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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Balkars Vote to Form Republic

Leaders of the Balkar minority in the north Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria voted to split away and form their own sovereign Republic of Balkaria at a congress Sunday, Itar-Tass reported.

The congress called on President Boris Yeltsin to introduce Russian rule in the territory until the Balkars could form their own government structures. They also announced the suspension of the laws of Kabardino-Balkaria and called for a new agreement to be signed with Moscow.

But the president of Kabardino-Balkaria, Valery Kokov, lashed back in a televised address Monday, accusing the congress of trying to seize power and saying the decision violated the republic's constitution, Interfax reported.

Kabardino-Balkaria, a republic of 750,000 people, mostly Russians and Kabardins, lies in the center of the north Caucasus. The Turkic-speaking, mountain-dwelling Balkars only represent some 10 percent of the population of Kabardino-Balkaria and differ widely from the more numerous Kabardins, who make up 40 percent of the population.

Forced into a republic with the Kabardins in 1922, the Balkars were then exiled by Stalin in 1944. Kabardins took over their land and homes and never returned them, even when the Balkars returned in 1958.

But the Balkars' announcement Sunday was more wishful thinking than a development of any importance, said Alexander Iskandriyan, director of the Center for Caucasian Studies in Moscow.