Reviews

The book tells about the violation of law and human rights by the Militia (Police) of Bashkortostan, and more generally about the political regime in this national republic of the Urals Region of Russia till the replacement of the Rähimov Administration in summer 2010. A former lieutenant-colonel of Russian Army, the author was till November 2008 the Executive Director of Russia’s Movement for Human Rights in Bashkortostan. His book provides a lot of information and includes different documents of the Interior Ministry of Bashkortostan.

The first chapter, entitled “The Interior Ministry or a Criminal Community,” exposes different cases of police abuse, with particular accusations against Minister Rafail’ Divaev and his First Deputy Nicolai Patrikeev, both dismissed by Russian Presidents (the latter by Putin in 2003 and the former by Medvedev in 2008). The second chapter, “Are Murders and Butcheries Regularly Practised by the Ministry of Interior of Bashkortostan?,” gives an account of many facts of illegal practice by the police in the republic. The author writes in particular about police abuse in the cities of Ishimbai and Tuimazy. The third chapter, “Blagoveshchensk, the Stricken City,” narrates the ‘prophylactic measures’ implemented on December 10-14, 2004 by the Interior Ministry of the Republic with the assistance of the OMON (special police forces) of Bashkortostan. The operation lasted five full days during which many people were arrested and beaten in special filtration points. The author provides a scheme of this cleansing operation, which could be known by public opinion thanks to the efforts of Veronica Shakhova, the Editor of Blagoveshchensk’s independent newspaper Zerkalo (“The Mirror”). The operation was then strongly criticised by famous lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who was later (on January 19, 2009) killed in Moscow by hard-line activists.

The fourth chapter, “Kingdom of Corruption,” is an analysis of the regime of President Murtaza Rähimov (dismissed on July 5, 2010), which is introduced as a combination of socialist and Islamic features (p. 83). The oil extraction and industry in the republic was monopolised by the Rähimov family, and remains under control of former President’s son Ural. The chapter notably contains an interesting passage on the correspondence exchanged in late 2002 and early 2003 between Alexander Shabrin, the Executive Secretary of the Security Council of Bashkortostan, and Shamil Basaev, at the time the First Deputy of the Commander-in-Chief of Chechen military forces. Basaev was demanding the release of Ibragim Gulaev, an Ingush businessman and former deputy governor of the Tver Region. Basaev proposed Shabrin to offer 500,000 roubles as compensation for the economic damage of Gulaev’s actions. According to the author’s report this money was given to Bashkir authorities by a proxy of Basaev’s, Akhmet Merzhoev, after which Gulaev was released (102, 246-247).

The fifth chapter analyses the formation of Bashkortostan as a semi-independent state under Rähimov, in the author’s opinion a much more capable politician than Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudaev. The sixth chapter gets back to corruption in the Interior Ministry of Bashkortostan: The author compares the existing system in the republic with that of Soviet time under Minister Vladimir Rylenko (1962-87). I. Isangulov pleads for the introduction in Bashkortostan a social control by human-rights organisations and independent magistracy. The last chapter displays a chronology of reactions by human-rights activists against the abuse of law by Bashkir police, in particular during and after the Blagoveshchensk events. In all, the book provides precious information on poorly known features of political power in Bashkortostan. It is available at http://bskorup.net/modules.php?name=Pages&pa=list_pages_categories&cid=1.

Mikhail Roshchin, Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow
CER: II-7.2-584