Kadyrov has saved more than he killed (interview with Yulia Latynina)
Interview with writer and journalist Yulia Latynina
PW: You seek to justify Ramzan Kadyrov, believing that the success he has achieved somehow cancels out the harm he has caused?
Yu. L.: Ramzan Kadyrov is the worst option for Chechnya, but only if you don’t examine all the other options. There aren’t so many of them. The first one is federal lawlessness, as in Ingushetia. The second is independence of the type that was gained after the first war. Of course, it’s impossible to decide what would be better for the Chechens themselves. What fate do they see as preferable: the Taliban, or being a part of Russia? But it’s safe to say that that a regime which in the name of Allah robs passers-by at checkpoints spaced 100 metres apart is not ideal. However, the independence option hasn’t materialized. And the third way is that of law and order, as in Europe. But we all understand that this is not a realistic path for Russia as a whole, and even less so for Chechnya.
PW: And what’s the qualitative difference been the options you have listed and the fourth one, which is currently being implemented in Chechnya? You can’t deny that there’s a fairly wide-held view among the population that the Kadyrov regime has caused irreparable damage to Chechnya’s society, its customs and the dignity of its people, turning them into the prisoners of a model gulag?
Yu. L.: I think that Chechen society suffered colossal damage in 1999. Of course, for an outsider it’s difficult to judge, but when independence – the thing that people had fought for – turned into a shared misfortune, when a huge number of Chechens became double agents, when heroes and valiant men as Yamadayev or Baysarov apparently began to behave like thugs towards their own people ... You know, one of the worst things imaginable is a cross between a Chechen and a Chekist.
And Kadyrov’s strength is of course the fact that he’s remained a Chechen, has not become a federal. Under his leadership Chechnya has won the war against Russia. Well, and his most important achievement is the physical survival of the Chechen nation. There’s a sense that had it not been for him, the people would have been totally wiped out. Kadyrov took away Chechnya’s freedom, but he saved its life.
PW: His late father used to say that the Chechens shouldn’t be given any political freedoms, because they don’t know what to do with them. And that the Chechen people need to be driven into the bright future by force. One must assume that his son shares similar principles. Is there any rational basis for this view of the situation, in your opinion?
Yu. L.: No. It doesn’t matter whether one’s talking about the Chechen people or the Russian people – there are some freedoms that are absolute. It’s important not to cross the line here. It’s often said that this nation or that is not suited to democracy. In a milder form (although the meaning is the same), this idea says that at a given moment in history certain democratic principles cannot be fulfilled. In practical terms this doesn’t mean that that the electricity supply in the nation concerned has stopped working. Just that the refrigerator is broken, so why not fix it?
A lot of my friends don’t like Kadyrov at all, but they are definitely not in sympathy with the guys who are now running around in the forests. Because these are not the guys who were there in 1996. They’re a different sort. A remarkable figure has recently popped up in the Chechen resistance – Sheikh Said Buryatsky. This man has inspired many Chechens to take up arms, because they think: Wow, even a man from Buryatia has made the journey to Chechnya.
His appearance shows what is happening to the Chechen resistance. In his speech, which is available on the Kavkaz-Center website, he sets out some very clear principle which demonstrate the size of the abyss that gapes between the first Chechen war and what is going on today. He says: "Gone are those pagan times when we fought for freedom, today we are fighting for Islam." He says: "The Chechen who is a murtad or a munafik is no friend of ours, and conversely, our friend is the true Muslim, even if his nationality is Russian." And another critical point is when he says: "They try to frighten us with the claim that the people are not on our side. The people are in a state of dzhakhiliya [ignorance], we are not obliged to listen to them." Incidentally, it’s possible to find an interesting parallel to this. Many young Russians also say that the people are no good and that one shouldn’t listen to them.
Chechnya is placed between Scylla and Charybdis. It finds itself between Russia, where there is no law, where law enforcers can afford to commit crimes such as the murder of Litvinenko or the seizure of Yukos, and radical Islam, which also involves the danger that children will go to the forest. And they are the flower of the nation, young boys who really care. When he was eight years old, his idol was Basayev. He has never learned to write, read and count, but he owns an excellent assault rifle and his only wish is to kill a cop. The problem is that in Western societies a boy like that will become a hippy, but within a few years will return, master the profession of accountant and go on to become the director of an investment bank. But from the forest there is no way back. Weapons are like butter – easy to pick up, but then you can’t get your hands clean.
And this is a very serious problem because it is easy to explain to a man who is forty, say, that it’s useless to go off and fight against Russia because, well, it’s not going to succeed. But a boy of fifteen is not going to see that, and if he does, then he’s a poor specimen who lacks guts.
PW: Kadyrov has killed people, you yourself said so. He makes his own laws, which are contrary to the Chechen way of life. It’s easy to suppose that neither of those circumstances fill all of his compatriots with delight, and that many are unhappy. But it’s simply not possible express that discontent now.
Yu. L.: Kadyrov is accused of killing people all over the place. But there are many more whom he has physically rescued. What about the 17,000 fighters who make up the backbone of his guards and are his mainstay – these are men who were dragged from the forest and whom the federals would simply have executed. And the fact that Kadyrov has saved the lives of more men than he has killed is a very important statistic.
PW: Do you have exact statistics on how many have been killed, how many saved?
Yu. L.: You can’t blame him for doing the same as our law enforcers do, for the fact that there are guerrillas serving in his ranks and that he himself put them there. He hauled a huge number of them out of the forest, in spite of desperate resistance. Of course, there are plenty of horror stories, but we as bystanders don’t always understand how it all works. For example, there are situations when a loyal Kadyrovite goes into the forest to pull in one of his distant relatives, but it's actually a trap and he’s killed. On the other hand, there are situations where a man is trying to leave the forest and thinks he has finally reached an agreement with the authorities, but then some law enforcement body – Kadyrovite or not – decides to tick him off the list and kill him in the process of surrender. It’s impossible to describe statistically.
It’s an important fact that the men who went into the forest in 1995 did not go there to make war. The war came to them. A Russian tank destroyed a man’s home. He saw that it wasn’t there any more, that his wife was dead, with a dead unborn child in her belly. What was left to him? He took his assault rifle and tried to inflict some damage on that Russian army. Now the situation is different: there is no Russian tank, but there is money. The men who fought in the first Chechen war just wanted the Russian tank to go away. What are today’s guerrillas fighting for? To make the money go away, and the Russian tank come back?
This is not the time for glory. Today Kadyrov has made it possible for Chechnya to live in peace.
(Translation by DM)
(P/T) RELATED ARTICLES:
· "Kadyrov has been able to convince me of his sincerity" (interview with Timur Aliyev) (PW, 8.5.2008)