Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July 2014, 14:56 GMT

Chronology for Lezgins in Russia

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Lezgins in Russia, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f38d3c.html [accessed 22 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
Jul 1990 The Lezgin National Movement, Sadval (Unity), forms and holds its founding congress in Derbent (in Southeast Dagestan, not far from the Azerbaijani border). They call for the unification of the Lezgin people (in Azerbaijan and Dagestan) because they had been "denied the opportunity to develop their culture" under Soviet rule.
Apr 1991 The autonomous Soviet republic of Dagestan votes on a resolution to create the sovereign republic of Dagestan. 39 out of 54 regional soviets supported the resolution. Most of those opposing it, had expressed aspirations for the creation of their own titular states. Among the groups in opposition are the Kumyk, Lezgin and Nogai.
Jun 1991 For three weeks, Muslims in Dagestan demonstrate against the prohibitively high cost of airline tickets to Mecca for their Islamic pilgrimage. A state of emergency has been declared after some of the demonstrators tried to storm the Council of Ministers building.
Sep 21, 1991 Sadval holds its second congress and adopts a resolution demanding border changes between Dagestan and Azerbaijan.
Dec 1991 Various Lezgin groups hold an All-National Congress of Lezgins. They adopt a declaration calling for the creation of an independent "Lezgistan" -- a national formation to unite the Lezgin people of Dagestan and Azerbaijan.
Feb 1992 The Lezgin National Council -- an informal nongovernmental body -- called on the RF, Azerbaijan, and Dagestan to redraw the borders to bring the Lezghi people together.
Jun 1992 The RF proposes that the Russo-Azerbaijani border should run along the Samur river, thus formally and ostensibly permanently splitting the Lezghi people. Lezgin leaders on both sides of the border complain that this will hinder contact between Lezgins. The Lezgin National Council and Sadval each organized rallies in Dagestan and northern Azerbaijan in protest. Tens of thousands are reported to have attended the rallies on both sides of the border. In Azerbaijan, the rallies called on Lezgins not to serve in the Azerbaijani army. This heightened tensions between Dagestan and Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani President Elchibey held immediate talks with Dagestani representatives to diffuse the tensions in the wake of the RF announcement. Both governments appealed to Moscow to reconsider the border.
Aug 22, 1992 The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry announces that due to the concerns of the local peoples along the Russo-Azerbaijani border, no travel restrictions would be put in place. Only custom controls would be used to prevent smuggling.
Sep 1992 Despite the efforts at accommodation, the chairman of Sadval, Mukhiddin Kakhrimanov threatens to use "all forms and methods of struggle" to achieve independence for Lezgins.
Oct 1992 Reacting to a recent upsurge in the crime rate in Dagestan, Russian Interior Ministry troops are called in to areas throughout Dagestan. The movement of the troops is being opposed by Chechens living near the border with Chechnya and by Lezgins who fear the troops are to close the border with Azerbaijan.
Oct 20, 1992 The Association of Caucasian Peoples is set up to provide for the peaceful resolution of disputes between the peoples of the Caucasus. The association is made up of various ethnic associations, such as the Congress of the Kabardin People, Sadval and Tenglik (of the Kumyk people).
Mar 1993 Sadval organizes a march of 10,000 Lezgins (of Dagestan). The march crosses the border into Azerbaijan in order to call on Azerbaijani Lezgins to join the movement and fight for their cultural rights. Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry officially protests the direction of activities against the security of Azedrbaijan by Sadval with the "connivance" of Moscow.
May 1993 Sadval elects retired Major General Mukhidin Kakhrimanov as chairman of the organization. Reportedly, the organization has established a "shadow government" for Lezghistan. The Russian Press Digest quotes unemployment statistics which indicate that 80% of those unemployed in Dagestan are Lezgin.
May 7, 1993 Mass rallies are held in the city of Derbent (Dagestan) along the Russian-Azerbaijani border. The rallies are organized by the Lezgin and Tabasarian national movements around the killing of a Lezgin and a Tabasarian by a group of armed Azeris. Similar rallies were held across the border in Azerbaijan (by Sadval).
Jun 1993 In a move possibly related to the return to power of pro-Moscow Communists in Baku, Russian authorities shut down the Lezgin political front headquartered in Moscow.
May 1994 A quarrel between several Lezgins and Azeris in Derbent, Dagestan leads to bloodshed as two Lezgins were killed and several Lezgins and Azeris were wounded. Immediately following the bloodshed, about 100 Lezgins stopped traffic on a major road and briefly held a district official and deputy. In response, ethnic Azeris and Lezgins hold a series of demonstrations in Derbent calling for the resignation of Dagestani officials. Clashes between Azeris and Lezgins broke out at the rallies. Russian Interior Ministry troops are brought in to restore order. Russian TV reported that approximately 20,000 people attended the Lezgin rally on May 5th.
Jul 1994 Under a proposed new constitution for Dagestan, each of the 14 largest ethnic groups would have a seat on the ruling state council. In separate referenda, the people of Dagestan rejected a presidency as well as private land ownership out of fear it would give one ethnic group too much power and lead to conflict over ethnic land rights.
Aug 1994 A cholera epidemic in Dagestan spreads to northeastern Azerbaijan.
Jan 1995 Candidates are nominated and elections for the new People's Assembly are scheduled for March. Among the candidates, Avars, Dargins and Kumyks are the best represented of the ethnic groups.
Apr 1995 The elections for the People's Assembly are declared valid in most districts in March and this month the assembly opened its first session. There are 112 seats filled out of 121 total seats in the assembly. The former chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Dagestan was unanimously elected as speaker of the assembly (by secret ballot). The electoral commission has reported that 57% of the population voted in the elections. I find no report of the ethnic breakdown of the assembly or the voting.
Dec 1995 In a press conference, candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky explained his vision for the future of the south of Russia. He said that the Causcasus would always be Russian, although the Lezghin could form an independent republic south of the current state of Dagestan. (Official Kremlin News Broadcast 12/29/95)
Apr 1996 Azerbaijani National Security Minister Namig Abbasov proposed appealing to Moscow to ban the activities of Sadval. He reiterated an accusation that Sadval had received the support of the Armenian authorities in carrying out a bomb attack which killed 19 people on the Baku underground railway in March 1994. (British Broadcasting Corporation 4/7/96)
May 1996 The supreme court of Azerbaijan sentenced two men to death for a bombing on the Baku underground train system that killed 14 persons and injured 49 in 1994. The men were found to have been members of a terrorist organization (Sadval) and are to be executed by firing squad. Nine other convicted members were sentenced to jail terms of up to 15 years. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 5/3/96) Azerbaijan has handed over to the authorities in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan a list of 96 Dagestanis it wants to prevent entering the republic. The list includes the names of several members of the Sadval movement and also activists from the Union of Muslims of Russia. Azerbaijan had been holding a Lezgin religious functionary and four of his supporters, all of whom are Russian citizens, since 21st April, without offering the Dagestani authorities any official explanation as to why they were detained. (British Broadcasting Corporation 5/8/96)
Jun 1996 At a meeting in Khasavyurt, leaders of the national movements of the Avar, Lak, Lezgin and Kumyk peoples demanded that the Dagestani leadership take tough measures to ensure order in districts of the republic bordering on Chechnya. All of the groups were subjected to kidnappings as a result of the war in Chechnya. (British Broadcasting Corporation 6/24/96)
Jul 1996 Some 300 members of the Lezghin ethnic minority took four Azerbaijani policemen hostage and blocked the Baku-Rostov highway, in protest at the arrest of a Lezghin nationalist leader. The protesters, who blocked the road on Azerbaijan's border with the Russian republic of Dagestan, demanded the release of Nariman Ramazanov, a leader of the Lezghin nationalist movement Sadval. Earlier Azerbaijani police had arrested Ramazanov at a checkpoint on the Dagestani-Azerbaijani border. Ramazanov was accused of involvement in a bombing in the Baku underground railway which killed 12 people and injured more than 50 in March 1994. The protesters also threatened to block the border river Samur, which flowed into Azerbaijan. The demonstration grew to include an estimated 1,500 people before the Azerbaijani authorities released Ramazanov two days later. The authorities accused him of working for the Armenians. (Agence France Presse 7/12/96 & British Broadcasting Corporation 7/15/96)
Oct 1996 A group of Russian State Duma officials, led by the chairman of the Committee for Defence, Lt-Gen Lev Rokhlin launched an investigation into the conditions of the Daghestan-Azerbaijan border. They found that because of allegations of arms smuggling to the Chechen war, it was virtually impossible to cross the border without considerable paperwork and a bribe. The Lezghins were suffering the most because of the closure because they have the most family and property on both sides. (British Broadcasting Corporation 10/3/96) A group representing the Lezgin people sent a statement to the governments of Russia and Azerbaijan calling for the unification of the Lezgin people and warning that they could resort to arms very soon in defense of their rights. The statement dealt in large part with the treatment of Lezgins in Azerbaijan. (British Broadcasting Corporation 10/10/96) The Lezgins demanded that the Russian leadership immediately revise its oil export contract with Azerbaijan. It protested against the oil contract with Azerbaijan because it "does not indicate the share of the Lezgin people as an owner of the oil." (British Broadcasting Corporation 10/15/96)
Mar 1997 Russian newspapers reported that Sadval members were planning a number of attacks on Russian border guards on Azerbaijani territory during the trial of seven of their activists. They hoped to complicate relations between the two countries and initiate a separatist movement in northern Azerbaijan. Of the seven defendants in the Sadval case, one is a Russian citizen. Some reports indicated the fighters had been trained in Armenia. (Moscow News 3/20/97)
Apr 1997 Representatives of various ethnic groups convened a congress in Khasavyurt (Dagestan) to demand that the results of the recent election for Khasavyurt mayor be invalidated. The speakers at the meeting stressed that in the multi-ethnic Khasavyurt region needed to adopt a package of laws guaranteeing the rights of ethnic minorities before holding the mayoral election. The participants of the congress included the leadership of the Chechen-Akins National Council, Lezgins and the ataman of the Khasavyurt Branch of the Terek Cossack Army. (What the Papers Say 4/22/97)
Jun 1997 The Nationalities Affairs Committee of the lower house of the Russian parliament discussed the plight of the Lezghins. They noted the conditions of Lezghins in Azerbaijan, and that Russian officials often helped the Azerbaijanis arrest Lezghins on Russian soil for deportation to Azerbaijani prisons, where they were tortured. Lezghin groups urged the duma and the Azerbaijani government to consider the introduction of dual citizenship for Lezgins in Azerbaijan, the use of the Lezgin language as the medium of teaching at schools and the establishment of Lezgin media, and the consultation of a Lezghin representative body in drawing up contracts involving natural resources found in Lezghin areas. (British Broadcasting Corporation 6/7/97)
Aug 1997 In a press conference, deputy chairman of the Russian government Ramazan Abdulatipov, a deputy from Lezghin areas, claimed that very few Lezghins wanted an independent Lezghin republic. (Official Kremlin News Broadcast 8/27/97)
Sep 1997 The wife of Mugutdin Kakhrimanov, Chairman of the National Council of the Lezghin People, was found murdered in her home in Makhachkala, prompting the cancellation of a planned congress of the group. A note, warning Kakhrimanow to leave Dagestan or be the next victim, was found at the scene of the crime. The Lezghin National Council is a public organization, whose goal is uniting Lezghins, who live in Daghestan's south. Kakhrimanov was later charged with the murder. (TASS 9/19/97 & 10/3/97)
Sep 1997 Sadval formally denied allegations by Col Sergey Bondarev, the deputy commander of Russia's Caucasian Special Border District, that 50-100 armed members of Sadval had been planning to cross from Dagestan into neighboring Azerbaijan on 25th September "to carry out an armed provocation there." Sadval claimed that the charges were part of a scheme to return tensions to the border, which had recently loosened restrictions on crossing. (British Broadcasting Corporation 10/2/97)
Dec 1997 The commander of the Caucasian special border guard district, Lieutenant- General Yevgeny Bolkhovitin, set off on an inspection trip to Dagestan to discuss security on the Azerbaijani border. Dagestani authorities explained delays in the establishment of a border zone along the Azerbaijani border will complicate communication among Lezghins and other Caucasian ethnic groups living in Dagestan and Azerbaijan. (TASS 12/1/97)
Jun 25, 1998 The Constitutional Assembly, or parliament, of the Daghestan republic elected the republic's State Council. The State Council was the supreme body of the executive branch of government, which does not have any analogues in other Russia's component regions. It consists of 14 members, who represent the major ("title") peoples living in the republic with a total of more than 30 peoples. This form of government was adopted after a popular referendum rejected presidential government in 1994. (TASS 6/23/98)
Jan 1999 Alexander Gistsev, Chair of Russian Community association, applied to the Dagestani Constitutional Court with a request to consider the congruence of the republican law "On Elections to the national Assembly" contained in the Dagestani Constitution with the federal constitution. The law required people to register to vote according to gender and ethnic group, and allowed each person to vote only for delegates from that representative constituency. (What the Papers Say 1/20/99)
Mar 1999 Ruslan Ashuraliyev, of the Sadval movement, declared in an Azerbaijani newspaper that the organization had to acquire an international image. To that end, he said Sadval leadership believed statements on re-establishing a state in Dagestan had been counterproductive for the Lezgin people, and that Sadval should aim for a free economic zone, to be created in densely-populated Lezgin areas - southern Dagestani and northern Azerbaijani districts, and cooperation in border districts between Russia and Azerbaijan, transparency of borders, freedom of movement across the border for citizens and transport means, dual citizenship in Russia and Azerbaijan and a customs union. (British Broadcasting Corporation 3/26/99)
Jun 1999 Sketchy reports indicated that a planned congress of Legzhin people in Dagestan was postponed. (British Broadcasting Corporation 6/16/99) Russia formally blamed Sadval for an explosion on the Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipeline. (British Broadcasting Corporation 6/23/99)
Jul 1999 While arresting and escorting Gasym Mahmudov, a Sadval member and inhabitant of Gusar District, who was on the wanted list for bombing a metro station in Baku, Azerbaijan, some employees of Gusar District police department were attacked by 200 people who managed to free Magaramkent. Three people were arrested for the attack, prompting further protests by the Legzhins. (British Broadcasting Corporation 7/22/99 & 7/28/99)
Sep 1999 In response to the Chechen invasion of Dagestan in August, the Russian army began training volunteer forces to fight alongside regular Russian troops. However, only Avars, and some other ethnic groups, were armed, not Legzhins or Laks. (Middle East News 9/26/99)

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