Saturday, September 4, 2021

Kadyrov Follows Putin in Focusing on History and Getting It Wrong

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 4 – Vladimir Putin recently has been making more comments on historical issues and in some cases getting his facts wrong. Now, his ally, Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya is following the Kremlin leader in both respects, focusing on history and making declarations that are false and controversial.

            Kadyrov recently declared that “Chechnya was never independent or had its own state,” something the pre-Russian period and the post-Soviet one call into question. Moreover, he said that the Chechen heroes of the past “sought to establish Chechnya in its current form,” a matter of considerable dispute (

            According to the Chechen boss, Chechens “have struggled for the opportunity to follow Islam and preserve the Chechen code.” And that means, he continued, that “they fought for the freedom which we have today,” an expected but perhaps even more disputable contention about contemporary realities.

            Kadyrov’s remarks to this effect were posted on the Instagram page of Kavkaz-realii, a site that has 19,800 subscribers. Immediately, dozens wrote in to condemn what the Chechen leader had said. One commented that “what kind of independence is he talking about?” And another dismissed his words as “silly.”

            Another said, Kadyrov seems to think that Chechnya’s heroes were all people who fought so that they could be enslaved. And one even suggested that the video clip first struck him as something put up by Kadyrov’s enemies to discredit him so outrageous and wrong were his remarks.

            This isn’t the first time Kadyrov has landed in difficulty for remarks about Chechnya’s past. That past has been so controversial and the position of historians has changed so often that it is not entirely surprising that Chechen leaders today often struggle to describe their predecessors accurately and not just project their own values on the past.

            For a comprehensive discussion of how complicated this historiography is, see especially Lowell Tillett’s The Great Friendship: Soviet Historians on the Non-Russian Nationalities (Chapel Hill, 1969).

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