After 15 years of "depression," people of Kabardino-Balkaria long for change

(Caucasus Times) - From August 17 to 19, 2005, the Caucasus Times conducted a brief survey in Nalchik, capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, of 109 women and 91 men ranging from 16 to 65 years of age.

The results indicated a high degree of dissatisfaction among the population with the socio-economic situation in the republic. Namely, disparity among various ethnic groups to social and political processes; lack of opportunity to elect a republic head by a nationwide vote; and increasing pessimism about the cancelled elections for regional leaders who will now be directly appointed by the Kremlin.

The survey also indicated that a significant number of people are prepared to stand up for their civil rights by taking part in different forms of public protest.

Thus, 95% of respondents believe that the most acute problems in Kabardino-Balkaria are unemployment, high prices, low wages, corruption, and excessively high fees for housing and communal services. Yet 44% believe that security, i.e.criminal acts and terrorism, is far more serious. It also became apparent that for 6% of the population, inter-faith relations were a major problem. And Balkarians felt this the most. They referred to frequent raids on villages with a Balkarian majority, conducted as part of a federal operation against Islamic extremism. Only 2% (and they were ethnic Russians) said that inter-etnic relations were the main problem. 4% of respondents were unable to answer the question.

As for replacing elections with Kremlin appointments, a majority of the people surveyed do not consider this federal act as having any bearing on the political and socio-economic situation in Kabardino-Balkaria, although they regret not being able to elect their own leaders.

Therefore, 40% felt the cancelled elections would stabilize the situation; 35% said this would have no significant effect at all; 8% said it would aggravate present problems; and 17% had no thoughts, either pro or con, on this subject.

The survey showed that if after 15 years of Valeriy Kokov's tough leadership presidential elections were suddenly announced, people would vote very actively but ethnic intolerance would appear among the multi-cultural population of Kabardino-Balkaria.

In reply to the question "Whom would you prefer as head of the republic?" (a list of candidates was compiled from media publications) 44% voted for Arsen Kanokov, State Duma deputy and Moscow businessman. They were evidently swayed by his financial independence and religious tolerance. (Kanokov sponsored the construction of a mosque in Nalchik and is presently building an Orthodox church.)

11% selected Kabardino-Balkaria's Premier Gennadiy Gubin, seeing him as being "neutral. He was preferred by the Russian-speaking public and the Chechen diaspora.

8% chose Mukharbiy Kumyshev, deputy leader of the Russian FSB in the Astrakhanskaya Oblast region., because they felt the republic needs a "firm hand", particularly in the fight against banditry.

6% voted for Khachim Karmokov, a member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, whom respondents considered to be a wise and experienced politician, knowing the affairs of the republic very well.

And least of all, 3%, went to Valeriy Kardanov, General Director of the Kabardino-Balkarian Fuel Company.

Senator Khusain Chechenov, Parliament speaker Ilyas Bechelov, and former Deputy Prime Minister Khauti Sokhrokov, each received 2% of the vote. It seems that respondents chose candidates on the basis of their own national sympathies.

22% of respondents declared their displeasure with all the candidates; and only one person out of the 200 surveyed expressed disappointment that Kokov had stepped down, saying he was indispensable to the republic's resolution of inter-ethnic issues.

The survey indicated that a goodly number of people were resolved to defend their interests by becoming involved in various forms of protest.

Thus, 15% declared their determination to take part in anti-government demonstrations if they were dissatisfied with acts of the authorities; 8% said they would consider becoming involved; and an overwhelming number, 40%, rejected any thoughts of defending their rights via demonstrations, explaining that holding dialogues with the authorities was futile; plus there was danger of stirring up an armed conflict. 25% were inclined to say "perhaps not" to this method of dealing with the authorities. Only 10% were unwilling to answer the question.

The purpose of this survey is to bring to the Russian government's attention the specific characteristics of the socio-economic, political and multi-cultural processes taking place today in Kabardino-Balkaria. A more considered and thoughtful approach is called for in resolving the problems that face the Russian government in the North Caucasus today.

Islam Tekushev, editor-in-chief of the Caucasus Times, co-ordinator of the project investigating public opinion in the North Caucasus, Telephone in Nalchik: 8-928-251-2077

Note: this survey was conducted as part of a 12 month investigative project, "Public Opinion in North Caucasus", which is being carried out in all the North Caucasus republics with the financial support of the American foundation NED. Answers to the survey are given as percentages and the statistical error of such surveys is within 7%. Two answers were allowed for some questions. Participants in the survey were mainly members of the intelligentsia, students, employees, workers, pensioners, and members of the different ethnic groups that make up the population of Kabardino-Balkaria (Kabardinians, Balkarians, Russians, Ossetians, Chechens, and others).

Charts (answers are in per cent):

Translated by Prague Watchdog's translator Anita Rathjen.




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