Caucasian Early Warning Network: Region Ingushetia (internally displaced)

Caucasus region policy brief

FEWER is supporting pilot projects in the Caucasus and Central Africa, managed by two regional non-governmental organisations (Africa Peace Forum and Russian Academy of Sciences). The projects involve a range of different ngos throughout these regions. They are monitoring key indicators and drawing on local open information sources and expertise regarding the conflict and peace dynamics of their countries and region as a whole. Information and analyses drawn from international news-wire sources (from a project led by the University of Maryland) are systematically incorporated into their reports. This degree of corroboration helps ensure objectivity and analytical rigour.

This report was commissioned by FEWER. It may contain view-points that do not coincide with those of fewer as a whole. For a list of publications and additional information on fewer activities and projects, please visit our web-site at

The Current Situation

The current crisis in Chechnya has lead to the emergence of approximately 100,000 internally displaced. Unlike Daghestan, the Ingush republic is accepting all refugees from Chechnya. The screening procedures for the refugees are symbolic and unreliable, and may lead to the penetration of extremist elements in Ingushetia. The Ingushetian president, Ruslan Aushev, has repeatedly stated that the situation in the region may be regarded as a humanitarian disaster.

Apart from the refugees from Chechnya, over 35,000 Ingush people from the Prigorodny region of the North Ossetia still remain in the republic. The first cases of tensions and sporadic clashes between the Chechen and Ingush youth were reported by local observers on 10 October 1999. Less than 30,000 of IDPs have so far been registered by the Federal migration service.

The majority of the IDPs are likely to face malnutrition and possibly infectious diseases due to the lack of food, water and medical supplies.

External Factors

i. The possible stagnation of the conflict in Chechnya and the division of the Chechen republic with a widened security zone in the north and the isolated south, will continue to cause flows of internally displaced seeking refuge primarily in Ingushetia and Daghestan. Existing anti-Caucasian attitudes in the predominantly Russian neighbouring regions will not allow authorities to accommodate IDPs on a dispersed basis and even if 50-60,000 people return to the north of Chechnya in the near future, a considerable amount of people will continue to put pressure on the Ingush society already suffering from high unemployment, land scarcity and post-conflict traumas.

ii. The use of military might by the Russian federal government is restricted to the isolated groups of militants at present, but any mistakes in aerial bombardments or operations in the Chechen settlements will trigger the revival of strong anti-Russian sentiments that may spread across republics. These sentiments may also appear in Ingushetia. The Russian population may then become alienated from political life and ethnic tensions could lead to rapid internal destabilisation.

iii. Contradictory policy directions on the part of the Aushev government, that requires external resources to cope with the critical situation, and the Russian federal actors (e.g. vice PM Matvienko) who are interested in resolving the IDPs problem without foreign aid, create confusion and distrust to the authorities in general on the part of the populations affected by crisis. Without a coherent strategy IDPs and local populations in dire straits might attempt to resolve the most urgent problems by unlawful methods (as in Daghestan where some local communities pressurised wealthy inhabitants to purchase weapons for independent volunteer corps).

Internal Factors

i. Like in Chechnya, the Ingush society is strongly influenced by the clan (teip) traditions that involve tribalism and nepotism as important values and normative types of behaviour. The re-distribution of aid and resources is likely to be affected by these deeply rooted societal relations. Any clash over vital resources, non-existent so far in this relatively stable and consolidated republic rich with timber and minerals, may lead to the polarisation of society, the formation of teip based regional pressure groups and active opposition to the present pro-Russian authorities.

ii. Clashes between the Ingush and Chechen militants or extremists may lead to the re-emergence of the numerous vendettas, that is publicly referred to in the local press as the last remaining way to restore justice for the relatives of the victims of crime. The law enforcement bodies are too under-resourced to effectively fight crime. One of the main priorities of the Aushev government is to resolve the problem of the Ingush IDPs from the Prigorodny region. The influx of the IDPs from Chechnya is likely to halt the resolution of this problem. Concerns are voiced in other republics of the North Caucasus that the Aushev government consciously exaggerates the scale of the humanitarian disaster, in order to attract more external resources.

iii. Some observers report, however, that the Aushev government's policy is focused on coping with the challenges and strategic threats in the region as a whole. President Aushev has repeatedly warned about the danger of the crisis escalation connected with the application of military instruments. His statements in the Russian Council of Federation (parliament's upper chamber) as well as his strategy of building the regional ties indicate that the creation of the local and regional security system based on Vainakh traditions is currently underway in the republic.

Background and context

The Republic of Ingushetia is located in the northern part of the Caucasian Mountain range and shares borders with Georgia, the Chechen republic and the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania. It has a population of 317.1 thousand people (as of 01/01/99).

Under the Russian empire, the territory populated by the Ingush was part of the Tersk oblast with the centre in Vladikavkaz. After the soviet rule was established in the North Caucasus a Gorskaya autonomous soviet socialist republic, comprising the Chechen and Nazaran regions was created. Chechen autonomous region was established as a separate administrative unit in November 1922. In July 1924 the Ingush autonomous region was set up. In 1934 the two regions were united in a Chechen-Ingush autonomous oblast, transformed into republic in December 1936. In 1944 the Chechen-Ingush republic was abolished. Chechen and Ingush people were deported to the Central Asia. The total number of the forcibly resettled Ingush people was 83,518. In 1956 the Chechen-Ingush republic was restored and the deported people were allowed to return to the original place of residence. The administrative borders, however, were changed. The Prigorodny region became part of the North Ossetia.

In October/November 1992, ongoing territorial disputes (over the Prigorodny region including the city of Ordzhinikidze(Vladikavkaz) culminated in a brief but extremely violent conflict between the Ossetians and the minority Ingush in Northern Ossetia. Nearly 600 people died, 900 were wounded and over 40,000 were displaced.=B2 A state of emergency was declared and Federal troops deployed. Since then, the federal government and both parties have made attempts to seek a negotiated peace. But this framework has been undermined by domestic factors and rising nationalism. The situation remains unstable.

Entrenched hostility and the inflexibility of both positions has made mediation by the federal government difficult. The positions of both parties have been antagonistic and categorical. Attempts to return displaced Ingush to the disputed territory have been contested and delayed. Antagonistic postures of the nationalist movements and the continued presence of small arms in the region function to erode stability. Rising violence and terrorism coupled with a decline in the successful repatriation of displaced Ingush signal the instability inherent to the region.

Key options for response

Recommendations are targeted to the Ingush government, Russian federal government and international humanitarian organisations:

In the short-term:

i. Humanitarian relief assistance should be provided to the internally displaced people from Chechnya arriving in Ingushetia, Daghestan and Georgia. There were approximately 110-120 thousand of internally displaced in Ingushetia as of 5 October 1999. It is estimated that more than 400 thousand people may flee Chechnya as the federal troops continue the operation on widening the security zone. In spite of the screening procedures introduced by the police, the border with Ingushetia remains transparent for the extremist elements that may become involved in other conflicts in the region, e.g. in Karachay-Cherkess. It is of critical importance, therefore, to uphold security co-operation between the CIS countries as well as the international co-operation in this sphere, considering the possible aggravation of crisis. Unless the humanitarian assistance is urgently provided, the women, children and the elderly among the internally displaced will suffer from malnutrition and disease. It is necessary to organise efficient information exchange between the international humanitarian organisations and the federal agencies. Local NGOs must be commissioned to do the independent fact-finding missions and in co-operation with experts at the local, regional/federal and international levels, assess the likely time-frame and the scale of the emerging humanitarian disaster.

ii. International humanitarian organisations should elaborate a programme of action to tackle the structural conflict-generating factors and map out measures on strengthening the early warning and response system in the North Caucasus, based on the co-operation between the local and regional NGOs, experts, civil society leaders and the international NGOs capable of transferring expertise to the local actors.

iii. The use of military might by the Russian federal troops should be restrained to targeted measures on disarming or destroying the terrorist groups and extremists involved in armed resistance. It is critical that the international community supports Russian federal and local authorities in their efforts to restore the constitutional order in the Chechen republic with the minimal use of force. It is important to ensure that no discriminatory measures against Chechens are implemented and that the civil society in Chechnya does not suffer from the operations against the criminal groups and terrorists. An awareness-raising campaign on inter-ethnic tolerance and cultural diversity should also be launched to counteract the growing xenophobia.

In the longer-term:

i. A comprehensive socio-economic programme in the region should be elaborated and implemented with the assistance of the international humanitarian organisations to: (a) introduce buy-back schemes for weapons, create community jobs and develop the viable micro-enterprise, trade, and production in the region; (b) study the preconditions for the revival of the internal Russian tourism industry in the region as the main source of the non-disputed income and the revival of oil extraction, refining and transportation in a longer-term perspective; (c) develop civil society, inter-communal and inter-ethnic dialogue, and supporting the non-governmental organisations engaged in peacemaking, education for peace and alleviating post-war traumas.

ii. Crime fighting efforts and struggle with corruption, including the proper management of aid, should be assisted and supported. This component should become an integral part of the institution-building process after the crisis is resolved. It will be one of the crucial prerequisites to increasing the trust in government structures on the part of the local populations. The Russian government should consider the possibility of creating a permanent consultation framework with the overall objective of utilising the external expertise and available financial resources, particularly at the international level. This consultation framework will help to identify mechanisms and instruments for rapid response to humanitarian crisis and potential conflict situations in the Caucasus. A list of international non-governmental organisations that can become part of such a consultation framework should be drawn up and negotiations initiated as part of the rapid response to the possible new crisis in the North Caucasus.

New trends and Possible Scenarios

Scenario 1: Settlement of the crisis in Chechnya by targeted application of military instruments and the return of IDP

The federal troops may establish the full control over the territory of Chechnya ousting Maskhadov from the position of power and disarming or destroying the extremists' strongholds. However, the resistance may continue in the form of the fluctuating guerrilla war with the potential of spreading onto the neighbouring territories. IDPs will return to the northern part of Chechnya, and the situation in the south of the republic may continue to worsen.

Scenario 2: Escalation of the crisis in Chechnya into a large scale war and the emergence of approximately 300,000 of IDPs

If the Maskhadov government continues to mobilise the population around the idea of the new independence war allying with the Islamic opposition and the warlords, the Russian federal authorities may use the full firepower in the southern part of Chechnya. This will lead to the complete destruction of the infrastructure, massive casualties and a large scale humanitarian disaster. The IDPs and refugee flows will be directed primarily to Ingushetia and Daghestan, putting further pressure on the local societies and creating a serious threat to stability.

Scenario 3: Further polarisation of society in Ingushetia and the growth of authoritarian elements in local governance

In an attempt to consolidate the Ingush society facing the threat of destabilisation and polarisation due to internal and external pressures, president Aushev may choose to further strengthen the bottom-up power hierarchy in the republic. A state of emergency in Ingushetia may be declared and the activities of the opposition suspended or banned. This process may be coupled with the renewed focus on the traditional Vainakh common law, self-governance institutions and norms characteristic to the clan-based society. This may lead to the rapid increase in the out-migration of Russians.