Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Grozny Issues Draft Behavior Code for Chechen Youth

Paul Goble

Staunton, April 2 – Grozny has issued for public discussion a draft “Code of Behavior for Chechen Youth” detailing how young Chechens should behave in various circumstances, a code that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov hopes will become “the catalyst for creating a Moral Code” for all Russians in the future.

In an article on the PublicPost.ru portal, Zakir Magomedov describes the contents of this new document, one that in general seems to offer common sense advice on how Chechens should behave in public particularly with regard to women and non-Chechens especially Russians (publicpost.ru/theme/id/3544/chitaem_kodeks_povedeniya_chechencev_vmeste_s_publicpost/).

The core values of the code, Magomedov says, are that “a Chechen must earn his way by honest methods, must not put personal or family interests above those of the entire community” and must behave politely toward women and respectfully toward members of other communities with whom he comes in contact.

“A Chechen does not provoke people by his behavior,” it says. “He does not conduct himself in a challenging manner. He does not violate public order.”  And he recognizes that “there is a definite time and place” for Chechen dances and other Chechen customs lest they offend.

The code gives specific advice on how to behave in a non-Chechen city or town, what should and should not be written on the Internet, and why Chechens “must not dance the lezginka in front of ‘Europeans.’” It also says that Chechens must live up to their national tradition of hospitality, however difficult that may sometimes be.

In making these points, Magomedov says, the document uses various stories, legends, and Islamic references. It talks about rebels like the abrek Zelimkhan, about the deportation of the Chechens in 1944, and even about the admiring comments of the enemies of Chechens like tsarist General Yermolov.

            “Chechen!” the code exhorts, “Remember that wherever you are, you represent not just your family and your clan but the entire Chechen people and the entire Caucasus! This means that all our culture will be evaluated by what you do.  Remember about the behavior of our ancestors, their nobility.”

The idea of composing such a set of rules arose after the latest “anti-Caucasian campaign in the Russian media,” Islam Saydayev, who headed the working group which prepared this draft. “For Chechens,” he said, “there is nothing new in it” but perhaps it will remind some of them of their national traditions.

Chechen bloggers, journalists, historians, and writers were involved, he continued, but perhaps the greatest amount of attention was attracted by the fact that so were Russian nationalists like Dmitry Demushkin, who to many seemed not only an unlikely but unfortunate choice.

Demushkin’s comments about the draft seem certain to provoke more discussion. He said that he doubts anyone will read the roughly 60-page text and says that the next step should be to prepare “a small brochure with its basic theses.”  He added that this code is only one of a large number of initiatives that need to be taken in this area.

Kanta Ibragiova, a Chechen writer, is more positive. Young Chechens need the guidance it provides given the problems they face.  Some Chechens do behave in a challenging fashion, he notes, but at the same time, many behave badly toward them.  “A Caucasian is sometimes already judged guilty even if he has not done anything wrong.”

            But whether young Chechens will follow the code’s advice remains uncertain.  Lema Gudayev, Chechnya’s deputy minister for foreign ties, nationality policy, information, and the media, says “we have a Constitution in this country. Do all observe it?  Regardless of the answer this does not mean that such a document is not needed. So it is with this Code.”

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