The discrediting of Ichkeria (weekly review)
By Dzhambulat Are
GROZNY, Chechnya – Who are they – the leaders of Ichkeria past and present, of the Caucasus Emirate and the armed groups that operate underground? On the new Chechen Grozny TV channel a talk show organized and virtually hosted by the Moscow-backed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov provided a detailed answer to this question. In the programme yesterday’s intransigent fighters of the Ichkerian and Islamist underground reminisced about their former colleagues.
In his role as television producer and presenter Ramzan Kadyrov managed to achieve some remarkable results. Having brought together in one room a few dozen of his recent enemies among the Ichkerian field commanders, he made them systematically trample in the mud not only their former comrades-at-arms, but also themselves. Several hours of shame and demonstrative self-abasement seemed to bring the participants of this collective rite of atonement a peculiar gratification.
The grand spectacle was targeted less at the domestic audience than at the Chechens who have found political outside Russia. It is not hard to understand why Kadyrov’s government has recently devoted so much attention to the Chechen diaspora abroad. It consists of witnesses and dissenters who are unwilling to make their peace with the regime of a small-time provincial dictator. In their dictionary the words “Freedom, Ichkeria, Independence” have not yet lost their meaning.
“Come home!” the Chechen ruler appealed to the people who had lost their motherland. “Look at these fellows sitting in the room, they’re alive and well, and so you don’t need to feel threatened, either. Listen to their stories – are these the men in whom you put your faith and followed?”
The process of dethroning authority was conducted in spellbinding fashion. One after another, up to the microphone trooped witnesses who included both veteran commanders and very young mujahideen who had only recently seen the error of their ways.
Maskhadov’s former comrades-at-arms said that before his death their president had been in a state of acute depression. He no longer saw any future in the struggle with Russia and was ready to capitulate. Participants in the show claimed that he had been prevented from doing so by former Ichkerian defence minister Magomed Khambiyev.
Basayev, they said, was a ruthless psychopath and blockhead whose main concern was not independence but personal enrichment. He was only interested in money, which he had extracted from Boris Berezovsky, among others.
They mentioned Movladi Udugov’s dubious family origins. The ideologist of the Chechen Islamist revolution was a desperate liar – he could not open his mouth without lying. Why? Well, that was simply how he was, and it brought no apparent benefit either to himself or others.
Maskhadov’s adviser on Islamic matters gave a picturesque account of how in the mountains he had, on his superior’s orders, taken the last crumbs of bread from the mouths of starving people. In addition, he said that the Ichkerian president had not turned to prayer and abstinence from liquor until two or three years into the second Chechen war.
On this point Kadyrov, a capable television presenter, decided to place particular emphasis. “Imagine,” he said, he turning to the people in the room, “the man who introduced full Sharia law in Chechnya hardly prayed at all and got up to hell knows what!”
Dokka Umarov, the current leader of the Caucasus Emirate, was characterized by the “experts” as a minor criminal: a cheat, a coward and a kidnapper.
The talk show was a success. The idea that even if Ichkeria had managed to resist the onslaught of the Russian army it would never have been able to form a nation state was accepted by all who watched this vivid presentation to the end.
As a result, Ramzan Kadyrov won a convincing victory, and to round it off he compelled his former captives to admit that if he wished to do so he could destroy them all. Only good will prevented him.
It was also evident that the discrediting statements aired on the show were not devoid of substance. Much of what was said was true. Kadyrov is clearly well acquainted with the customs and habits of the underground’s former and current leaders. The interrogations of those who were taken prisoner supplied a detailed picture of the Ichkerian leaders, and of other commanders. It was essential to include this information in the show so that the image of the heroic Chechen resistance could finally be debunked.
It is also possible that today Kadyrov suffers from a desperate lack of respect on the part of his fellow Chechens. What he wants is not flattery and genuflection, but a serious, deep recognition of his services to the Chechen people.
The Chechen exiles living in the West are the most accurate barometer of the Chechens’ true feelings and intentions. If they, who have tasted life in Europe and experienced the freedom of foreign lands, and who presently consider him a bandit, should one day recognize his supremacy, then it he will indeed be the father of the people, the man who has managed to find the key to the hearts of all – even those who are the most suspicious and most demanding.
Kadyrov sees himself as a replacement for the Chechens’ former idols. The logic of his vision is that the country’s previous rulers were no better than he, and even far worse. This was what people could see for themselves as for a few hours they became immersed in the abyss of others’ shame that yawned from the television screen. Alas, it must be acknowledged that many of the show’s episodes were more than convincing.
Previous weekly reviews can be read at http://www.watchdog.cz/weekly.
(Translation by DM)