Radicali.it - sito ufficiale di Radicali Italiani
Notizie Radicali, il giornale telematico di Radicali Italiani
cerca [dal 1999]

i testi dal 1955 al 1998

gio 13 giu. 2024
[ cerca in archivio ] ARCHIVIO STORICO RADICALE
Archivio Partito radicale
Thamm Berndt Georg - 1 luglio 1994
(13) Berndt Georg Thamm - Eastern Europe and the CIS (III)
Anything but Quiet on the Eastern Front

From Polski Kompott to the Russian Mafia - Part 3: Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) II: Drugs and Crime in the Member States

Berndt Georg Thamm, Journalist, Founder of German Association for Research on Drug Addiction Therapies, Berlin


Militant former communists are still trying to thwart the end of the old and the beginning of the new era: In August 1991, hardliners staged a coup against the then President of the USSR, Michael Gorbachev. Just two years later, as the former Soviet Union had been replaced by a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a new coup took place in October 1993, this time against the President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin. The beginning of the nineties witnessed the transformation of the Soviet Union, a former superpower, into a gigantic crisis region. Raging conflicts and civil wars, especially in the Caucasian and Central Asian CIS republics, have claimed at least several tens of thousands of victims already and have created endless flows of refugees over the years. Since 1989, hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled, primarily from Central Asia. Within the Russian Federation itself, autonomous republics and administrative regions have been and still are in open confrontation with the cent

ral government in Moscow.

CIS member: Russia

The Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR) has made way for the Russian Federation. What remained were the structures of the gigantic country which consisted of Russia, autonomous republics of non-Russian nationalities, and autonomous oblasts, or okrugs. In all, 88 territories which enjoyed special rights ranging from tax privileges to partial political autonomy, but who wanted something else or more. In August 1993, the autonomous Russian republics of Tatarstan, Bashkir, Karelia, Yakutiya and Tuva, and the oblasts of Volodga, Samara, Yekaterinburg and Primorski came into more or less open conflict with the central government in Moscow.

Amidst nationalistic feuds and territorial claims and counterclaims, organized crime is flourishing. In the first five months of year one of the Russian Federation, 8,364 murders were registered in the militia statistics alone, according to the Head of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, Major General Koleshnikov. Because of the sharp increase in violent crime, umpteen thousands of staff from the militia of the Ministry of Security and Internal Affairs were assigned to a Russia-wide action against crime. As a result, 12,000 criminal offences were uncovered, more than 13,000 people arrested, and nearly 1,500 fire arms and almost 5 centners of narcotics were confiscated. In December 1992, however, the results were gloomy. Vice Minister for Internal Affairs Michail Yagorov declared that some 3,000 cases of corruption and bribery were on record, and directed self criticism to the effect that corruptibility is spreading like cancer in the Ministry of Internal Af

fairs. In the beginning of March 1993, the Minister for Security Mr. Barannikov stated that "organized crime in connection with corruption had reached such a level in Russia, as to constitute a real threat to security and society." More than half of the gangs investigated by the Ministry of Security in 1992, had well paid connections with instruments of the Russian state. The number of gangs in Russia skyrocketed between 1991 and 1992 from 952 to 4352. In the Moscow metropolitan area (population 9 million) alone, 228 - including 15 very big and well organized - groups are known to the Militia. Crime in the capital is divided into Russian, Tatar, Georgian, Azeri and Chechen spheres of influence. The Chechens alone are thought to have recruited 3,000 activists in 140 groups in Moscow. About four fifths of the drug trade in the city is in the hands of Caucasian and Central Asian criminals. In April 1993, Lieutenant colonel Boris Minayev, Chief of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department, predicted t

hat criminal offences in the metropolitan area (more than 50,000 crimes were recorded in 1991) would increase by alarming proportions in the upcoming years.

The situation is also deteriorating in St. Petersburg, the port city of five million inhabitants on the Baltic Sea. Here, 5,000 drug addicts were reported registered in February 1992. The actual number of addicts has been estimated to be tenfold that figure. The drug scene in St. Petersburg consists mostly of impure heroin, LSD and synthetic drugs produced in private laboratories. Services and facilities for self-help have existed for half a decade already. In 1998, the first drug addicts had formed a group called "Fozroshdenie" (Ressurection). Up to now, however, such help institutions have lacked the money which is so readily and amply available in criminal hands. Addressing a special conference on crime and corruption in February 1993, President Yeltsin pointed out that about two billion dollars were missing from the Russian balance of trade. No one knows where this money has gone. According to the President, crime and corruption are widespread and constitute the gravest danger for the country.

An estimated 50 billion American dollars and 5 billion German marks, of which DEM 200 million in counterfeit notes, are circulating in the Russian underground. Some 20 to 30 billion are said to be transferred illegally to foreign bank accounts. In this connection, it is worth mentioning the former assets of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union which, according to the September 1991 issue of the reform-oriented weekly "Kommersant", amount to 100 billion American dollars. With the break up of the USSR, part of this money is supposed to have wound up in bank accounts, and part of it in stock investments. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union had some 7,000 secret accounts in Europe alone, chiefly in the port cities of France. Astronomical sums are said to have been transferred to South America to such countries as Uruguay, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Cuba, as well as to Iran. Such foreign transfers have ceased since 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. A few Chechens are said to be the masters of extor

tion and money laundering.

In June 1992 the news broke about the biggest banking scandal in Russia to date. The Moscow Police for Economic Crime, which arrested 30 persons in this connection, accused mafiosi from the Chechen region in the North Caucasus of having frauded the Russian Central Bank of 25 billion rubbles to the benefit of Chechen. Organized in tightly-knit family clans, Chechens operate in nearly all the big Russian cities. They come from the formerly autonomous regions in Caucasian southern Russia, where after a dubious election in October 1991 Muslim nationalists had declared the Sovereign Republic of Chechenia - with its own laws and the right to possess firearms. This created a near perfect base of operations for Chechen organized crime, because they were already in control of private kolkhoz markets and the car black market, but also drug traffic and gun running since the beginning of the nineties.

The influence of criminals, and not only Chechens, has changed. Mr. Gurov, who has since been promoted to Director of the KGB Research Institute for Security Matters, put the issue clearly in the autumn of 1993: "They now have their own people in the government and parliament, to say nothing of the police. All the instruments of state have been infiltrated."

CIS member: Belorussia

Organized criminals in Minsk, the capital of Belorussia (population 1.6 million) have long had contacts with Belorussians in exile in Western Europe but also in Israel and the United States. Consequently, drug-related crime in the republic which became independent in 1991 is not a new, but rather a growing problem. Various drugs are relatively easy to obtain with false prescriptions, as half of the 2,250 pharmacies in the country have a licence to sell narcotics. Belorussia has emerged as a transit country for the drug trade through alternative smuggling routes to the classic and northern Balkan routes, and especially through the so-called Caucasus route. Although no particularly developed policy to fight narcotics-related crime has been developed yet, measures in this direction in the summer of 1993 included the destruction of poppy fields in the country.

CIS member: Ukraine

Already as a Soviet Republic, Ukraine, which gained independence in 1991, was one of the bastions of organized crime, which was established especially in the capital Kiev (population 2.6 million), the Black Sea port of Odessa, Lvov, Donezk and other cities. Southern Ukraine belongs to the classic drug cultivation regions of the Soviet Union. Drug users in Ukrainian industrial cities were long drawn to the cannabis and poppy processing kolkhoz (collective farms) of the Dnepropetrovsk region. The scientific All-union Research Institute for Basic Crops in the city of Golchov has long conducted research on a new type of hemp, which Soviet scientists have wanted to use to fight cannabis consumption in the USSR. The new cannabis plant, which contained only traces of narcotic substances, was made public in November 1989 under the name of "Juso 42", but failed to check the spread of drug use. In 1991, the year of independence, the number of drug users was estimated between 31,000 and 155,000. Nearly all (95%)

were users of heroin and other narcotics. In the same year, about 40 drug-traffic rings were uncovered, and 16 tons of narcotics officially confiscated. The drug situation in the country reflects Ukraine's role as a transit country. Like Belorussia, Ukraine is increasingly emerging as a drug-transit country through alternative routes to the "Balkan" and "Caucasus" routes.

CIS members in the Caucasus: Armenia - Azerbaijan - Georgia

The mighty Massif of the Great Caucasus cuts off access from the southern Russian steppes to Iran and the Anatolian high plateaus. To the north, lie a series of autonomous territories, previously part of RSFSR, and today of the Russian Federation. These are the territories of Karachay and Cherkess, Kabardian and Balkar, (North) Ossetia, Chechen and Ingush, and the peoples of Dagestan. Some eighty languages are spoken here in the High Caucasus, the mountain peoples of which have enjoyed independence or far-reaching autonomy in their protected valleys. The break up of the Soviet Union gave rise to ethnic tensions in nearly all southern Russian autonomous republics and territories here, and led to unstable political situations. An increasing number of Russians are leaving the region, where militant forces are uniting to form a trans-regional "Confederation of Caucasian Mountain Peoples". One of the most important initiators of this confederation is General Dudayev, President of the Chechen Republic, which

declared its independence from Russia in the autumn of 1991. Ingush, which was part of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, seceded from Chechen in the beginning of 1992. Open conflict with Chechen followed soon in the autumn of 1992. Heavy battles were pitched with neighbouring (North) Ossetia over former settlements.

The mountain crest of the High Caucasus is the border between the Russian Federation and Trans-Caucasia. Nearly all the peoples in this region are Sunni Muslims. The geography of Trans-Caucasia thus hinders the creation of great empires from within, as it prohibits a lasting suzerainty from without.

Czarist Russia annexed this region in the 19th century. In the early days of the Union (March 1922), the three Soviet Republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia were grouped together in the "Trans-Caucasian Socialist Soviet Republic". This amalgamated Republic lasted only until 1936. With the end of the Soviet empire, the Caucasian Soviet republics seceded from the Union. Christian Armenia declared its independence in August 1990. Georgia followed suit in April 1991 and Azerbaijan in August of the same year. With the exception of Armenia, the relations of the Caucasian republics with CIS, as the successor to the Union, have been difficult. Georgia did not join CIS until October '93 against the background of an escalating civil war, and Azerbaijan left CIS after being a member for a year (October 1992 to September 1993).

There seems to be no solution to the ethnic conflicts in Trans-Caucasia. Azerbaijan, 83% of whose population are Azeris, has had three Presidents from 1991 to 1993. In the north of the country, the Lezghian minority is growing restless. In the Talish region of the South, separatists are clamouring for unification with Iran. Open battles have been waged against neighbouring Armenia and its enclave in Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia, 93% of whose population are Armenians, is in turn fighting against its Islamic neighbours, whose exclave Nakhichevan is situated in Armenian territory. In Georgia, the autonomous region of South Ossetia has been striving for unification with the Republic of North Ossetia which lies in Russian territory, having declared independence from Georgia in 1991/92. Furthermore, fearing discrimination because of claims by the Georgian leadership, the autonomous Republic of Abkhasia declared independence from the central government of Eduard Shevardnaze. This move led to open f

ighting which by August 1993 had claimed 2,500 victims. Abkhasian separatists fighting against Georgia were in turn supported by volunteers from the Confederation of Caucasian Mountain Peoples. The war is expensive: It is costing Georgia 40,000 dollars a day.

It is difficult to gauge the extent to which drugs play a role in these bloody ethnic conflicts. On the one hand, the leader of the Georgian National Guard, Tengis Kitovani, who supports Gamsakhurdia, has been suspected of multiple manslaughter in connection with drug-related crime. Tatyana Koryagina, a member of parliament, stated unequivocally in July 1992 that in her view, the collapse of all the structures of the former union was due, at least in part, to the struggles between rival drug clans, especially in the Caucasus region and in Central Asia.

Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia have, since Gorbachev's time, figured among the bastions of organized crime in the USSR. Gorbachev tried to counter with an anti-corruption campaign. And organized crime fought back early on to undermine Gorbachev's policy of perestroika. According to credible reports, the heads of all mafia-like gangs operating in the USSR held a conference "at a Soviet black Sea resort," during which these "Mafiosniks" agreed to take concerted actions against perestroika, which was most detrimental to their business. Lev Baranov, then Moscow's chief prosecuting attorney, included the Caucasian republics among the "brain centres of organized crime".

A common characteristic was that there were only gradual differences in the standard of living; supplies, especially of foods and luxury foods, not to mention medical welfare, left a great deal to be desired. The infrastructure was deplorable. The combination of these and other shortcomings was and still is at the core of many uprisings. Historical national problems have provided and continue to provide the "arguments" needed. For example, in the eyes of the Armenians, Azeris are all, without exception, "Turks." And since 1915, the year of the mass murder of Armenians by the Young Turks, Turkey has been the arch enemy. These explosive conflicts were fanned by corrupt officials and crime syndicates who sought to undermine Gorbachev's reforms.

When such party bosses were expelled by the central government in Moscow, they were usually deprived of their office, but not of their influence in many exceptions. Even though the people in the Caucasus are divided against each other, they are united in their aversion against Russians. For many Russians, on the other hand, the flexibility and diligence, but also their criminal energies, are a thorn in the eye. Such aversion goes as far as racism. Moscovites refer to Caucasians disparagingly as "blacks". And criminal "blacks" are teaching fear to the Russian underworld. Indeed, Caucasians, together with Central Asians, have often come out on top in battles waged to carve up Russian big cities into areas of influence for criminal activities (sectors). This is particularly true of the capital, Moscow. The clans of the Chechens from the North Caucasus are particularly feared. A few years ago there were only a couple of hundred, but today they are estimated at 1,500 to 3,000 Chechens who, operating in 1

40 groups, control a share of the markets in prostitution, cars, and protection-money racketeering. The majority of about 30 markets in Moscow were said to be in Azeri hands already in the Spring of 1993. Azeri clans are said to have an even tighter control in drug trafficking. Four fifths of the narcotics trade in Moscow is in the hands of Caucasian and Central Asian clans. The Azeris often run their drug business through the flower and southern fruit trade.

Moscow's chief criminologist, Mr. Selivanov, declared back in July 1991 that it was difficult to fight against the criminal activity of Caucasians: The perpetrators are usually young people, with no previous police record. Furthermore, they are superbly organized. By way of example, the daily "Kosmolskaya Pravda" pointed to the Chechen Mafia, which was said to maintain some 500 conspiratorial residences in different locations throughout Moscow. According to Moscow crime fighters, Chechens are characterized by the fact that they do not observe any of the established traditions of the existing, or even the Russian underworld. For them, only the laws of the clan and the orders of the clan chief have applied and continue to apply. Clans were and still are the driving force in Central Asia.

CIS member: Uzbekistan

The first reports about an "Uzbek Mafia" in the Soviet Union appeared in the mid eighties. The occasion was probably the so-called cotton scandal in the cotton belt of the Union. With complete disregard for the actual capacities, Moscow had wildly exaggerated the figures for cotton production in Uzbekistan. These figures were increasingly removed from reality. Purchases for unavailable cotton grew in parallel. In the end, there were billions in deficits and an intricate network of profiteers, small business men and blackmailing middlemen. Moscow then dispatched a top-level investigative team to uncover the godfathers of the "white gold." The action involved 3,000 police officers; 4,000 accomplices were indicted, and the ring leader was sentenced to death. The Uzbek writer Raul Mir-Khaidorov, who had for years written on the inter-connections between political power, the underground economy and the underworld, and then disabled by a mysterious accident, became famous. Tachir Mirlayev, deputy prosecu

ting attorney, denied the existence of this network, but not the existence of organized crime. According to Mirlayev, the number of premeditated murders in Uzbekistan in 1990 was up by 10.2% from the previous year; premeditated serious bodily injuries were up by 22.7% and robberies by 6.3%.

Uzbekistan declared its independence in 1991. In this multi-ethnic republic, Uzbeks constitute the majority with 73% of the population. Militant Islamic forces have since 1989 increased their influence after a bloody confrontation in the Fergana Valley in the eastern part of the country. Drugs probably played a role in the outbreak of ethnic conflicts here as well. There were tensions also in the Bukhara region in the south, where many Tadzhiks live. The calm in the country is only superficial. Some 50,000 Russians have left since 1989.

As in other Central Asian republics, power in Uzbekistan is actually in the hands of family clans. About 150 big clans are said to run the country. Although the most important legal agricultural product, cotton, is now in decline, cultivation of illegal poppy crops is on the rise. In the autumn of 1990, the DDR agency ADN cited Soviet Television to the effect that more and more acreage was being devoted to the cultivation of poppies in this Republic. This farming acreage is said to have increased ninefold in 1990 alone; and in the first half of that year, hundreds of crimes related to drug cultivation had been committed. The cultivation of poppies in the mountain regions is said to have increased tenfold from 1990 to 1992. In year one of independence, there were 11,370 registered drug addicts in the country. The number of addicts who are minors is on the rise.

Extensive trade and transit relations exist with neighbouring Pakistan. There are daily connecting flights and many well known industrial groups from Pakistan have branches in Uzbekistan. Advantage is also taken of the transport logistics stemming from USSR times, and the relative (continued) absence of border controls. The capital, Tashkent (population 2.1 million) plays a leading role here. According to CID data of July 1993, immigration and customs declaration forms, already filled out, readily available at Tashkent airport for a few dollars, are used by drug trafficking organizations to smuggle heroin out of Pakistan using couriers via Tashkent, and then through other CIS member states and Poland, and finally to Western Europe. Narcotics earmarked for Scandinavian countries are transported by land to the Baltic Sea ports of St. Petersburg and Riga. According to the Criminal Investigation Department, the trade between Pakistan and Central Asia is conducted via four routes, including the legendary si

lk road. The perpetrators are mostly Pathans. These warrior nomads live in the mountains of the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. A large part of the drug laboratories of the Mujahaddin during the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1988) were established in their areas of influence. Like the Uzbeks, the Pathans are organized into tribes / big families (clans), where as a rule, no outsider is allowed. The situation is similar in the big neighbouring country of Kazakhstan.

CIS member: Kazakhstan

This gigantic Central Asian republic declared its independence in 1991. In this multi-ethnic country, Kazhaks constitute less than half of the population (42%). No wonder that the government in Alma Ata is encouraging Kazakh tribes living in China and Mongolia to move their pasture in the newly established national state and immigrate there. The pressure on the Russian minority is increasing. Nearly 100,000 Russians have fled since 1989. Ethnic tensions are escalating in numerous places in Kazakhstan; for example in Novy Uzen in the southern part of the country already in 1989. Year one of the Republic saw the establishment of the Turkestan party, which calls for a union of Central Asian states. Of all the CIS member states, Kazakhstan has the undisputed largest drug cultivation acreage - up to 4.5 million hectares by 1991 estimates. Most of the 10,700 registered drug users in 1991 were hemp (cannabis) consumers. The Chuva, a large river valley of several million hectares, bordering the People's Rep

ublic of China and Mongolia to the south, and the Altaic mountain range to the north, is where the greatest stock of Indian hemp is grown. Vladimir Artyomenko, General Director of the International Association against Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse in Kazhakstan, stated in July 1992 that: "The Chuva Valley supplies virtually the entire CIS with raw materials for drug production... Experts believe that, once the borders are opened, Kazakhstan will emerge as the number one supplier of raw materials and exporter of narcotics in the world".

The future will tell whether this prediction will come true. Yet, already now, Karaganda is the most important hashish transshipment hub. Not only cannabis, but poppies are also cultivated. In the mountain regions to the south lies Chimkent, home of the most important plant for the processing of opium for medicinal purposes in USSR times. Today, drugs from Chimkent and Karaganda are smuggled by land to the Russian metropolises of Moscow and St. Petersburg and on to the Baltic republics. Drugs also feature in Kazahkstan's smaller neighbour, the Republic of Kirghizia (Kirghizstan).

CIS member: Kirghizia (Kirghizstan)

Ethnic tensions in the multi-ethnic republic have been brewing for years. Kirghizians make up a good half of the population with 52%. Conflicts between them and Uzbeks (12.6%) keep recurring primarily on account of landed property, for example in the Osh region in the southern part of the country in 1991. Even though Russians make up a quarter of the population (25.5%), over 60,000 of them have left the country since 1989. In the beginning of 1993, the civil war in the neighbouring republic of Tadzhikistan threatened to spill over in the newly (as of 1991) independent state, as armed Tadzhik units crossed the border in January.

As persistent rumours would have it, drugs have played their role in ethnic conflicts here as well. In February 1993, the Moscow-based news agency Itar Press quoted the President of Kirghizia, Mr. Akayev as saying that "no other Republic of the Commonwealth had more drug addicts". In year one of independence, their numbers were estimated at a few ten thousand, including many cannabis users. In 1993, this number had officially risen far beyond the 50,000 mark. In the beginning of the nineties, it was estimated that hemp was cultivated on 60,000 hectares. In addition to cannabis, the poppy cultivation and opium consumption play their role too. The latter has been quasi traditionally widespread in Kirghistan since time immemorial; nor was it limited in any substantial manner when the cultivation of poppy was declared illegal in 1973. The abysmally low income during the period of radical change which the CIS member state is going through is prodding farmers to resume enhanced cultivation of narcotics and

generate high revenues with these crops. No wonder that Kirghizia is today considered first and foremost a drug cultivating and producing country. Crime is also on the rise, a situation President Akayev finds deplorable. Crime statistics for 1993 show an upward turn. This trend is expected to worsen, as 150,000 people are expected to be made redundant in the capital Pishpek alone (population 0.6 million). At this time, the police can only investigate half of the reported crimes, and only ten percent of these are brought before the court. Nevertheless, the Republic may consider itself lucky it does not have the problems of its neighbour, Tadzhikistan.

CIS member: Tadzhikistan

What is probably the most Islamic republic of Central Asia, was created in 1924 from a large number of Farsi speaking peoples, who had nonetheless never formed a nation. Tadzhiks, who make up the majority of the population (62%), but also Uzbeks, the second largest grouping (22.6%) have always sought their feeling of identity exclusively in their region of origin and in the clan to which they belong. In the years when the Communist party ran things, the overall framework policy was charted by the clan of Leninabad (Khandsha) in the north of the country. As an industrialized region, the north, which accounted for 70% of the agricultural and industrial production, dominated the backward south and occupied all important administrative positions there with people from its own clan. When the old, rigid party structures crumbled, therefore, understandable feelings of revenge surfaced in the south. The initial power struggle concerned primarily the capital Dushanbe (population 0.6 million), where people vied f

or an advantage to capitalize on the short or long-term privatization of the state-run economy.

The independence of Tadzhikistan in 1991 coincided with a civil war, perceived on the surface as a struggle between former communists and the Islamic opposition. In essence, however, it is a clan war. A large number of the ideologically motivated gangs were already out of control in 1992. And nowhere else in CIS are there so many rumours about the mysterious "third force" as in Tadzhikistan. This is a reference to mafia structures, which stay in the background and pull the strings. Dozens of feuding gangs are taking part in the struggle for power. The conflict had claimed several tens of thousands of victims by August 1993, and more than 200,000 Russians had fled the country. The 201st Russian Division, which was assigned the task of restoring the peace, had to stay. CIS member Russia felt obliged to come to the aid of fellow CIS member Tadzhikistan.

If all the feuding clans and tribes were to join forces against the non-Islamic "occupiers," the 300,000 Russians who remained in the country would have reason to fear an "Afghanistan effect." And Tadzhikistan is linked with neighbouring Afghanistan as no other country in Central Asia. There are three regions populated by Tadzhiks in northern and north-eastern Afghanistan: Badaghskhan and the eastern Hindukush, Vakhan and the central mountainous foreland as well as the plateaus of Afghan Turkestan.

Tadzhiks are the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan with 28% of the population. Millions of them have inter-married with Afghan Uzbeks. Since the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, some 15 different Mujahaddin groups have been active in that country, including the moderate Dzhamiat-i-Islami (or "Islamic Union"). A large number of Dzhamiat fighters, whose leader Ahmed Shah Mahmud has gained fame far beyond the country's borders, come from Uzbek and Tadzhik settlers in the north. Their biggest rival is the radical Mujahaddin group "Hesb-i-Islami" (Islamic party), which is headed by the fundamentalist Gubuddin Hekmatyar. These are Pushtun, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan (43%). The drug trade is situated more or less in Pushtun territory. According to a report of the British Foreign Office, this trade amounted to 585 tons in 1981. Conversely, in 1977, two years before the Soviet invasion, this volume was only 250 tons. Not only diplomats, but experts of the Indian secret s

ervice are of the opinion that the influence of the Pushtun leader Hekmatyar is based on narcotics down to the present day. Estimated at several billion dollars a year, this drug trade would enable the rebel commander to enforce a partition of the country. Hekmatyar is aware that the control of the drug trade makes him a factor in the negotiations for the future of Afghanistan. If the power struggle between the Pushtun and Tadzhik Mujahaddin groups in Afghanistan were to tip in favour of the Tadzhiks, this could alarm the Pakistani government about the region inhabited by Pushtun in the north of Pakistan seceding. In 1990, the seven million or so Pakistani Pushtun had already called for the unification of the Pushtun people, i.e. with the eight million Afghan Pushtun. According to the Russian daily "Nesavisimaya Gazeta," Hekmatyar tried to foment tensions between Tadzhiks and Uzbeks, in order to benefit in the power struggle in Afghanistan. No wonder then that poppy cultivation, previously limited to P

ushtun Afghanistan, spilled over into a Tadzhikistan in the throes of civil war.

Reports about drugs in the Soviet Republic of Tadzhikistan used to surface during USSR times; for example, in June 1990, when the Tadzhik narcotics department discovered and destroyed poppy plantations worth DM 54 million. According to reports in the newspaper of the then Communist youth association "Kosmolskaya Pravda," farmers along the River Seravshan were cultivating poppies. And the head of the narcotics department of the Tadzhik Ministry of the Interior, Vladimir Dering, was stated at the time that "the local drug barons were working closely together with the local authorities." The narcotics department Dering headed was established one year after the end of the war in Afghanistan. Yet even this could not prevent an increase in the cultivation of poppy since the beginning of the nineties, for example in large quantities in the favourable climate of the Seraphshan Valley.

Furthermore, drugs were smuggled out of Afghanistan. Even with rundown busses, traffickers could smuggle drugs, as well as other contraband, from the Mazar-i-Sharif, in the north of Afghanistan, via Heiratan / Termez (Uzbekistan) to Dushanbe. The drug trade in Tadzhikistan as a transit country presented no serious problem to the CID, yet alarming growth rates were already becoming apparent. The CID attributed this to the "unlimited supplies in Afghanistan and the lawlessness in that country." The CID assesses the situation as follows: More and more acreage is devoted to the cultivation of poppy and cannabis every year, and given the remote, not easily accessible terrain, the means and resources available to the investigative authorities are not sufficient to control cultivation and to destroy crops on a large scale. How effectively investigative authorities can operate under civil war conditions, remains to be seen. In August 1992, the general prosecuting attorney of Tadzhikistan, Nurullo Chabaidulla,

was murdered. The chief prosecutor had investigated the mayor of the state capital for embezzlement. Mafia practices are not entirely unknown in the Central Asian Republic of Turkmenistan either.

CIS member: Turkmenistan

Corruption and blackmail were not entirely unknown in USSR times. In March 1988, for example, "Pravda" reported on the arrest of a "Mafia Godfather" who had waged a real reign of terror in Turkmenistan with blackmail and threats of violence. Turkmenistan, like the other Soviet Republics, declared its independence in 1991. Turkmen account for the majority of the population, with 72%. The Russian minority represents about 12%. Yet, although up to the autumn of 1993 and even beyond, the country has probably been the most stable republic in the region, since 1989 more than 40,000 Russians have left this Islamic country which borders Iran and Afghanistan.

Turkmenistan, Tadzhikistan, Kirghistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan -- these Central Asian states were held together not by Marxism-Leninism, but by a structure which held power even in the direst Stalinist times, namely the network of clans.

Members of the Uzbek clans are active in the drug trade, next to Russians and Ukrainians, thousands of miles from home, in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The fourth and last articles of this series will deal with these people and especially with the influence of Eastern European and Central Asian groups of criminals in Central and Western Europe.

Argomenti correlati:
stampa questo documento invia questa pagina per mail