Russian President Vladimir Putin has named
former Russian Nationalities Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov as acting head of Abdulatipov's home Republic of Daghestan, replacing Magomedsalam Magomedov, whose dismissal has been anticipated
for the past 10 days.
Abdulatipov, who was elected
to represent Daghestan in the Russian State Duma in December 2011 on the United Russia ticket, has singled out
the following main challenges facing the republic: security generated by the ongoing campaign to stamp out the Islamic insurgency; unemployment, which was estimated last year
at 12.8 percent; and, arguably the most intractable, restoring the population's confidence in the republic's leadership.
Abdulatipov, who is 66, spent the first decades of his career as an academic, teaching history and philosophy at universities in Leningrad and Murmansk. In 1988, when the various nations of the U.S.S.R. seized the opportunities presented by Soviet Communist Party General-Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's liberalization policies to air grievances that had been festering for decades, Gorbachev brought Abdulatipov to Moscow to advise on how to cope with those demands. Two years later, Abdulatipov was elected to represent Daghestan in the Russian Soviet Federalist Socialist Republic's Supreme Soviet, defeating prominent Daghestani astronaut Magomed Tolboyev.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, Abdulatipov helped draft the new Russian Federation Constitution. In 1995, when the war in Chechnya had highlighted the whole range of problems Moscow faced in the North Caucasus, he drafted a complete nationalities strategy, on the basis of which Russian President Boris Yeltsin appointed him minister for nationality relations.
But in 2000, after the new war in Chechnya facilitated Putin's election to succeed Yeltsin as Russian president, Abdulatipov's star began to wane. In December 2000, he was named to represent the Saratov Oblast government in the Federation Council; then, in May 2005, he was appointed
Russian ambassador to Tajikistan.
On completing that diplomatic posting in June 2009, Abdulatipov returned to academia as rector of a Moscow university. He commented sporadically and not always approvingly on the situation in the North Caucasus; and specifically in Daghestan in late 2010 he was one of the delegates to the Congress of Peoples of Daghestan
convened by then-republican head Magomedsalam Magomedov.
In an interview
on January 27, Abdulatipov signaled that he will continue to implement several of the policies launched by his predecessor, including encouraging members of the Islamic insurgency to lay down their arms and return to civilian life. But he also made clear that he will seek to minimize the struggle for influence between powerful Daghestani economic interest groups, whether based in Moscow or Makhachkala.
Asked whether he would work closely with the most prominent Moscow-based oligarchs, Suleiman Kerimov and brothers Ziyaudin and Magomed Magomedov (who are not related to Magomedsalam), Abdulatipov said that while he would welcome their "constructive contributions" toward revitalizing Daghestan's limping economy, there are any number of competent and experienced but lesser-known businessmen who are also willing to do so. A thousand small-business owners, he argued, are preferable to one or two oligarchs.
Analysts have suggested that either the Magomedovs or Kerimov may have sought to engineer Magomedov's ouster. But it seems equally, if not more, likely that Putin simply lost patience both with Magomedov and with the constant infighting over resources between the Moscow-based Daghestani economic heavyweights and their rivals in Makhachkala, each of which tried to secure the Kremlin's backing. Abdulatipov said he has met several times with Putin in the past several months, which suggests Magomedov's dismissal may have been planned for some time.