Russia | North Ossetia | No 1 | August 2007 RUSSIA | NORTH OSSETIA | Trends in Conflict and Cooperation The main political factors determining the situation in North Ossetia are: (a) developments in South Ossetia, (b) Ossetian-Ingush relations, namely those connected with the return and settlement of the Ingush IDPs; and (c) the problems with Ossetian IDPs from South Ossetia and inner regions of Georgia. A stand-alone factor affecting the situation is also the threat of terrorist attacks. The management of conflict between South Ossetia and Georgia causes serious concern among the leadership of North Ossetia and the socio-political movement of Ossetians “Styr Nykhas” – the key proponent of the idea of unity between North and South Ossetians within the Russian Federation. Leaders of both North and South Ossetia of- Map of Conflictive Events in North Ossetia ten state that no other prospect is conceivable and expect unity to materialize in 2008. At the same time, many Ossetians in North Ossetia are presently against formal unity for psychological reasons explained by the history of attitudes between north and south Ossetians. Another reason is the wide-spread perception that a de-facto unity is already firmly in place in the territory of North Ossetia, where scores of South Ossetian IDPs have become deeply integrated and have no plans of returning to the south. Integration processes are supported by the Russian government: practically all South Ossetians are Russian citizens, Russian ruble is in circulation, pensioners Source: FAST event data are paid Russian pensions, financial and military-technical support is provided to South Ossetia, etc. Although South Ossetian and Abkhaz separatism is one of the key pressure factors used by Russia in its relations with Georgia, the Russian government is not prepared to recognize South Ossetia as a subject of the Russian Federation de jure and is interested in maintaining the status quo. However, if the crisis gets remilitarized, these parameters may change. In one of the recent statements by the head of North Os- setia T. Mamsurov, he said that “in case of a negative scenario, towards which the situation is driven by Georgia, he will not be able to prevent North Ossetian population from helping the residents of South Ossetia. One should not for- get that the North and South Ossetia are inhabited by one ethnic group.” It is important to stress that the last six months in North Ossetia were marked by the preparations for the VI Congress of Ossetian People scheduled in autumn this year and to be held in the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali. The central issue of discussion during the congress will be the unity of South and North Ossetia. North Ossetia continues to be affected by the consequences of the Beslan tragedy of 1-3 September 2004. Relatives of victims and people who survived the terrorist attack at the school in Beslan are still demanding that the authorities disclose the whole truth about the tragedy. Not just the survivors but also a significant portion of the re- public’s population believe that the results of the investigations conducted by the republic’s parliamentary commis- sion as well as by the federal parliament’s commission were not sufficiently objective. It should be noted that the in- quiry by the Russian General Prosecutor’s office has not yet been finished; its deadline for completion was repeatedly postponed. Social organizations set up by relatives of victims (“Mothers of Beslan”, ”Voice of Beslan”) continue to demand criminal persecution for the heads of the Hostage Release Operation Headquarters as well as former Presi- dent A. Dzasokhov. Among other demands is an additional expert review of the reasons for the first explosions in the school. There was a certain worsening of inter-faith relations in Ossetia caused by the debate around the decision to build a Russian Orthodox temple at the site of the Beslan tragedy. This was suggested by the regional Bishop Feofan in accordance with the orthodox tradition and supported by the majority of victims’ relatives and the authorities. North Ossetian Muslims (supported by Muslim relatives of victims and in March 2007 by Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin – the head of the Council of Muftis of Russia) suggested that the memorial should be either devoid of religious symbolism or also include a mosque. This has led to some serious discontent among supporters of the orthodox temple and me- FAST Update | Russia | North Ossetia | No 1 | August 2007 morial explained by their perception of the fact that terrorists who attacked the school came from Ingushetia and Chechnya (neighboring republics with predominantly Muslim populations). This autumn will mark a 15-year anniversary of the Ossetian-Ingush armed conflict of 1992. Throughout these years federal authorities and authorities of North Ossetia and Ingushetia in their efforts to overcome the consequences of the conflict focused predominantly on two key directions: the return of Ingush IDPs to the place of their former resi- dence in the territory of North Ossetia and the easing of interethnic tensions in the conflict zone. Despite the general success of peace-building efforts, some hostility and distrust between the Ingush and the Ossetian population remain. In some schools in the Prigorodny district, Ossetian and Ingush students still go to separate classes. The issue of the administrative status of the disputed Prigorodny district is periodically raised by Ingush public organizations, renewing tensions between the two neighboring groups. Over these years, serious progress has been made regarding the return and reintegration of IDPs. According to the Prigorodny District Administration, 85% of Ingush IDPs returned to the places of their original residence since Au- gust 1994 when the process first began. However, around ten thousand Ingush refugees are still registered as forced migrants with the Federal Migration Service of Russia awaiting the chance to return. Considering the rather limited economic and social assistance provided currently by the authorities to persons willing to return, the issues of reset- tling the families of IDPs and refugees in North Ossetia will continue to be suspended. In the best case scenario, just two families (out of more than 4,200) will receive housing certificates by the end of 2007. In first half of 2007 North Ossetia experienced a growth in production (almost 7% compared with the same period of the last year). North Ossetia remains the largest producer of alcoholic beverages in the south of Russia and is one of the leading producers in Russia as a whole. The production of alcohol increased by 78% this year despite se- rious competition in the industry and a shrinking share of the market for North Ossetian vodka in other Russian re- gions. According to Economic Minister Z. Kuchiev, local authorities realize that without a properly balanced economy in the republic they are bound to face falling tax revenues, employment difficulties and imminent economic decline in the future. The results (for the first half of 2007) show that some progress in this direction has already been achieved. For the first time in recent years, the “Electrozinc” plant may become the biggest source of tax revenues for the re- public’s government surpassing the alcohol-producing “Istok.” At the same time, the level of salaries in North Ossetia is just 56% of Russia’s national average (as of the first quarter of 2007), which makes it one of the lowest in the country. The amount of direct capital investment is also one of the lowest. The share of federal subsidies in North Ossetia’s budget was 68% in 2006 and is expected to be around 63% this year. The situation in the zone of Georgian-Ossetian conflict will remain tense but remilitarization is unlikely al- though some minor armed incidents remain possible. VI Congress of Ossetians to be held in September will adopt some declarative concluding statements on North and South Ossetians unity appealing to Russian and international audiences, which will not return any support. The problem of returning Ingush IDPs and their settlement in North Ossetia at their place of former residence is most unlikely to be resolved this year. The president’s direct order to the leadership of the republic and Dimitriy Kozak (presidential representative in the South Federal District) to urgently resolve the situation may cause an aggravation of Ossetian-Ingush relations. North Ossetia will remain financially dependent on the federal center although its economic indicators will continue to show a tendency for improvement. Contact FAST International is the early warning program of swisspeace, FAST International covering 25 countries/regions in Africa, Asia and Europe. Based in Country Team: Russia | North Ossetia Bern, Switzerland, the program is funded and utilized by an interna- Sonnenbergstrasse 17 tional consortium of development agencies, including the Austrian 3000 Bern 7 Development Agency (ADA), the Canadian International Development Switzerland Agency (CIDA), the Swedish International Development Cooperation email@example.com Agency (Sida) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation www.swisspeace.org (SDC).