The problems of mountain areas in the North Caucasus at the core of a recent conference
Editorial by Vladimir Kolosov, Head of the Centre of Geopolitical Studies at the Institute of Geography and Professor at the Moscow Institute of International Relations.
The Mountain Forum “Efficient Development of Mountainous Territories of Russia” was held in Makhachkala on 26-29 July. It was sponsored by the government of Dagestan as a part of the Year of Mountains celebrated in the republic. The main objective was to promote the specific interests of mountain regions, particularly in the North Caucasus where a considerable part of population still lives in the mountains. In Dagestan – literally “the country of mountains” – mountaineers make up 30% of inhabitants, more than in any other part of Caucasus and throughout Russia. In total, 53% of the territory of 43 Russian regions and republics are located in mountains. CASCADE_newsletter_5Because of severe natural conditions, isolation and low productivity of traditional agriculture (most often the principal and even the only branch of economy), these regions suffer from fast depopulation, which causes serious damage to the fragile mountain environment. In North Ossetia only 1% of population currently lives at high altitudes.
Yet mountains are the cradle of many ethnic groups and concentrate an important part of their natural and cultural heritage, there-by playing a key role in their identity. It is known that Caucasians are emotion-ally very tied to their homelands and try to keep their ancestors’ houses as long as possible.
A number of Dagestani and other Caucasian scholars advance have long advocated for specific support to mountain areas, drawing upon the example of some European countries: state assistance to the construction of roads, modernisation of social infrastructure, diversification of the economy, subsidies to the agriculture and other activities, dis-counts on electricity prices and risks’ insurance, etc. The parliaments of North Ossetia, Dagestan and the Republic of Altay in Siberia have already adopted laws on the development of mountainous regions and specific programmes. The authors of these laws identified practical solutions to settle the issue of mountain areas’ delimitation, which depends not only on the altitude but also on other factors. But the lack of funding hampers an effective application implementation of these laws.
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