17 February 2004, 16:32

Ossetian-Ingush conflict

Parties to the conflict
The "rogue people" complex
A foreword to violence
The violence stage
Lessons from the conflict in North Ossetia

The first ethnic conflict in the form of overt violence occurred in Russia in late October and early November 1992 between representatives of the two North Caucasus peoples - the Ossetians and Ingush. This conflict with its area and time parameters, intensity and consequences can be referred to as large-scale (1), while its nature can be described as "deep-rooted conflict" as experts name interethnic or any other inter-group collisions with hard-to-resolve and far-reaching grievances and claims of the parties (2). As a rule, these are conflicts which involve such deep feelings, values, and needs, while the degree of mutual alienation is so great, that usual ways and methods of resolving contradictions through legal mechanisms, mediation, negotiation, or using a higher or external authority cannot help. The most frequent methods used in such conflicts consist in socio-political or military regulation, but they do not always bring a resolution of the conflict or can even have a reverse effect.

Politicians and publicists tend to a simplified perception of conflicts: conflicts are explained either with some genetic inter-group aversion (which involves the structuralist opposition "us-them" around which ethnic identity is supposed to take shape) or the ill will of some other forces, usually the top leadership. The latter is accused of either weakness and connivance or abuse of power in favor of one conflict party. The same set of simplified interpretations can be found regarding the Ossetian-Ingush conflict (3). Moreover, ordinary mentality finds reasons for them: is it difficult, for example, to find facts of weakness or on the contrary, arrogance of power in actions of Russia's central government with regard to the conflict? However, not everything will look so clear if, for example, the question is asked why strong governments, sophisticated in ruling, such as the British or Canadian ones are not able to resolve the conflicts in Ulster and Quebec that can be referred to as deep-rooted conflicts.

Ethnic conflicts are hard to resolve because in their nature they involve a strong element of irrational, myth-making factors and emotional group mobilization that are difficult to overcome by elementary negotiation and settlement as is the case with labor conflicts. The Ossetian-Ingush conflict belongs to the category of events that are extremely overloaded with emotions and values, among them "historic injustices," "belonging of a territory," "an independent state," "inviolability of the borders," and other similar ideological structures of ethnic nationalism that already caused multiple bloody conflicts and even world wars in the past. However, "foreground" reasons which usually acquire the nature of a manifesto almost always hide other social and political factors of an ethnic conflict that are not as overtly declared and that are linked with issues of fair distribution of resources, access to power, and status of group representatives in the surrounding political and cultural space. Ethnicity in this case performs just as a reservoir for upheaval in the world where power, well-being, and dignity are distributed unequally and illegally between nations and within one (4).

Finally, a huge role in generating and executing conflicts in post-totalitarian societies belongs to elites that can manipulate poorly modernized masses and often rest on traditional social institutions and structures. Ordinary participants in the drama of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict most often acted counter to the logic of group behavior which suggests that goals, benefits, or discontent determined and recognized by a group do not provide enough reason for each individual group member to venture upon some actions to achieve this common good or change the unacceptable order. This requires so-called "selective incentives" for an individual to take action in the name of a group interest. Such incentives can be positive or negative: from promising a prestige office to punishment. Thus, taxes are paid in the name of group benefit, but no one pays them voluntarily: there is a compulsion mechanism. "Taxes are as unavoidable as death," Americans joke.

The larger a group is, the less interest individuals take in group action, because each one's share of the achieved benefit lessens, while everyone's sacrifice and risk are equally maximum (5). Likewise, secession, independence, or banishment of ethnic "aliens" seem to and are realized by a group as a group benefit, but this doesn't mean that every individual is ready to take rational action for this sake. Incentives are given in this case by those who count on priority reward: officials, leaders, and ethnic activists. Thus, the Ingush side demanded "returning" the area to the Ingush which was already really inhabited by a substantial part of Ingush population that owned both land plots and real estate. At the same time, the Ossetians taking part in the conflict could not count on individual rewards when they banished the Ingush from their habitation, but they rather risked their own security and future welfare. Yet in both cases the group action did take place. Who or what played the role of a selective incentive?

Parties to the conflict

The conflict involved two peoples inhabiting the central part of the North Caucasus located in two territories of the former USSR and present-day Russian Federation: the North Ossetian and the Chechen-Ingush republics. The Ossetians make the majority (53%) of North Ossetia's population where 0.335 million of the 0.598 million Ossetians in the former USSR live (as of January 1, 1989). The Ingush (their total number was 0.215 million in 1989) lived mostly in the Chechen-Ingush Republic (0.164 million or 13% of the republican population) and in North Ossetia (0.033 million according to the 1989 census). The Ingush en masse inhabit the three western districts in the Chechen-Ingush Republic (those of Nazran, Malgobek, and Sunzha) where they number 0.140 million or three-fourths of those districts' population; they also inhabit the Prigorodnyi district in North Ossetia where they officially numbered about 0.018 million and actually about twice as many. In a series of villages in this district (Chermen, Tarskoe, Dachnoe, Maiskoe, Kurtat) the Ingush made 50% to 80% of the total population. Significant Ingush communities lived in the two republican centers, Grozny and Vladikavkaz.

Since the doctrine of ethnic nationalism, "embedded" in the so-called national state system and the "socialist federalism" ideology, suggested there is a kind of dominant ethnic group [one entitled to form a state because it is indigenous and/or superior in number - trans.] with some or other ethnic state supposed to be proclaimed on behalf of it and considered by it "its own," the formal and actual status of the two groups turned out to be unequal. The Ingush in Ossetia had no real status, i.e. they did not possess any form of territorial autonomy (they did not form autonomous republics after ethnic districts had been abolished in the 1930s). No such issue could be raised in the Chechen-Ingush Republic, because it was officially established as a form of the two peoples' self-determination. This practice of dual formations was widespread in the Soviet Union, and it is preserved up to the present (in the North Caucasus, these are also the Kabardino-Balkar Republic and the Karachay-Cherkess Republic), although Balkar and Karachay activists have vigorously advocated division of these formations on an ethnic basis in the past years, and they were nearly a success when the Russian president introduced a bill on division of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic in early 1992. Radical nationalists among Ingush activists had promoted the same program even before General Dudaev came to power in Chechnya.

In both republics Ingush people were an ethnic minority and the third biggest group (Russians were 30% in North Ossetia and 23% in the Chechen-Ingush Republic), so they had a lower status in the political and socio-economic spheres. The dominating majorities (Chechen and Ossetian) first of all controlled government institutions. North Ossetia's Supreme Soviet included just seven Ingush, and there was none in the Presidium and the republican government. The Ingush were removed from prestigious and influential positions and offices in other social spheres, too. The Ingush youth also faced certain restrictions when trying to enter high and higher education institutions. Even in the Prigorodnyi district, just five Ingush people (as of October 12, 1989) held senior posts in all the 53 Communist Party and Soviet organizations, economic, cultural, and communal facilities and institutions.

Chechens controlled access to power, aside from top offices, in the former Chechen-Ingush Republic: in January 1990, Ingush people held 4 of the 73 senior offices in the Republican Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU); 5 of the 19 offices of secretaries of CPSU city and district committees; and 4 of the 56 senior government offices, including 3 of the 21 offices of ministers and state committee chairs. The two Ingush men - Khazhbikiar Bokov as Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic in 1973-90 and Sergei Bekov as head of government of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) - can in their way be considered exceptions.

Thus, being inadequately represented in government at the level of republican communities and having no chance to gain this "vote" within the extant system, the Ingush prefer the alternative of "exit" from the system, which is quite easy to comprehend ("vote or exit" is one of the rules of political behavior), and establishment of a community where this group could have a dominant status. The form of this community, according to some postulates imposed for decades, is a national (which actually stands for "ethnic") state or in other words a priori rule of the dominant ethnic group. It would appear the easiest scenario is to separate such a community with a line drawn along the borders of demographic domination, but in a lot of cases, especially with small or dispersed groups, this scenario is unacceptable or simply unrealizable. The same theory, which is already a political practice, prompts the answer in the form of formulae such as "historic homeland," "ethnic territory," and so on. Having acquired through this doctrine a dominant status on "their own" territory, a group, even a minority, tries to exercise its right to dominate in government. Thus, in the Sunzha district of the former Chechen-Ingush Republic that was considered an Ingush territory, representatives of this group were able to ensure such a status to the detriment of other groups. A total of 62,000 people lived here in 1989, including 26,552 Ingush people, 19,245 Russians, 13,247 Chechens, and about 3,000 others. However, 37 of the 59 members of the District Soviet elected in 1989 were Ingush, 14 Russians, and 8 Chechens, while the Executive Committee included 10 Ingush people, 2 Russians, and no Chechens. The exclusion of Chechens is especially remarkable: apparently, there was a certain covert compromise effective in the republic that allowed the Ingush to control local government in the three western ("Ingush") districts.

This compromise, however, was forced, at least for the Ingush party which was removed from the republican center. In conditions of non-democratic government and strictly centralized distribution of life support resources exclusively through government institutions, possession of power at as high a level as possible in a multi-ethnic community enables representatives of the dominant group to redistribute the resources in their favor at others' expense. In doing so, resources coming to the province center from the "main" center can become subject to "targeted" redistribution in favor of a region or ethnic group for most diverse considerations: from geopolitics to personal liking. This was especially thriving under the Soviet totalitarian regime, but it has acquired even more overt forms in the past years.

The Russian government's policies also have this element. Before the appointment as chairman of the State Nationalities Committee, President Yeltsin asked me in a personal conversation whether Dagestan should be made a sort of backbone republic for the Center in the North Caucasus, "providing it, accordingly, with a bigger amount of resources and other support." It should be noted this line was to some extent carried out in 1992 when the government and Supreme Soviet issued a series of orders to allocate funds for this republic and grant some privileges to it. Perhaps, there also was a subjective, personal reason for that, namely the Dagestan authorities' greater success in lobbying in the federal center where two key offices in the Supreme Soviet and government were then held by natives of this republic (R.G. Abdulatipov and V.M. Makharadze).

As far as North Ossetia and the Chechen-Ingush Republic are concerned, the situation was also ambiguous: there is quite convincing evidence that for a long period the latter received less from the Center comparing with the former. At the same time, the Chechen-Ingush Republic manufactured noticeably more products putting them at the Center's disposal. There is a firm belief among the Ingush (not without good reason, by the way) that "Stalin was Ossetian (his father was an Ossetian surnamed Jusoiti, and his mother was Georgian). So of course, having obtained unlimited power (and we know at what price), he supported various steps and measures to raise the Ossetians among other peoples (6)." A comparison of some key figures on development and living standards in the two republics in the late 1980s was really in favor of North Ossetia: while its population was half that of the Chechen-Ingush Republic, it enjoyed a higher unit weight of capital investments in the non-production sphere, higher cash incomes per head, higher spending on house-building, a bigger amount of retail trade per head, a bigger share of medical doctors and student vacancies, and so on.

I do not think it possible to analyze the reasons for these differences here. The Ingush party believes "this was the planned program of Stalin and his milieu together with North Ossetia's leadership (7)." The Ossetians had a myth of their own about the unwillingness or inability of the Chechens and Ingush to develop their own republic and their excessive proclivity to work outside the Chechen-Ingush Republic. Seasonal work migration and individual enterprise among residents of this republic were really relatively high, which, by the way, makes it incorrect to carry out any comparisons of the two republics by official figures on the state economic and social spheres alone. However, what cannot be doubted is that the Ingush districts in the former Chechen-Ingush Republic and the Ingush settlements in North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi district lagged behind in their social development. One of the most acute problems on the threshold of the overt conflict was extremely high unemployment among active population: the newly-established Ingush Republic (the districts of Nazran, Malgobek, and Sunzha without three settlements) as of August 20, 1992, numbered 204,036 residents, including 114,429 voters and 50,577 unemployed people, i.e. about half the adult population. It was young unemployed men that made the most "explosive" substance to carry out some provocative actions and criminal deeds on the eve of the conflict. The Ingush leaders whom I contacted in the summer and early autumn of 1992 repeatedly expressed alarm and concern that the ability of the government and elders to keep the Ingush youth from extreme actions reached breaking point - or they used it as a key pressure argument.

A radical removal of the Ingush minority from the common republican political process resulted from the coup carried out by General Jokhar Dudaev with the assistance of some radical nationalist forces from among ethnic Chechens. The declaration in the autumn of 1991 of the separate Chechen Republic was carried out without Ingush people being involved, and the three districts they inhabited remained outside this new formation. It might seem Chechnya's leadership left territorial demarcation open to question, but in reality it ceased to allocate resources and cut off political relations with Ingushetia. In an interview on television, Dudaev commented with regard to this: "The Ingush must go their own path of sufferings and fight."

Even now, it is not yet completely clear why the Chechen national movement and its leaders rejected the people akin to them in language and culture together with a part of the former territory of their republic and chose to establish independent Chechnya instead of a single Vainakh state (Vainakhs is the common name for Chechens and Ingush people). The most commonly accepted explanation is that this was a response to a former decision by a radical part of the Ingush national movement to establish a separate Ingush republic within Russia, which was expressed at a congress of the Ingush people in Grozny in September 1989. However, there is another possible explanation that consists in Chechen leaders' geopolitical intentions to bring the Ingush part of the population to an impasse with no way out but creating their own republic based on some poorly developed areas (Grozny preserved control over those parts of the Sunzha district where mostly Chechens lived) and seeking to achieve the goal the Ingush had formulated - restoration of the integrity of the Ingush Autonomous Region, that had once existed, by annexing a part of North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi district.

Urging the Ingush to an uncompromising position on territory can be traced in Chechnya's actions quite definitely. The Chechen parliament adopted a special resolution in the summer of 1992 that claimed Chechnya's jurisdiction over some Ingush areas inhabited by Chechens, and militant units after this ousted local village authorities by force and put their own chiefs in Chechen villages. Those days, General Dudaev said more than once that "Russia cannot give Ingush people any help" and that it "will not be able to give them back their own territories." Passed by the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation on June 4, 1992, the law "On establishment of the Ingush Republic within the Russian Federation" was also viewed skeptically by Chechen leaders. My attempt to hold a meeting in Piatigorsk on October 9 with the first deputy chairman of Chechnya's parliament to negotiate for the border between Chechnya and the Ingush Republic that was being shaped failed eventually: at the last moment the Chechens refused to meet with reference to an arrangement with Yuri Yarov, deputy chairman of Russia's Supreme Soviet, for the next round of Russian-Chechen talks in December.

Some of my interlocutors those days proposed an explanation that by this policy Chechnya pursued the remote goal of a new union with Ingushetia after it was able to annex the disputed territory of the Prigorodnyi district. However, my observations and talks with some Chechens and Ingush people make me question the widespread thesis about the two "brotherly peoples." The cultural distance between these groups is really small, and the opportunity to construct the single Vainakh community at least in the Soviet period was not less than to construct two "socialist nationalities." However, by no means this implies that contradictions and alienation between these two culturally close peoples were less. Cultural closeness cannot insure against interethnic contradictions and conflicts. The example of the Serbs and Croats confirms this thesis. The lower status of Ingush people in Chechnya was more than sufficient a basis for anti-Chechen sentiments, while the poor development of the areas where they lived could quite justify the policy of driving them from the newly-acquired independence. The Czechs did the same to the Slovaks when dividing former Czechoslovakia. By the way, according to some information the level of interethnic contacts, first of all marriages between Chechens and Ingush people was lower than with other contacting peoples. In addition, historic information allows one to conclude it was inter-clan struggle between the Vainakhs that made the Czar's administration in the XIX cent. take measures to separate and isolate the feuding groups, after which a stronger feeling of being Chechen or Ingush took shape.

Overall, Ingush people's lower status in the former Chechen-Ingush Republic provided a sufficient reason for an ethnic movement in favor of administrative separation leading to a higher status and the right to direct distribution of resources from the center and a more substantial representation in government. The unwillingness of the dominating Chechen group to provide a comfortable status for the Ingush minority stimulated that movement. It was supported by leaders of the Ingush minority in North Ossetia where political discrimination was supported by direct and indirect cultural oppression policy. What we call indirect discrimination here is a high level of acculturation of the social environment in favor of the Russian culture and language that was present in this republic. In North Ossetia it was probably the highest in the North Caucasus. The Ossetians are the only big nationality in the region with widespread Orthodoxy in the past and a relatively higher degree of influence of the Communist Party nomenklatura in the Soviet period that was intensively imposing Russian-language officiousness. Thanks significantly to the local elite, Russian in the past decades has actually completely replaced Ossetian and other languages in all of the most important spheres: from government institutions and the media to education and public services. Language russification in the republic was a much more unpleasant challenge to the Ingush people there than for the Ossetians, since the latter were more traditional in their cultural attitudes and less urbanized.

Unfortunately, statistics can reflect the real state of affairs only to the smallest degree, because an incompetently formulated question about their native language led to a situation when people actually indicated their ethnicity in their answers, not the language they spoke and often the only one they knew. Meanwhile, the native language (the one used at home and at work) is Russian for an overwhelming majority of the Ossetians and just about 50% of the Ingush. During our multiple meetings with representatives of these peoples, we did not meet anyone who would not speak Russian fluently, although countryside Ingush population demonstrates lower fluency in Russian comparing with Ossetians.

This situation required special measures to ensure the rights and cultural traditions of the Ingush in North Ossetia - not only in the Prigorodnyi district but also in the republican center. The North Ossetian leadership whom I met on this matter on October 9 were dominated by the opinion that any cultural and language preferences for the Ingush minority were impossible when even the Ossetians did not have them. The government committee on interethnic relations had not any programs for support of the Ingush language and culture in the republic, either.

The distance and alienation between the two communities were also cemented by specific measures taken to restrict some rights of the Ingush population in the social sphere. Special discontent was aroused by the policy of limiting registration of Ingush people in the Prigorodnyi district; hindered access to receipt of land plots; biased treatment of Ingush citizens by law enforcement agencies where Ossetians dominated, especially during the emergency introduced in the Prigorodnyi district by North Ossetia's leadership in April 1992. The Ingush perceived the latter circumstance very painfully, because emergency measures were often taken in a form that insulted their personal and group dignity.

The arrival in North Ossetia of a large number of refugees from Georgia because of the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia became an extremely alarming challenge to the Ingush minority's status and to the republic. This was a serious social and political problem for the republic in 1991-92. The total number of refugees was 0.06-0.07 million; they were mainly concentrated in Vladikavkaz and brought tension into society, including interethnic relations. South Ossetians are noticeably different in their social and cultural make-up from North Ossetians, especially city dwellers. In one of my visits to Vladikavkaz in the summer of 1992, Liudmila Vashurina who worked with refugees at the North Ossetian government expressed great discontent with the behavior of the South Ossetians in the city and referred to a personal example: "My mother died (Vashurina wore mourning - V.T.), and it is not a custom with our neighbors to be noisy, less so afford jollity on such days. But the refugees don't care. They don't work, and they trade all day long and behave exigently and defiantly. This causes strong discontent of local Ossetians, native city dwellers. The rural low culture of the southerners grates on them."

By special measures or a rational choice, a substantial part of the refugees were directed to the Prigorodnyi district where most of the republic's agricultural lands were concentrated. There were 15,563 refugees from Georgia here as of January 15, 1992, and 11,916 in early July. These are just the official figures provided by the interethnic relations committee, but they did not reflect the exact situation from summer, as refugees no longer received registration because of a rumor that they all would be removed from the Prigorodnyi district. A new inflow of refugees started on September 1 because of the emerging hope to receive Russian "privatization checks." Being formally citizens of another state, South Ossetians used their cultural kinship with the basic population to formulate a claim to some rights in the Prigorodnyi district and cause extra concern of the Ingush community about the possible expansion of the newcomers. This concern was more than justified, and subsequent events proved this. In open conflicts, South Ossetians played the cruelest role in evicting Ingush people. Government representatives, including the federal government, preferred to support the blood solidarity instead of the civil one when they gave out arms for foreign nationals to repel "aggression" on the part of their own citizens. Made after the bloody events, a statement by Alan Chochiev, deputy chairman of South Ossetia's Supreme Soviet, that "the Ossetian people for the first time acted as a single nation during the armed conflict in the Prigorodnyi district" and that the events there were "the first joint military-national campaign of the Ossetians over the visible period (8)" can be considered a triumph of the ideology and practice of ethnic nationalism over foundations of civil society and state.

So the Ingush minority's socio-political and cultural status in both republics provided reasons for dissatisfaction, complaints, and seeking to change the status quo. However, is this enough for powerful action on the part of the discriminated group and eventually for an open conflict? The world provides for a huge number of similar situations, but it is in the former Soviet republics that they take shape as conflicts. The answer is to be found in the contemporary social structure of the former Soviet nationalities and in the dominating doctrine inherited from the totalitarian regime. The issue of social structure has a priority relevance for understanding the exclusive "vocality" (we interpret this term as the ability of ethnic groups or, more precisely, their elites to verbalize grievances and demands and mobilize ordinary members around them) of the Soviet nationalities which they acquired during liberalization and socio-political reforms starting from the second half of the 1980s.

Given all deformation of the Soviet regime, its undoubted achievement was that it ensured access to education for a wide number of its citizens and established prestigious elites among non-Russian nationalities as demonstration of the regime's victories in the successful "solution of the nationalities problem in the USSR." Higher education and especially an academic degree became a very important form of a "social lift" for representatives of peripheral elites. Limited by special quotas, higher education and academic degrees from leading higher education institutions in Moscow and Leningrad had an exclusive relevance. Education race was exceptionally intensive in the 1960-80s, especially for youth from among repressed peoples to which the Chechens and Ingush belong. Access to higher education was limited for them over almost two decades.

Dramatic changes in this area can clearly be seen in figures of the last two censuses, i.e. within one decade.

These figures show that as soon as in the 1970s the general education level of the Chechens, Ingush, and Ossetians was the same as or higher than the Russians, and it became remarkably higher in the late 1980s, especially among the Ingush and Chechens. A negative gap with the general Soviet level was preserved for the Ingush and Chechens only in the category of people with a higher education, and it looked favorable for the Ossetians. A high percentage of people with a high and higher education has at least two very important consequences: a powerful reservoir for overestimated social expectations appears among group members; and a numerous intellectual elite actively intrudes into the socio-political discourse seeking to realize specific dividends on the power of knowledge. Besides, in a society in which everyone is educated without exception the elite's activity in producing ideas and mythological concepts can easily be transmitted on a mass plane, while the masses' mystical ideas and disputes are in turn promoted as official nominations and well-shaped demands.

From this standpoint, the parties to the conflict have more than succeeded in piling up mutually exclusive myths and interpretations, especially using historic and political-legal materials. For the Ingush party, this was initiated by urban intellectuals that lived mostly in the capital of the Chechen-Ingush Republic, Grozny. This is where the first Ingush members of the Russian parliament came from - Bembulat Bogatyriov and Ibrahim Kostoev who played an important part first in passing the law on rehabilitation of repressed peoples and then the law on establishment of the Ingush Republic. Both headed the two most active public organizations: the former was head of the People's Soviet of Ingushetia (PSI) and the latter of the Niiskho Party. Among other leaders that made up the government commission from the Chechen-Ingush Republic with whom I had direct contacts, one can mention Professor Beksultan Seinaroev, doctor of sciences in law, a people's court judge from Grozny; Tamerlan Mutaliev, candidate of sciences in history, pro-rector of the Grozny Pedagogical Institute; and Fyodor Bokov, a senior lecturer at the Chechen-Ingush University. Messrs. Almazov, Tumgoev, and Mashtagov - heads of Ingushetia's three districts - also played an active role in the Ingush movement.

In spite of no unity among the leaders, the movement based its program on the key idea and demand of restoring the Ingush state and returning the Ingush the Prigorodnyi district. This is what was viewed as the key and often the only goal of rehabilitation of this repressed people. Overall, the prehistory of the conflict focused around the rehabilitation topic for the Ingush party, so it needs special analysis.

The "rogue people" complex

The Stalin regime's heritage rendered the conflict situation an extremely complicated and emotionally overloaded nature, although it would be inadequate to reduce analysis of the reasons for the conflict to a response to former injustices and crimes. As a rule, history in ethnic conflicts is mobilized by the parties to achieve present-day goals, while demands of coming back to a certain "norm" in the past are most often reduced to a search for this very moment in history that can best serve to achieve those goals. It is much more complicated with Stalin's deportations, though. Firstly, these were actions carried out exclusively on a selective ethnic basis and with regard to the entire group without exception, even those of its representatives that lived in other parts of the country or were at the front during war. Secondly, deportations and following restrictions linked with them cannot be referred to as "unlived" history, and a significant part of people living nowadays were their direct victims and they keep memory of and pain because of the committed violence. Thirdly, the state and society have not to date taken clear and noticeable steps at least to duly define those crimes. For these reasons, the problem of repressed peoples has turned out to be the most acute and painful in an entire set of interethnic relations in the past years.

Strangely enough, mass deportations of entire peoples, the Chechens and Ingush among them, had a dual influence on the destiny of ethnic communities. On the one hand, this was a huge socio-cultural and moral shock to hundreds of thousands of people, on both the group and personal planes, which is confirmed by sufficiently convincing and vivid evidence and research (9). But it has never yet been discussed in literature how deportations and seeking to recover from the experienced shock influence the very phenomenon of ethnic identity. Paradoxically enough, the very cruelty and targeted nature of the action caused its victims an unconditional (as a sentence) consciousness of their ethnicity first as a curse, then as a means of group survival, and nowadays as a form of therapy (cure) of the given shock, a means to regain the downtrodden group and individual dignity. Deportations were not able to kill the peoples, but they reinforced the ethnic feeling, in many cases outlining even harder borders around ethnic groups which had not been such in the past and are always characterized by special mobility and situational changeability in a normal social environment. In Soviet conditions, ethnicity is not only an "inner referendum," but first of all the "fifth column" in passports, while for representatives of repressed peoples this is also a special mark resulting not only in restricted rights, but also daily reminding. The deportations constructed particularly manifested and painful forms of ethnicity, like the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has called into being thousands of new Armenians and Azeri people, especially among people with "silent" or "slack" ethnicity at the periphery of these groups' communities abroad.

Let's remind in brief the history of the Ingush in this connection, to better understand the nature of the conflict and its most complex episode linked with the territorial dispute. By "history" we in no way imply an account of the "objective" version, the "right" interpretation for which historians and ethnographers of various ranks, university origins, and ethnic preferences desperately fight. Modern historiography and socio-cultural anthropology have quite convincingly shown that the interpreted past is first of all a contemporary resource and means to achieve definite group or individual goals. Through archaeological and historic reconstructions and ethnographic descriptions, people do not only acquire arguments in favor of their identity and group integrity, but also provide emotional or even political and legal arguments in favor of their programs and positions. Representatives of each ethnic group (if there is a certain challenge to this) as a rule seek to make their history more ancient, enrich it with as many culture heroes and achievements as possible, and "invent a tradition (10)." These efforts of historians, anthropologists, writers, and journalists are used to provide extra foundation for the group's legitimacy, reinforce its integrity; and most often, the past colonized from the present is required for political struggle as an argument in favor of status, territorial, or other demands. All these constructions often have an indirect relation to the real or genuine history of the people, and for that reason there is always an opportunity for multiple interpretations and their revision.

The history of the North Caucasus is distinguished for its special difficulty and drama: the cultural mosaic of the population of foothills and mountain gorges took shape on the basis of autochthonous tribal groups and migrations, and from the XVIII cent. under a powerful influence of Russian colonization (11). In the XX cent., the North Caucasus came to be in the thick of events of the Bolshevik revolution and civil war, a testing ground for "building of nationality states" and the object of cruel mass repressions. As a matter of fact, present-day generations can recall multiple changes of habitations of various ethnic groups, their political status, administrative borders, and even the very nomenclature of ethnicities.

Two historic circumstances have a special relation to the conflict prehistory. One of them is linked with the Bolshevik experiment of territorializing ethnicity or, more precisely, establishing administrative units on an ethnic basis within the state. Historically, there is one very important aspect in this issue which has not to date been realized by many politicians and experts, while Lenin-Stalin era social engineers were even farther from thinking about it. Administrative borders usually take shape around definite ethnic and cultural areas, or at least they seek this: this is better for government and reflects cultural communities' seeking extra protection of their interests and integrity by means of the "envelope" of state at different levels. That is why it was quite justified, for example, when the Autonomous Mountain People's Republic was shaped within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) in January 1921, which included lands "presently occupied by the Chechens, Ossetians, Ingush, Kabardians, Balkars, and Karachays, as well as Cossacks and "strangers" [peasants and other non-Cossacks that resettled to Cossack lands after the abolishment of serfdom; they bought or rented land from Cossacks and worked as farm hands - trans.] (12)." To avoid exclusive claims of power on the part of any one population group, Vladikavkaz, the administrative center, and Grozny, the industrial center, were separated as independent administrative units, while stanitsas [Cossack villages - trans.] with Russian population were made directly subordinate to the republican government. However, the "will of the nationalities inhabiting the Autonomous Mountain People's Soviet Socialist Republic" and "ends of the widest involvement of this republic's working masses in affairs of Soviet government (13)" led to division in 1921-24 of this multi-ethnic formation into the Kabardino-Balkar, Karachay-Cherkess, Chechen, Ingush and North Ossetian Autonomous Regions and the Sunzha Autonomous District with the rights of a provincial executive committee.

Thus, the Ingush and Ossetians received autonomies in 1924, while Vladikavkaz was separated as an independent administrative unit in the RSFSR, with the administrative centers of both regions and the Sunzha District located in it. The Ingush Autonomous Region was in 1934 combined with the Chechen one into the single Chechen-Ingush Region that became an Autonomous Republic in 1936, with Grozny as its center. All these actions were initiated from the top, but it is also impossible to deny that local ethnic leaders' powerful pressure from beneath stood behind them, too, as well as lobbying in the Center and other circumstances, not completely studied as yet. The most painful point for the Ingush in this story, especially from the present-day perspective, was that Vladikavkaz was in 1993 placed under full control of the North Ossetian administration, which stripped the area chiefly inhabited by Ingush people of a big urban center and opportunities of industrial and cultural development such centers provide.

The question of administrative centers of ethnic formations was especially relevant during the entire Soviet period, and it is still urgent in the former Soviet republics. If such a formation is constituted, in the first place it ought to have its own bureaucracy and symbolic institutions that prefer to locate their offices in one place called a "capital." Such are usually the biggest settlements with a developed economic and cultural infrastructure that ensures living and ruling comforts for the bureaucracy. A lot of Soviet nationalities that obtained their "own" state when the USSR was taking shape could have such capitals only in cities with a population of a different, chiefly Russian ethnicity. The North Caucasus was no exception. Thus, most residents of Vladikavkaz were Russian, while Ossetians and Ingush people that inhabited its outskirts were respectively 10% and 2% of its population. Chechens in Grozny had also been a minority over its entire history down to the beginning of war in December 1994. The subsequent demography as a rule develops in favor of the aboriginal group, but all the same capitals almost everywhere preserve a complex population structure (14), while the "aboriginal nationality," too, already steadily views the city as its own ethnic patrimony.

Stripped of Vladikavkaz, the Ingush did not find their capital in Grozny, either, which served as a basis for a powerful "aggrieved people" complex, especially among intellectuals and the economic elite of Ingush origin. No new city emerged in Ingushetia during industrialization that could take up the role of an ethnic center, and the following tragic history of the Ingush did not even give them such a chance. That is why allocation of a part of Vladikavkaz to place the administration of the newly-established republic became one of the most important demands of the Ingush ethnic movement's radical wing.

The universal deportation in 1944 became the second most important factor in the contemporary history of the Ingush that had a huge influence on the mentality and conduct of this group. The March 7, 1944, act of the Presidium of the CPSU Supreme Soviet liquidated the Chechen-Ingush Republic and deported all the Chechens and Ingush mostly to Kazakhstan and Kirgizia (present-day Kyrgyzstan). A Grozny region was formed on part of the republican territory, while the rest of it was divided between the North Ossetian ASSR, the Dagestan ASSR, and the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR). The deportees experienced extreme hardship: physical privations, restrictions on their civil rights, disintegration of social connections, religious, language, and cultural oppression. The people were even stripped of the hope to return to their homeland, because the deportation was "forever."

After Stalin's death, rehabilitation of the Ingush, like other repressed peoples, was not quick, nor complete. Passed in 1956, the act removing restrictions from the deportees preserved the ban on return to those places from where they had been deported. The Chechen-Ingush Republic was restored in 1957, but its configuration was different: the Prigorodnyi district remained a part of North Ossetia, while the Chechen-Ingush Republic received three districts of the Stavropol territory - those of Kargalinskaia, Shelkovskaia, and Naurskaia - included in the Grozny region when it had been formed in 1944. Since no organized resettlement programs existed, the Ingush returnees moved primarily to their former residence, including the Prigorodnyi district. Local authorities put all sorts of obstacles to prevent Ingush people from settlement there, and in March 1982 the USSR Council of Ministers passed a resolution limiting registration of newly-arriving citizens in the Prigorodnyi district. This was actually a covert continuation of repressions, a denial of rehabilitation. When the 1989 USSR Congress of People's Deputies had adopted a declaration recognizing acts of forcible resettlement as illegal and criminal, North Ossetia's Supreme Soviet passed a resolution on September 14, 1990, that prohibited from selling and purchasing living houses and other buildings as personal property.

Ingush people tried in every way to return to their native parts, in spite of stringent restrictions. A lot of families settled down and resided in a series of Prigorodnyi district villages without being registered, so the actual numbers of citizens of this ethnicity were at least twice as high as official census figures. Many were able to build good houses, owned land plots, and worked at local collective farms and facilities. The "cold war" between the two communities over ownership of houses and land in the past years more and more frequently led to violence in respect of Ingush people, especially in villages where Ingush people were the minority.

A quite tense demographic situation took shape in the Prigorodnyi district by the 1990s. It became the most densely-populated district in the republic where the population density was among the highest even without that. Over 75,500 people lived in the district with an area of 1,440 sq km in 1990. The population density was 186 people per sq km in disputed villages (the republican average being 80 people per sq km). When we visited the Prigorodnyi district in the summer of 1992, there was actually no vacant plot of land here. Registration quotas were still limited, and just about 1,000 Ingush persons had been registered over the decade after 1982.

It is hard to deny that Ossetians were seriously concerned about the Prigorodnyi district, and this party had its own arguments which seemed to it substantial. This was not only reflected in official statements, but also in documents of public organizations. Two weeks after the RSFSR Supreme Soviet had passed the law "On rehabilitation of repressed peoples," Messrs. Gorbachev, Lukianov, Yeltsin and the People's Deputies of the USSR and RSFSR were addressed with a letter from Adamon Tsadis ("People's Union") which said in particular: "Implementation of this law will lead to new repressions with regard to the Ossetian population in the Prigorodnyi district, North Ossetia. The Ossetian people will again be plunged into the abyss of hardship and sufferings. The matter is a substantial part of Georgia's Ossetian population was in 1944 forcibly resettled to the Prigorodnyi district to please Beria and the Georgian authorities. Here, in their new residence, people have tried to do well since 1944; they have built industrial and agricultural facilities, and for thousands of Ossetians, Russians, and representatives of other peoples the district has become a new homeland, smaller Motherland, part and parcel of North Ossetia. Suffice it to say that 90% of housing in the Prigorodnyi district is made by houses built by those resettled since 1944. We don't even mention that Ingush people had never owned lands in the Prigorodnyi district (they had lived here from 1921 - after the banishment of the Cossacks - to 1944). For 50 years, thousands of Ossetians and Russians, active participants in the Great Patriotic War and labor veterans, have found peace in this land. Not only the time of our residence, but also the ashes of our predecessors give us more rights to this land, than Ingush people have (15)."

While the land issue was an important social problem, belonging of the territory or, more precisely, its administrative subordination was this issue's projection onto politics and mass psychology. Land as a resource, not territory, though, became the actual subject of rivalry between the two communities. Both parties through politicians and activists launched a desperate dispute to prove their priority in possessing this most valuable resource (the district's land is one of the most fertile in the region). For North Ossetia, losing control over a part of the Prigorodnyi district would mean losing a very important share of its agriculture. For the Ingush, this territory was actually required to enable establishment of a republic with a viable economy. In addition, there was a moral and emotional factor: this is where the most ancient Ingush settlements were located, including the village of Angusht that gave birth to the word "Ingush." At least, this is the version in the Chechen-Ingush historiography, as well as in some other works by researchers of the Caucasus (16) that in the past decades have been transmitted to mass consciousness as a stable myth.

The degree to which Ingush people were emotionally drawn into this issue could have astonished an on-looker: almost all of my meetings began and ended with this subject alone. I had a meeting with a group of Ingush elders and religious leaders from the Prigorodnyi district in a hotel room in Vladikavkaz on August 7, 1992. I was asked questions to which answers were given at once, too: "Do you have a homeland, comrade minister? But we haven't one." "Can one build a house without a foundation? Likewise, an Ingush state cannot be built without its foundation - our people's native lands." My interlocutors were deeply confident of the wisdom and faultlessness of their positions, so hardly any arguments could make them change their mind.

The group trauma generated among repressed peoples special sensitivity about issues of territory and a particular halo about the idea of Homeland. Suffice it to quote one example from contemporary works by Ingush authors: "Indeed, under no circumstances must one abandon the land washed abundantly with not only his own sweat, but also the sweat and blood of his forefathers. In generations, it only grows stronger and more intense - this, comprehensible to everyone but not always and by everyone recognized as natural (not for oneself, but for others), holy feeling of one's personal destiny being part and parcel of that plot of land which, although it is not large, is the cradle of his ancestors and accordingly, his Homeland that keeps in it his roots. In a man removed from it, the thirst for justice in years subordinates all the remaining feelings and sweeps aside other cares; he is actually no longer worried about his personal destiny, but the desire becomes overwhelming to share the destiny of his people however bitter should it turn out (17)."

The movement for an Ingush state became wide-ranging and acquired some organizational forms in the spring of 1992. A big group of local government heads from Ingushetia and the Prigorodnyi district addressed the Russian President, the Supreme Soviet Chairman, and the People's Deputies of the Russian Federation with a group letter on March 17, 1992. It included the same register of grievances:

1933 - "the city of Vladikavkaz, the administrative and cultural center, was taken away and handed over to the Ossetians";

1934 - "we were stripped of state";

1944 - "our Homeland was taken away form us and handed over to North Ossetia";

1957 - "half of our Homeland was not given back to us, and it was left as a present to the especially privileged Ossetia that has two forms of state: North Ossetia and South Ossetia, while Ingushetia has none."

The document contains extremely emotional evaluations inflaming mass consciousness: "we are being brought to ethnic degradation"; "the Ingush people are outside laws, outside the Constitution, they can be murdered, and their Homeland can be taken away from them and shredded"; "poverty and abuse of power are stifling Ingushetia." It put forward a demand - "returning the Ingush people their historic Homeland with an Ingush Republic status and with the administrative and cultural center in the city of Vladikavkaz (18)."

Nazran, Ingushetia's biggest city, became the center of the ethnic movement. This is where meetings and congresses of the Ingush people occurred at which the most radical sentiments and proposals were expressed. We have minutes of a "universal Ingush meeting" on May 21, 1992, at which some new motives sounded not reflected in Ingush leaders' more official statements and addresses. The dominant position of the speakers at the meeting was this: "I am in favor of a union with Chechnya, but an equal union" (Tamerlan Mutaliev, Grozny); "We cannot be separated from Chechnya" (Magomet Dolgiev, Surkhakhi, Ingushetia); "I am 100% in favor of a union with Chechnya" (Magomet-Hajji Barakhoev); "I said the people themselves, headed by Dudaev, would decide on the Ingush issue" (Beslan Khabriev, Troitskaia, Ingushetia).

A second essential point consisted in appeals to some specific direct action to solve the problem of territory. "I am waiting for the Ingush people to understand that not only their enemies are leading them by the nose, but their own leaders, too" (Issa Ozdoev, Nazran); "I suggest setting up self-defense units in every village (Khasan Ozdoev, Nazran); "There is a very good base to maintain a national guard in the Sunzha district. The funds to form it should be raised from people" (Akhmet Tochiev, Troitskaia); "We should reinforce our parts, set up squads, and arm them to guard law and order" (Mukhamed Gazdiev, Grozny); "The Prigorodnyi district should be inhabited by aboriginals. There is no reason to be afraid of the Ossetians. They have no and won't have men" (Akhmet Malsagov, Maiskoe, Prigorodnyi district).

The above-cited documents enable one to draw a conclusion that the mobilization of group members initiated by leaders can acquire an independent development logic which can be difficult for its initiators to control. Two parallel processes appeared to be underway from the summer of 1992: insistent promotion of the settlement of the new republic issue at the level of top legislative bodies and within the limits of the law; and a new legitimacy being established along with this, based on direct delegation of authority or usurpation of power. Pressure from below had a powerful influence on the top leadership's behavior. Thus, the decision to proclaim the Ingush Republic as part of the RSFSR made at a Congress of the Ingush People on March 27, 1991, and a meeting of People's Deputies at all levels in Nazran on June 20, 1991, became a decisive factor in favor of the presidential initiative to pass a law on establishment of republic. Finally, a referendum was conducted among the Ingush population on November 30, 1991, when 92.5% of the voters (about 0.1 million people took part in the vote) supported establishment of a sovereign Ingush Republic within the RSFSR and recovery of the Prigorodnyi district and the right-bank part of Vladikavkaz. The question at the referendum was formulated like this: "Are you in favor of establishment of an Ingush Republic within the RSFSR, recovery of the illegally seized Ingush lands, and location of the capital in Vladikavkaz?" No doubt, a referendum with this sort of formula even more exacerbated the situation in Ingush-Ossetian relations and gave a new impulse to the most radical demands of the Ingush that appeared to have received a universal support mandate.

President Yeltsin tabled on February 5, 1992, a bill at the Supreme Soviet on transformation of the Chechen-Ingush Republic into a Chechen Republic and an Ingush Republic within the Russian Federation. By the way, one more bill was tabled at the same time to divide another ethnic-state unit - the Karachay-Cherkess Republic - into a Karachay and Cherkess autonomous regions. This one was also motivated by "considering the will of the Karachay and Cherkess peoples." However, it was not passed because of strong counteraction on the part of the Karachay-Cherkess leadership and a lot of possible difficulties in the division process. Why was the law on Ingushetia passed, and what was it like?

The very fact that the bill was introduced by the president was a powerful argument for the Supreme Soviet to pass it. Reference for the bill was prepared by the State Nationalities Policy Committee and signed by Deputy Chairman Sobolev, before my appointment. The substantiation actually contained the key and only argument - restoration of the abolished Ingush autonomy and establishment of "their own" state for the Ingush they were stripped of in 1944. There were no calculations of the new unit's resources or proposals for territorial borders, although both these issues were the most important. A reference note enclosed with the bill said: "Territorial matters are the most difficult. The Ingush demand that the borders of the Ingush Republic should be established within a part of the Prigorodnyi district (within the 1944 boundaries), a part of North Ossetia's Mozdok district (that had been a part of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR before 1944), and the Nazran, Malgobek, and Sunzha (without the territory of the Sernovodsk Village Soviet of People's Deputies) districts, Chechen-Ingush Republic. With this in mind, a period up to three years should be provided to develop legal and organizational measures on ethnic and territorial delimitation and consider other issues; and a state commission should be set up with a view to that, involving the parties concerned."

The Supreme Soviet discussed the bill on June 5, 1992; Anatoly Anikeiev, chairman of the commission on repressed peoples, delivered a report. Before the discussion, he addressed me with the phrase: "Well, today we're going to make a republic for the Ingush. Support is welcome!" The parliament passed the law actually without discussion and almost unanimously. There was no need for my speech in support of it, more so that I was not especially enthusiastic about the wording of the law which established the republic without borders and completely codified the collision with the 1992 Federation Treaty about the impossibility to change republics' borders without their consent. However, the fact that autonomy was restored for a formerly repressed people was positive in itself, and the Ingush perceived it with great enthusiasm. There was still some hope the law's recommendation to government, parties, and public unions that they should "refrain from unconstitutional ways to settle moot points" (Article 4) would have enough influence on the parties to the conflict.

A foreword to violence

The law passed, the federal government was required to take action to implement it. There was a need to establish interim government capable of launching the process of shaping of the Ingush state. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet appointed Mr. Ermakov, a parliament member and a general of the army in retirement after the 1991 August Coup, Representative of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation in Ingushetia. Mr. Kostoev, an investigation officer from the Prosecutor General's Office and a state counselor of justice (a general in rank), an Ingush, was appointed Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in Ingushetia. To our mind, both "Moscow's representatives" were very apposite candidacies - energetic, intelligent, and responsible people ready to work in the most difficult physical and psychological conditions. Their efforts to organize public life in the republic under construction were extremely valuable over several months. However, a number of circumstances limited their action and prevented them from executing the mission of top government representatives.

Firstly, Ermakov and Kostoev did not receive effective support and provision for their operation from the Center: there was no real funding or aid from federal ministries. Sent to examine the situation and prepare proposals, a group of ministerial representatives got stuck in the bureaucratic procedure of financial "calculations and miscalculations." Proposals by Ermakov and Kostoev for issuing a presidential act on measures to assist Ingushetia never reached the signing stage. In Moscow, there was obviously not enough routine lobbying in government agencies for allocating funds and carrying out economic and socio-cultural programs for the population of the established republic. The Interdepartmental commission for the implementation of the law on rehabilitation with regard to the Chechen-Ingush Republic had no organizational core in Moscow and did not actually conduct everyday work, so that as its chairman (after Mr. Barannikov) I probably was to strengthen this connecting and coordinating agency. As for Ingush leaders, their efforts were confined to political struggle, and this struggle grew more acute over power.

The Center held two posts, but the main one - interim head of administration - remained vacant. It should be mentioned upon his arrival Ermakov faced a critical reaction and threats from local radicals. As one of my Ingush friends explained this situation, "it was not about Ermakov but that he was surrounded by numerous military guards, which Ingush people viewed as distrust in the population and a step towards moving Russian troops into Ingushetia." Kostoev was received more quietly. Yet local leaders still viewed both as "aliens." During our first visit to Nazran to introduce Ermakov and Kostoev officially, the situation was extremely dramatic: PSI leaders Bogatyriov and Seinaroev scarcely agreed to appear together on the scene of the hall where local residents gathered. "Neither Ermakov nor Kostoev will be able to do anything here without my word," Bogatyriov told me. As a matter of fact, before the very beginning of the overt conflict the Center's representatives were isolated in their efforts to do anything in the complex and conflict-threatening situation. Ingush activists launched competition for the post of interim head of administration or, more precisely, the PSI began to seek Bogatyriov's appointment to the post. It is this, second circumstance that blocked work on establishment of the republic, because no interim head of administration was appointed for a long while.

I submitted a proposal to President Yeltsin for appointment of Daud Khamatkhanov as interim head of administration, fish industry chief in the Chechen-Ingush Republic, an experienced executive and a man of moderate political opinions. It seemed to me Bogatyriov did not match the post of head of the executive in the most critical and difficult beginning stage because of his poorly correlated temper, irreconcilable position on the territory problem, and professional qualification. I did not at all rule out, though, that this leader could take part and probably win the first election - either as president or as head of the Supreme Soviet. I said this personally to Bogatyriov and his supporters who organized a campaign for his appointment.

Minutes of resolutions by district authorities and meetings in support of Bogatyriov were delivered to Moscow. A joint meeting of Ingushetia's soviets was held in Nazran on June 26 which made a decision to ask President Yeltsin to facilitate appointment of Bembulat Bogatyriov, a people's deputy of the Russian Federation, as interim head of administration of the Ingush Republic. Strong pressure was exerted on Yuri Boldyrev, chief of the controlling office for the president, who drew up reports on staff appointments. Persuaded that any appointment other than Bogatyriov will cause everyone's discontent in Ingushetia, Boldyrev did not submit Khamatkhanov's candidacy for the president to approve. Eventually, the need to come out of the impasse led me to the decision (after consultations with Ermakov and Kostoev) to ask for Bogatyriov's appointment as head of administration. It was more important at that moment to go over the vacuum in power and involve influential leaders in constructive action.

However the presidential draft act on Bogatyriov was not signed, either: quite a few people were against this time, maybe including Ruslan Khasbulatov; Boris Yeltsin, too, may have known Bogatyriov by work in the Supreme Soviet. Another candidacy arose only in late August and early September (proposed by Ermakov and Kostoev and backed by me) - Tamerlan Didigov, chairman of the Chechen-Ingush State Construction Committee. Yuri Boldyrev began to draw up a third appointment act, and he again came under powerful pressure of Bogatyriov's supporters. Their agitation was growing tougher and tougher, although it was clear there was little chance of the desired appointment.

A typical statement was made by Sultan Khamchiev, vice president of the Humanitarian Foundation of Ingushetia, published in the organ of the Sunzha District Council of Ingushetia's National Accord Front: "Fate or God endowed him with a powerful gift of speech to render in his speech, furious and breathing personal passion, the age-old pain of the Ingush people, the protest of human nature against violence, suppression of its freedom, and deprivation of its historic Homeland. So for the time being, the Ingush people do not see an alternative to Bembulat Bogatyriov as head of Ingushetia's interim administration. We would like to ask those people who are rushing for this post: for what sins or services to the Ingush people are you doing this? Isn't there anything sacred for you? (19)."

Residents of "Ingushetia's occupied territories," as People's Soviet activists in the Prigorodnyi district called themselves, also sent their telegrams and messengers to Moscow. A telegram was addressed on September 2 to Yeltsin, Khasbulatov, and Gaidar with an expression of indignation about the "inactivity of the government commission for delimitation of territories between Ossetia and Ingushetia and delay in appointment of Bogatyriov as head of administration of the Ingush Republic, while his candidacy is backed by 95% of the Ingush people. These circumstances provoke interethnic tension in the region, connive at various impostors, careerists, and mafia groups in destabilizing the situation and preventing implementation of the law on rehabilitation of repressed peoples and establishment of the Ingush Republic within the Russian Federation. We are pressing for immediate settlement of the issue of Bogatyriov's appointment as head of administration and for the government commission to begin delimitation of the territory of the Ingush Republic. Elections in the Ingush Republic can be conducted only after this. If these demands are not executed and laws are not implemented, the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation and the Russian leadership will take full responsibility for the possible consequences (20)."

People's Soviet leaders headed by Seinaroev were persistently seeking to meet with Gennadii Burbulis and the president's aides, to squeeze Bogatyriov's candidacy through "on behalf of the people." There was an incident incredible for normal state practice: when Boris Yeltsin had already signed the act appointing Didigov, a group of Ingush activists came to the presidential aide Korabelshchikov's office, and under their influence the latter detained the already signed act! Thus, the appointment had never come about before the beginning of open clashes.

In conditions of political exaltation and social crisis (after Chechnya had separated, economic life in the Ingush districts was paralyzed), Ingushetia actually came to anarchy. This is how Yedinstvo, a local newspaper, evaluated the situation: "The socio-political situation in Ingushetia is incandesced to the highest degree. Social tension has strongly increased. Robberies, brigandage, murders, trafficking in arms, unrestrained profiteering, hijacking of vehicles, stealing of private and public assets have become normal life. No one can guarantee personal security." Land became the first subject for redistribution. Thus, collective farms' lands in the Sunzha district were allocated for personal farms, 8 to 100 hectares given to residents of this and other districts. "Most of these lands are not cultivated and have been overgrown. But at the same time, those who received these lands do not allow one to mow grass on grounds adjoining their estates (ditches, slopes), and they put up armed defense. As a result, there are disputes and scuffles threatening to develop into conflicts between teips [clans - trans.] (21)."

Traditional institutions through the elders and teip leaders tried in part to establish social control. The widespread custom of blood feud presented the most complex problem, while the tradition of peace-making between subjects of blood feud already was forgotten. Thus, a gathering of the elders and hajjis at the central mosque in Orjonikidzevskaia made a decision (vaad) to combat disturbers of law and order and to stabilize the situation in the Sunzha district (which was arranged with the district authorities):

"1. If a thief or criminal while committing a crime is killed in the act by the person the crime is committed against, the latter shall be forgiven the blood. Relatives claiming blood feud shall be considered apostates having no right to share their sorrow or joy with fellow villagers.

2. The damage the criminal committed to the person is recompensed as determined by the elders (kkhel). This punishment must strike the criminal for any crime, be that murder, house theft, stealing of cattle, hijacking of motor vehicles, and so on (22)."

It is quite difficult to picture to what degree the elders could substitute for police and courts of law; this question was not studied, but there are enough reasons to believe the role of traditional social control is extremely hard or even impossible to reinstate even in a partially modernized society. The young Ingush men who in the summer of 1992 trafficked in arms from the "Kalashnikov stalls" in the marketplace in Nazran could no longer submit to the vaad. Likewise, the preserved teip structure had also acquired a contemporary camouflage and often covered trivial sorting out in the Ingush political community, or social rivalry. Thus, about 600 representatives of the teip of the Bogatyriovs, Vedzizhevs, and Dakhkilgovs who consider Bokhtar their common ancestor gathered at a rest home in Muzhichi, Ingushetia, on September 5. According to our information, the teip meeting was more like a sort of micro- or proto-party. Acknowledgement of the entire Ingush people's interests above the teip's interests went along with expressions of indignation about the "Kostoev family" whose representatives reported to the Russian leadership on Bogatyriov teip representatives. The speakers were unanimous that they would not tolerate libelous attacks on representatives of their teip and would hold those guilty accountable. The gathering chose a special delegation that was to "claim on behalf of the teip grievances against the libelers and informers that they will have to account for their actions."

The difficult situation in the Ingush movement was reflected by a PSI meeting in Orjonikidzevskaia on September 12. PSI Chairman Seinaroev formulated the main political priority: "Elections must he conducted only after all Ingush territories are given back. The key task is to regain the Prigorodnyi district. When there is a territory, there is a state. Ingushetia's capital must not be in Nazran, but in Vladikavkaz. The Ingush people's will is expressed by all public movements: Bembulat Bogatyriov must be Ingushetia's head of administration. I delivered the documents to Boldyrev. At a meeting of the Coordination Committee (which Ermakov and Kostoev formed of representatives of all Ingush groups), Ibrahim Kostoev demanded including three candidates to the list for appointment as head of administration, and holding a secret vote. The PSI delegation must be in Moscow on Monday. If Yeltsin does not approve our candidate, we should elect him by ourselves at a congress (23)."

Loyalty to the authorities in Moscow was combined with distrust and alienation towards the Center which mass mentality personified in the concept "Russia." The wording of speeches reflected a stable stereotype about the Russian authorities' plots and anti-Ingush plans:

"If we miss the opportunity, it will be late. The script is already written in Russia... In Moscow, the leading role is played by the pro-Ossetian lobby" (Nazir Kotiev, Prigorodnyi district);

"All innovations with the administration were made up by the Russian leadership. The Republic has been declared. It must have self-government. The forms of self-government should be considered. The territory is not determined. Russia will be delaying settlement of the issue" (Fyodor Bokov, Grozny);

"The last word is up to the administration. Russia is playing with us. The republic must be headed by Bogatyriov. He knows the problem form the inside" (F. Ozdoeva, Grozny).

The PSI obviously aspired to sole representation and was especially displeased that the Coordination Committee included people from the Niiskho Party where leading positions were apparently occupied by the Kostoevs and the Aushevs. Old grievances against them were recalled, including that they had not formerly supported demands of recovering the Prigorodnyi district and had come out against the referendum. Finally, all efforts of federal representatives in Ingushetia were questioned: "The very appearance of Russia's representatives is illegal. Whom have they come to visit? After all, there is no administration." Apparently, some accusations were addressed to me, and the following phrase from the report confirms this: "The PSI doesn't work, it has lost connection to the masses. As for Tishkov, Seinaroev is more to blame than Tishkov" (Isa Khamatkhanov) (24).

The PSI served as a basis for shaping of the most radical and provoking scenario to establish the republic. My archives contain a draft plan of action to implement the laws "On establishment of the Ingush Republic" and "On rehabilitation of repressed peoples," which I received from an Ingush leader. It already provided for paragraphs such as: "All surviving houses and other assets of citizens which they possessed as personal property at the moment of deportation on February 23, 1944, are subject to be returned to their owners" or "The following list of settlements to be given their former names shall be approved:

Chermen - Bazorkino
Maiskoe - Konservnyi zavod
Jeirakh - Novyi Jeirakh
Kurtat - Gadabortsevo
Kambileievka - Galgai-Yurt
Komgaron - Tauzen-Yurt
Sunzha - Akhki-Yurt
Oktiabrskoe - Sholkhi
Tarskoe - Angusht
Terk - Dlinnaia Dolina
Yuzhnyi - Zavodskoi
Khurikau - Keskem"

Only at the very end of the list, there was a paragraph on drawing up of a plan for socio-economic development of the Ingush Republic (25).

This position and actions of the Ingush party could not be unknown in North Ossetia. In response, it chose a strategy of rejecting any compromises and stepping up positions of force, along with anti-Ingush propaganda. The republican leadership set the tonality, through Akhsarbek Galazov, a former university professor, who sanctioned development of a negative image of the Ingush among the population, in which Ossetian politicians and intellectuals took part. It is Galazov who uttered a phrase afterwards about a part of the citizens in the republic he ruled as a "snake cherished in the Ossetian bosom."

In numerous conversations with Ossetians, both government representatives and ordinary citizens, the usual negative stereotypes of the Ingush were voiced: lazy, cunning, dishonest, criminal, and so on. North Ossetian leaders felt quite confident because they had advantage in material resources and force, close contacts with the Center, and the constitutional provision on invariability of borders, including the decision on a moratorium on their change for up to three years, adopted by the Congress of People's Deputies.

There is information that in the late summer of 1992 a plan of ethnic purge took shape among the republican leadership, i.e. a plan of banishment of Ingush people from North Ossetia. No overt statements were made, but Mark Deich, a Radio Liberty correspondent, in his report from the conflict area on October 30 quoted the testimony of Vladimir Valiev, a Chermen, North Ossetia, police officer: "Every Monday over the last three months, after general results are summarized, regular closed meetings were held, usually in district internal affairs chief Dzykaev's office, on preparation for the armed action. Such meetings usually involved Minster Kantemirov or one of his deputies. In early August a meeting of Prigorodnyi district internal affairs officers which involved Minster Kantemirov himself had the following agenda: 'On the beginning of intensified preparation for the armed action and ensuing tasks.' The minister himself delivered some information. In doing so, he emphasized in passing this idea proceeded from Moscow or, more precisely, from Minister Yerin. He also said what Moscow promised our minister for that, increased salaries provided that the action was a success, and it also promised every kind of materiel and arms support. First results were to be seen as soon as at the next meeting: thus, the special police force increased in numbers from 200 to 1,000. This report was then delivered by Deputy Minister Batagov, a people's deputy of Russia. It was not said openly at the meeting, but it was easy to guess we were only required to find the smallest ground to incite it further with the following involvement of Russian troops... The approximate timetable for armed provocations was outlined at the third meeting that occurred on the last Monday in August. Deputy Minister Sikoev delivered a report. He suggested, which was passed unanimously, that conflicts should be provoked in late October when fieldwork would mostly be complete. At the following meetings, department chief Jivaev reported on those supplements that were passed in the Internal Affairs Ministry and the Armed Forces. Thus, deputy district internal affairs chief Kokaev said in the second half of October that extra funds were allocated to militia, too, in particular, armored personnel carriers were allocated to Tarskoe and Chermen. They also allocated automatics and made a decision to hide the personnel carriers in Olginskoe for a while... Galazov commanded this entire action by himself, and Kantemirov was his deputy."

It is hard to judge how credible this report by Mark Deich, a professional journalist, is, but judging by my own observations I can confirm the very fact of organization and arming of the so-called National Guard in North Ossetia. Galazov's vehicle which I used to go from Piatigorsk to Vladikavkaz on October 9 was protected by such "guardsmen." Ingush activists from the Prigorodnyi district told me that armored personnel carriers appeared in North Ossetian villages "for protection." According to some information, the Prigorodnyi district agriculture authority had bought 21 army machines with night-vision devices and radio stations as far back as in the autumn of 1991. North Ossetia saw the beginning of seizures and thefts of arms from Russian Army arsenals in the summer of 1992. By the start of the conflict, North Ossetia's Internal Affairs Ministry had 1,085 submachine guns, 113 antitank grenade launchers, 11 air defense emplacements, 68 heavy machineguns, 36 armored personnel carriers, and 1,016 grenades. The arsenals of the National Guard and militia included 826 submachine guns, 23 machineguns and grenade-launchers, 53 BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, and 40 BMP-26 combat infantry vehicles, according to official, obviously understated, information.

A substantial part of these arms actually got to illegal militarized formations, while authorities, including the army ones were absolutely aware of it. At some moment this process of losing control over spreading arms in conflict-threatening areas became irretrievable and acquired its own logic, like it had already repeatedly occurred in other regions in the former Soviet republics. I remember quite well Internal Affairs Minister Yerin's sluggish response when on coming back to Moscow I told him about my concern and the need to disarm civilians in the potential conflict area. Yet all this does not enable a conclusion about Moscow's initiative in preparing the "armed action": I know quite well the sincere concern of government members about preserving civil peace that dominated actions aimed at resolution or prevention of conflicts that time.

A scenario can be admitted here, which, however requires evidence, that was aimed to provoke Chechnya by the "armed action" in this region, and to solve the "Dudaev problem" thereby. However, this was more like a scenario for Barannikov's agency and the Security Council. Certain pressure to "sort it out with Dudaev" could also proceed from Ruslan Khasbulatov, which Yerin once told me at a meeting in Cheboksary. A journalistic investigation by Irina Dementieva showed quite convincingly that the Chechnya motive was present in actions of the federal government, too, including President Yeltsin, which is confirmed by the following course of events. Yegor Gaidar also admitted this later.

Yet most likely, life carried out a demonstration, already a custom in the former Soviet republics, of the arrogance of the force local elites acquired all of a sudden and without being prepared for it after the dismantlement of the totalitarian center. More so, that the region such as the North Caucasus with its ethnic mosaic, relatively high population density, and limited resources was in the past rich in faction and wars, not only Russian "conquest" of mountain peoples. The last burst of infightings and universal chaos occurred during World War I and the Civil War when contradictions between local ethnicities became intricately intertwined with local intellectuals' aspiration to attain state independence. This is how Anton Denikin described the situation in the Terek-Dagestan territory in 1919: "Life in the Caucasus was here and there restless even in time of peace, and Caucasian roads required special protection. The situation became even worse with troops moved to the World War front, then the beginning of the revolution and weakening of the central and local government. Finally, the Civil War, innumerable fronts, destruction of railways, general devastation, and blood feud - all this produced unprecedented chaos in the area. Robbery as an occupation that enjoyed respect in the Caucasus now became a usual trade, much more perfect in its methods and "instruments," machineguns included. All 'peoples' robbed all travelers on all roads - without discrimination of origin, faith, and political convictions. The same aspiration sometimes loomed behind the outer appearance of a religious or national movement. Roads in the area became accessible only for armed units, communications were down, and life became isolated in a vicious circle of fear, suspicion, and malice (27)."

The arrogance of force among North Ossetian leaders in the face of provoking Ingush aspirations was especially demonstrated by representatives of local law enforcement and security agencies that had already undergone "training" in the conflict between South Ossetia and Georgia and had enough muscle and arms for operations within a district. North Ossetia grew noticeably militarized taking part in activities aimed at resolving the conflict in South Ossetia; close contacts were established with federal law enforcement and security agencies; local leaders' representative residences became usual places for Russian leadership members to put up when they visited the region. The hospitality environment made critical estimate of the situation somewhat difficult on the part of Center representatives with regard to the Ingush problem. Peace-making difficulties in Tskhinvali and the problem of refugees from Georgia moved the increasing trouble with the Ingush part of the population in the republic to the background. Serious signals were received as far back as in the spring of 1992, though. Thus, five Ingush members of North Ossetia's Supreme Soviet (R. Akhilgov, R. Dalakov, Ya. Patiev, B. Sampiev, B. Khamatkhanov) sent a letter to the VI Congress of People's Deputies, Boris Yeltsin, and Ruslan Khasbulatov, which said: "Especially outrageous is the conduct of the Ossetian generals taking every chance of saber-rattling. Every single day threats to Ingush people sound on television, and those Ingush people that live in North Ossetia have been called hostages with a martinet's bluntness (28)."

Our last visit to the republic and a meeting on October 10 with the expanded Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the North Ossetian SSR confirmed the extremely negative attitude of this meeting to any compromise policy with respect to the Ingush minority: those citizens were unconditionally viewed solely as a part of an "aggressive people" aspiring to Ossetian territory. Later the same day, having visited Nazran, I brought three Ingush activists - Ibrahim Kostoev (a member of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation), Salem Akhilgov (State Nationalities Policy Committee), and Shamsudin Mogushkov (chairman of the Nazran District Soviet) - to Galazov's villa and left them to dine with republican leaders. No serious conversation came about, more so that Akhsarbek Galazov demonstratively left the meeting. This politician needed no talks and diplomacy. There is a curious document - Galazov's notes on a meeting agenda of the republican Supreme Soviet that enable a conclusion he had planned a provocation by force as far back as in February 1992.

The violence stage

The chronicle of escalation of violence in the Ossetian-Ingush conflict is known well enough. An armored personnel carrier of the special police force of the Internal Affairs Ministry, North Ossetian SSR, ran over an Ingush schoolgirl in Sholki, Prigorodnyi district, on October 20, which caused resentment of Sholki residents. A North Ossetian internal affairs officer shot dead two Ingush people in Yuzhnyi, Prigorodnyi district, on the night of October 21. A conflict between Yuzhnyi residents and North Ossetian internal affairs officers occurred on the same day, which resulted in seven more people wounded and killed on both sides. No charge was even brought against either the driver, or the police officer. Meanwhile, the killed police officers were buried with honors, and the funeral was attended by Galazov and government members.

Ingush people held a meeting in Yuzhnyi on October 24, which elected interim district administration alongside the existing government. A joint meeting of three district soviets in Nazran on the same day decided to block entries and exits in Ingush villages in the Prigorodnyi district, organize volunteers in self-defense units, and subordinate them to headquarters that consisted of district executive committee chiefs. As Ms. Dementieva remarked, "reckless emotions or, maybe, also the ambition of some authoritative Ingush figures were driving them into the skillfully arranged trap (29)." The following days to October 30 saw local clashes in settlements of Ingush people's compact residence, which developed into large-scale armed conflicts in Prigorodnyi district villages on October 31.

On the Ingush side, military action involved groups of young men with small arms, and there is no information that those raids were organized from a single center under the guidance of trained commanders. This was really a raid, rather provoked than prepared beforehand. "Ingush guys armed with submachine guns and hand grenades started approaching Ossetian armored personnel carriers on the October 30 morning. Russian personnel carriers blocked their advance with fire. In doing so, two Ingush men were killed and four wounded. The Ingush men seized nine personnel carriers in the combat, disarmed their crews, and occupied Ossetian posts from where Ingush settlements were daily fired" (from Bembulat Bogatyriov's speech at the meeting of Russia's Supreme Soviet on November 6, 1992).

On October 31, Vladikavkaz was visited by Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Georgii Khizha, State Emergencies Committee Chairman Sergei Shoigu, his deputy General Filatov, and Internal Affairs Troops Commander General Savvin. Georgii Khizha departed from Moscow together with North Ossetia's Prime Minister Sergei Khetagurov, and they all stayed at the government residence. Sure enough, the federal government representatives heard a positive version that the Ingush party had carried out planned aggression against North Ossetia with a view to annex the Prigorodnyi district. The situation in the republican capital was already incandesced. Residents that gathered in the square before the Supreme Soviet, chiefly young Ossetians, demanded giving arms, while local television was constantly broadcasting Galazov's address about the "Ingush aggression." Sergei Khetagurov demanded that the Russian government representatives sanction giving out at least 15,000 submachine guns and ammunition to the population. Otherwise, he refused to guarantee that people would not seize arms from Russian Army units quartered in Vladikavkaz. To affect the army, Ossetians took hostage the wife and daughter of General Skobelev, Chief of Staff of the Army Corps.

Perhaps, this was Georgii Khizha's fatal error - to authorize giving out 642 small arms to civilians: submachine guns, machineguns, grenade-launchers, and ammunition; he actually sanctioned barbarian murders and arsons thereby. He finalized this decision with Egor Gaidar and Pavel Grachiov, according to some information. The Ossetian party received armored vehicles in addition to the small arms and ammunition: 57 T-72 heavy tanks were allocated to the North Ossetian Internal Affairs Ministry. From that time on, the Center explicitly sided with one of the parties to the conflict and actually sanctioned and ensured material conditions for military action and mass violence in respect of Ingush civilians. It was at this critical moment when the fatal flaw was manifested in post-communist policies and their inherited leader-cult mentality which essentially consisted in government's neglecting their main mission - security and guaranteed life of the citizens they rule.

Unfortunately, a public address by the president also inspired a feeling of impunity: "Your actions are protected and guaranteed by the law and confirmed by the people... Russia's honor and dignity, its security and territorial integrity must be ensured." So the task for the government and army in an internal armed conflict is not viewed as security of citizens, but Russia's security! "However, if one assumes the president did not mean war against civilians, but military action against another state's army, everything falls into place. The only army in the North Caucasus that did not obey the Supreme Commander-in-Chief Boris Yeltsin was the Chechen army," Ms. Dementieva writes. Apparently, Kremlin politicians' plans included this scenario, after all. Nothing else can explain their so inadequate reaction and so defiant line to support Vladikavkaz in its ethnic purge plans. "After all, it is impossible that this emotional message (this is about Russia's 'honor and dignity' and its 'security and territorial integrity' - V.T.) refers to the conflict between residents of the two small Russian republics (30)."

It is known for sure that Russia's Security Council held a meeting on the very eve of the conflict, after which Security Council Secretary Skokov sent out to television and the press and excerpt from a secret decision which actually imposed censorship on media coverage of the conflict and directly linked the conflict with Chechnya. Russia's media were prescribed avoidance of "reports provoking escalation of the armed conflict, first of all on the part of the leadership of Chechnya as an illegal formation on the territory of the Chechen-Ingush SSR." Georgii Khizha as chairman of the interdepartmental commission on security problems in the North Caucasus was not able to attend this meeting which is usually chaired by the president. This explains his statements on arrival to Vladikavkaz that the Chechnya problem "must have a solution," "it must be resolved."

Moved to the area of conflicts, major army units took no action in the first stage of the overt conflict, and they did not carry out their key mission - separating the parties to the conflict; instead, they closed the border between Ingushetia and North Ossetia. Moreover, the Pskov airborne division made an obscure march through Ingushetia towards Chechnya, with T-72 heavy tanks and other armored vehicles. It was stopped after Dudaev declared a state of emergency in Chechnya. Russia's acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar arrived in the conflict area on November 11 and signed an agreement on withdrawal of troops with representatives of Ingushetia and Chechnya. There is no knowing as yet, either, why the three "militarized" ministers - Grachiov, Barannikov, and Yerin - had visited the conflict area on the eve of large-scale troop redeployments. If the version remains quite likely about Moscow's intentions to solve the problem of rebellious Chechnya in conditions of the conflict, a lot in the interpretation and assessment of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict should look differently, like in general in the nature and mechanisms of post-Soviet policies in Russia. In this light, there is a need for a deeper analysis of the issue of motives and morals in the political process in which there are two planes - declarative and secretively instructive.

More and more, I tend to the opinion that the final tragic stage of the conflict became possible in conditions when Russia's top leadership exchanged a pardon for an ethnic purge for a chance to use the situation to regain control over Chechnya. Prevention of victims and destructions and the separation of the parties to the conflict were not the key motive in the actions of federal representatives. Georgii Khizha openly called generals to get rid of the "Tbilisi syndrome," and he did not try to hide his pro-Ossetian position. The Pskov airborne division was more than enough to intercept civil violence and separate Ingush people and Ossetians. Instead, the Prigorodnyi district came under full control of Ossetian formations, including units from South Ossetia. On the whole, established during the deployment of the multilateral contingent in the area of the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia, close contacts between the Russian military and the leaderships of North and South Ossetia played a negative role in the settlement of the situation in the Prigorodnyi district. Instead of protecting civilians from violence within one state or even one republic, the military fully adopted the local leadership's attitude. Sergei Khetagurov in a speech on North Ossetian television quite frankly shared information that "we presently have commanders here with whom we worked in South Ossetia, and a headquarters meeting has just been over which adopted a plan of action, and together we will clear North Ossetia's territory of the aggressor."

It was General Filatov, Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Emergencies Committee, who said on arrival to Vladikavkaz on local television: "Russia has not forgotten its faithful Ossetian sons that have served it loyally for years. Today, paratroopers in cooperation with internal affairs troops of Russia and North Ossetia will launch military action... This pressure on the aggressor will be growing every hour." According to Ms. Dementieva, Filatov naively explained he had mainly "followed the text Galazov had written for me (31)." Russian government representatives were not able and most likely not willing to establish urgent talks in that complex situation and to take resolute measures to protect civilians. Covered by regular troops, an action was carried out on November 2 against Ingush settlements protected by their residents. Murders, hostage-taking, arsons, looting, and banishment of Ingush people from the district and Vladikavkaz were underway for a few days. The state of emergency declared in a presidential decree on November 2 actually in no way restricted the North Ossetian government's activities, which resulted in the banishment of most Ingush citizens from the republic.

According to figures of the joint investigation group, more than 8,000 people suffered because of the conflict, including 583 killed (Ingush - 407, Ossetian - 105, military - 17) and 650 wounded. About 3,000 living houses were destroyed or damaged, mostly in the Prigorodnyi district. Total economic damage exceeded 50 billion rubles. Both parties to the conflict used cruel forms of treatment of the enemy: they took and killed hostages, raped women, robbed, set fire to and exploded houses. Talking to me in December 1992, Sergei Khetagurov told me about some details how Ossetians "mastered" a simple method to destroy living houses: "One turns on the gas heating, shots the pipe through, and sets fire, and... there's no more house."

Exceptionally cruel forms of ethnic violence manifested in this and other conflicts in the former Soviet republics require special analysis and explanation. While in considering the Osh conflict in Kyrgyzstan we mostly draw attention to elements of social paranoia and the conduct of poorly modernized rural young men, violence in the Ossetian-Ingush conflict was organized and executed with the active participation of the elite and organized structures. How can absence of immunity from violence among the top ruling elite be explained? Especially when violence is committed on an ethnic basis to protect "their own" people. To some extent, this can be interpreted as the highest form of demonstration of loyalty to one's group to which leaders can resort whose ethnicity can be doubted. The case with Khetagurov who showed a particularly tough line can be explained as a sort of compensation for his insufficient "Ossetianness" (poor command of the language, marriage to a non-Ossetian, lengthy residence in Moscow, and not "purely Ossetian" origin, if linked with the famous clan of Kosta Khetagurov).

Such demonstration is an essential element for a leader to be recognized as "their own" by group members, i.e. it is a sort of criminal solidarity. "Half-breeds" in conflicts very often demonstrate the highest degree of involvement and enthusiasm because an ethnically split society does not tolerate non-engaged outsiders. Having proved his loyalty to the group, the leader can aspire to the most senior seats in the hierarchy of power. At least, Sergei Khetagurov was quite a success in the first presidential election in North Ossetia in January 1994, seriously competing with Akhsarbek Galazov.

There was another important condition for massive psychological preparation to commit acts of group violence: a lengthy situation of semi-martial law in the republic, militarization of the population, and large-scale anti-Ingush propaganda making an enemy of a part of the republican population that actually turned out to be hostages to the absolute power of local government. Violence against Ingush people became a sort of affirmation of the Ossetians' "heroism," their group consolidation, and "pride" after a cruel shock because of the experienced similar violence on the part of the Georgians in respect of members of their group in South Ossetia.

Lessons from the conflict in North Ossetia

Although war in Chechnya overshadowed developments in North Ossetia, the first violent conflict in contemporary Russia remains an unresolved humanitarian and political problem. Politicians and analysts should interpret lessons from the Ossetian-Ingush conflict, and they should not lose will to settle it. A series of estimates and proposals seem to me the most important. This was an ethnic conflict in its most pronounced form, as both parties to the conflict were mobilized on the basis of their ethnicity, and violence was distinctly selective - Ossetians killed Ingush people, and Ingush people killed Ossetians. Active participation in the conflict of the Russian armed forces, as well as the federal and republican authorities on the whole, cannot alter this estimate.

The republican leadership fully took up positions of "national interests of the Ossetians" and preferred blood solidarity with another state's citizens to protection of the interests and security of republican residents that made the ethnic minority. Moreover, it also performed as the organizer of the forcible banishment of a part of citizens from the territory where they lived instead of making persistent efforts to improve government and neutralize provocative activities of Ingush radicals among residents of the Prigorodnyi district. Instead of positive measures to draw Ingush people into the republic's socio-political life and step up their loyalty and socio-cultural satisfaction, the line chosen was to reject and even maltreat those who had experienced the trauma of deportation, still remembered by the living generations, and fell an easy victim to irresponsible propagandists of "their own" state and "fair" borders.

The federal government did not provide timely assistance in the form of a constructive pacification program, and it was not able to ensure law and order in the ethnic tension area. At the moment of escalation of the conflict, the Center shared the primitive version of "Ingush aggression," and its representatives rashly gave out automatics and other arms to Ossetian civilians instead of separating the parties and intercepting the inter-community violence; meanwhile, they decided to use the power of the Russian army that went through Ingush settlements in North Ossetia and a part of Ingushetia to take an even greater risk of reaching Chechnya with armored vehicles. Nevertheless, the conflict belongs to the category of ethnic conflicts, although this is far from making a conclusion possible that there is innate intolerance of each other between the two peoples, or that their combined residence in one republic or good neighborhood between them are impossible.

The conflict revealed the presence in a series of Russian regions of a sort of explosive mixture of intellectuals and politicians intoxicated by ethnic nationalism and some insufficiently well-off young men ready, under the banner of "national interests" or "state sovereignty," to give up civil obedience and wage their own war on "enemies" and at gunpoint lay hands on others' lands, houses, or flats. If government had not admitted the "Kalashnikov stalls" in the Nazran marketplace and unconstitutional militarized formations in North Ossetia, violence on such a scale would have been impossible, in spite of the paranoia of the Ingush "national leaders" that time, seeking to change flags and chiefs in the Prigorodnyi district, and in spite of the intolerance of the Ingush cultivated in North Ossetia.

The conflict situations in South Ossetia and Chechnya detonated the armed conflict in the Prigorodnyi district. Chechnya's "national revolution" gave up the three incomplete and indigent districts of the former Chechen-Ingush ASSR for the Ingush "to go their own path of sufferings and fight for their own state," as Dudaev said, which urged the latter to territorial adventurism, especially after the establishment of the separate Ingush Republic in the summer of 1992. In turn, South Ossetian migrants and warriors, as Alan Chochiev, one of their ideologues, said, got a chance "for the first time in history to set out in a united front with North Ossetia fighting foreign aggression," which completely destroyed peaceful, if complicated, coexistence of the two ethnic communities in North Ossetia.

What is to be done after the tragic events? First and foremost, the banished Ingush people should be allowed to come back to their native parts, including their flats in Vladikavkaz, make peace with their former neighbors and colleagues, and become full and loyal citizens of North Ossetia. This is the most difficult, but also the most necessary thing. Otherwise, remembrance of the homeland and rather happy life will nourish hatred among those banished and deprived for decades. No internal borders between the two republics can guarantee peace.

North Ossetia's leadership and public must take this step, and they can realistically only after this propose peace-making initiatives for the entire region. Former residents of the Prigorodnyi district and Vladikavkaz present no threat to peace in the republic. Involved in the economy and public life, including local and republican government, they will only be of use, including economically, which North Ossetia needs most. Sufficiently powerful propaganda, the leadership's authority, and a strong intelligentsia, changing attitudes to the Ingush, can overcome the cultivated stereotype of incompatibility, including at the level of masses. If it is impossible to give back occupied flats, one can provide compensations and assistance in settlement. North Ossetian intellectuals that once succumbed to reckless ethnic nationalism will not be able to live on with this guilt, so they should become the initiators of pacification and dialogue.

Neighboring Ingushetia, in spite of the destructive effect of war in Chechnya, seems to have been able to prove its adequacy as a republic even within its present-day borders. Relieved from the burden of at least a part of refugees from North Ossetia, this republic would have enough to handle to lay the grounds for the economy and social life.

Within one state, the territory issue in the current situation should be lifted, and future generations of politicians will settle it as they will see fit to arrange. Refugees' return will make it possible to establish normal relations between the two republics, including humanitarian ties between the two Ingush communities separated by the quite relative border. In a normal economic and political situation, it is not so important to ordinary citizens what flag flutters above the local administration, but it is important that they own houses and land plots, and there are conditions to preserve their culture. Responsible and competent government can ensure this all for Ingush people not only in Ingushetia, but also in North Ossetia.

The conflict should be freed from the expensive and actually inadequate federal administration in this area; it should be replaced by an inter-republican socio-political structure that could be headed by the presidents of North Ossetia and Ingushetia. The federal government and the nation as a whole pay a high price without that, massively subsidizing both republics at Russian taxpayers' expense, so they have the right to demand the soonest reconciliation and elimination of the most explosive results of the conflict. For the same reason, not only because of their common responsibility, the federal and republican authorities should also resolutely punish those who will again try to resort to violence. Russia can no longer afford new battlefields, even if this is group "sorting out" between villages or young men.


(1) Conflicts that I refer to as large-scale comprise territories beyond single settlements, involve organized or semi-organized militarized formations, and result in numerous victims, mass displacements, and great economic damage. In the former Soviet republics, such conflicts occurred in Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and, maybe, the Osh region, Kyrgyzstan, although the last one should more likely be referred to as an "ethnic riot."

(2) See, e.g.: John W. Barton, Resolving Deep-Rooted Conflict. A Handbook. Lanham, University Press of America. 1987.

(3) Unfortunately, two years after the developments in the Prigorodnyi district, research literature has not provided an analysis of this conflict as yet. There are a number of reports among journalistic works, and Irina Dementieva's essay in Izvestia newspaper (N14-18, January 25-29, 1994) can be marked as an example of deep analysis.

(4) Manning Nash, The Cauldron of Ethnicity in the Modern World. Chicago, 1990. P. 127.

(5) For discussion of the possibility to apply the group behavior logic theory to problems of Soviet nationalities, see: Journal of Soviet Nationalities, Summer 1990. Vol. 1. N. 2.

(6) See the propagandist brochure by the Ingush authors T.Kh. Mutaliev, Kh.A. Fargiev, A.A. Pliev, Thorny Path of a People. Moscow, 1992. P. 51.

(7) Ibid. P. 55.

(8) Nezavisimaia Gazeta, January 5, 1993.

(9) See, e.g.: Alexander Nekrich, The Punished Peoples. New York, 1978; A. Avtorkhanov, The Kremlin's Empire. Minsk-Moscow, 1991; So It Was: Ethnic Repressions in the USSR in 1919-52. Complied and edited by S. Alieva. Moscow, 1993.

(10) See: Inventing Tradition and Sri-Lanka.

(11) See: N.G. Volkova, Ethnic Structure of the North Caucasus Population in the XVIII to early XX Century. Moscow, 1974.

(12) Izvestia, January 26, 1921.

(13) TsGAOR (October Revolution Central State Archive), stock 5677, list. 4, doc. 360, p. 22.

(14) M.N. Guboglo, Development of the Ethnic and Demographic Situation in the Capitals of Autonomous Republics in 1959-89 (based on USSR census files). Studies in applied and emergency ethnology. File N33. Moscow: Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences. 1992.

(15) Author's archive.

(16) See: N.G. Volkova, opus cit.

(17) T.Kh. Mutaliev, Kh.A. Fargiev, A.A. Pliev, opus cit. P. 13.

(18) Author's archive.

(19) Sultan Khamichev, Where Is Fate Carrying Us? // Yedinstvo, N7, September 1992.

(20) Author's archive.

(21) Ibid.

(22) Ibid.

(23) Ibid.

(24) Ibid.

(25) Ibid.

(26) Izvestia, January 25, 1994.

(27) General Anton I. Denikin, Essays on Russian Trouble. Vol. 4 // Voprosy Istorii, N11-12, 1993, P. 105.

(28) Izvestia, January 25, 1994.

(29) Ibid.

(30) Ibid.

(31) Ibid.

Author: V. A. Tishkov, doctor of sciences in history, director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences;

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