By Khasukha Magomadov, special to Prague Watchdog
The Chechen President sat in his office and was looking through next year’s draft budget, which had just been placed on his desk.
"It’s a tidy sum, as long as Moscow doesn’t say no," he thought, glancing at the totals at the end of the document.
A telephone rang. It was the government phone. Kadyrov picked up the receiver.
“Hello, Ramzan Akhmatovich,” a voice boomed. “It’s Surkov.”
“Hello, Vladislav Yuryevich. How are you?”
“Everything is fine, thanks. But there is a small matter which I want to discuss with you...” ...
“Oh yes?” Kadyrov said, pricking up his ears. An evasive beginning of this kind might not bode well.
“Now you know that Russia is a democratic country, don’t you?” Surkov asked, getting down to business in a slightly insinuating way.
“Of course,” the Chechen president replied with a sigh of relief. The conversation was evidently to be about the upcoming municipal elections in the republic.
“And in a democracy the leaders do as the people want them to ...” the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration went on.
“Of course. We're servants of the people ... “
“Well, the results of this Levada Centre poll have just come in. And 36 percent of Russia’s inhabitants think that, here, I quote: ‘Russia will sooner or later have to recognize the independence of Chechnya from Russia’ ... “
“That’s a lot of nonsense,” Kadyrov said, getting worked up.
“You’re telling me. Still, more than a third of the respondents think that way,” Surkov replied. “And we’ve decided not to wait until ‘later’. We’re going to give you independence right now.”
“Is this a joke?” Kadyrov said, uncomprehendingly.
“It’s no joke! I congratulate you on the recognition of Chechnya! Independence is what you asked for, what you fought for, isn’t it? So here you are!”
“There must be some mistake,” Kadyrov said, firmly. “We’ve fought for a long time against international terrorism. And we’ve fought for Russia’s territorial integrity. But we’ve never fought for independence. And we haven’t asked for it. What we’re asking for is the budget for next year. You’re confused.”
“There is no confusion,” Surkov replied no less firmly. “The people can’t be wrong.”
“But we had a referendum! Chechnya is an indivisible part of Russia.”
“When was that referendum? 2002?”
“Well, the Levada Centre conducted a poll then, too. And at that time only 24 percent thought that Chechen independence was inevitable. Now it’s 36 percent. Things change.”
“But what about... the budget?” Kadyrov pointed at his desk where the draft budget lay, as if Surkov could see his gesture on the phone.
But the Kremlin official understood.
“That is for yourselves to decide. As an independent state.”
“And what do I do now?” Kadyrov was unable to collect his thoughts and bring this – in his view – absurd conversation to a conclusion. .
“It's your internal affair. But you personally can take to the hills,” Surkov advised. “I’ve read the analysts’ reports, it’s what they’ve been predicting.”
“Why? “ Kadyrov asked in genuine surprise.
“ I don’t know,” from the tone of the voice at the end of the line it was clear that Surkov himself was wondering. “Perhaps so you can change places with this, what’s his name, Umarov? You’ll take to the hills to fight for reunification with Russia, and he’ll take your place.”
“Wait, wait.” An interesting idea had at last occurred to the Chechen president. “Whose independence do you want to recognize?”
“Yours. Chechnya’s, in a sense.”
“But we’re not independent, are we? For a country to be recognized it has to be ... We're not South Ossetia or Abkhazia.”
“Not really,” Surkov acknowledged. “But this way there’s a solution – you take to the hills, and we recognize this Umarov fellow.”
“It won’t work,” Kadyrov interrupted. “He’s fighting for the Caucasus Emirate, not Chechen independence.”
“Yes,” Surkov agreed. “Russia doesn’t recognize the Caucasus Emirate. The people don’t want a man like that. Well then, who are we to recognize? Zakayev, perhaps?
“It's too late. Unless he declares the independence of the State Concert Hall where he’s director.”
Surkov was silent, gathering his thoughts. After a pause, he said:
“Perhaps you could declare war on Russia? We’d fight you for a couple of days and then recognize you. Eh?” he suggested, at last. “After all, the political analysts have long been waiting for a third Chechen war...”
“But we don’t want to fight,” Kadyrov said indignantly. “We’ve just restored Grozny, trimmed Putin Avenue with marble, we’re building skyscrapers. Is all that to be destroyed?”
“But what can one do? The people are waiting. Democracy.”
“Perhaps without democracy?”
“No,” Surkov sighed. “You know it as well as I do.”
You’re right,” Kadyrov agreed.
Photo: Institute of Religion and Policy.
(Translation by DM)