Dagestan: the merits of complexity

The Merits of Complexity
by Valery Dzutsev
3 September 2009

The case of Dagestan offers hints for how the beleaguered North Caucasus media can begin asserting themselves.

Annoyed by a certain article in the newspaper, the republican government minister upbraided the editor in chief: “Your paper receives money from the government and you must obey what government officials tell you.” The editor replied, “But Mr. Minister, we receive money not from your personal pocket but from the budget, which belongs to all the republic’s people. So we are trying to do what is good for the whole republic.”

The editor of a major weekly paper in Dagestan told me this story several years ago. This kind of dialogue between a journalist and an official could take place only in Dagestan among the Russian North Caucasus republics. The story is one of many anecdotal reports that confirm the unusual – for the North Caucasus – robustness of media in the republic. Dagestan, the region’s most ethnically diverse and populous autonomous republic, happens also to enjoy a comparatively free media arena in this region where the media are generally underdeveloped and under tight state control.

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