Chechnya needs public discussion, not repression
Ruslan Isayev, special to Prague Watchdog
The hopes of the federal center to stamp its authority on Chechnya by establishing various government and other bodies to generate an administered and controlled society seem destined to fail.
The upcoming parliamentary elections in November are sure only to increase the number of obedient officials eager to carry out the non-intelligent will of the Kremlin. And the absence of a real arena in which public discussion could be developed only fuels an explosive build-up of discontent.
The repressive control functions only on first appearance. By and large, Moscow, during the long years of war, has not succeeded in creating any comprehensible concept to either placate the republic or, more importantly, to neutralize separatist yearnings.
Result of Moscow's policies – terror
The shaky yet bloated power structure built up in Chechnya is only maintained by massive support from the federal center. If this support should suddenly weaken for one reason or another, then the structures would surely collapse.
This assertion is easily proved. In the past five years of war, neither the federal forces nor the Moscow-backed Chechen ones were able to change the balance of power in the conflict despite immense forces and equipment; they only succeeded in eliminating or driving abroad practically the entire former resistance command.
The losses incurred by the federal forces have in no way decreased and, according to some information, are actually increasing. At the very least this indicates that the resistance is not short of resources, people, arms and food, despite five years of terror against the population.
At the same time, the ideas of separatism and radical Islam, which motivate the resistance, have now become far more attractive to young people who lean toward armed resistance. The price they‘ll pay for such a choice is high as the risks involved affect not only their own lives, but those of their relatives as well.
Therefore, it’s possible to objectively say that the situation in the republic in terms of Moscow’s interests has only worsened. Terrorism has finally been sanctioned as the normal method of armed struggle.
With the death of Aslan Maskhadov, whatever his true role may have been, the Chechen resistance has lost its moderate center. Ichkeria’s new president, Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, actively cooperating with warlord Shamil Basayev, apparently sees no need to preserve an image of a moderate leader.
It is also a somewhat unpleasant sign that the resistance is becoming more and more self-sufficient and isolated, casting off all connections to Europe -connections that, within certain limits, somehow managed to contain the terrorist struggle.
Parliamentary elections: another missed opportunity
As to the upcoming elections, there is no doubt whatsoever that the new Chechen parliament will not be elected but formed according to the State Duma, the lower house of Russian parliament.
The federal center is to once again miss an opportunity to initiate a public discussion, which could begin with selecting a representative body.
Separatism and radical Islam have caused very serious damage to Chechnya and its citizens during the past ten years. Had people been given the opportunity to discuss affairs publicly, the outcome could have been extremely favorable to the Kremlin.
The only way to avoid further surprises in the future is to bring back to the republic a spirit of public consciousness and the right to vote.
Neither Ramzan Kadyrov nor Alu Alkhanov will ever win for Russia Chechen support, despite their repeated calls for uniting with Moscow. The terror they unleashed in the republic and their arguments about the dangers awaiting Chechnya on the path to independence deprives them of any moral substance.
Hope dies last of all
But how should we proceed? Is there even the slightest hope the Kremlin will ever change from inter-Chechen conflict to inter-Chechen dialogue? Will it try, in one form or another, to allow Chechens to discuss those questions that continue to provide the basis for the ongoing armed conflict?
It’s unlikely that Vladimir Putin regards this way to be reasonable or productive. The Kremlin is apparently certain that all answers are quite clear - Dzhokhar Dudayev threw the republic into an abyss; Aslan Maskhadov handed Chechnya over to armed gangs; Shamil Basayev remains as a murderer of children, and so on.
One can assume that a majority of Chechens would agree with these assertions, but only if they were given an opportunity to think all this through from beginning to end. A “truth” that is imposed via blood, violence and kidnapping, can only be regarded as nothing but a lie.
The situation continues to deteriorate, but a point of no return doesn’t exist. Putins come and go, yet the people need to live humanely, without fear, social schizophrenia and violence.
Young Chechens are now studying in colleges and universities in Russia and Europe, and it’s in their hands that their country’s future lies. The day will come when a more sober leadership will appear in Russia and there’ll be no other way available other than to initiate a nationwide public discussion with all people involved.
Ruslan Isayev is Prague Watchdog's North Caucasus correspondent.