Protest mobilization of Kumyks in Dagestan:
from the land question to the constitutional self-government
Cand. Sci. (Polit.), Senior Research Fellow, Regional Centre for Ethnopolitical Researches, Dagestan Federal Research Center RAS, Makhachkala, Russia Khalid_84@mail.ru
The study analyzes the mobilization tendencies amongst the Kumyk population in Dagestan during the first half of 2017 as a result of land reforms that legalize previously illegal villages formed during resettlements from the mountain highlands to the fertile lowlands, which the Kumyk population considers historically their property. The challenge in regulating the land conflicts stems from the ability of each side to mobilize their co-ethnics, resulting in escalation of the conflict. This work shows that ethnic activists increasingly appealing to the norms of sharia law as an alternative to address the land conflicts, operating under a context in which Russian laws are overwhelmingly ignored. It demonstrates that activists increasingly utilize both Russian legal processes and Islamic norms, establishing agreements that allow rely on religious authorities and community elders. The inability to regulate the land conflicts has served as a reason for the consolidation of the Kumyk activists as representatives of the Kumyk ethnicity. This issue has created socio-political risks that can exacerbate ethnic tensions, specifically between Kumyk and Avars ethnicities in Dagestan. Utilizing content analysis of popular Kumyk social networks and traditional media and internet resources, this research describes the modern protest discourse amidst informal Kumyk leaders in Dagestan where particular attention is paid to the political status of the Kumyk population. Also highlighted in this work is the crisis of trust to government institutions as evident in the ineffectiveness of attempts at dialogue between informal Kumyk leaders and government officials.
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