Staunton, July 22 – Chechen villagers, clearly with the backing of Ramzan Kadyrov’s regime, have erected a tower on the territory of the Dagestani village of Ansalt at the exact location where in 1999, Chechen forces under the command of Shamil Basayev and Khattab invaded and sparked the second post-Soviet Chechen war.
Zurab Gadzhiyev, an orientalist at the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the Daghestani Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a member of Daghestan’s commission on defining the borders between Chechnya and Daghestani has pointed this out, infuriating Magomed Daudov, the speaker of the Chechen parliament.
The Chechen parliamentarian dismissed Gadzhiyev’s suggestion that the tower was on Daghestani territory and denounced him for making reference to the events of 1999. That is absurd and no one should talk like that, he said (eadaily.com/ru/news/2019/07/22/botlih-cumada-kizlyarshchina-groznyy-pretenduet-i-na-chast-dagestana).
The appearance of this Chechen tower, a structure that is freighted with meaning as both a defensive and offensive facility, in a village that according to the maps is located three kilometers inside Daghestan raises the possibility that Grozny aspires to seize or otherwise acquire a significant portion of the neighboring republic.
The Chechens, like other Vaynakh peoples, “traditionally put such towers on the borders of their lands as defensive facilities,” the North Caucasus editors of EADaily point out. “At the time of attacks by enemies, an entire village can take shelter in these towers which are constructed to withstand a long siege.”
When Gadzhiyev encountered it deep within Daghestani territory, he was shocked; and he was even more disturbed when he learned that the Chechens began to build it in September 2018 when they were taking over 26,000 hectares of land from Ingushetia under the terms of the controversial deal between Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Kadyrov.
The tower was finished in December of last year. Daghestanis in Ansalt wanted to protest but were dissuaded from doing so by local officials. The residents told Gadzhiyev that the tower is locked, that no one in Ansalt has the key. As a result, he assumed, “the keys are being kept only by the powers that be of Chechnya.”
In his attack on Gadzhiyev, whom he did not identify by name, Daudov insisted that the tower stands on Chechen territory and must not be touched. The Chechen parliamentarian’s claim in that regard almost certainly is not true, at least according to existing government maps. But it likely reflects Kadyrov’s expansive notions of just how far Chechnya extends.