The news of the shooting of Anzhi Makhachkala’s youth player Gasan Magomedov after traveling home having played football with his friends represents a horrible reminder of the troubles that still plague Russia’s Caucasus region, and the apparent indiscriminate nature of the violence.
Dagestan has been a volatile since the fall of the Soviet Union, only recently regarded by the BBC as the most dangerous place in Europe.
Similar to neighbouring regions Chechnya and Ingushetia, Dagestan has become a centre for unrest with car bombings and various smaller acts of terrorism an all-too-often occurrence. Much of the violence is aimed towards the Russian authorities however the tension is largely internal between traditional Sufi groups advocating secular government and more recently introduced Salafist teachers preaching the implementation of Sharia in Dagestan.
Magomedov’s car was hit by machine gun fire, where he died en route to hospital his club mourned in an official statement on Sunday.
Sergey Korablev stated that: “I hope the law-enforcement bodies will efficiently detect the murderers, who will receive just punishment. Despite of the efforts to destabilize the situation, we`ll keep on living and working for the only purpose – peaceful Dagestan! In memory of Gasan…”
Anzhi Makhachkala were envisioned by the Kremlin as a vehicle to bring, or at least convey, peace to the volatile region, as the world’s focus fastened on relatively-nearby Sochi before and during the Winter Olympic Games. According to Germany’s Sueddeutsche the club were considered part of the Kremlin’s stick and carrot approach in the region. Hard measures by the security forces against terrorist groups were supposed to be combined with large financial investments in the region, a finely measured concoction designed to bring peace and stability to the region.
During the Anzhi ‘project’ squad members, including most notably Samuel Eto’o, lived and trained in swanky areas of Moscow, only to be flown in and out of Makhachkala for home matches, while surrounded by an army-sized security escort.
But the recent fire sale brought an end to this expensive courier service, as the club were even relegated after a long campaign of mishaps, after which Anzhi started a new project in which young players from the region were to form the backbone of the squad.
While it is impossible to make any substantive connection, the death of Magomedov, who was only 20 years old, is a tragic confirmation of the end of the Anzhi project: one which purported peace, but on the actual ground changed very little (if anything at all) for Dagestan. The tragic death is also a brutal reminder that the Russian Federation has still not found a solution for peace in the volatile Caucasus region.