The North Caucasus is the most volatile and ethnically
diverse region in Russia, with dozens of ethnic minorities living
in Dagestan alone. The ongoing struggle for Chechnya
inevitably influences the political climate not just in the
local ethnic republics, but also in the adjacent areas of
southern Russia which have for a long time felt the
effects of instability across the border.
Anti-Russian sentiments are strong in parts of the region inhabited by national minorities, following
about 200 years of persecution under the tsars and
Stalin. Most analysts believe that tribal loyalties
rather than party affiliations usually determine the outcome
of the elections here.
There is a cultural divide between the predominantly
Muslim republics situated next to the Caucasus
mountains, and the mostly Orthodox areas of Southern
Russia, and nationalism and xenophobia are rife in both
parts of the region. They do, however, have one thing in
common. Both parts of the North Caucasus are mostly
agricultural which gives the Communist party a strong
lead over parties that target the urban and more
educated electorate. This is particularly true of the
southern Russian areas of Stavropol, Krasnodar and
Rostov which form part of the so-called "Red Belt".
The ultra-left wing of the Russian Communist party
enjoys a strong following here.
In December's parliamentary elections no voting took place in the breakaway republic of Chechnya.