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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Silence Breeds Violence

Six months after the hostage crisis in Beslan, North Ossetian President Alexander Dzasokhov discovered that the region faced the threat of terrorist attacks. In response he banned public meetings -- although to date terrorists have never targeted public meetings -- where demonstrators have tended to call for Dzasokhov's resignation.

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Dzasokhov was not the first to discern a connection between rallies and terrorists. In neighboring Ingushetia, President Murat Zyazikov had previously sent in armored personnel carriers to seal off the square in Nazran where demonstrators planned to gather and demand his ouster. Several hundred people nevertheless slipped through the cordon, and the demonstration was widely covered by opposition media outlets.

But here's the thing: The day before that demonstration in Nazran, several hundred people surrounded the regional office of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. They demanded the release of the Gairbekov brothers, arrested in the attempted murder of the head of Dagestan's pension fund. A few months before, the pension chief's latest armored car had been flattened like a pancake. The bureaucrat himself emerged unharmed.

Running the pension fund in Dagestan is a profitable, and therefore extremely dangerous, job. A recent pension chief, Sharaputdin Musayev, a sworn enemy of Makhachkala Mayor Said Amirov, was murdered in Moscow last month.

The Gairbekov brothers were tight with the current pension chief, who singled them out and regarded them favorably. By all accounts, however, they found their way into his inner circle at the request of his old sworn enemy.

Gadzhimurad Gairbekov is a big man in Dagestan. He was an associate of the late opposition leader Nadir Khachilayev and made a name for himself by securing the release of a woman who had been kidnapped and taken to Chechnya. After a meeting with Gairbekov and his people, Shamil Basayev not only had the woman released but promised to execute the Chechens who had kidnapped her. It's unlikely that anyone was executed, however. Had Basayev intended to make good on his promise, he would have done so in Gairbekov's presence.

To make a long story short, after the Gairbekovs were arrested, their friends and relatives converged on the FSB building and demanded their release -- as if to say: This is a private matter and the FSB shouldn't stick its nose into other people's business.

The demonstrations in Ingushetia and North Ossetia were aimed at a Russian audience. They appealed to President Vladimir Putin and to Russian society, and that's why we heard about them. But when hundreds of people besiege the FSB building in Makhachkala to demand the release of the Gairbekovs, for example, we never hear about it. Not because the federal authorities suppress the story, but because the people involved have no interest in attracting a Russian audience. They're taking care of their own business, and for them the Russian media are roughly equivalent to FSB agents, representatives of a foreign world that doesn't understand a thing about local affairs.

The Kremlin-appointed khans and sultans in the Caucasus have the power to ban demonstrations, the only means left for the local opposition loyal to Russia to protest the rule of these very khans and sultans. But the problem is that they can't ban unrest in society or terrorist attacks. The only thing they can do is exploit major terrorist attacks -- and organize minor ones -- to justify their own excesses and to silence the opposition.

The more they silence the local opposition that remains loyal to Russia, the more influential the anti-Russian opposition will become. The fewer demonstrations that are held in the Caucasus, the more terrorist attacks there will be.

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