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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Friend to the Brave of Ingushetia

The democratic press, inspired by the recent events in Kyrgyzstan, is buzzing with the possibility of establishing democracy in a single Russian region. That region is Ingushetia, where the opposition held a demonstration last week. Unfortunately, the real Ingush opposition doesn't take part in demonstrations; it prefers to carry out terrorist attacks. The opposition stages demonstrations in most parts of Russia, but not in the Caucasus. Do you recall seeing any demonstrations during the storming of Grozny? Most Chechens chose to express their displeasure with Russian policy in other ways.

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The protest in Ingushetia was organized by people who oppose current President Murat Zyazikov but nevertheless side with Russia. People who seriously believe that they'll be able to convince the Kremlin that Zyazikov is the wrong man for the job and take his place.

Most people in the Caucasus don't want to break away from Russia. The experience of Chechen independence didn't provide much of an example to follow: the slit throats of Russian soldiers shown on prime-time news shows, criminal patrols on the roads extorting a "toll" from every passing car, and the late Aslan Maskhadov's inability to bring the situation in the field under control. Then there's the Caucasus republics' addiction to federal subsidies.

The point, however, is that the fate of the Caucasus will be determined by the zealous few, not the rational majority. The demonstration in Ingushetia was organized by people who think in Russian and who helped to get Zyazikov elected. Alas, they're doomed to failure.

On a Monday night in late June 2004, Ingush fighters controlled the city of Nazran for 7 1/2 hours in a business-like manner and with the full support of the local residents. In the end, they had killed nearly 60 police officers. The fighters didn't damage a single kiosk or steal a single bottle of water to drink, for stealing, unlike killing, is forbidden -- haraam. In the morning, they prayed and left the city. Zyazikov had skipped town immediately and sat out the raid in Vladikavkaz.

After the June 2004 raid, President Vladimir Putin could hardly have entertained any illusions about Zyazikov. He can't show his face in three-quarters of the republic for fear of getting his head blown off. Embezzlement of state funds has ballooned on his watch, as have kidnappings, some apparently committed by agents of the Federal Security Service. Even the soldiers at checkpoints make jokes when they see his motorcade approaching. "The bride's coming," they say, and there's no greater insult for a highlander than to call him a woman.

By foisting Zyazikov on the Ingush people, Putin fell into a trap. As long as Zyazikov remains in power, Putin shares responsibility for his actions. Removing Zyazikov would amount to an admission that mistakes were made. And who can say that the Kremlin's next protege would be any less greedy or any less yellow?

"I have no confidence in you whatsoever, for I know that you are no friend of the brave," Hadji Murat wrote to a Russian commander in the 19th century, explaining his reasons for going over to the side of Imam Shamil. The Kremlin is also no friend of the brave. This explains the decision to replace Ruslan Aushev with Zyazikov. And it could lead to the failure of Russia's policy in the Caucasus and the subsequent disintegration of the country, because most of Russia -- where the opposition is small and peaceful -- is simply too different from the Caucasus, where the opposition wears the headbands of suicide bombers inscribed with the words "Allah Akbar." The country will shatter along this ethnic divide.

But a demonstration organized by people who want to take Zyazikov's place and who attempt to explain to Russia in a civilized manner that he's the wrong man for the job bear no relation whatsoever to the coming explosion.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.