Thursday, May 31, 2018

‘Kadyrov is No More a Chechen Politician than Putin is a Russian One,’ Israeli Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 31 – Most analysts speak of Ramzan Kadyrov as a Chechen politician and Vladimir Putin as a Russian one, implicitly suggesting whether they intend to or not that each speaks for the nation he ostensibly heads, Avraam Shmulyevich says. But in fact, neither represents his nation but rather the totalitarian state machine centered on Moscow.

            First of all, the Israeli specialist on the North Caucasus says, “one must clearly understand that Ramzan Akhmatovich Kadyrov represents the Chechens in exactly the same degree that Putin represents the Russians, Matviyenko the Ukrainians of Shoygu the Tuvins.” That is, not at all (

                Kadyrov today is simply “a highly placed official of the Russian powers that be,” Shmulyevich says. He is “not ‘a Chechen politician,’ but rather one of the most influential of Putin’s ‘courtiers.’”  He doesn’t make proposals or act in any way that the Kremlin has not directed him to or at least approved in advance.

            He is thus “only an element of the Russian siloviki system; and as to the struggle with enemies of the regime, he acts as a subcontractor” to whatever needs the Kremlin has. “Moscow gives him some assignments, and he fulfills them.” Despite having his own siloviki units, “Kadyrov remains part of the Russian terrorist system.”

            Chechnya today in fact is “an occupied country. Formally, neither a Chechen power nor Chechen siloviki exist. There everything is Russian. These are Russian soldiers and Russian FSB officers of Chechen nationality,” Shmulyevich continues. They should not be ascribed to Chechens or the Chechen people blamed.

            By violence and war, Moscow suppressed the Chechen drive for independence and resubordinated Grozny to its will. It allowed Chechen leaders somewhat more independence because they fought and might fight again, but that does not change the fundamental reality that all power in Chechnya is Russian, including that of Kadyrov.

            De facto, Chechnya now is a feudal vassal state, one that it is difficult to say lies within the legal field of the Russian Federation,” Shmulyevich argues. “But in all this, the power of Kadyrov as vassal is maintained only by the presence of an enormous grouping of the rusisan army. Everything that takes place on this territory does so with Putin’s permission.”

            Again, how can one suggest any of this has any relationship to the Chechen people?” That people is “under the toughest pressure of a totalitarian regime,” one where human rights are at the level of Turkmenistan or North Korea than is the case in other regions of the Russian Federation.

            Those Chechens who can have fled, although they continue to be pursued by Grozny and Moscow’s agents. Those who can’t leave are being subjected to a new wave of Russification. Many hate the regime, but some give it lip service either out of fear or out of the belief that that is the best course of action under the circumstances.

            But there is a lesson here Moscow does not yet seem to have learned: “Every time when the empire has decided that it has completely pacified the Chechens, the fortress of Russian power has fallen apart like a house of cards, and the suppression of Chechnya and the Caucasus has had to begin again, each time with a new wave of bloodshed.”

            This cycle will not continue for eternity, Shmulyevich says, adding that “today’s circle is the last” because “after almost 200 years of war, Russia finally will have to leave both the Chechen Republic Ichkeria and then the entire Caucasus.  And this will be only for the good of both the Russians themselves and all Caucasians.”

Putin Given Truly Tsar-Like Powers over the Economy

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 31 – Vladimir Putin has amassed so many powers, legally or illegally, that many have suggested that he is like a tsar. But this week, the Duma and Federation Council “without much fuss” gave the Kremlin leader powers which can only be described as those of a tsar, Babr journalist Vlad Krasov says. 

            This grant came in the form of two laws. The first gives Putin the power to prohibit the importation of goods and the cessation of cooperation with other countries without reference to any other Russian government body in the name of countering sanctions imposed by others but not limited to that, Krasov says (

                In its first draft, this Duma measure specified what products should be banned and what cooperation ended, but in the end, the Duma simply handed over all those decisions to the president, giving him formally powers that no Russian leader has ever had before.

            The second measure came in the form of parliamentary approval of a draft law that was first introduced in 2014. After languishing for three years, it was suddenly and “unexpectedly approved in the course of two days by the Duma and backed by the Federation Council on the next.

            According to this new law, Krasov writes, “the president in exceptional circumstances can reorganize, liquidate or change the legal status of companies and corporations in particular fields of activity,” although these restrictions are nowhere defined in the measure and thus do not in fact exist.

            “The law allows the chief of state independently to decide,” the Babr journalist says, how companies should behave, what deals they should make or not, and what stocks they should issue or buy back.” In short, Putin will now be able to overrule any and all company mangers and boards of directors.

            These are truly “tsar-like.” Indeed, they represent powers that no tsar ever really had.

A Dozen Qualities Set Peterburgers Apart

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 31 – Residents of Russia’s Northern Capital have always viewed themselves and been viewed by others as different from Muscovites or from the residents of other cities in Russia or abroad with the former taking pride in this and the latter viewing their distinctiveness as a threat.

            In advance of the Petersburg Economic Forum, journalist and guide Tatyana Mey attempted to codify 12 distinctive features of the Petersburger.  Her observations, originally distributed to participants in that forum have since been published in Moscow’s Gazeta newspaper (

                Anyone from Petersburg or “Peter” as the city is known is “a strange being,” she says. Although the city was founded by a Muscovite, “the cultural virus of Petersburg is unique, infectious and absolutely incurable. Anyone who has lived here even a couple of years never will be the same regardless of whether he’s a Muscovite, a New Yorker or even a Parisian.”

                And May lists 12 special characteristics of the city’s typical resident:

1.       Insular

2.       Committed to enlightening others

3.       A Local Patriot

4.       A European by identity

5.       Given to lingering over coffee

6.       A Procrastinator

7.       A Conservative about the city’s past

8.       Still living with the shadow of the blockade

9.       Used to living with rain

10.   A Bibliophile

11.   A grammar Nazi in defense of language

12.   And a snob.