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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dagestan Needs More Than Boots

President Vladimir Putin traveled to Dagestan last week, though the visit was not made public until after his departure. When the head of state has to travel unannounced for security reasons, you know the region he's visiting is having problems.

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News coverage of the visit made this clear. Putin tackled Dagestan's problems head-on. His criticism of the footwear provided to soldiers in alpine units was particularly hard-hitting. "You can't walk on flat ground in these, much less in the mountains," Putin declared.

Unfortunately, Dagestan's problems are not limited to the poor quality of soldiers' boots. The republic is awash in corruption. Of Dagestani leader Magomedali Magomedov's three sons, one controls Khleboprodukt, which produces baked goods, and another controls Deneb, a producer of mineral water. Dagestanis joke that the president has put his sons on bread and water rations. The third son is in charge of oil transshipment in the region.

It's frequently said that there is a single ruling clan in this multiethnic republic: the Dargin. That's not entirely true. Most government jobs are sold to the highest bidder, and when money's involved, ethnicity doesn't matter so much. Jobs are often sold to several bidders at once, however, and the question of who gets the job is left up to them to decide.

Terrorism in Dagestan is the result of total corruption. The only business in Dagestan is the sale of government jobs, not the production of goods. Residents of the republic can therefore be divided into four categories: those who were given a job based on family ties; those who bought a job; the armed guards who protect people in the first two categories; and the unemployed young people with no money or prospects who are recruited by the Wahhabis and paid to kill cops.

When you're not in the business of earning money but divvying it up, you don't need workers, you need servants and family. It doesn't matter if you're a murderer or a Wahhabi in this case. What matters is whether you're related by blood or grew up in the same village.

There was a shootout in late May near the Gimri tunnel. Explosives were discovered. The Wahhabis had wanted to blow up the tunnel. One of the men killed on the Wahhabis' side was rumored to have been carrying an ID from the Federal Security Service, but that's not the important thing. What's important is that when cops arrived in Gimri to arrest the people who had planted the explosives, the locals simply refused to let them in.

A similar shootout took place in Khasavyurt when Ramzan Kadyrov's boys came to arrest the Adzhiyev brothers. The ensuing gunbattle between the Chechens and the local Kumyks raged all night. Kadyrov's reinforcements couldn't get through because the Kumyks had blocked the bridge across the river with a couple of cars loaded with gravel. One man was killed on each side, and the next morning Kadyrov's boys turned around and went back to Chechnya.

Shootouts, rallies and demonstrations like these happen every week, and they usually involve anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand people. This past spring, about 100 people blocked the entrance to the regional FSB office in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. They demanded the release of the Gairbekov brothers, who had been arrested in the attempted murder of the head of Dagestan's pension fund. The crowd didn't care whether the Gairbekov brothers had tried to blow up the pension chief. They weren't interested in the brothers' longstanding ties to Shamil Basayev. They were simply the Gairbekovs' friends and relatives.

With all this going on, Putin traveled to Dagestan and discovered that the footwear provided to alpine units in the region didn't pass muster.

Yulia Latynina hosts a talk show on Ekho Moskvy.