Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Chechens Far Less Loyal to Moscow than Kadyrov Tries to Make It Appear

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 13 – Ramzan Kadyrov forced students and government employees to take part in Russia Day demonstrations across Chechnya in order to make it appear that the residents of his republic support the Kremlin; but in fact, most Chechens are hostile not only to Moscow but to Kadyrov, although antagonism toward Russians as a group among them is less than it was.

            Those are the conclusions journalists from the Kavkaz-Uzel news agency reach both on the basis of their observations of the ways in which the Kadyrov regime used administrative resources to ensure large crowds and of conversations with Chechens and experts about how they feel about Moscow (

            Students were forced to attend the meetings on pain of not being able to take their examinations. Government employees were told that attending was part of their jobs. And the regime organized buses to bring various groups to the main square in Grozny lest people say they would attend and then not.

            But there was little enthusiasm among Chechens about the holiday. “I didn’t even know that this was some kind of holiday,” one Grozny resident said, adding that “right now, everyone is preparing for Uraza-Bayram.” They’re not really interested in anything else, an attitude others reflected as well.

            The Kavkaz-Uzel journalists also surveyed various experts in the republic. Aza Gaziyeva, a journalist with Daymokhk, said that “today, there are no widespread anti-Russian attitudes” among Chechens thanks to Akhmad Kadyrov, the father of the current republic head, who was able “to convince his people not to compound evil by searching for enemies.”

            At the same time, she continued, some Chechens retain anti-Russian attitudes but they are more directed at the Russian government and force structures than at the Russian people. Said Bitsoyev, a journalist for Moskovsky komsomolets, concurs. Chechens who lost someone in the way may blame the siloviki; but few blame the Russians as a whole.

            Aslanbek Dadayev, a Chechen correspondent for Radio Svoboda, says that even during the Chechen wars, there weren’t all that many anti-Russian attitudes among Chechens; anti-Kremlin and anti-Russian military attitudes, yes; but not hostility to the Russians as such. Some of those attitudes, he says, continue; but because of fear, people generally keep quiet about them.

            According to Chechen political analyst Ali Magomadov, Chechen attitudes toward the federal center are directly linked to attitudes toward Kadyrov. For Chechens, “Kadyrov is equated with the Russian government.”  Putin chose him, and so negative attitudes toward one are reflected in attitudes toward the other.

            According to Magomadov, “the word ‘patriotism’ in the republic sounds most often in official speeches and broadcasts of republic television. ‘Posters at the entrance to Grozny and everywhere in the city [which repeat that notion] are addressed to only one individual – Vladimir Putin.’”

            He adds that “representatives of the older generation have chosen the role of observers. “They will not go to meetings as they did a quarter of a century ago. The majority of them have children who have gone abroad long ago. In the republic remain mostly those who are connected with the representatives of the leadership of the republic.”

            “And when the powers that be are rearranged,” Magomadov says, “it is unknown what side they will occupy.”

            Timur Alkhastov, a Chechen political scientist, argues that the chief source of anti-Russian attitudes among his nation are the incautious and offensive comments of people in Moscow. Those make Chechens angry and they turn their anger against both Kadyrov and Putin, but not against Russians as such.

            What Kadyrov has done by force and by organization is to orchestrate “a constant demonstration of faithfulness.” That is what one would expect given that “totalitarian regimes, as a rule, provide the highest indications of loyalty. People have other concerns and problems.” But those who have suffered personal losses will never forget who was responsible for them.

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