Alikber Alikberov, Deputy Head of the Institute of Oriental Studies, PhD holder in history, talks to Ekaterina Podkolzina, editor-in-chief of the Russia – Islamic World group, about the situation in Dagestan.

— For the vast majority of the nations that were part of the Soviet Union, the USSR was a modernization project. It might have been a mixed bag for the Baltic countries – some say it was modernization or de-modernization but it is true that a strong industrialization drive took place there. East Germany was a prime example of the practice where the modernization of the East was partially done at the expense of the West, including Russian regions that have been developing unevenly. The socialist drive to level out living standards forced rich regions to share with poorer ones. We see evidence to this in migration patterns.

it is symbolic that at a time of increasing migration flows russia acts as a host nation.

Since the USSR was a modernization project, eastern communities enjoyed faster growth than their neighbors. Tajikistan’s case is telling: life for Tajiks in Tajikistan was a far cry from the experience of their fellow Tajiks in Afghanistan thanks to higher developed social institutions and human rights protection. Once Russia gave up on its modernization role due to objective reasons we are well aware of, the project began to fall apart. Today, Eurasian integration is a project that appeals only to those nations that are part of it. They are in it since they perceive Russia as a nation of the West with a promise of European-style  modernization. It is true, Russia is also a European country.

Vladimir Vasilyev sent a strong message to Dagestan. ‘It’s not just me, entire Russia has come to you,’ he said. And he meant it. No country is immune to corruption, and Russia is no exception. Unfortunately, officials tend to steal even in the face of a death sentence, like in China. But in the case of Dagestan corruption has taken such unnatural forms that it has become irrational – it simply did not make sense. Is there any other country when people would pay to get even the lowest-paid job like a pre-school instructor or a state-run enterprise accountant, or even to get drafted?

It was impossible to get a job without a bribe. You can hardly imagine it in Honduras, may my fellow countrymen forgive me.

Now, once you get a job that you paid for you need to earn enough so your position pays off. Now, what can a postman do to earn back what he paid to get the job? What’s worse, they took money to hire people and then fired them to get more money from the next in line – the level of hidden unemployment is soaring in the region.

it was turning into a form of asocial perversion so immoral and abnormal that even the word normal would mean completely different to what you are used to.

“We talked to all of them. I can’t point the finger at anyone and say he is a no-good-nik. It is not true. I really feel sorry for these people. There was – and still is – a lot of promise that these people can offer, at least as I see it. But it just happened that they became part of the system and found a niche there. I do not know why. What they have done can be classified as delinquency.”

He was right. But eventually not all of the links of the vicious chain were sent to prison which means they were ‘active’ offenders who devised all those schemes, and people who put up with it but tried to stay away from being directly engaged in criminal activities.

It depends on the way people have been politically educated. The vast majority of the region’s population ended up as a victim, which explains the high level of confidence in Vasilyev.

When experts used to point out what they called de-fragmentation of the legal framework in Dagestan and in some other regions, they referred to the resurgence of religion and the spread of non-traditional Islamic sects. Sharia law offers its own legal ways – breaking the law and integrity of Russia’s legal framework.

It turned out to be much worse: russian laws were effective only on paper, and the judiciary did not work appropriately, but not just because of the local political, economic and other aspects of management.

It was impossible to do anything about it. When everyone cover each other, you have to dismantle the old system and built everything anew. A simple reshuffle won’t help. The federal government has finally realized that ensuring the rule of law is not just a prerogative but also its duty and it is high time to take extraordinary measures. I think it is a very good sign.