IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 98: Return of Ingush refugees to North Ossetia fuels tensions

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Subject: IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 98: Return of Ingush refugees to North Ossetia fuels tensions

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IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 98: Return of Ingush
refugees to North Ossetia fuels tensions

GEORGIAN "TERRORIST" DILEMMA  Tbilisi is under pressure from Moscow to
tackle Chechen rebels believed to be hiding out in Georgia. By Mikhail
Vignansky in Tbilisi
UNWANTED OSSETIAN NEIGHBOURS  The return of Ingushetian refugee
families to North Ossetia fuels ethnic tension in the region. By
Valeri Dzutsev in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia
GEORGIAN ADOPTION SCAM  Impoverished Georgian women are offering
themselves up as surrogate mothers to make ends meet. By Zaza Baazov
in Tbilisi
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The return of Ingushetian refugee families to North Ossetia fuels
ethnic tension in the region.
By Valeri Dzutsev in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia
The return of 10 Ingushetian families to their ancestral village of Ir
in the North Ossetian district of Prigorodny has revived a
nine-year-old ethnic conflict that spiralled into a new spate of
violence and kidnappings in early September.
Prigorodny's local capital, Octyabrskoye, is the only place in the
district to which Ingushetian refugees have not dared return since
inter-ethnic fighting between Ossetians and Ingushetians broke out on
October 31, 1992 when the Chechen-Ingushetian republic was divided
into Ingushetian and Chechen autonomous republics.
Over 800 civilians were killed in five days, more were taken hostage
and thousands of homes were burned down. Tens of thousands of
Ingushetians were expelled to Ingushetia by the new Ossetian
authorities, or fled fearing persecution. Some argued at the time that
the expulsion was the only way to save their lives.
Sandwiched between the Ossetian part of the Terek River and the
western Ingushetian border, Prigorodny had been home to the
Ingushetian before 1944 when they were deported by Stalin for alleged
collaboration with the Nazis.

Their differences with the Ossetians date back to the Russian
revolution when the Ingushetians were fervent supporters of the
Bolsheviks, while the Ossetians opposed them. This situation changed
in 1930s when Moscow started to favour Ossetians over than

What precipitated the fighting in 1992 was the Ingushetian demand that
Prigirodny district and half of the North Ossetian capital,
Vladikavkaz, should be incorporated in the new republic of Ingushetia.
Talks between North Ossetia and Ingushetia have since moved on from
territorial matters to the repatriation of Ingushetian nationals.
The return of 10 Ingushetian families in mid-August to Ir, a part of
Octyabrskoye, has reignited the issue. Fearing that Ingushetia will
try to reclaim its rights on the district when enough Ingushetians
have returned, the authorities have forced the refugees to settle
outside the village.

"Let them live on the outskirts," said one Ossetian, "we are not yet
ready to have Ingushetians for neighbours." Another said, "We are not
ready to mix with people we don't trust. Let them live in the open,
where we can keep an eye on them."

The Ossetians live in one part of the village, the Ingushetians in
another, often with Russian soldiers to guard them. Their children
even go to separate schools.

The Ingushetian families in Ir live in 15 metre square metal
containers, designed as temporary accommodation for construction
workers. Their original homes are either ruins, or dumping grounds for

"We are not guilty of any crime," said one of the returnees, "we just
want to live where our ancestors lived."

"They say we should ask for forgiveness," said another, "but I lost
twelve of my relatives in this conflict. Let the criminals be
condemned, but peaceful people should not be punished for no reason.
What right do they have to tell us where to live?"

Moscow played a major role in settling the 1992 fighting. Three days
after it started, Russian troops arrived to keep the sides apart and
large amounts of federal funding were devoted to the resettlement of
Ingushetian refugees, 28,000 of whom have since returned.

The authorities in Prigorodny responded by encouraging Ossetians from
the Georgian breakaway mini-state of South Ossetia to settle there on
the grounds they shared a common language, history and kin.

On August 28 and 29, thousands of people gathered in the Ingushetian
capital, Nazran, to demand that Moscow introduce federal rule in
Prigorodny and Vladikavkaz to halt the discrimination against
Ingushetian nationals. They appealed to President Vladimir Putin,
accusing North Ossetia of "trying to affirm the results of the ethnic
cleansing in 1992".
The appeal caused widespread resentment in North Ossetia and triggered
a wave of violence against Ingushetians. On September 3, near the
predominantly Ingushetian  border village of Chermen, two Ossetians
attacked an Ingushetian regional security official.

The next day, in the same village, a bomb damaged a cross-border bus,
and a gang of Ingushetians kidnapped an Ossetian.

On September 7, an old Ossetian man was found dead near the border,
apparently the victim of a kidnapping that went wrong. And a day
later, two Ossetian youngsters disappeared near Chermen and their car
was later found with traces of blood. They are thought to have been
taken as hostages to Ingushetia.

The Ingushetian authorities no doubt contributed to the tension by
leaking news of a resolution by the Sunzha district court to demand
the surrender of the neighbouring Prigorodny district, a decision that
caused as much resentment as the call on Putin to introduce federal

The mutual accusations prompted Russia's acting special envoy in the
region, Yakov Stakhov, to meet with officials from both sides. Both
agreed to form a commission of reconciliation to resolve their
differences, but whether this will be enough to diffuse tensions
remains to be seen.

Valeri Dzutsev is a regular IWPR contributor in Vladikavkaz, North


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