Posts Tagged ‘caucasus’

North Caucasus Youth Forum Mashuk 2010, some random notes


The basic idea of the forum is rather interesting… all participants come from the Federal District of the Northern Caucasus (Stavropolskij Kraj, Karachaj-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan) plus, at least in the original project, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The programme includes training and classes dedicated to “intercultural interaction” that all participants must attend. Basically, participants from different parts of the Russian Caucasus are given a chance to know each other better, to discuss about the stereotypes they have about each other, and so forth. Continue reading…

List of youth forums taking place in Southern Russia/Northern Caucasus in the summer of 2010

I’m sending this post while listening to the concert that closes the youth forum Mashuk 2010 (in Pjatigorsk, Stavropolskij Kraj) open to participants from Stavropolskij Kraj, Karachaj-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan as well as (at least in theory) Abkhazia and South Ossetia. 2000 participants planned (but the actual figure is somewhat smaller).

This year a number of youth forums and youth camps has taken place in the northern Caucasus. They have been different in size and scope. Putin explicitly called for the organizations of this kind of events in the Northern Caucasus. Most of them were supported by the Russian government, by Mr. Khloponin, head of the Federal District of the Northern Caucasus and/or by Federal Agency for Youth affairs headed by Vasilij Jakemenko.

I’m writing down some thoughts about this forum, but in the meantime, I’d like to share this…

List of youth forums taking place in Southern Russia/Northern Caucasus in the summer of 2010

In May, the final stage of the “Student’s Spring” has taken place in Nal’chik, capital of Kabardino Balkaria, a festival that involves “creative students” (singers, dancers, actors, etc.) from about 70 Russian regions.

On July 18-23, Nal’chik hosted the youth forum “Kavkaz 2020”, a forum planned for one thousands participants coming from all of the Russian federation (but where North Caucasus republics were disproportionally highly represented) organized by Russia’s dominant party Edinaja Rossija and its youth branch Molodaja Gvardija and largely sponsored by the regional and federal budget.

On July 23-31, the Russian Congress of Caucasian Peoples organized a youth forum called “It’s better together” in Dombaj, Karachaj-Cherkessia. Its participants were 200 “young leaders” from the region.

In July, Irex Russia (supported by USAID), organized two forums for young leaders in Kabardino Balkaria…in total, about two hundreds participants between 14 and 24 years old coming from all the territories of the Northern Caucasus.

On August 22-28, youth forum “Volga 2010” has been organized in the Volgograd region in collaboration with Edinaja Rossija. It is planned for about 1500 participants… apparently, and funnily enough, participants come from 40 Russian regions, as well as from “Abkhazia, Czech Republic, Italy and Japan”.

For September, another youth forum has been organized in the Astrakhan region (Selias 2010), dedicated to young people from the Caspian region, including people from southern Russia/northern Caucasus as well as international guests from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan.

Mashuk 2010

But probably the biggest of them all, and the one more openly supported by the Russian Federal structures, is the youth forum “Mashuk 2010”… planned for 2000 people, it is now drawing to its end in Pjatigorsk, in the territory of Stavropol’ (the forum started on August 8 and will close on August 26).

This list might be incomplete.

More thoughts, notes and pictures about Mashuk 2010 coming soon…

“Seliger’s many faces”, my reportage from the International Youth Forum Seliger 2010

Dancing and waiting

My reportage about the International Youth Forum Seliger 2010 is now online on (available in Italian here).

You can find some pictures there or on my Flickr page.

I already shared some considerations on my way back from the forum in a previous post

And here's another recent article about youth policies in Russia as a whole and in the Northern Caucasus in particular, that makes reference to Seliger.

why don’t you like girls? #caucasus #gendercide

Recently, “The Economist” has published a cover story about gendercide, i.e. the practice of selective abortion in order not to have female children. En passant, “The Economist” mentioned that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are three among the four top countries in the world rankings of countries by sex ratio at birth (male/female). The article mostly focussed on China and India, that are numerically much more important, and didn’t explain why this phenomenon is widespread in the South Caucasus. The motivations behind this practice in China, for example, are to be found in economic and social factors, as well as in the “one child policy”. Apparently, they hardly apply to the countries of the South Caucasus.

Nonetheless, here are the data provided by the CIA World Factbook:

Sex ratio at birth (male/female)
Armenia: 1,14
Azerbaijan: 1,13
Georgia: 1,13

According to these data, the three countries of the South Caucasus are the three countries in the world where this coefficient is highest. (check the ranking compiled on Wikipedia)

Considering that the natural sex ratio at birth is closer to 1,05, these data seem to suggest that in the countries of the South Caucasus selective abortion is practiced in order not to have a female child. This would be particularly surprising given the fact that such a practice is not widespread in any country neighbouring the region.

According to a report published by UNDP in March 2010, “The Demographic Transformation of Post-Socialist Countries”, by Elizabeth Brainerd, in Soviet times the ratio was close to 1,05 (pag. 8), and the reason why “evidence of son preference has emerged so rapidly is surprising and difficult to explain.” Brainerd quotes official statistics by the local governments that do differ from CIA data, but confirm the existence of the problem (sex ratio  for children age 0-4, Armenia 1,145, Azerbaijan 1,168, Georgia 1,104).

France Meslé, Jacques Vallin and Irina Badurashvili have written an interesting chapter in a book published in 2007 (available for download) dedicated to this issue, titled “A sharp increase in sex ratio at birth in the Caucasus. Why? How?”.

They basically confirm this negative trend, but do not find compelling explanations of this phenomenon. Nonetheless, the chapter is an extremely interesting reading that depicts clearly the situation. Graphs show how sex ratio at birth increased steeply after the fall of the Soviet Union, and how it did not change in all other countries of the former Ussr (including Central Asia). It show on maps how this phenomenon is widespread in the different regions of the three countries (and not in neighbouring regions of Russia or Turkey), making clear that this is not limited to the cities or to small villages, but is an issue that involves different territories, and that in some regions this figure is higher than 1,20. Besides, the fact that sex ratio at birth is so much higher for the third born child than with the previous (the figure gets closer to 1,40), it seems clear that there is a conscious attempt to refuse to give birth to a female child, in particular if the first two were already female.

The authors mention previous studies (in Georgian) claiming that the problems acutally lies in poor birth registration data, but this seems hardly convincing.

The authors of this article naturally claim that “as convincing as these indicators may be, we do not have definitive proof that the increase in sex ratio at birth in the countries of the Caucasus is due to the spread of scans and the practice of sex-selective abortion.”

Anywyay, if this hypothesis is confirmed, it would mean that between 10 and 20 percent (and possibly more) of young parents in the southern Caucasus are ready to recur to abortion if they find out that they’re expecting a girl instead of a boy. Or that more generally, parents are much more likely to recur to induced abortion if they’re expecting a girl, especially if previous children were also girls.

This sounds scary, and I would definitely welcome any other sound theory able to explain the data. Besides, this sounds honestly strange and unexpected… Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, however similar in many aspects, are countries that have different traditions and whose citizens follow even different religious faiths. It is all the more strange, considering the fact that no other country of the region has showed a similar trend.

In Europe, this phenomenon is present also in some parts of the Balkans, most notably in Albania and Kosovo (sex ratio around 1,10)…but still, well below the level recorded in the Caucasus.

I am looking forward to find out more about this, so if anyone reading this post has more updated data or sound alternative explanations, please let me know… I’m definitely willing to read and write more about it…
I have been looking for more information about this topic for a few months already, but couldn’t find anything more. I was actually very surprised to find so little about it online… I think this is a very serious problem, and there should probably be more awareness about it.

Looking forward to hear comments and ideas…

city of the dead, North Ossetia

Built in the XIV-XVIII century…beautiful, but rather difficult to reach… there are still bones and whole skeletons inside those buildings…

A foggy day in Nazran, Ingushetia

It takes about half an hour by mini-bus to get from Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, to Nazran, Ingushetia. In spite of these, residents of one city apparently scarcely visit the other. Anyway, this is a long story, and I’m not going into that…

The first thing one notices approaching Ingushetia is the extremely visible presence of military units. Check points at the border between the two republics. Soldiers with automatic gun machines all along the main road, all in camouflage uniforms with heavy bullet-proof vests, some even with their faced covered with balaclavas. It does make you feel a bit uneasy.

The second thing that meets the eye is the huge number of brand new buildings on both sides of the road…apparently, many of them built after the wave of refugees that followed the beginning of the second Chechen war in 1999.

Today, Yunus-bek Evkurov, president of Ingushetia held a meeting with the students of the local university (see picture below). He seems to be a rather straightforward man, underlining the importance of stabilization and security as a precondition for all the rest. He answered the questions of the students, and gave instantly orders to members of his government (present in the hall) to satisfy some of them. The discussion seemed to be really open, and students looked willing to ask rather uncomfortable questions…for example “why aren’t you defending the honour of the Ingush people for what concerns issues like the deportation of 1944 and prigorodnyj rajon?”, or, more practically, “Last year you promised to add new buses for students to go back home in the evening. We haven’t seen any. Why?”.

Well, it might be not as good as it seems, but I have to admit that I generally liked his “don’t-want-to-tell-you-fairy-tales” attitude. Still, I am particularly dubious about his over-reliance on traditional tejp structures to solve the problems of the region… anyway, I will most probably write more about it @balkanscaucasus

Later I met the head of the Ingushetia office of well known human right organisation Memorial. It was really an interesting meeting. The office of the organisation is very basic (see the entrance hidden among clothing shops in the picture below), but this proves just once more that this is a real Ngo. I’ll publish our discussion as an interview @balkanscaucasus, probably in March.

I got back to Vladikavkaz late in the afternoon…in Nazran, it was snowing lightly, and it was really foggy… (see picture below). Nonetheless… I can imagine it with blossoming trees, gentle hills, and mountains far away, but still well in sight.

It might well take some time for Spring to come to Ingushetia. But I’m sure, it will.

6683585-2_memorial 6683584-1_yevkurov-students

Nashi organizes a summer camp for 20,000 young people coming from different parts of the northern Caucasus

Today I met Marija Kislicyna, “kommissar” of the Russian youth
movement Nashi. She’s head of the project “Russia for everybody”
(“Rossiya dlya vsekh”), and follows programmes meant to improve
relations between different ethnic groups living in Russia. The
tagline is that it doesn’t matter if you are Russian, Tatar or
Chechen, as long as you’re conscious of being a citizen of Russia.

I got some more information about Nashi’s programmes in this field,
and I will most probably write more about it at some point. Anyway…

News of the day (for me at least):

Nashi will probably organize a large youth summer camp involving young
people from all the regions of the Northern Caucasus. It should take
place in the region of Stavropol next summer. Details are yet to be
decided, but the idea is to have about 20,000 young people coming in
five turns of 4,000 participants each, on the model of the all-Russian
Seliger youth camp ( It is dedicated to the
youth of the Russian Caucasus, and most probably there will be
delegations coming from Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well.

some leaflets and materials produced by Nashi