1. Russia

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Magas Effort to Control Ingush Muslim Leadership Deepening Divide between People and Powers, Mutsolgov Says

Listen to this article

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 5 – The Muslim leaders in the North Caucasus have always had an enormous influence on the overwhelmingly Islamic population, and republic leaders have used various strategems, ranging from “divide and conquer” to “carrots and sticks,” to try to ensure that the Muslim leaders work with rather than against the secular authorities.

            Some republic leaders have been successful while others have failed utterly, finding that their moves against the Muslim leadership have driven not only the muftis and imams away from the government but the population as a whole. Until 2015, the Ingush government was relatively successful; since that time, it has failed on almost all occasions.

            In the summer of that year, Magomed Mutsolgov, an Ingush activist and blogger says, “a conflict arose between the mufti and the head of the republic, and their paths diverged.” Things deteriorated to the point that the religious leaders were subject to violence, and the secular leadership was increasingly reviled as well (

            Then, republic head   Yunus-Bek Yevkurov made things worse by brining in advisors on religious affairs and finally an entire Administration for Religious Affairs. “But neither the first nor the second replaced the muftiate.” They only offended its members and believers in the population. In the end, Yevkurov had a court liquidate the muftiate.

            But that action took place “only on paper.” To this day, the muftiate has continued to operate, with believers turning to it on important matters. Things stayed tense until Yevkurov was replaced in 2019 by Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov who immediately made things far worse after some initial steps appeared to promise a better outcome.

            On becoming republic head, he abolished the Administration for Religious Affairs. But then he brought in an ethnic Russian to head the ministry for nationality affairs, which also supervises religious groups. The new minister knew nothing of the Ingush and took step after step to alienate them and their religious leaders.

            Now, Kalimatov and his regime have brought in the Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) whose offices are in Ufa and which has no expertise on or sensitivity to Islam as it is practiced in the North Caucasus. The idea clearly was that this body would serve as the government-recognized muftiate in place of the one the population still turns to.

            But it is already obvious that things aren’t going to work out like that, Mutsolgov says. The real but banned muftiate will continue to function, and the Central MSD representative will be viewed as the latest outsider that Kalimatov has imposed. As a result, the republic head who initially pledged to renew conversations with the people will be ever more isolated from them.

            And the people will be waiting until Moscow decided that he has to be sacrificed for yet another projected dreamed up in the capital.   

Window on Eurasia — New Series