Spirit of solidarity. Chechens support Kadyrov in any obscure situation
The mixed martial arts tournament Akhmat WFCA (World Full Contact Association) Gran Prix, held in Grozny on October 4, 2016, has attracted attention of many people – even those having nothing to do with sports – by the exhibition fights involving minor sons of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic.
Fedor Emelianenko, the famous heavyweight mixed martial artist (MMA) and the President of the Russian MMA Union, has noted that the children’s fights had been conducted with violations; Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary of the President of Russia, and Anna Kuznetsova, the Children's Rights Commissioner of the President of the Russian Federation, decided to initiate an audit. However, Khamzat Khirakhmatov, Children's Rights Commissioner in Chechnya, has not noticed any violations. Emelianenko was recommended to “keep his nose out of things where his advice was not requested”; the Government of Chechnya has criticized his position; and Adam Delimkhanov, the Deputy of the State Duma, promised to bring the athlete to account for his words. Lenta.ru has remembered other episodes when criticism of the situation in Chechnya had caused stormy – and not always adequate – reaction in the Chechen society.
The high level of support for Kadyrov in Chechnya makes a feeling that the Chechen nation and its leader are a single entity. Any opinion of Ramzan is always the public opinion. However, in other regions of Russia, some deeds and statements of Kadyrov do not meet full and undoubted public understanding.
Suffice it to recall the marriage of 17-year-old Chechen girl Luisa Goilabieva and 57-year-old Nazhud Guchigov, the Head of the Nozhai-Yurt District Police Department – called the marriage of the millennium by Kadyrov.
Of course, the marriage of an underage bride and the middle-aged Colonel caused a heated discussion and disapproval in the society.
After the open approval of the marital union by the Head of the Republic, the ceremony has become a republican-level event – Asya Belova, a popular in the Republic journalist, has solemnized the marriage in the Grozny Marriage Registration Hall; the celebration was held in one of the main banquette halls; dozens of journalists, artists, officials, and personally Kadyrov arrived to wish happy nuptials to the newlyweds.
The marriage in Grozny has become known all over the country.
Amid the criticism from the outside, there were neither public outcry nor mockery within Chechnya.
A few people, who were discussing the mésalliance in WhatsApp, have been ultimately called onto the Kadyrov’s carpet for an explanatory talk. (Leaving aside how the dissidents had been identified.) The meeting of the Head of the Republic with irresponsible citizens (mostly females) was broadcast by Grozny-TV. “Stop it, behave like Chechens. The family honor is above all. Do not write such things. Men, make your women quit WhatsApp,” – Kadyrov was lecturing the audience.
Marriage of Luisa Goilabieva and Nazhud Guchigov
He also added that “emissaries of Western secret services living abroad are spreading rumors under the disguise of Chechen people”. By the way, local TV channels often broadcast similar educational talks of Kadyrov with citizens.
Those, who had not understood, will understand
No critical remarks are being left unanswered – no matter whether those are related to Kadyrov personally or to issues in the republic. The reaction is always swift and inevitable: public apologies to Ramzan have become an integral part of his image. He posts video records of apologies on his Instagram account that has 2 million followers. For example, in the beginning of 2016, he published a speech of Konstantin Savchenko, a Krasnoyarsk Deputy, who had recently called Kadyrov a disgrace for the country. The video shows the parliamentarian explaining guiltily that he had overreacted. This happened immediately after his conversation with representatives of the Chechen people. Kadyrov has graciously accepted the apology.
While a simple apology is sufficient for a public figure from another region, for an ordinary resident of the republic, the situation is quite different.
...In mid-April 2016, a resident of Kenkhi settlement had posted online a video message to Ramzan Kadyrov, where he complained on poor condition of roads and homes and bribery of officials. The video was published on the day of the Direct Line with President Vladimir Putin. Shortly after the publication, the house of Ramazan Dzhalaldinov was burnt. The victim states that those who have done this made no secret of their motive – it was revenge for criticizing Kadyrov. “At least seven people have broken into my home at night and seized my mother and daughter. They were bullying the women: shooting from pistols close to them and threatening to throw them to the Argun River,” – Dzhalaldinov said. He stated that under no circumstances he would apologize to the Head of the Republic. Fearing reprisals, he fled from Chechnya.
Kadyrov, in his usual manner, posted his response on Instagram. The Head of the Republic said that Dzhalaldinov has burnt his home himself to claim asylum in Europe, while in Chechnya “no one cares about him”. In addition, according to Kadyrov, the fire victim had obvious issues with the law and experienced provokers assisted him. The end of this story was quite predictable: Dzhalaldinov returned to Chechnya, and another video with an exemplary apology has been posted on Kadyrov’s Instagram. In turn, Kadyrov noted that “any man is prone to error”. Commentators noted the magnanimity of the Chechen leader and his forgiveness.
In December 2015, Aishat Inaeva, a social worker from Gvardeiskoe settlement outraged by a deduction of three thousand rubles from her salary as a prepayment for housing and communal services, had recorded an audio message that was quickly distributed on social networks. She accused Ramzan Kadyrov of all the hardships.
“What do you want from us? You don’t allow us to bring the salary home. Are you the only ones who have the right to eat? The right to drink? Only you have the right to live?” – Inaeva was asking. She blamed the Head of the Republic for luxury lives of his confidants, while ordinary people are suffering from financial issues.
Having learnt about it, Ramzan Kadyrov has immediately summoned Aishat Inaeva and her husband to his residence. There he gave her a lecture on camera in the presence of Aza Dzhankhotova, her direct boss; Magomed Daudov, the Speaker of the Chechnya Parliament; and Islam Kadyrov, the Head of the Administration of the Head of the Republic. “I do not intent to punish you. I just want you to explain to myself and the public how had I stolen money from the people?” – he addressed Inaeva. Kadyrov hasn’t received an answer and for half an hour was explaining in detail how and where the funds are being spent in the republic.
The host of the program, whose voice could be heard off-screen, was expressing over and over again her indignation against Inaeva and noted that Ramzan Kadyrov, following her personal request, has laid a kilometer-long gas pipeline to her home. During the whole program, Inaeva and her husband were silently standing with their eyes bent on the ground. In the end, the woman said that she is happy with the Chechnya authorities and her job, apologized to Kadyrov for slander, and retracted her words. Her husband has also apologized on camera and blamed himself in public for “allowing his wife to tell so many lies”.
Residents of the home district of Inaeva, elders, colleagues, and relatives have gathered on a meeting and condemned their fellow countrywoman. According to them, people who talk down on the republican authorities demean themselves and their families and invoke public condemnation.
Human rights activities in the republic have their own specificity – especially for those whose job somehow involves criticism of local customs of republican authorities.
An illustrative example is the activity of the Grozny Branch of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). Igor Kalyapin, the Head of the Branch, had a long-term conflict with Chechnya authorities.
Grozny. Broken window in the office of the composite mobile group of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture
In December 2014 he had sharply criticized the burning of homes belonging to families of people suspected of the attack on Grozny. Kalyapin accused the republican authorities of this. A few days later, the office of the composite group of human rights activists working under the aegis of the CPT was burnt – while Kadyrov has accused Kalyapin of complicity in terrorism.
Another attack on the CPT office occurred six months later – in June 2015. A mob of men in civilian clothes have surrounded the headquarters of human rights activists. A few masked people armed with crowbars and sledgehammers have broken the service vehicle of the Committee and then started shattering the office. Later Ramzan Kadyrov explained that the protesters were outraged by the refusal of the Committee to investigate the case of Dzhambulat Dadaev, who was killed by law enforcement operatives of the Stavropol Region. The Head of the Republic has called the incident a provocation and stated that the human rights activists tried to use the attack for self-promotion. After this episode, the Committee started considering the possibility to close its branch in Chechnya.
In March 2016, Kalyapin told about an attack on a group of activists and journalists at the Ingush–Chechen border. The attackers have beaten four people, seized their mobile phones, and torched their car. All the victims were hospitalized. A few days later, there was an attack on Kalyapin. Unknown people have beaten him and pelted with eggs near the entrance to Grozny City Hotel. The victim stated that shortly before the attack, the hotel administrator has come to his suite accompanied by armed policemen and requested to leave the hotel without providing a reason. Nurdi Nukhadzhiev, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Chechen Republic, has commented the incident and stated that Kalyapin had to give a notice of his arrival to the republic in advance to avoid troubles.
In a joint spirit of enthusiasm
The Head of the Republic could also feel the unity of the Chechen nation and the common support for him after his criticism of the non-system opposition. He suggested to treat the dissenters as “public enemies and traitors” and bring them to justice “to the fullest extent of the law for their subversive activities”. Many people considered the strong statement unacceptable (according to Levada Center, 60% of Russians thought so). Ella Pamfilova, then-High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, suggested the Head of the Chechen Republic to slow down, while Maksim Reznik, the St. Petersburg Deputy, asked the Prosecutor’s Office to check the statement made by Kadyrov for extremism.
Public rally in support of Kadyrov in Grozny
However, the Chechen people had their own opinion on this matter. Almost all residents of the Republic have gathered on a rally in the center of Grozny to support Kadyrov. According to the Ministry of the Internal Affairs for the Chechen Republic, almost one million people participated in the event with the slogan “Our strength is in our unity” – while the total population of Chechnya as of the end of 2015 was some 1.4 million (including infants and elderly people).
Citizens have shown a creative approach in their support for the leader. Supporters of Kadyrov from Sport Hall Kolizey Sports Complex in Grozny have filmed a video about his righteous anger.
Adam Delimkhanov, the Deputy of the Sate Duma, posted a video on Instagram showing a group of men looking like natives of the Caucasus chanting near the Moscow Kremlin: “Ramzan is a keystone of Russia. Allahu Akbar!”
Kadyrov has supporters in other regions as well. A large-scale flash mob with the slogan “Kadyrov is a patriot of Russia” spread out on social networks. Many famous people have published their photos with this poster: Deputies Olga Batalina and Irina Yarovaya, producer Fedor Bondarchuk, actor Igor Vernik, singer Nikolai Baskov, rapper Timati, and players of Terek Chechen football club.
A request in the end
Sometimes the public support is so overwhelming, that Kadyrov has to ask the people not to stage rallies in his honor. After his famous statement that he is ready to resign and response of his comrades that Chechen people “will not let him go”, Kadyrov has posted an address to the public on Instagram. “There are proposals to rally meetings and other events with the requirement to stay in power. Of course, I am happy with such a public support. (...) But meetings are not necessary,” – he asked the public. The people have heard his request... But still expressed their support to the leader with a hashtag #Рамзаннеуходи (Ramzan, don’t leave). So, he stayed.