Overwhelming Majority of Chechens Regret Maskhadov’s Death
By Timur Aliyev
CHECHNYA – Our Prague Watchdog correspondent visited Chechnya where he asked nearly fifty people of various ages and professions what do they think about the death of Aslan Maskhadov and the further development of the situation in Chechnya.
The overwhelming majority expressed regret at his death; of them most regretted the death of a Chechen and a man; some regretted that it was the President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria who had died; and two of them said he deserved it.
Most people think that the situation will now deteriorate in Chechnya. Half of them strongly believe this as it will now be radicals who will lead the Chechen resistance. Others believe the federal forces will increase repression against the civilian population because of alleged collaboration with the guerrillas. Only few people think nothing will change, and a mere two believe the situation would improve.
Ruslan, 35, a former guerrilla:
“The Russians already killed one Ichkerian President – Dzhokhar Dudayev. In 1995 Russia thought this would end the war to its advantage. But the idea that killing Dudayev would divide the guerrillas did not work. This time there is again no guarantee as the war is not led by Dudayev and Maskhadov, but by men carrying weapons.”
Shamil Tangiyev, Memorial human rights center, Grozny:
“The murder of Maskhadov also kills our expression of free will in 1997 [presidential elections]. Whether he was weak or not, it was for us to decide. But now I finally understand that Russia does not want the Chechens or anyone else to lead normal lives.”
Usman Kasayev, 39, independent journalist:
“I think Maskhadov was a courageous man whom the people respected. Even in such difficult times he was able to live in a village with just two bodyguards. Yet the current leadership of our republic does not move one step without a dozen of bodyguards.”
Abubakar Eldarkhanov, 35, a computer store owner:
“I know that something will change. Either for the worse or for the better, but it will change.”
Luisa Asayeva, 33, Russian language and literature teacher:
“I basically feel pity for Maskhadov, as a person. When his body was shown on television I thought, 'What must it be like for his family to see him like that?' Maskhadov did not deserve this.”
Kazbek Mazayev, 23, college student:
“As long as Maskhadov was alive, hope remained that the war in Chechnya would have a peaceful outcome. Now it is obvious that it will continue to the end. Who or what will survive it, I do not know.”
Timur Aliyev is Prague Watchdog's North Caucasus correspondent and editor-in-chief of the Chechen Society newspaper.