The games that tyrants play (weekly review)
By Vadim Borshchev, special to Prague Watchdog
Megalomania is a fever that dogs a tyrant’s heels relentlessly. It is an illness that has no cure, and does not need one. Since the dictator is unable to get rid of this contagious infection, it makes it easy to spot the type of political leader he represents.
It is hard to keep count of all the items about life in Chechnya which pop up in the news graced with the frozen epithet "most" or its derivatives. Each week Chechen officialdom publishes several of these reports on its websites: we read of "the most secure" or "most pro-Russian" republic, "the largest mosque in Europe", that "the largest religious forum has been held in Grozny," the city has been reconstructed in record time" and contains “Russia’s largest number of fountains in an urban centre ...”, and so on.
Last week, the typing of the words “most” and “Chechnya” into a (Russian language) search engine brought up the following two items: the construction of "the most extensive racecourse in the North Caucasus Federal Oblast” , and Ramzan Kadyrov’s plan to turn Chechnya into a centre for Russian tourism.
Like other Russian officials, the Chechen leader is possessed by a desire to show his superiors that he was chosen for his post not by accident, that he is the best choice, and that the Kremlin can rightly be proud of its protégé. Kadyrov’s television commercial is aimed at his fellow countrymen, but for local consumption his propaganda machine is forming a slightly different, more local series of superlatives: "the most just," "most generous", "most nationally-minded".
A dictator in the grip of megalomania usually strives for immortality by methods that are transient and finite. The Tower of Babel, the Great Wall of China, Stalin’s neo-classical monstrosities are all examples of structures that bear witness to totalitarian arrogance and that aim at challenging the Creator to the right to produce greatness, beauty and immortality. Though history shows that the tyrants have not usually won this contest, each new aspirant to power and glory cherishes the symbols of immortality.
The symbols vary. Great villains succeed in building towers that almost reach the sky, and yet at the last moment, when the goal is almost achieved, it turns out that the laws of life and death cannot be repealed. Lesser villains, who lack taste and education, produce monuments and symbols that come out looking crooked and inept. There can be little doubt that if Kadyrov really put his mind to it, he could build a magnificent ski resort in the Argun Gorge. He would be able to attract professionals who would lay the ski-slopes, equip them with ski-lifts, and provide all the necessary equipment. It would also not be hard to build some hotels for the tourists, assuming the money is there. The only question is whether the tourists would come – not the famous ones who are brought to Chechnya for money, but ordinary people who like skiing and can afford visit an inexpensive resort somewhere in Russia once a year. I have no answer to this question, but will merely quote Russia’s deputy interior minister Arkady Yedelev, who on January 17 announced that "in 2009 the number of terrorist crimes in southern Russia rose by about half compared to 2008, with 544 incidents reported... Most of this type of crime is committed in the Chechen Republic (437 incidents), Dagestan (44) and Ingushetia (41)." Such a statement clearly throws some doubt on the claims that the republic is the “most secure” in Russia. With the racecourse the story is much the same, even though horse racing is a popular sport in Chechnya.
A fondness for superlatives is often a sign of retarded development. The child thinks the ideal world is one in which the desire for a toy should immediately result in its possession. An adult who has not formed the habit of self-restraint in the matter of wish-fulfilment is chained throughout his life to a search for surrogates. And in the case of dictators, those surrogates often involve the shedding of human blood.
(Translation by DM)
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