An ethnic republic of the Russian Federation. Initially part of the Mountain Peoples’ Autonomous Republic of Soviet Russia, the region was organized into the KabardinBalkar Autonomous Oblast in the early 1920s, becoming an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) in 1936. After being accused of collaboration with the Nazis in World War II, the Balkars were deported to Soviet Central Asia, and the region was renamed the Kabardin ASSR. Its prewar name was restored in 1957 after the post-Stalinist rehabilitation of the Balkars, who then began remigrating to their ethnic homelands. Kabardino-Balkariya declared itself a sovereign republic in 1991, becoming a federal subject of the Russian Federation in 1992.
   The republic is part of the Southern Federal District and the North Caucasus Economic Region. Its geography is divided between the northern flank of the Greater Caucasus, foothills, and the Kabardin Plain, the latter being divided by the Terek River. It is bordered by Karachay-Cherkessiya, Stavropol Krai, North Ossetiya, and northern Georgia. A small republic, Kabardino-Balkariya covers 12,500 square kilometers and has a population of about 900,000. The capital, Nalchik, is a city of some 273,000 people. Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe, is located in the region’s western periphery. The republic is an ethnic condominium representing the Kabardins and Balkars, who account for 55 percent and 12 percent of the population, respectively. The Turkic Balkars live in the mountainous western zones, while the Caucasian Kabardins live in the central lowlands. Dominating the northeastern district of Prokhladnensky, ethnic Russians— including Terek Cossacks—represent a quarter of the population, and there are small communities of Ossetians and Ukrainians as well. Support for independence among the region’s titulars is moderate (roughly 40 percent favor separation from Russia).
   The regional economy is focused on agriculture, forestry, mineral extraction (oil, natural gas, and iron ore), and mechanical engineering. Foreign trade is low compared to other regions, though it does export raw materials to Finland, Germany, and Turkey, among other countries. Unemployment runs high in the republic, especially among rural Balkars.
   The current president is Arsen Kanokov, a businessman and member of the State Duma. Since taking office in 2005, he has taken on corrupt officials, reduced the region’s dependency on subsidies from Moscow, and made significant improvements in the republic’s economic status by focusing on tourism, agriculture, and smallbusiness development. Prior to the appointment of Kanokov, Valery Kokov served three terms as president before stepping down for health reasons in 2005 (he died from cancer later that year). Kokov maintained stability in the republic despite the troubling situations in neighboring Georgia and Chechnya. In 2002, he oversaw an increase in political and civil rights in the region, including a restriction of the authorities’ ability to block public demonstrations.
   After the Beslan tragedy in 2004, Kabardino-Balkariya began to experience greater levels of violence associated with Islamist extremism, which up until that point had found barren ground in the republic. In the wake of Beslan, the government began cracking down on suspected Islamic militants and closing some mosques and regulating others. In October 2005, militants, reportedly under the banner of the terrorist group Yarmuk, besieged government buildings in Nalchik. Dozens were subsequently killed in the fighting with security forces.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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