zone may spread to the regions of Central Asia."

According to Brod, several weeks ago, the Human Rights Bureau, representatives of various organizations, federal experts, public and religious leaders held roundtables in Stavropol and Dagestan, dedicated to prevention of national and religious extremism. They were held in universities with participation of expert community, public, national, religious leaders. "Our task was to draw attention of the authorities of the North Caucasus region to situation with education of young people, to creation of conditions for their future, to improvement of legal environment and work of government bodies. We saw the desire of non-governmental organizations in these regions, we saw that they want to actively interact with federal experts," Brod said.

He supported measures taken by the head of Dagestan Vladimir Vasiliev, aimed at improving situation with corruption, inefficient management and nepotism. "These problems lead to dissatisfaction, frustration and, of course, protests, so recovery processes throughout the North Caucasus region must continue. The government must rely on activities of non-governmental organizations in its work. It's time to stop illegal persecution of human rights defenders, opposition journalists. The Human Right Council repeatedly expressed its concern to the Chechen Republic and other Russian regions. Cases related to murders of journalists were not investigated. I think that federal government has lost sight of problems of the North Caucasus region over the past few years, its more distracted by other important issues like foreign policy," Brod noted.

In his opinion, it's necessary to come up with a new agenda for the North Caucasus region, its economic development and human rights development: "This region shouldn't be abandoned, since it's a risk zone where some radical sentiments may break out. It's necessary to take current situation under control. In addition, true religious figures always rely on humanistic principles that are at the base of any religious doctrine, any religious denomination. That's why true believers always fight against extremism."

ФОТО Alexander Brod and Vladimir Zorin