November 23, 2015

Karachaevo-Circassian Clans Reportedly Unite Against Governor’s Reappointment


Rashid Temrezov, governor of Karachaevo-Cherkessia

Valery Dzutsati, November 18, 2015 

The first term of the governor of  Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Rashid Temrezov, will end in 2016, and experts say there public’s clans have been gearin gup to forestall his reappointment by the Kremlin. WhileTemrezov has been quite successful in maintaining good relations with the federal authorities and creating a good image for the republic in the Russian media, some experts say the situation inside there public has been quite tense. Economi cand political challenges have gradually mounted in there public. Soonafter his appointment as governor, Temrezov battled the mayor of the city of Karachaevsk, SoltanSemyonov, but the two sides eventually reached a settlement agreement. It reportedly took Temrezov much effort to replace the mayor of there public’s capital Cherkessk, Pyotr Korotchenko, with his friend Ruslan Tambiev (Onkavkaz.com, November 8). 

Although Karachaevo-Cherkessia rarely makes headlines in Russia in connection to in surgency-related violence, the level of political violence in there public is quite high. On October 16, a deputy in the Karachaevsk city council, Murat Batchaev (a.k.a. “Batchai” in thecriminalworld), assassinated the head of the administration of the village of Uchkulan, Kaplan Tebuev (Kavkazskaya Politika, October 17). In July 2014, the brother of Karachaevo-Cherkessia’s minister of culture, Psabyda Yevgamukov, killed a republican parliamentary deputy, Muhamed Kunizhev. Overall, six deputies of there publican parliament were killed between 2005 and 2014 (Politika09.com, July 16, 2014). Such a murder rate is comparable only to that of Dagestan in the North Caucasus, and is attributed to the constantbattle between clansoverres our cesandin fluence. 

The influence of clans in Karachaevo-Cherkessia is an important component of the regional politics. One of the republic’s previous leaders, Boris Ebzeyev, reportedly tried to ignore the clansand challenge their influence. That did not end well, as he was ousted in 2011, priorto the end of his first term. Moscow had dispatched Ebzeyev to rule Karachaevo-Cherkessia because he was a scholar of constitutional law and seen as reliable since he had spent most of his life and career in Russia proper. However, soonafter his appointment, Ebzeyev’s inability to deal with real world political issues led to his clash with the regional elites. When Rashid Temrezov replaced Ebzeyev in 2011, he was not particularly known in the republic. Temrezov’s rise was attributed to that fact that he was close to the son-in-law of former Karachaevo-Cherkessian president Mustafa Batdyev. However, after Temrezov came to power, he gradually distanced himself from his patrons and antagonized both the republic’s Karachay and the Circassian (a.k.a. Cherkess) elites (Onkavkaz.com, November 8). 

Karachaevo-Cherkessia is the second most ethnically diverse republic in the North Caucasus after Dagestan. Turkic-speaking Karachays are the single largest ethnic group in the republic, comprising about 41 percent of the population, while ethnic Russians make up 32 percent and Circassians (Cherkess) comprise 12 percent of the republican population. Abazins, who are related to both the Circassians and the Abkhaz, make up another 8 percent of the population. There is also another Turkic-speaking ethnic group in the republic, the Nogais, who comprise only 3 percent of the total population. This diversity, combined with the absence of stable democraticin stitutions, makes ethnic mobilization in the republic nearly inevitable. Infact, local activists in Karachaevo-Cherkessia understand the nature of the problem quite well. The chairman of the Union of Karachay Youth, Vladimir Bijiev, told the Politika08.ru website: “The peoples that live in Karachaevo-Cherkessia do not like many things in the republic, but there is no point in posing questions to the officials, which is why people then go to their ethnic organizations.” Moreover, some regional scholars regard the ethnic organizations in the republic as actual political parties that signal their preferences to the authorities through various publicactions (Politika09.com, November 10). 

During the previous spikes in political tensions in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, ethnic groups often fought to attain the dominant position in the republic. Traditionally, the main conflict has been between the Karachays and the Circassians. However, the political conflict in Karachaevo-Cherkessia has become much more complex in recent years. Now, many Karachay activists criticize the republican government eventhough it is under Karachay control. It appears that the prominent Circassian clans—the Derev clan and the Arashukov clan—along with the clan of the previous republican president, Mustafa Badtyev, have United again to try to derail Temrezov’sreappointment in 2016, when his first term as governor runs out (Onkavkaz.com, November 8). Given their previous success in replacing Boris Ebzeyev and the worsening economic situation in the republic, they have high chances for success. 

Interestingly, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, with its multiple ethnic groups, has features of a quasi-democratic polity, despite Moscow’s restrictions on directelections of the governor. In 2013, RashidTemrezov supported the idea of appointing the republic’s governor rather than direct elections (RIA Novosti, April 9, 2013), but it appears that the republic’s population—or, at least, its in fluential clans—may oust him from the Office even in the absence of elections.


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