February 17th 2007 · Prague Watchdog / Ruslan Isayev · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS · ALSO AVAILABLE IN: RUSSIAN 

Many people welcome change of Chechen President, but others take no joy

By Ruslan Isayev

GROZNY, Chechnya – Alkhanov's resignation and Kadyrov's appointment to the post of President are events in the political life of Chechnya that have long been forecast. The denouement of this behind-the-scenes struggle arrived from where it began and could be expected: the Kremlin. Chechnya will continue to be a territory that is subject to absolute control from Moscow, and not a sneeze can resound from there without the Kremlin's permission.

The citizens of Chechnya were ready for a change in the republic's leadership, and many were certain that it would not take place entirely without incident. The situation reached a climax in the past two weeks, when both sides – Alkhanov's and Kadyrov's – began to rebuke each other in public, now for political extremism, now for sabotage, and so on.

Naturally, people have reacted to the change of leadership in different ways. College student Arbi Israilov, for example, is certain that Kadyrov is the only person who should lead Chechnya.

Arbi Israilov: "Ramzan Kadyrov was able to get the nation going again after it had ground to a halt. We were fed up with waiting, and now, God willing, we've begun to move forward. As the months go by, I can hardly recognize Grozny. Kadyrov has fine-tuned the work of the government and his subordinates. Now is the right time to give him control of the republic. He won't let Putin down, I'm sure of that, and Putin knows it. After all, it's not for nothing that they say Putin treats him like his own son."

The vast majority of Chechnya's young people support Kadyrov, who is increasingly entrusting important jobs – whether in government or in public life – to young people sometimes even younger than himself. Fifth year university student Indira Tumsoyeva welcomes all this and wants Kadyrov to retain the post of president for as long as possible.

Indira Tumsoyeva: "What I like about Ramzan is his youthful optimism and energy. I feel sorry for Alkhanov, but he's more like the perpetually sad clown in a fairytale. He reminds you of some bureaucratic official. It would be good thing if they could work together, but if there's to be a choice, then it would be in favour of Kadyrov. The young people are for him and a lot of my acquaintances and student friends are joining his fan club."

But opinions of Kadyrov are not unanimous. Some residents of Grozny take no joy in the fact that he is now Chechnya's leader. Tamara Abubakarova thinks that not all the positive changes in the republic can be ascribed to Kadyrov:

Tamara Abubakarova: "My daughter works at the hospital. They had money deducted from their wages, to be spent on the restoration of Grozny. My son's in the police. The district department he works in was allocated a 120-apartment block in a reconstruction zone. In other words, we ourselves have to restore what Russia has destroyed. Why should my son and daughter pay someone because there was a war and people's apartments were destroyed? And Alkhanov is a genuinely nice, decent man. Of course, he wasn't able to resist the pressure from Kadyrov's side, which had Moscow's support. I find it very sad that decent people like him run away from Chechnya. If we'd had the chance, we'd have left here long ago."

Sultanbek, a businessman, holds a similar opinion:

Sultanbek Zakriyev: "Kadyrov has neither the experience nor the intelligence to lead a republic like this. He won't be a man like Pinochet, under whom Chile achieved economic growth. He's still just a kid, and for him people are bricks he can play with and put together any way he wants, but can also knock down with a single kick of his foot when he gets bored. He's controlled by his helpers from Moscow. He can't even dress decently, and he doesn't know to behave in company."

Zaur, a programmer from Grozny, supports Kadyrov's appointment to the post of President.

Zaur: "Right now it's important for Kadyrov not to slacken the pace he has set. He won't put up with any reduction in activity. And the fact that he still bears the 'acting' prefix is not without significance. After all, nothing is as eternal as what is called temporary. I'm sure that Putin wants him to be the official President."

Rizvan, a local journalist, takes an entirely opposite view.

Rizvan: “For Kadyrov it's very dangerous to be without a goal to strive for. Well, so suppose he becomes President, then what? Hasn't he been Chechnya's sole master? Of course he has. But now that it's been made official, he's going to feel the hypochondria of the man who has everything, and he won't know what to strive for any more. You only have to take a look at his career. He's been his father's bodyguard, chief of his father's security service, deputy prime minister, prime minister, and now he's acting President. But what comes next? If he stops, or calms down, he'll become just like all his many contemporaries - grey and obscure, because all the things he's supposed to have achieved aren't down to him but to the authority of his father and the Kremlin's desire to have its finger on the fulcrum of power in Chechnya. And Kadyrov is that fulcrum. His main worry is going to be how to cope with the load, which will get heavier with the passage of time.”

Translation by David McDuff.




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