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From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Tue May 30 2000 - 06:48:36 EDT

By Andrei Viktorov, Andrei Zheglov.
Slave-holding widely practiced in Daghestan, North Caucasus, fifteen slaves
are released by police, one of them tells his story.

Slave-holding is widely practiced in Daghestan, a small republic in the
North Caucasus bordering on Chechnya, writes SEGODNYA covering the
developments in Ratlub village, where the police released 15 men Tuesday
(March 28), who were kept in that village as slaves, some of them had spent
there over four years. One of those persons was decoyed into that village
on March 20 this year.
The police had been thoroughly preparing for the release operation.
According to Gasan Musayev, chief of the Chief Department for Combatting
Organized Crime in Daghestan, over 100 policemen took part in the
operation. Their superiority in the numerical strength and the surprise
factor made it possible to conduct it without a single shot fired. All the
15 released persons were the prisoners of a family which owned a sawmill.
The slaves were used in wood felling and log sawing. During the operation
four brothers, the slave-holders, and their four accomplices were arrested.
In an interview with SEGODNYA, one of the released slaves, Grigory
Chelpanov, 44, a Russian of the Volgograd Region, told his story. He spent
in the village of Ratlub over 9 months. Slaves are not something unusual in
Ratlub, he said. Even the principal of the local school used slave labor.
The villagers treated their captives not as commodity but only as
workforce. They were not involved in slave trade. For the family of the
brothers Musayev the lumbering business flourished due to the work of the
team of 15 slaves. The story told by Chelpanov reminds one of chapters
about life in ancient Egypt and Rome in a textbook on history, the paper
It is hard to believe that all this happens not in Chechnya, uncontrolled
by the federal Center, but in a republic of Russia, which claims to have a
place in free Europe.
Chelpanov said also that the slaves received food just enough to be able to
work. Hard labor at the sawmill began at daybreak and ended when dark came.
If a slave refused to work he was beaten cruelly. "I was lucky to be
physically quite fit," Chelpanov said, but "the legs of one of the slaves
stopped moving - logs had to be dragged in ice-cold water." Chelpanov was
kept in a cell where he "ate, slept and had to use it as a lavatory." He
tried to hang himself twice, but the "considerate" masters did not let him
do that. Many tried to escape and were beaten hard.
Chelpanov was a first-class worker in car repair but could not find a job
and left for Makhachkala, capital of Daghestan, where he worked in several
motor repair shops. One day he was asked to repair a car motor in a
village, and was made a slave.
Most of the captives were former intellectuals who wandered about the
country in search for a job. Precisely they were an easy prey of
slave-holders. Chelpanov says that even the local police knew about the
plight of those people. A police officer in the village of Khebda said the
slaves were "voluntnary helpers and had not been kidnapped."
The paper's correspondent was told in the Chief Department for Combatting
Organized Crime that "there are very many villages like that in the North
Caucasus, and it is not the first such a [police] operation. Unfortunately,
slave-holding and slave trade have become a usual thing in the North
Caucasus today." Slavery in that region originated long before Dzhokhar
Dudayev came to power in neigboring Chechnya and one way or another it has
always existed.
Another paper, KOMMERSANT-DAILY [03/30/00, p. 3], covering this development
writes that proceedings have been instituted against the detailed
slave-holders. But not all of them are known to the police. For instance,
Alexander Smirnov, 54, a Russian from the city of Stavropol who had been
lured into the village [he was offered to do some work for a reasonable
pay, refused to disclose the name of his master. "I'll find him myself and
get even with him," he said.
(c) Russica Izvestia, 2000.
SEGODNYA 30/03/2000

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