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Daghestan: Resettlement Of Laks Behind Schedule

  • Liz Fuller

On December 24, the Daghestan government's commission on rehabilitation and resettlement convened to review the progress to date in implementing a 1992 Russian government directive on reversing the forced resettlement in 1944 of thousands of Laks from villages in mountainous central Daghestan to a raion that at the time was part of the Checheno-Ingush ASSR, but was subsequently subsumed into Daghestan.


The entire Chechen and Ingush population was deported to Central Asia in February 1944 on orders from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin on suspicion of collaborating with advancing German forces. They were exonerated in 1956 of the charges of collaboration and allowed to return to their homes, since when Laks and Chechens have cohabited uneasily to what is now known as Novolak Raion.


On December 24, the Daghestan government's commission on rehabilitation and resettlement convened to review the progress to date in implementing a 1992 Russian government directive on reversing the forced resettlement in 1944 of thousands of Laks from villages in mountainous central Daghestan to a raion that at the time was part of the Checheno-Ingush ASSR, but was subsequently subsumed into Daghestan. The entire Chechen and Ingush population was deported to Central Asia in February 1944 on orders from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin on suspicion of collaborating with advancing German forces. They were exonerated in 1956 of the charges of collaboration and allowed to return to their homes, since when Laks and Chechens have cohabited uneasily to what is now known as Novolak Raion.

At the time of the 2002 Russian census, the Laks were Daghestan's fifth largest ethnic group, numbering 139,732, or 5.4 percent of the republic's total population; the planned resettlement was to encompass some 13,000 of them living in nine villages in Novolak Raion. Reviewing the situation in late 2005, the Russian State Duma's Commission for North Caucasus Problems ascertained that only some 2,100 Laks had indeed left Novolak Raion, partly because of delays in the construction of new homes for them (the plan envisages building nine separate villages to replace the villages they are to leave, together with highways, water, gas, and electricity supplies and related infrastructure), and partly because the area to which the Laks were to be resettled is not suitable for agricultural purposes (in contrast to Novolak Raion), and there is no alternative employment. Over the past two years, only 400 more Laks have moved, according to kavkaz-uzel.ru.

Deputy Prime Minister Rizvan Gazimagomedov, who heads the Daghestan government commission, told the December 24 session that a list has been compiled of a further 558 families, and that he envisages the resettlement being completed over the next four years. But in early 2006, Daghestan Supreme Council speaker Mukhu Aliyev, who was elected president in late February of that year, warned that "populists" could trigger " violence" if the resettlement was not completed within two years. The latent potential for interethnic clashes was underscored in May 2007, when according to the Russian daily "Kommersant," police were called in to disperse a mass brawl in the town of Khasavyurt between young Chechen and Lak men. Khasavyurt is the administrative center of the eponymous raion that borders on Novolak Raion.

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