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Sustainable Return of Ingush Forced Migrants
Peace in Prigorodny District of North Ossetia
Armed Conflict of 1992: Roots,
Preconditions and Outcomes
Current State of the Problem: State
Policy on Peace Building and Return
Peace Plan and Recommendations:
Ingush- Osetian conflict (осетино-ингушский конфликт) has been the only
armed ethnic conflict in post-communist Russia. A small-scale
regional conflict, which lasted for 7 days from October 31 to November
6 1992 and caused the displacement of 30-60,000 people received
virtually no coverage in the media in 1992 and has been quickly
forgotten about. Tens of thousands IDPs from North Osetia struggling
for survival in the substandard conditions in Ingushetia with no
aid from the state likewise slipped from the attention of international
humanitarian and development organizations, which arrived to the region
two years later to assist IDPs from Chechnya. The international
community learnt of this "small emergency" after the hostage-taking
tragedy in the North Ossetian town of Beslan of September 1-3 2004.
In the first hours of hostage taking, when 1200 children and parents
were captured by terrorists in school #1, the local media
announced that the school had been taken by members of the 'Ingush
Later the choice of the school (during the Ingush-Ossetian conflict of
1992 the sports gym of Beslan school #1 accommodated Ingush civilian
hostages taken by the Osetian fighters), and the fact that there were
eight Ingush among terrorists in the group, allowed local authorities
and journalists, and echoing them Moscow-based experts to link the
tragedy of Beslan to the Ingush-Ossetian conflict of 1992.
The link between Ingush-Ossetian territorial dispute and the horrendous
crime of Beslan has been constructed by nationalist politicians and
incompetent ethnologists - the demands of the terrorists in the Beslan
school were related to war in Chechnya and the terrorist group was
multinational. Nonetheless, Beslan tragedy provoked another spiral of
ethnic hatred between the Ingush and the Ossetians. Moreover, in the
recent years Ingushetia has turned into the area of intense combatant
and terrorist activity, which suggests that protracted displacement,
unresolved ethnic conflict and systemic discrimination of Ingush create
fruitful soil which breeds extremism. Leaders of guerilla and terrorist
groups, whose agenda is to spread the war to entire Caucasus,
successfully employ local grievances to recruit young men into their
I argue: when it comes to ethnic violence, there can be no 'big' and
'small' emergencies. 'Frozen' ethnic conflicts, systemic rights
violation, discrimination and protracted displacement destabilize
regions and radicalize youth. Terrorism and combatant activity in
parts of a country radicalize the population at large, which becomes
racist and intolerant towards minorities.
Russia, as the most multi-ethnic state of contemporary Europe should
take responsibility for the destructive processes in the North Caucasus
and adopt a problem solving approach to the nationality problems within
its borders. International community should help Russia tackle these
problems, lest this largest Eurasian state should slip into large-scale
chaos and violence.
Moreover, this project advocates international regime for IDPs, which
will strengthen the international institutional arrangements to help
dislocated within national borders. 'Small emergencies' can develop
into major problems; this can be avoided by a more systemic approach
towards people in flight.
Armed Conflict of 1992:
Roots, Preconditions and Outcomes [next] [previous]
The roots of the Ingush-Ossetian conflict are in inconsistent,
non-neutral policy of the state. The tempests and turbulence of the
Great Empire were mirrored in histories of the Orthodox Christian
Ossetians and Sufi Muslim Ingush, in the course of colonial and then
Soviet state-building the former managed to develop cooperative
relations with the Center and win the repute of 'reliable people',
while the latter were treated as 'unreliable' and became an object of
repeated repressions and discrimination on behalf of the state.
At the heart of the armed conflict was the territorial dispute over
Prigorodny District, which was annexed from the Chechen-Ingush Republic
in 1944 and transferred under the jurisdiction of North Ossetia. On
February 23 1944, on the order of Stalin all of the Ingushis down to
one person, were put on unheated cattle trains and deported to Central
Asia on the accusation of "cooperation with Nazis". Thousands perished
on the way or died subsequently in the inhuman conditions of the
Stalinist exile. 25-30,000 Ossetians were resettled into the houses of
the deported Ingush in a "voluntary - enforced" manner: each Ossetian
district and kolkhoz was allocated a certain number of "volunteers",
who had to be resettled to the "new districts". Refusal to go could
entail administrative repressions; agreement entitled the settler to
benefits: after 5 years of work on the Ingush farms, the Ossetian
settler could possess of the house and cattle, which remained from the
After the deportation in 1957 the return of the Ingush to Prigorodny
area was discouraged: Moscow treated repressed peoples with suspicion,
while North Ossetian authorities, anxious of territorial claims,
created difficulties with employment and domicile registration. In 1982
the Council of Ministers of the USSR issued an edict (№ 183) «On
limitations of registration of citizens in Prigorodny district of North
Ossetian ASSR», which denied registration to certain categories
of citizens in the area. This edict was de facto enforced only in
respect of the Ingush in Prigorodny Rayon. Nonetheless, the Ingushis,
whose tradition treats the land of the forefathers as sacred, returned
to their villages anyway, bought the houses, which belonged to their
families before deportation back from the Ossetians; lived illegally
(without registration) or bribed officials into registering them. Many
integrated well, studied and worked in Vladikavkaz, and in spite of
relatively high tensions with the Ossetians, the percent of mixed
marriages was rather high.
With the liberalization of the regime in 1970s-80s Ingush tried to
campaign for return of what they considered their historical homeland.
"The nationalization" of politics in the region, emergence of free
market of arms in the Caucasus, and inflow of refugees from Georgia
created preconditions of growing ethnic tensions in Prigorodny
District. On April 26, 1991 the Supreme Soviet of the RF adopted
a law "On rehabilitation of the repressed peoples". The 3d and the 6th
articles of the law stipulated "territorial rehabilitation", i.e. those
peoples, whose lands were illegally annexed from them, had the right to
claim them back. The law outlined no mechanisms for practical
implementation of the "territorial rehabilitation", which legitimized
the Ingush demands to Prigorodny Rayon, drastically increased the
feelings of insecurity with the Ossetians and catalyzed the breakout of
conflict between them.
The full-scale armed conflict broke out at night of October 31. It was
preceded by a series of armed clashes, killing both Ingush and Ossetian
civilians. On November 1, the official position of Moscow delegation
was verbalized by General-Colonel Filatov on the Ossetian TV:
"Today at 12: 45 arrived the first plane with airborne troops,
equipment and ammunition, which will be located on the territory of
Ossetia. Russia has not forgotten its faithful sons, the Ossetians, who
served it with faith and honesty for many years. Already today... the
airborne troops together with interior forces of RF and Interior forces
of North Ossetia will start military action against the aggressors... I
think it will not take us long to cleanse here all those who wants or
disrupts the peaceful labor of Ossetia... (Quoted in Zdravomyslov:
By November 6 the federal troops and the Ossetian interior forces,
indeed, "cleansed" the Ingush combatants from Prigorodny Rayon and
together with them 40-60, 000 Ingush civilians were forced to leave
Prigorodny district of North Ossetia and its capital Vladikavkaz.
Ingush were entirely dislocated from North Ossetia, including the
villages where there were no fights (with the exception of Majski
village at the border of Ingushetia ad North Ossetia inhabited by the
Ingush; the Ossetian families who lived there fled). Over 3, 000
(mostly Ingush houses) had been destroyed.
Current State of the
Problem: State Policy on Peace Building and Return [next]
The policy of the federal authorities on the
Ingush-Ossetian conflict can be characterized as "liquidation of
consequences" rather than conflict resolution. The approach of the
federal center was to overcome the main challenge of this ethnic war
for the Russian government -forced migration and destroyed
infrastructure. Transforming hostilities and reintegration of returnees
upon return were not identified as independent issues on the agenda.
Understandably, both parties to conflict had their own strategies in
the post-military phase of the conflict. The Ingush side pushed for
return of IDPs, while the Osetian side came up with pretexts to
restrain the return of the Ingush inasmuch as it was acceptable for the
The interviews with ethnologists, public figures and policy-makers from
Ingushetia and North Ossetia carried out in May-September 2005 revealed
full consensus of all major experts in the field in their evaluation of
the current state of the Ingush-Ossetian conflict as unresolved.
"The conflict is not resolved, it is frozen, the level of hostility
remains very high, the mutually excluding positions are there", -
explained Dr. Arthur Tsutsiev of the North Ossetian Institute for
Humanitarian Research. "This conflict has not reached positive
resolution because the concluded agreements have not been implemented.
The executives ignore the agreements reached between the parties. ", -
said Dr. Leila Arapkhanova of the history department at Ingush State
At the same time, impressive positive changes have been on the way -
thousands of Ingush IDPs have returned to 13 out of 29 villages of the
Republic North-Ossetia-Alania where they had previously lived.
According to the Country-Wide Census of the Population in 2002, 21, 442
citizens who identified themselves as 'Ingush' reside on the territory
of Republic North Ossetia-Alania. The state policy satisfactorily
managed disarmament and demobilization former combatants. The strategy
of their reintegration into law enforcement agencies arises some
doubts, however, since it creates fertile soil for police brutality and
discrimination practices. The infrastructure, medical and educational
facilities have been restored and in some villages Ingush and Ossetian
neighbors visit each other for funerals and weddings, just as 13 years
At the same time, thousands IDPs still remain in Ingushetia in inhuman
conditions without humanitarian aid from the state or international
NGOs. In 1992 the federal authorities provided them with temporary
shelter (barracks, wagons), but did not assume responsibility for their
other needs. The internally displaced from Prigorodny district, who
have spent 13 years in substandard conditions far below the poverty
level have turned into a marginalized segment of Ingush society, with
shattered health and frustrations testing the limits.
The level of hostilities between the two ethnic groups remains very
high and Ingush returnees experience systematic discrimination in North
Ossetia: their access to jobs, education and healthcare is seriously
limited. In a mini-calendar of 2005 published by the Ministry for
Nationalities of North Ossetia and dedicated to multicultural Ossetia,
the second largest ethnic group in the republic - the Ingush - are not
even listed at all. The calendar entitled "In Ossetia - As A Unified
Family" mentions dozens of nationalities, including 610 avars, 232
poles, 114 turkmens, but totally ignores the 21 thousand of Ingush.
Fighting discrimination against returnees has been very inefficient in
North Ossetia. Again, as in the post-Stalinist times they are treated
as pardoned, but not forgiven, which is extremely dangerous for
regional stability and social peace. Breech of agreements and
non-compliance with regulations by the Ossetian side, obstacles created
to IDPs in their return were too often ignored by the federal center.
The primary reason for conflict perpetuation this is lack of political
solutions. In the 13 years since the events of October-November 1992
the federal center did not attempt at addressing the underlying
political cause of the conflict - the territorial dispute.
Moreover, the federal policy did not spare enough effort at ensuring
good governance and political representation of Ingush. The fact that
Ingush returnees have no representation in state institutions impedes
re-integration and reconciliation.
The tragedy of Beslan was a severe test both for the two peoples and
state policy towards conflict resolution and return. Although the
hostage-taking in Beslan had nothing to do with the Ingush-Ossetian
dispute, the regional press invested consistent efforts at constructing
this link. The manipulation has been successful, the IDP return
was terminated for 8 months, and the issue of opening new settlements
for Ingush return has since then been seldom discussed ever since.
The current plan of the federal center is to solve the problem of IDP
until 2007 by moving the remaining families to the specially allocated
slots of land at the border of Ingushetia and North Ossetia on the
Ossetian side. Thus, the IDPs will not return to the places of their
origin, but will be settled in an enclave-like fashion at the border
Creating ethnic enclaves seems to temporarily solve the problem of
security, which after Beslan has been again extremely vulnerable for
the Ingush residents in Prigorodny district. In the long term the
advantages of this solution seem to be questionable.
As my research has shown the most conflict prone solutions have so far
been the villages where Ingush and Ossetian communities form ethnic
enclaves. These settlements represent a conglomerate of insular
districts, where ethnic communication is virtually nil, school
education is segregated and ethnic hostilities are very high. The most
favorable ethnic climate is where Ingush have returned to the places of
origin and the two ethnic groups live in a dispersed manner, in the
same street both Ingush and the Ossetian families.
Creating a patchwork of ethnic enclaves would institutionalized
cleavage, perpetuate the conflict, and increase the frustrations of the
Ingush population, who will take this solution as total a defeat for
their cause. Not only will they loose the Prigorodny district, which
"The Law on Rehabilitation of the Repressed Peoples" still guarantees
their right to, but will see that the ethnic cleansing which happened
in 1992 with support of the federal army as having permanent
consequences, they would have been cleansed out of the area for good.
This new grievance will be another blow on the legitimacy of the
federal center, will confirm the suspicions of the Ingush that they are
still being treated as 'unreliable people', which in the unstable
conditions of the North Caucasus will work for the benefit of the
propagandists of combatant activity and terrorism.
Peace Plan and
On the basis of this research I propose the following strategies for
the government, national and international decision makers:
parties concerned: [next]
1. To acknowledge the importance of resolving the Ingush-Ossetian
conflict, which remains a strong destabilizing factor in the North
Caucasian Region, threatens with recurrent armed clashes and creates
conditions conducive for radicalization of youth.
2. To launch programs aimed at lasting peace and sustainable return of
Ingush IDPs to Prigorodny District
federal policy-makers: [next]
1. To look for political solutions of the Ingush-Ossetian conflict
I suggest one possible solution to the territorial dispute:
- Prigorodny District remains part of North Ossetia;
- All IDPs who wish to return are unconditionally returned to the exact
places of their original residence. Those do not wish to return receive
full compensation for their lost housing and land;
- Consonsiational system of local government is created in Prigorodny
District, District Council uniting deputies from Ingush and Ossetian
communities who represent proportionally their populations, has wide
autonomy and sufficient budget from local taxes for its needs. The
District Council elects the head of district administration on the
basis of rotation, from representatives of Ingush and Ossetian
nationalities. In the villages of mixed settlement create village
- Ingush get due representation in the state institutions of North
Ossetia, including government, parliament, ministries and law
- Former combatants do not occupy leadership posts in the local
- Amendments are made to the "Law on Rehabilitation of the Repressed
Peoples", which change 'territorial rehabilitation' for 'property
rehabilitation' and prescribes a mechanism of return or compensation
for property lost as a result of Stalinist repressions. The law is
implemented in Prigorodny District.
- Enlightening programs in the Ossetian media are carried out dedicated
to crimes against humanity committed by Stalinism; Stalin's statues and
portraits are banned from the public space.
- A unified federal agency for resolution of Ingush-Ossetian conflict
is re-established, which continues to carry out return and strictly
monitors the concluded agreements;
1. To allow for honest investigation of the tragedy of Beslan and
strictly punish according to law those whose actions allowed to the
tragedy to take place. To make public the demands of terrorists which
they delivered to the headquarters through Ruslan Aushev.
2. To define the borders of "water protection zone" as soon as possible
on the basis of expert, politically neutral opinion and to start the
process of return to this area or develop a compensation scheme for
those houses, which fall into the water protection zone.
3. To speed up resolution of property dispute concerning illegally
captures flats and houses f Ingush forced migrants.
4. To stop the practice of separate education in schools of Prigorodny
5. To stop keeping Ingush prisoners charged with 'terrorism' in
Vladikavkaz and prosecute instances of illegal treatment of Ingush
prisoners in preliminary detainment in North Ossetia.
6. To transfer the tax inspection for Prigorodny district from Beslan
back to the administrative center of Prigorodny District Oktyab'rskoye
7. To monitor discriminatory practices in North Ossetian institutions,
including banks, where Ingush residents have to receive money transfers
in separate banks. To strictly punish the perpetrators according
8. To provide humanitarian assistance to Ingush IDPs remaining in
temporary residence facilities in Ingushetia: to give these facilities
official status of temporary residence centers, provide assistance
according to the usual scheme practiced by the Ministry of Emergency of
the Russian Federation and the Migration Services.
9. To launch income-generating programs, especially encouraging
enterprises with ethnically mixed personnel.
10. To develop programs aimed at youth vocational training and
employment in Ingushetia and North Ossetia.
11. To create recreation centers for youth, including sport gyms in
12. To encourage exchange in the spheres of culture, sport, education,
and economy between the two republics.
humanitarian and development organizations: [next] [previous]
1.To urgently provide medical and humanitarian assistance to IDPs
remaining in Prigorodny district and Refugees from North
Ossetia and Inner Regions of Georgia in Prigorodny District of North
2. To launch development and income generating programs in Prigorodny
district, targeting Ingush, Ossetian and North Ossetian communities.
Specifically, programs aimed at creating small collective enterprises,
which would involve Ingush and Ossetian employees (kibbutz-like small
collective farming, fish farming, and bird factories)
3. To support Caucasus-wide higher educational programs for students
from conflict zones, including creation of western-type liberal
university (possibly located in Georgia).
4. To launch programs counting youth idleness in Prigorodny District.
5. To continue providing medical and psychosocial help to victims of
To human rights and peacemaking
1. To monitor situation with human rights and
discrimination in Prigorodny District
2. To assist victims of rights abuse in finding redress through
3. To launch programs aimed at conflict transformation and
reconciliation, especially targeting youth. Methodology of
peacemaking-through- activity will be most successful.
4. To launch human rights education programs aimed to promote
tolerance, civic and democratic culture targeting media reporters,
judges and law enforcement officers from Prigorodny District, from
Ingushetia and Ossetia.
1 Terrorist network [back to text]