Said Amirov: more than a mayor

Said Amirov: more than a mayor

The mayor of Makhachkala, Said Amirov, is well-known as a strict city administrator and one of the most important politicians in the North Caucasus. Did he play his main role in the 1990-2000s? Or will he play it in the future? There are no answers to these questions. However, he has influenced the modern history of Dagestan and Russia. There were various scenarios of developments in the east Caucasus – from attempts to separate Dagestan to the dissolution of the republic.

Said Amirov was born in the small Dargin village of Dzhanga-Makhi in central Dagestan. Many Dagestani politicians, officials and businessmen are natives of the region, including Magomedsalam Magomedov. Amirov began his career in the early 1970s in the system of customers’ cooperation of Dagestan. Since 1991 he has been deputy chairman of the government of Dagestan, in 1998 he gained more than 70% of teh votes in the mayoral elections in Makhachkala.

Dagestan had never elected the head of the republic in the post-Soviet period. The elections for the mayor of the republic’s capital became the first public elections. Competition was tough. Amirov was supported by representatives of various ethnic diasporas of Makhachkala. Many heads of municipal unities were supporters of Amirov. He united heads of other municipalities into the Local Authorities Union.

To understand the importance of the structure, the political structure of the republic should be understood. Specific branches of power are ruling clans in Dagestan. There are more than three such branches of power in the republic. It is no perfect structure of administration, but in the context of the 1990s and the growth of national movements it was the only state core at that moment. In the last 20 years Dagestan has been in a situation of war between clans. Amirov managed to unite the heads of municipalities independently from ethnic, territorial and clan origin. The Local Authorities Union supported a fragile balance between elites, clans and new national leaders. The cold war between ethnic-clan groups could turn into an inter-ethnic conflict. The political union of municipalities balanced the system and many didn’t like Amirov’s mission – in 10 years he survived a dozen attempts on his life.

In 1998 the ethnic-clan balance was almost broken – Dagestan could have been involved in a war. Supporters of the leaders of the Laks national movement of the Khachilayev brothers captured the White House, the building of the Dagestani government. Many bureaucrats and Chechen separatists supported the Khachilayevs. When an armed crowd went to the Mayor’s office, it had been surrounded by supporters of Amirov. One shot and two armed groups (thousands of people) could have killed each other on Makhachkala Square. But it didn’t happen. Magomedsalam Magomedov saved the situation, he made Khachilayev brothers leave the government building and take away their supporters.

In the early 2000s Makhachkala began to be reconstructed. It resembled a post-war city. For several years a confrontation had been ongoing on moving a huge spontaneous market in the center of the city.

Of course, not all the problems could be solved at once. Due to intensive migration from mountain regions, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, the growth of Makhachakala’s population was higher than the pace of reconstruction of infrastructure.

In 2008 an energy crisis appeared in Makhachkala. The growth of energy demand led to old electricity networks breaking. In winter electricity was cut in many districts of Makhachkala. The republican authorities criticized Makhachkala’s administration for it. Representatives of the electricity company and the authorities of the republic demanded they be given the electricity networks of Makhachkala in exchange for writing off the city’s debts. But the city didn’t recognize such a huge debt. Legal procedures were launched. As a result, the administration of Makhachkala kept the electricity networks and turned them into a joint-stock company for investment. Today there are no problems with electricity in the city.

Amirov has working relations with the republican authorities and says he wants to make Makhachkala and Dagestan independent from federal grants. He urges the heads of regions and cities to cooperate with the police in fighting extremism and terrorism: “People die because we don’t work together.”

Musa Musayev, Makhachkala. Exclusively to VK