No reason, such as the classic face-saver "on grounds of deteriorating health," was cited for Ebzeyev's resignation "at his own request." His press service had declined on February 24 to comment on information leaked by a member of the republic's government that Ebzeyev had submitted his resignation.
Ebzeyev's resignation is all the more puzzling insofar as the KChR has been an oasis of comparative calm and stability by comparison with the wave of killings unleashed by Islamic militants in neighboring Kabardino-Balkaria, at least until the shootout 10 days ago on the border between Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Stavropol Krai.
Ebzeyev, a Karachai, was born on February 25, 1950 in the then Kirghiz SSR. (Like the Chechens, Ingush and Crimean Tatars, the Karachais and their ethnic cousins the Balkars were deported to Central Asia by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in 1943-44 and returned home only in 1956-57, after Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech to the 20th Congress of the CPSU denouncing Stalin's crimes.)
On graduating from secondary school, Ebzeyev worked for two years as a carpenter before studying law in Saratov at an institute where he later taught from 1977-1991, when he was elected a Constitutional Court judge. He ran in April 1999 for the post of KChR president, but placed only fourth of seven candidates.
Ebzeyev was nominated by Medvedev as republic head in July 2008 and almost immediately alienated the republic's Cherkess minority by naming a Greek, Vladimir Kayshev, rather than a Circassian as prime minister. The Karachais are the largest ethnic group in Karachayevo-Cherkessia (38 percent of the total population of 427,500), followed by the Russians (33.6 percent); the Circassians account for just 11.3 percent. Under an unwritten agreement on the allocation of senior positions within the republic's leadership that dates back to the disputed 1999 presidential election, if the president is a Karachai, the prime minister should be a Circassian, and the posts of vice president and parliament speaker should go to Russians.
Ebzeyev made clear when he unveiled the new KChR government in October 2008 that his selection of ministers was based purely on their professional capabilities. That argument cut no ice with the Circassians, who within weeks convened an informal congress to discuss launching a new campaign for the creation within the Russian Federation of a separate Circassian republic comprising the districts of Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Adygeya and Stavropol Krai where Circassians form the majority of the population.
Possibly in response to lobbying by the Circassian minority, North Caucasus Federal District head Aleksandr Khloponin in April 2010 issued an ultimatum to Ebzeyev to dismiss Kayshev and appoint a Circassian as prime minister in his place, which Ebzeyev duly did.
Bloggers who have posted comments to the Circassian website www.elot.ru on Ebzeyev's resignation take it as a given that the next republic head too will be a Karachai. The front-runner at this juncture appears to be Temrezov, whom Sultan Temirov, the head of the KChR chapter of the ruling United Russia party, characterized as "young, capable and energetic -- a man with a future."
Mikhail Merkelov, one of Khloponin's senior aides, has predicted similarly praised as "optimal" and "acceptable to all" the choice of Temrezov as acting president. Markelov predicted that if Medvedev proposes Temrezov's candidacy to the republican parliament, they will vote in his favor.
A possible alternative candidate identified by one blogger is the unnamed Karachai son-in-law of Rostov Oblast governor Vladimir Chub, who has reportedly been offered the post in the past, but turned it down.