After the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the early 1990s, when anarchy reigned, Dagestan saw power, influence, land and property redistributed by criminal methods, with Islamic or nationalist slogans often used as cover. Numerous political assassinations took place
The Mountain Jews, relatively small in number and surrounded by Muslims, suffered more than others. In 1993-94, they experienced intense violence and pressure (including threats, kidnappings and murders), because of which they were forced out of their homes and apartments, often leaving everything behind. The “humane” option looked like this: you were given 24 hours to get out and told to leave the keys to the apartment under the rug; the “inhumane” option was murder.
Jews fled to Israel, Moscow and Pyatigorsk. In Dagestan during that period, the prosperous Jewish communities of Buynaksk, Kizlyar and Khasavyurt disappeared.
The Jewish population of Derbent dropped from 17,000 to 2,000. Behind all this violence was, of course, crime, the redistribution of positions, influence and property; however, it was justified with nationalist and anti-Semitic slogans.
In the late 1990s, the level of criminal violence declined, and life became calmer. How ethnic prejudice turns into a pogrom
Anti-Semitism (like other similar phobias) is not an ideology, but a dormant element of consciousness. It is something like everyday microflora, which become pathogenic as soon as the host organism weakens. People of other faiths and foreigners are not liked, nasty myths are told about ethnic neighbors, but for the time being everyone lives peacefully, visiting each other and attending weddings; then a crisis comes, and old prejudices come to the surface.
The worst is when such a flare-up happens in a society that has not fully modernized (this is precisely the North Caucasus), when the mass of the rural population is still moving to cities. The newcomers retain traditional prejudices while simultaneously losing traditional checks and balances, no longer under the control of traditional authorities. They are disoriented, they demand a piece of the city pie, but do not know how to bite it off. They are poor, often unemployed, under the influence of radical preachers, young, easily mobilized, etc.
For the “native” urban population, a neighbor of a different religion is both a competitor and a resource; however, in the end everyone has a common city-based identity and patriotism. But for migrants, a native is a target, and a native of a different religion is doubly a target.
The problem in such societies is the rapid growth of capital cities, since only there can people access resources that do not reach the periphery. Makhachkala is one of these cities. Over the past decade, the population has grown by 50% to 600,000. Together with the nearby suburbs, it is now home to almost a million people, nearly a third of Dagestan’s overall population.
The city’s rapid growth is also driven by a higher birth rate than the national average. Many young people have recently moved to the city. This makes it much easier to find 2,000 aggressive hooligans. What did the pogromists want?
Ethnic or religious identity often generates strong emotional reactions. Sympathy for fellow believers is an understandable emotion, but it has nothing to do with pogroms. Peaceful protest is a legitimate form of collective political action, which would have looked natural in Dagestan, where the absolute majority is Muslim and sympathizes with the Palestinians. But the situation took a different turn.