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Russia: Poll Reveals High Level Of Discontent In Ingushetia

Police investigate the car of Ingushetia's Prime Minister Ibrahim Malsagov following a 25 August assassination attempt (AFP) The "Caucasus Times" has published the findings of an opinion poll conducted in Nazran, home to an estimated 25 percent of Ingushetia's population, during the last week of October. The findings reflected a high level of discontent with the policies of both the central and the republic's leadership, but also only limited readiness to demonstrate that discontent openly by participating in antigovernment protests.

The 200 people polled were aged between 16 and 65, and from various nationalities and social groups. The findings were summarized on 1 November by the opposition website

Unemployment And Organized Crime

Asked to identify the most acute problems facing the republic, 60 percent named social and economic issues, which would include unemployment, and 53 percent the dangers posed by organized crime and terrorism. Those perceptions, observed, are shared by the populations of other federation subjects in the North Caucasus.

But in third place, 45 percent of the Nazran residents polled named persistent tensions between Ingushetia and the neighboring Republic of North Ossetia over Prigorodnyi Raion. That district, which until World War II was part of the Checheno-Ingush ASSR, was incorporated into North Ossetia following the mass deportation of the Chechens and Ingush to Central Asia on Stalin's orders in 1944. The spontaneous return of Ingush families in the early 1990s triggered fierce fighting in November 1992 in which several hundred people died.

Curiously, only 2 percent of those polled named corruption as a serious problem.

Little Optimism

Fewer than 50 percent of those polled were optimistic that the situation in Ingushetia will improve in the near future: 36 percent anticipated that it will deteriorate, and a further 26 percent predicted it will remain more or less the same. Only 22 percent did not expect things to get much worse.

Respondents were overwhelmingly negative in their assessment of the Russian leadership's decision to abolish elections for the heads of federation subjects. Thirty-two percent of those polled predicted that the abolition of direct elections will lead to new problems, and 28 percent predicted that it will exacerbate existing problems. Only 20 percent thought it could help to stabilize the region.

Yet, despite the high level of discontent and pessimism, just 13 percent of respondents were unequivocally prepared to participate in antigovernment protests, while a further 17 percent said they would "probably" do so. By contrast, 47 percent categorically ruled out any participation in antigovernment protests.

The website also approached the republic's two most prominent oppositionists last week to ask why the wave of protest demonstrations launched in the spring of this year has subsided. Shortly before Russian President Vladimir Putin renominated incumbent Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov for a second term in June, the opposition declared a three-month moratorium on public protests to give Zyazikov a chance to fulfill his pledge to return Prigorodnyi Raion to Ingushetian control. Zyazikov had earlier complained that the opposition was hindering him in his attempts to do so.

Echoing his reply to a similar question from in mid-September, shortly after the three-month moratorium on protests expired, Rustam Archakov, one of the leaders of the Youth Movement of Ingushetia, said that the Ingushetian leadership has done all in its power to destroy the legal and constitutional foundations for legitimate protest against corruption and mismanagement, but has succeeded only in impelling ever larger numbers of young men to join the armed resistance, according to on 24 October.

Advantageous Tension?

Archakov suggested that the current tense and unstable situation is advantageous for Zyazikov in that it furnishes him with a pretext for demanding additional funding from Moscow, which he can then distribute as he thinks appropriate. He said that following Zyazikov's renomination, many young men have lost all confidence in the leadership and sooner or later will attempt to "restore order" by force. In mid-September, Archakov told that Zyazikov's popularity has hit an all-time low and that "things will soon be resolved one way or the other. This corrupt leadership cannot remain in power for much longer."

Republic of Ingushetia parliament Deputy Musa Ozdoyev for his part referred to the authorities' deployment of police, tanks, and armored personnel carriers to forestall planned protests in April. He said that for the time being, the opposition will not stage further protests, but wait to see whether the republic's leadership manages to make good on Zyazikov's pledge to resolve the deadlock over Prigorodny Raion, rather than risk accusations that they are sabotaging attempts to resolve that problem.

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