PRAGUE, 5 September, Caucasus Times. Public opinion poll conducted by information agency Caucasus Times in Vladikavkaz on 25 August – 2 September this year indicated that overwhelming majority of those polled were basically unanimous in their negative assessment of the results of the investigation of Beslan scholl-seizure case. Two years ago Beslan school was attacked and seized by a group of armed terrorists, which resulted in a mass killing of children and civilians. 64% of those polled assessed the results of the investigation “negatively” and 24% – “rather negatively” while nobody gave the investigation “positive” or even “rather positive” assessment. 12% found it difficult to answer this questions. Clarifying their negative attitudes towards the results of the investigation, many respondents questioned the official version of the terrorist act in Beslan school. In particular, they expressed their suspicion that the authorities and prosecutor’s office deliberately provided incorrect and misleading picture of what had really happened in Beslan school indicating that the main perpetrator of a crime remained quite obscure for them.
Almost all participants of the public opinion poll demonstrated that they formed clear and well-defined opinion about a sentence passed on N. Kulaev, the only terrorist who participated in the school seizure and remained alive. Most respondents (53%) believe that sentence passed on Kulaev was “not strict enough” while 42% consider this sentence to be optimal. 4% found it hard to answer this question while just 1% assessed this sentence as “too strict”. Arguing that sentence passed on Kulaev was “not strict enough”, many respondents rather emotionally expressed their opinion that Kulaev deserved death sentence in public for his participation in the monstrous crime against children. Those respondents who assessed the sentence as “optimal” argued that Kulaev was just ordinary executor of this crime.
Overwhelming majority of those polled (70%) were rather critical about the activities of the current leadership of North Ossetia; among those critically-minded respondents 22% assessed the acivities of North Ossetian leadership “negatively” and 48% – “rather negatively”. Only 8% gave “positive” and 11% – “rather positive” assessment to North Ossetian leadership while 11% could not provide answer to this question. Negative assessment of North Ossetian leadership was closely connected with the personality of North Ossetian President T.Mamsurov. Many respondents reproached Mamsurov with his apathy and his inability to build such relations with the federal center that would be advantageous for the republic. In addition, some respondents expressed their discontent with the rise of criminality during Mamsurov’s presidency and with the fact that Mamsurov agreed with D.Kosak’s plan to return Ingush population to Ossetia. In the meantime, those respondents who were basically positive about the activities of the republican leadership, appreciated T.Mamsurov for his ability to take resolute decisions, which was manifested in the most recent reshuffling of the republican government, as well as for his ability to keep the whole situation in the republic under control.
Responding to a question about the most optimal status of South Ossetia, 49% of those polled preferred the unification of the South and North Ossetia and their joining the Russian Federation. Supporters of this way of solving the South Ossetian issue argued that this decision would enable to finally solve the problem of the divided Ossetian people adding that South Ossetia would get security guarantees and unified Ossetia would become a powerful borderland republic within Russian Federation, which, in respondents’ view, would correspond to Russia’s interests in the region. At the same time, 27% supported the idea of the independent South Ossetian state indicating that in this case Russia would avoid accusations of annexation while international community in view of the expected Kosovo precedent would not be able to openly support Georgia. 19% of respondents spoke for South Ossetia’s joining Russia as a separate republic arguing that the expedience of that decision is explained by different mentality of Southern and Northern Ossetians. Only 2% spoke for the preservation of the current situation and 3% found it difficult to express their opinion on that issue. It should be noticed that nobody of those polled wanted to see South Ossetia as a part of Georgia.
Speaking about changes in social and economic situation in North Ossetia in the first half of 2006, respondents were mostly cautious and rather pessimistic. Thus, 47% said that the situation did not change while 39% stated that the situation “rather deteriorated” and 7% – “deteriorated”. Only 4% felt that social and economic conditions “rather improved” while nobody of those polled noticed that they “improved”. 3% could not give an answer to this question. Those who noticed stability of social and economic situation indicated that all social allowances are being regularly paid in the republic while there were no other significant changes in social and economic life. Those respondents who assessed changes in the economic sphere negatively explained their standpoint by general decline of business activities and by deterioration of business climate in North Ossetia due to increased bureaucratic obstacles.
Respondents’ assessment of the changes in the security sphere in North Ossetia proved to be even more negative. Thus, 49% consider that situation in this area “rather deteriorated” and 14% – “deteriorated” while 27% feel that security conditions did not change. Only 1% noticed improvements while 2% stated that security situation “rather improved”. 7% of respondents could not answer this question. Mostly critical assessment of changes in security situation is associated by the respondents with the return of Ingush population to Ossetia, which has started recently, as well as with increasing instability in the neighboring Ingushetia, which was characterized by some respondents as a “hotbed of terrorism” and totally uncontrolled territory.
This public opinion poll has been conducted in the framework of 12-month research project “Public Opinion in the North Caucasus”, which covers all North Caucasus republics. This project is financed by NED. Sample size was 400. Answers to all questions are indicated in percentages.