Staunton, August 9 – Twenty-five years ago, the government of Daghestan began to move the members of the Lak nation from their historical homelands to other locations, a process within that North Caucasus republic that continues to this day and that eerily echoes in a soft way the more horrific deportations of Stalin’s time.
The Laks, who number more than 160,000, are followers of Sunni Islam and have traditionally lived in isolated mountain fastnesses. Although they are commonly thought to be the first Daghestani people to have created feudalism, they continue to rely on the most ancient forms of animal husbandry.
In the name of “improving” their lives, the central authorities have sought to move them into the valleys, a process that the Laks have resisted not only because it takes them away from the lands of their ancestors but also because it means that they will be mixed together with other ethnic groups and quite likely subject to assimilation.
But because they remain largely independent of Makhachkala in their isolated villages, the republic government wants them moved and are pushing to complete their “resettlement” however much the Laks resist. That pressure and that resistance were on view this week at a meeting of the republic government (chernovik.net/content/lenta-novostey/konca-pereseleniyu-lakcev-iz-novolakskogo-rayona-eshche-ne-vidno).
Speaking to that session, Deputy Prime Minister Rayudin Yusufov provided clear evidence that the resettlement program has not won the support of the Laks and is not being sufficiently well-funded or developed by the republic authorities.
“We have to resettle more than 13,000 people, having created for them all the necessary conditions for existence,” Yusufov said. There needs to be schools, roads, hospitals, cultural institutions and other infrastructure. Part of this has been built, but in many places, key structures are not yet in place.
Among the statistics he gave showing how far the republic still has to go to realize the 25-year-old project, more than 660 additional homes must be constructed, more than a quarter more than have already been built. He gave no dates for the completion of these projects but insisted that “the resettlement of the Laks” go ahead anyway.