tv Mosaic World News LINKTV February 23, 2012 11:30am-12:00pm PST
captioning sponsored by annenberg/cpb narrator: the region of russia and its neighboring countries once formed most of the old soviet union, or u.s.s.r. many of these old soviet republics differ from one another on the basis of ethnicity and religion. but within the russian federation itself, there are republics that could still fragment along cultural and political lines. one of these is dagestan. dagestan's historical and economic geographies help explain opposing "centripetal" and "centrifugal" forces within russia. as a largely islamic republic adjacent to warring chechnya,
dagestan now receives new scrutiny in the war on terrorism. to help explain the differences between chechnya and dagestan, we explore the relationship between diverse cultures and the physical geography of the caucasus mountains. "dagestan"-- the name means "land of mountains." part of the russian federation, dagestan lies in the caucasus mountains on russia's southern border. most people here live in small villages that are often very isolated. in the 19th century, when science still believed in distinct races, a german coined the term "caucasians" because he thought these beautiful people emplified all "whites." but in recent times, the caucasus region has received international attention for something far less romantic.
( machine-gun fire ) here, in neighboring chechnya, russian troops and rebel guerrillas have clashed for more than a decade. along this stretch of russia's southern border are a string of small republics. five, including dagestan, are largely islamic. the conflict in chechnya is partly religious but mostly nationalist, reflecting chechnya's distaste for russian control. but dagestan's case is quite different from that of neighbong chechnya. despite similar histories is quiand religion, dagestan exhibits little of the volatility th characterizeshechny why is that? geographers look at places for evidence of two opposing forces. take the old soviet union. military power, communist ideology and economic integration were centripetal forces
that helped hold the union together. but they were weak, and when the centralized economy proved bankrupt, centrifugal-- or devolutionary-- forces proved stronger. different languages, religions and large distances helped these areas spin away, as in a centrifuge. the new central asian republics joined the slavic countries in the southern caucasus to form the commonwealth of independent states. but the north caucasus remained within russia itself, despite a bloody resistance that goes back to the 19th century. geographer ronald wixman. wixman: when the czarist government came into the caucasus, they committed unspeakable brutalities. the russians literally had to commit genocide, but they couldn't get the people to simply accept russian rule. the leader of the greatest revolt is shamil-- shamil the avar.
he unified the entire north caucasus-- which included chechens, who were dagestanis at the time-- and other peoples, to fight the russian authorities. narrator: shamil led the caucasians in an epic defensive battle, here at ahogo. ( speaking native language ) translator: ahogo is the holiest place in dagestan and for all muslims of northern causasia. this is where the most important battle of the caucasian war was fought. the russians assaulted this mountain for three months and could not take it. 3,000 russians and 1,000 people from the mountains died here. only seven of our mountain people survived the battle. narrator: eventually, the czarists prevailed,
but the caucasians still dreamed of autonomy. in 1918, bolshevik revolutionaries exploited caucasian desires. it began a pattern of betrayal. wixman: lenin lied. he got all caucasians to support him in the russian revolution, and they did. and then, instead of being given a caucasian republic, they were divided into mini territories that caused a lot of problems. narrator: the boundaries were drawn byoseph stalin in a classic case of divide and conquer. the chechens were treated especially brutally. during world war ii, the entire chechen nation was deported to siberia and to the northern part of kazakhstan, where somewhere between a third and a half of the people died. therefore, the chechen bitterness is much greater. another thing is the chechens were not permitted to return to their homes, whereas the dagestanis are living in their traditional homes. narrator: so centrifugal forces, pushing the caucasians away from moscow,
were stronger among the chechens than among the dagestanis. still, dagestani culture had to go underground. ( speaking native language ) translator: our national traditions were oppressed under socialism, but the people succeeded in keeping their habits and traditions alive. many of these were almost forgotten. narrator: then, as the soviet system was collapsing, they were betrayed again. wixman: because many chechens say that gorbachev promised that if the north caucasians helped russia in the war against georgia in abkhazia, when many chechens fought and died, that they would create a north caucasian republic in the same way that they had been promised with lenin. this never came about.
narrator: tired of broken promises, the chechens began a guerrilla war against the new russian state in 1994. another centrifugal force throughout the caucasus is religion. unlike most russians, a majority of the people here are muslims. and here, location is key. the caucusus rise on russia's southern borderlands, the northern edge of the islamic world. today, muslims here construct many new mosques. despite the violence in chechnya, islam, like dagestan, is multifaceted. when they go to a mosque, we think of them as being fundamentalist moslems, which is not the case. it's funny that we see russians going to churches and rebuilding churches, and this is called russian culture. but when a dagestani reincorporates part of islamic culture, now they're called "fundamentalist moslems." narrator: in dagestan, there are also centripetal forces
that help hold it together under moscow's rule. clues emerge from dagestan's physical geography and its impact on culture that help make it different than chechnya. here are remote mountain peaks and steep-walled valleys. the brown lowlands are exceedingly dry and provide a poor basis for farming. but in dagestan, an increase in altitude brings moisture and green grass. geographer ron wixman. this is one of the few places in the world where people lived high in the mountains because it was the only area where there was enough rainfall to support some agriculture. narrator: up here, sheep and goats support the economy. but the same mountains that provide the rain also thwart travel. villages within these high mountain valleys have been largely isolated from one another for centuries. ( speaking russian )
translator: in dagestan, every village is actually a small society in itself. each has its own disnct cultural tradition its own craft specialties: the coppersmiths, the goldsmiths, and so on. most have their own newspapers and journals, printed in different languages, even in different alphabets. narrator: these distinct ethnic groups, numbering over three dozen, arformer prime minister abdurazak mirzabekov, is of kumik nationality. ( speaking russian ) translator: in our government you will find avartsy, dargintsy, lezghini, kumiks, lakhsi, ogulsi, naghaji. each people requires respect. this is but a necessary condition for conducting normal politics in the republic.
narrator: here, the minister speaks russian. so do most dagestanis; in facthatany geiss of languages spcaotnderstaneach oistinct unless they speahe com langthat language is russian. so the russian language is a centripetal force, helping to bind dagestan to moscow. by contrast, chechen solidarity is supported by a common language; 90% of the people there speak chechen. another centripetal factor holding dagestan to moscow is economic. dagestan is among the poorest of russia's republics. one of the things we also need recognize is that the abject poverty of dagestan makes them fully aware that they do not have the ability to be independent. they don't have oil as azerbejian or turkmenistan.
they don't have anything. they have barren mountain regions with some remote resources that are impossible to take out. narrator: in 1they simy accept income here was only $49 per person. that without russia they have no economy at all. narrator: financed by moscow, this huge dam demonstrates russia's impact. the construction projects improve the regional road system, provide the villages with electricity and drinking water, and provide jobs for dagestanis of all ethnic backgrounds. ( speaking russian ) translator: some 3,000 people work here in erganai. all dagestan nationalities are represented. russians who live in dagestan also work here. narrator: as they work with moscow to improve their economy, the dagestanis are also reviving cultural traditions-- stories, dance and religion--
that had long been repressed under russian rule. ( traditional music plays ) wixman: during the soviet period, no dagestani or chechen was permitted to name a street, a village, a public square, a park, or anywhere for any caucasian national hero that ever fought against the czars. ( speaking russian ) translator: but today, men and women, especially the young generation, study our traditions with great interest. narrator: the monument to shamil commemorating his valor at ahogo is a tribute to the persistence of cultural and religious values. now, when you consider that they are moslems and they're forbidden to have pictures in their memorials, it shows that islam as a culture is like christianity or judaism as a culture---- it bends.
narrator: in their hearts, most dagestanis would probably prefer e politicallindependent, but common sense and historym. ( speaking russian ) e politicallindependent, translator: we have been part of russiaorym. for more than 100 years. so i cannot imagine the future of dagestan without russia. of course, dagestan needs certain autonomous rights... but as a whole it has to be part of the russian federation. narrator: without great resources, and with such bloody conflicts in the region, why does moscow fight so hard to hold the caucasus when they allowed richer soviet republics to leave? wixman thinks it's not about economics. wixman: why give away azerbaijan with oil to keep dagestan with poverty?
it's because in the mind of the russians there is a natural border of russia, and the caucasian mountains are the natural border of russia. therefore, they do not see dagestan in cultural terms. they see it in purely geographical terms. it is russia. they will not let russia go away. narrator: so dagestan maintains its diverse languages and cultures in an isolating and resource-poor environment. if dagestan were all by itself, centrifugal forces here might make it difficult to unify this area under one state. but dagestanies can well see the violence and chaos ju over their borders inepublics that are torn apart by regional and even global conflicts. at least for now, the people of dagestan choose to follow centripetal forces that hold them together safely within the russian federation.
narrator: as a young man, vasili arrived in bratsk as a pioneer to develop the area's river transportation. now he is retired. ( speaking russian ) translator: when i came here, i didn't have the slightest idea why i had come. after a while, you get used to the place. the temperature was minus 50, minus 60. at that time, we were well paid. many of us left again, because of the cold, the mosquitoes, and god knows for what other reasons. narrator: far from the capital in moscow, the city of bratsk did not even exist before world war ii. many older cities and settlements can be found in the southern russian forests and steppes. many are linked by the trans-siberian railroad. in this satellite mosaic of the earth at night, urban lights look like pearls strung on a long necklace
along russia's southern border. as remote as these cities are, bratsk is not even on the main rail line, but 120 miles farther north. so how do 300,000 people suddenly come to reside in such an extreme climate in the middle of, well, siberia? and what does the future hold? we will explore several ideas. russia harnessed key natural resources provided by her physical geography. centralized cold war planners tried to boost soviet power and prestige. now, economic privatization offers a new challenge to bratsk to survive without large government subsidies. the reasons for bratsk begin in lake baikal, the deepest lake in the world. its mighty waters drain through the angara river to the north.
bratsk was built where the oka river joins the angara. but this satellite mosaic was captured in e summer. much of the year it looks... like this. now covered by ice, lake bratskove is held back by this massive dam. behind it, a human settlement peers rough the snow. the city did not exist until the dam harnessed the tremendous power of the angara and the oka at this cation. but geographers still dete the reason for the dam in the first place. some say the motivation was regional, trying to develop the siberian infrastructure to boost economic output here. but others say the motivation arose at a very different scale, in fact, from global tensions. khrushchev and the soviets were engaged in a cold war with the west. their goal was to show that communism could build
the largest hydroelectric project in the world. at the academy of sciences, geographer andrei treivish counters that dam construction was crucial for the russian economy. ( speaking russian ) translator: this happened after the second world war, in the days of khrushchev, so to some extent, they used the cheap labor of prisoners. ( continues speaking russian ) translator: but workers were mainly recruited in the center of the country-- the urals-- regions with a labor surplus. salaries were increased by 20%, 30%, and people went, many of them with great enthusiasm, for these were the days of huge building projects.
narrator: the dam was finished in ten years. by then, bratsk had a railway link to the trans-siberian line. critics argue that the massive hydroelectric project was an end in itself, and only afterwards did central planners figure out what to do with all that power. narrator: one answer was manufacturing and aluminum refining. this refiner is still one of the largest in the world. valentin kravchenko is the operations manager. ( speaking russian ) translator: production started in 1978: about 800,000 tons of aluminum a year. we hardly had any recruitment problems. they were attracted by the new jobs, the technology. this type of factory was one of the greatest achievements at that time.
and the wages were higher than in kuznetz, for example, or in the urals or volgograd. when times were tough, the aluminum factory was a great help to the city. we kept the city going: city budget, salaries of doctors, teachers. that's why the factory is very important for the city. rrator: the city began as these wooden houses for new pioneers who built the dam. now most factory workers live in apartment buildings like these. many people work at another major employer here: the giant cellulose and paper factory. according to treivish, it was not an afterthought, but planned as part of a territorial production complex-- or tpk.
( treivish speaking russian ) translator: the official definition of tpk is a complex of mutually related factories in a certain territory that together use the natural resources of that territory as well as the economic resources, infrastructure and the like. narrator: did have everythinghard tofigured out in bratsks before they built the dam. the territorial production complex in this province was the first tpk that became fully realized in russia. many others followed. the integrated tpk approach was really a reaction to the wasteful spread of planning power over almost 100 different ministries. translator: just like western transnational companies, these ministries didn't take any territorial interests into consideration. one of the aims of tpk was a bundling of power. narrator: in the soviet period, the big factories of bratsk
supplied basic products for the national ecomy. now they need to find new markets. the mayor of bratsk. ( speaking russian ) translator: of course, our proximity to china is important. we have railways, good roads, and trade with china is developing rapidly. the japanese are also active in bratsk. but i should point out that we do not only have relations with japan and china. we also cooperate with the united states. narrator: apart from developing new trade relations, the factories of bratsk also face another challenge: how to cut back environmental pollution. air pollution here is among the very worst in an already bad region. the regional problem is so bad, it astonished u.s. astronaut mike foale as he looked down from sce.
even with hydroelectric power, siberians primarily burn fossil fuels. the cities in russia are coal-burning cities, and so the soot from the coal burning has spread out over the snow surrounding the city and you see this big black smudge. it's almost like someone had rubbed their finger across a photograph, but looking at i out the window. narrator: cosmonaut vladimir titov flew with foale on a space shuttle mission. he talks about a town in siberia he knows well. ( speaking russian ) translator: if you look from the air, it's one of the dirtiest towns ever. smoke is visible for hundreds of kilometers. i myself am from siberia, and i know that many people are very worried about pollution. narrator: in bratsk, pollution undermines the health of the urban population. the big factories have inadequate health and safety regulations,
putting their workers at risk. the firms and inhabitants of bratsk pay special taxes for the improvement of environmental conditions, but most of this money disappears in the direction of moscow. factory director viktor savinov. ( speaking russian ) translator: in my opinion, it is not up to the central government to collect and spend the anti-pollution tax. instead, this should be done by the local government. now 40% of the tax revenues go to moscow and 50% to irkutsk, the capital of the region. so how can you improve the environment if there is no money? narrator: in other parts of siberia, many people are leaving for the west. but for now, this is not happening on aarger scale r bratsk, or its pronce, irkutsk. andrei treivish. ( speaking russian ) translator: irkutsk province is different in a positive sense.
the production level has not fallen too sharply. unemployment is not too high. and even the price increases, relative to the salaries, are not too dramatic, as in other regions. but still, many people lose their jobs and choose to leave. narrator: is there a future here for the children of bratsk? ironically, in this hydroelectric city, the cost to heat homes is very high. subsidies will be needed to make it economical for many people. it is not clear if moscow has the money or the will. the mega-factories may survive if they specialize and decrease their scale of operations. the quality of the environment could also be improved, many people would choose to stay.
they have become siberians, just like vasili. would he leave bratsk if he had a choice? translator: no, no, no... even if i had the chance. you become attached. narrator: so russia has harnessed key natural resources provided by her physical geography. and centralized planners briefly brought prestige to a failed soviet state. now, under economic privatization, it is not clear if the remote city of bratsk can survive without large subsidies from a distant national government.