Russia: On Ramzan Kadyrov, Again

Global Voices Online
Thursday, February 1, 2007

At his 3.5-hour annual press conference today, Russian president Vladimir Putin has offered praise for Chechnya's prime minister Ramzan Kadyrov, in response to a young Chechen journalist who pointed out that 70 percent (approx. 770,000 people) of the republic's able-bodied population were unemployed.

Complimenting Kadyrov seems to have become somewhat of a trend here. Recently, another Chechen journalst, Timur Aliev - LJ user timur_aliev, editor-in-chief of The Chechen Society newspaper, the Chechnya editor of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) - has noted (RUS) that Kadyrov does deserve some praise. (This is the second translation of timur_aliev's thoughts on the controversial 30-year-old Chechen leader; the first one was posted on Global Voices on Sept. 15, here.)

And again about him, Ramzan Kadyrov

I'm reading the news on Yandex. With Chechnya, there's only one topic - the possible change of [Chechnya's president Alu Alkhanov] for someone else. Either for Vakhayev, or, skipping him, for Ramzan. What's basically is the same piece of information is being repeated over and over again.

I don't understand one thing - where's the sensation here? Did anyone ever doubt that Kadyrov would become president? And even if he wouldn't, what's going to change because of it? He is doing a lot for the republic as prime minister, too. He's extremely popular. Though sometimes he gets criticized - but what government doesn't?

It reminds me of my teenage years, when my friends and I were thinking what we would do if we suddenly became presidents. And our thoughts then weren't too different from what Ramzan is doing now. Just like him, we were suggesting pretty utopian things: to build this and that, to force ministers and bureaucrats to do their work. The only difference is that we were only talking about it, and Ramzan is actually doing it. Whether he's successful is a different issue. But it looks like he is. Shamil Beno found a rather precise label for him: "an effective military-political manager." [...] Regardless of whether Ramzan becomes president or not, nothing is going to change for the republic.

Is anything going to change for Russia? Not likely, either. The Kremlin solves most of the problems through Ramzan.

Of course, it's possible to understand Ramzan as a human being. He must be thinking like this: "Here I am, working hard, having arguments, negotiating with the Kremlin, with the rebels, standing up for the city, finding the money, and journalists are criticizing me and, moreover, citing [Alu Alkhanov] as an example to follow - when it should be the opposite - because I work more than he does." So, in principle, it's possible to understand Ramzan. Purely as a human being. And what they are writing about sovereignty or that Ramzan will go off into the forest - that's nothing but fairy tales.

In the comments to this post (RUS), the discussion touches upon Anna Politkovskaya, the slain journalist who, among other things, used to be one of Ramzan Kadyrov's harshest critics. (Two Global Voices translations dealing with Politkovskaya's murder are here and here; also, at the end of January, the New Yorker and London Review of Books both ran pieces on Putin's Russia that begin with Politkovskaya's death.)

uliana: [...] How is Chechnya doing without Politkovskaya?

timur_aliev: Many people remember her. One of the women [who stopped by at our office] today was telling about how Politkovskaya was writing about her son.

uliana: Does it mean that Ramzan has adopted Politkovskaya role, only at the state level [...]?

timur_aliev: Not exactly, because Politkovskaya was voicing a problem, served as one of the forms of feedback - for officials, among others... Now Ramzan has learned about these complaints - maybe from the press, maybe from letters, and he has reacted - at his level...

uliana: As far as I understand, there's a stream of complaints. It used to flow towards Politkovskaya, and then she did whatever she could - either voicing the problems, or finding donors. And nowthe stream has moved towards Ramzan and you [the Chechen Society newspaper], as you're saying... [...] Is it visible in Grozny that Ramzan looks as threatening to Russia as [Dzhokhar Dudayev] and [Aslan Maskhadov] did?

timur_aliev: No, the stream has been flowing towards Ramzan for long enough - for the past year and a half, perhaps... But it's difficult to get through to him, so they turn to the press instead, including us... [...] Those who analyze the Russian press and various internet reports, they do see it... But more often people perceive these articles and quotes as anti-Chechen...

uliana: So, he's like a father and those who are against him are the enemy of the whole people... That is, not the whole people, but of those who aren't fighting... Ok, thank you.

timur_aliev: No, of the whole people, indeed.

uliana: Of everyone??? Why are they fighting then?

timur_aliev: Oh, I apologize, I misunderstood you at first - of course, I meant those who aren't fighting.

bbb: What do you think is the percentage of those who aren't fighting [...]? 99, 90, 70? And - how do you define those who are fighting - are they the ones who fight literally, or do you include those who aren't fighting but sympathize with those who are and, under certain circumstances, would be willing to help them?

timur_aliev: It's very difficult to provide the real numbers now - the level of trust is very low - a person may be saying one thing but thinking something else... Besides, at any moment, these figures may change - it all depends on [what's more profitable now]... Perhaps, for now, there's something like 20 percent of those who firmly do not fight and do not sympathize, about 10 percent of those who fight or are dedicated sympathizers, and the rest are those who hesitate.

bbb: Thank you! Of course, the "real" figures do not exist at all, and I was interested in you subjective evaluation.

How would you describe the position of these 20 percent of those who categorically do not fight and do not sympathize - are these the ones who consider breaking away and independence harmful for Chechnya in principle, regardless of whether it is possible? Or are these also the ones who think that [independence] is utterly unrealistic under the current circumstances, and hence, conversations about it are deemed harmful for Chechnya?

And - do I understand you correctly that when we are discussing all these percentages, we mean first of all the Chechen population, noth [ethnic] Russians (if any such remain and/or have returned in noticeable numbers)?

timur_aliev: 20 percent are those who thought from the very beginning that breaking away and independence would harm Chechnya in principle,

and also those who began to think this way after a brief [negative] experience,

and partly those who think it utterly unrealistic under present circumstances, but allow themselves "to wait and see"...

Yes, I do mean the [ethnic] Chechen population.


kiveretsky: Timur. My father spent six years in Stalin's camps for an insignificant short story. He is 82 now. He keeps shaking his head and saying = how good it was in the times of Stalin. Like, what a strong person he was! And you have reminded me of papa with this post... Has made me sad...


timur_aliev: I feel sad, too - and that's why I write...

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