Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Kadyrov Says Nationalism a Greater Threat to Russia than Terrorism Is

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 29 – Nationalism and those who use inter-ethnic issues for their own purposes represent a far greater threat to the Russian Federation than do terrorism and terrorists, according to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who urges that Moscow punish the former every bit as harshly as the latter.

            In the course of a wide-ranging interview published in “Izvestiya” yesterday, Kadyrov said that he supports the proposed anti-terrorist legislation but believes that countering terrorism also requires a softer and more ideological approach like the one he says he has employed in Chechnya (

                In addition to force, Kadyrov continued, he succeeded because Grozny “conducted an ideological struggle.” He assembled all those who had studied in Islamic institutions abroad and carried out a program of ideological retraining. Initially, he said, “99 percent” of these people were Wahhabis, but over time, they became supporters of the government.

                But Kadyrov devoted the largest portion of his comments to inter-ethnic relations because in his words “not terrorism but the nationality question is dangerous for Russia.”  Those who “do not want to work” as well as “the enemies of Russia” regularly exploit ethnic issues.  They must be punished and punished severely, he argued.

            At the same time, he insisted that the resolution of nationality problems in the Russian Federation requires that everyone regardless of nationality be treated equally. “It is not written in any of our laws that punishments should be harsher for Caucasians than for Siberians,” Kadyrov said, clearly implying that some officials treat members of different ethnic groups unequally.

            “We are citizens of one country and are equal before the law,” the Chechen leader added, noting that he was not thereby “defending all Caucasians” because there are some among them who behave “incorrectly.” Kadyrov said he was trying to change that and was working with Moscow officials to return to Chechnya Chechens who don’t behave.

            Kadyrov said that he favored legislation that would impose punishments for those who “raise the nationality question” because such people are “more dangerous than a terrorist, an accomplice or a recruiter.” Asked if he favored prohibiting Russian nationalist movements, the Chechen leader clearly suggested he would like that.

            The Demushkins of the world, he said clearly act with the protection of some in power. “If the restrictions on various nationalist organizations and the like were increased, then [such people] would simply go to their homes and involve themselves in their personal lives more than they do now.”

            Such comments will certainly outrage many Russian nationalists and many others as well, at least potentially Kadyrov’s chief patron Vladimir Putin.  Not only has the Kremlin leader made fighting terrorism a priority, but he has clearly sought to draw upon the energies of Russian nationalists.

            As a result, however reasonable Kadyrov’s observations about the dangers of Russian nationalism and the need to use ideological methods to counter terrorism may be, the often-outspoken Chechen leader’s words seem certain to create problems for him in Moscow, even if the only thing they show is that he has enough independent power to have an independent line.

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