The Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, found in the Northern Caucasus Mountains in the southwest corner of Russia, changed from Ottoman Turk to Russian hands between the 17th and 19th centuries before becoming an autonomous region after the Bolsheviks took power 1921. Today, living standards among the dominant population of Sunni Muslim Kabardins are low, unemployment is high and opinions about the ruling Russians are mixed at best. Toss in some historic tension with the Turkic-speaking Balkars, who Stalin also accused of collaborating with the Germans and forcibly deported in 1944 (only to allow them to return to their land in 1957), compound that with ever-present potential of flare up of war in nearby Chechnya, and one gets the sense that Kabardino-Balkaria may be facing some difficult times.

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