Prague, 4 August 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin last week named former Russian Federation Council deputy chairman and current State Duma deputy Ramazan Abdulatipov as the seventh Russian deputy prime minister.
Abdulatipov, an ethnic Avar from Dagestan and the author of numerous works on nationality problems, will be responsible for ethnic relations, federal development and the Russian regions. Commenting on the appointment, which he termed "unusual," Yeltsin admitted that his relations with Abdulatipov had not always been "cloudless" -- an allusion to the latter's outspoken criticism both of the war in Chechnya and of aspects of Moscow's nationalities policy -- but conceded that "in recent years he has supported the course of the president and the government."
Ramazan Abdulatipov was born on 4 August, 1946. He studied history at the Dagestan State University and holds the degree of doctor of philosophical sciences. After teaching for ten years at an engineering college in Murmansk, and a further year at the Dagestan Pedagogical Institute, in 1988 he transferred to Moscow to work within the Department for Inter-Ethnic Relations of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. (That Department was then headed by Vyacheslav Mikhailov, currently Russia's Minister for Nationality Affairs.)
Two years later, in 1990, he was elected chairman of the Council of Nationalities -- one of the two chambers of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet. Since 1993, he has focused almost exclusively on inter-ethnic and regional issues, first as first deputy chairman of the Russian State Council for Nationality Affairs, then as deputy chairman of the Federation Council (1994-6) and most recently as Russian First Deputy Minister for Nationalities.
Having grown up in Dagestan, which borders on Chechnya, Abdulatipov was more aware than many Russian political figures of the inherent dangers of a war in Chechnya. In October, 1994, when Chechen opponents of then president Dzhokhar Dudaev launched an open bid to oust him, Abdulatipov addressed an appeal to Yeltsin and to Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to mediate between the two rival Chechen camps, rather than risk a war in Chechnya which would inevitably develop into "a tragedy for the Russian people." When Russian troops invaded Chechnya in December, 1994, and stormed Grozny one month later, Abdulatipov drafted a statement adopted by the Federation Council calling for a ceasefire and negotiations to resolve the conflict.
But Abdulatipov's opposition to the use of force in Chechnya was only one aspect of his broader vision of the optimum model both for relations between the geographical-administrative regions of Russia and the central government in Moscow, and between the various ethnic groups within the Russian Federation.
In the spring of 1995, Abdulatipov addressed a missive to Yeltsin criticizing aspects of Russia's nationality policy as reflected in Yeltsin's annual address to the Russian parliament. Specifically, Abdulatipov expressed concern that the Russian leadership had not yet adopted a comprehensive and coordinated program of short-, medium- and long-term measures to ensure the equitable and harmonious development of all 150 ethnic groups within the Russian Federation.
He noted that Yeltsin had instructed government ministers to implement a nationalities concept that Abdulatipov had been instrumental in drafting, but that its provisions had been quietly sabotaged by bureaucrats "with an allergy to everything connected with the concept of nation or nationality policy."
Abdulatipov is the second North Caucasian to be appointed to a key leadership position in two months. On 9 June, Ingush vice president Boris Agapov was named a deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council. The two appointments underscore Moscow's concern at rising tensions in the region.
North Caucasian leaders wholeheartedly greeted the appointment of Abdulatipov: North Ossetian President Akhsarbek Galazov described him as "a wise politician" whose familiarity with the North Caucasus "will certainly be beneficial for the region," while Ingush President Ruslan Aushev noted that Abdulatipov has first-hand experience of the North Caucasus, and observed that "it is a pity that many of the things he once suggested to stabilize the situation in the region did not find understanding within the federal government."