“In Chechnya itself,” the Radio Svoboda journalist says, “which is considered one of the most subsidized regions of Russia, [any commemoration of the ideas of Ichkeria and independence] are prohibited as are all the symbols of Ichkeria,” just one of the ways in which Chechens under Ramzan Kadyrov and Vladimir Putin have “more prohibitions than rights.”
“However,” Isayev says, “many residents with nostalgia remember those years when Chechnya was independent,” before the murderous wars, the mass expulsions and Moscow’s failure to live up to the peace accord it signed in Khasavyurt in 1996 and its imposition of a dictatorship far worse than Chechens had experienced since the death of Stalin.
One Chechen in Grozny told the journalist that “only before the first war were we independent because we could travel where we wanted. To be sure, not on Ichkerian passports, but all the same. The main market of the North Caucasus was in Grozny … the people were not poor and most important felt themselves free.”
That desire for freedom has never left the Chechen people despite the trials they have faced over the last two decades. “Every living being, man or animal, cannot live in unfreedom,” a Chechen activist in Europe says. “Allah gave them this and no one can block it. I am certain that Chechnya will be free and we will live in peace and justice with all, including the Russians.”
“We have no other path,” he continues.