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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Land of lost hope and deprivation
By Steven Eke
BBC Russian affairs analyst

Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy for the North Caucasus, Dmitry Kozak, says the situation in the city of Nalchik is "normalising", following scenes of mayhem after a series of audacious raids by armed militants.

A Russian military officer, left, leads a man down the street in Nalchik, Russia
Few will be surprised at another spasm of violence in the Caucasus

But few Russian television viewers will be convinced by Mr Kozak's talk of "normality", given dozens of deaths and another outbreak of violence in the Caucasus.

Following last year's Beslan school massacre, there were repeated promises that the North Caucasus, a generally poor, unstable, semi-modernised part of Russia, would receive support, money, and new administrators.

Mr Kozak, President Putin's hand-picked envoy, was despatched to the region, and came back with gloomy reports, some of which were subsequently leaked to the Russian media.

They spoke of a critical need for investment; for old, Soviet-era administrators to be replaced; and for a vision of a decent future for non-Russians, a significant number of whom harbour historical resentments over what they see as centuries of Russian repression.

Despair

More than a year after Beslan, nothing has changed. Little new money has appeared to alleviate social problems, especially unemployment.

The Kremlin backed away from mass leadership changes, fearing instability.

Corruption, which in the North Caucasus effectively means you can buy anything and anyone, seemed to be a price worth paying for a semblance of stability.

The North Caucasus staggers foreign visitors with its austere, mountainous beauty.

But for many of its residents, life is about deprivation and the absence of hope.

Despite his talk today of "normality", Mr Kozak has acknowledged that radical Islam is increasingly seductive to many young men in the region, despite efforts by Russia to impose its secular, European values.


SEE ALSO
North Caucasus: At a glance
08 Sep 04 |  Europe
Country profile: Russia
21 Sep 05 |  Country profiles

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