Recent Quarrels between Chechnya and Ingushetia Reveal Status Quo Fragility

03 May 2013

During the days when the global media was covering the perplexing events and exploring the North Caucasian roots of the terroristic acts in Boston, another remarkable and somewhat neglected event happened in the North Caucasus.

A Chechen state paramilitary group attempted to enter Ingushetia but was stopped at the border, which provoked a conflict between the two neighboring regions. It caused an abrupt discussion in the media between head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov and Ingushetia head Yunus-Bek Evkurov. The latter accused the Chechen group of intending to organize a meeting in the village of Arshty to persuade the villagers to separate from Ingushetia and re-join Chechnya, which it was once part of before the two republics separated in 1992.

Kadyrov did not deny the group’s attempt to cross the border. However, Kadyrov claimed the Ingush leader provoked the quarrel to highlight the territorial issue right before the Assembly of the Ingush People, which was to take place two days later. Indeed, the Assembly then called on the Kremlin to resolve the territorial dispute. Interestingly, earlier, in August 2012, the Chechen leader himself applied to the federal center to resolve the same issue.

Territorial problems in the North Caucasus have their roots in the unsuccessful ethnic experiments of the Soviet era when Stalin and his successors arbitrarily formed autonomous regions and re-drew borders. The negative consequences of such geo-politics became evident right after the collapse of the Soviet state. Three types of ethnic and territorial disputes took place at very beginning of the 1990s involving armed conflicts, successful separations, and un-successful separation attempts (see the table below).

Armed conflicts


Ossetian-Ingush conflict, 1992

Chechen war, 1994-1996

Successful separation

Adygea from Krasnodar Krai, 1991

Checheno-Ingushetia, 1992

Separation attempts


Cherkessia from Karachaevo-Cherkessia, 1991

Balkaria from Kabardino-Balkaria, 1992

Strengthening of the central power in Russia stropped direct conflicts in the North Caucasus and the local elites began applying to the Kremlin to mediate their disputes. However, the Kremlin does not have a solid method to resolve the region’s territorial and ethnic problems, so instead it goes with a policy of preserving the status quo, which is probably wise. The Kremlin’s approach may even have led to a temporary agreement between North Ossetia and Ingushetia to stop territorial disputes between them.

Nevertheless, the old problems did not go away and new ones are emerging, for instance territorial issues may emerge between Kalmykia and Astrakhan, as well as Stavropol krai and North Ossetia. New ethnic tensions may take place inside of Dagestan, Stavropol krai, Krasnodar krai, and Adigeia. Recent disputes around the southern borders of Russia indicate new issues between Dagestan and Azerbaijan, and Krasnodar krai and Abkhazia.

Nonetheless, experts have unanimously stated that the Chechen-Ingush issue is the most unexpected one. It placed a real test on the federal center and the limits of maintaining the status quo in the region.