Oil Against Tradition in Chechnya and Ingushetia (1817-2007)

Galina Khizrieva

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24848/islmlg.02.1.11

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In her paper, Galina Khizrieva discusses how the rapid rates of oil industry development became among the reasons of transformation of Vainakh unity. She argues that the fight for oil and land in the region favored the concentration of manpower in the lowland, imposed over the network of religious and sub-ethnic groups a division system of bigger social groups. The demands of oil production security aggravated interethnic tension and fixed xenophobic traditions of the national policy of Russia. The interests of monopolistic state capitalism of the Russian Empire influenced the land distribution in the oil region. Due to the development of oil industry the Vainakh population resident pattern changed several times during the 190 year period. Their subsistence structure fluctuated from agrarian to urban. Tradition of negative anti-state mobilization was based on the feeling of life instability, constant humiliation and socioeconomic deprivation. On the ‘oil wave’ the Islamic factor (‘easternisation’) became a political factor of state importance in Russia.

After the dissolution of Soviet state, the elite of Chechen-Ingush autonomy decided to get from the state as much benefits for themselves as possible, extracting them from the republican petrochemical industry. According to the declared economic policy, every Chechen would in the near future enjoy “the standards of life of the Kuwaiti people” and Chechen state will compensate people property losses of deportation and restore historic and socio-economic justice.  Soon it became clear that the republican oil reserves were not sufficient for the new state wellbeing. The prosperity theory turned into the practice of violence, economic rivalry and predatory activity. The politics was conducting by ethno-social units structured into the networks and based on mutual reciprocation or economic dependence of its members. The political and business ‘new Chechen elite’ emerged just after Perestroika. It was recruited from the number of Comsomol activists of Soviet time. The structures were responsible for conducting the politics of separatism and establishing monoethnic rule in the republic.

Economic fragmentation corroded the power institutions of the republic. Oil-barons rivalry launched the mechanisms of negative mobilization and began to destroy basic ethic paradigm of Vainakh self-identification. Sub-ethnic fragmentation started. Many people in Chechnya were not ready to approve the “commercial” bloodshed in their names. They opposed to the political innovations which were overburdened by archaic social practices, alien forms of ‘esternisation’ of local deeply modernized society, and criticized “the party of war” for preventing from real social modernization and democracy. Traditional brotherhoods’ (wirds) ideologists tried to oppose to the bloodshed exploring the idea borrowed from Qur’an that any rule comes from God. The representatives of new Muslim groups in Chechnya supported by Dudaev’s government answered by accusing them in non-Muslim behavior and violent actions trying to squeeze out Sufi Islam to the periphery of political and social life. The opposition of traditional brotherhoods to new Muslim groups has led to a new start of violence which resulted into complete spiritual fragmentation of the republic.


Russia; Caucasus; oil


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24848/islmlg.02.1.11