|To Our Readers|
The Moscow Times welcomes letters to the editor. Letters for publication should be signed and bear the signatory's address and telephone number.
At first glance, it would seem that the recent murder of Sulim Yamadayev in Dubai placed the "Chechnya problem" again in the spotlight after several years of being in the shadows. But the Dubai incident is unlikely to prompt world leaders to reconsider the issue of Chechen independence. Moreover, widespread human rights violations in Chechnya, which used to be a rallying point for opposition groups both within Russia and in the West, now attract far less attention than they once did.
Today, the discussion centers on the price for keeping Chechnya as a subordinate republic within the Russian Federation. How much control does Moscow really hold over Chechnya? Is Chechnya proving to be a case of the tail wagging the dog? The answers to these questions throw doubt on the effectiveness of the power vertical built by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Post-Soviet Russia has implemented three different methods for controlling "Ichkeria," the name for the historical part of Chechnya that was occupied by the tsarist army in 1852 and romanticized by Chechen nationalists in the early 1990s as a symbol of resistance to Russia. But for all of the seeming differences in these three approaches, they have one thing in common: They did not resolve the problem of how to fully integrate Chechnya into Russia.
The first method for dealing with Chechnya could be termed "administrative autism." It was applied from 1991 to 1994 and again from 1996 to 1999, when Moscow only pretended that Chechnya was part of Russia. In reality, Chechnya did not pay taxes to the federal budget or obey Russian laws.
The second approach was to use the siloviki to stifle Chechen separatist movements. Even now, I am convinced that the use of force was necessary to neutralize the separatist threat that militants posed to Russian -- and even Eurasian -- security. But when Moscow applied that method in 1995 and 1999, it should have been kept within a strict legal framework to avoid the widespread abuses by military and police forces.
The third approach can be termed the "Chechenization of authority." This involved handing over full authority to the republic's elite in exchange for a formal demonstration of loyalty to Moscow. This tactic was applied in the early 2000s. At that time, the Kremlin did not take the traditional approach of relying on pro-Russian Chechens who had fought on the Russian side during previous military operations in the Caucasus. Instead, Moscow placed its bets on former Chechen field commanders and separatist ideological leaders -- for example, former Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, who had been in conflict with radicals seeking an independent Islamist Chechen state.
The Kremlin reached a sort of social contract with the separatist leaders whereby they could fulfill most of their nationalist goals within Chechnya as long as the republic formally remained part of Russia. At the same time, they were given an unprecedented amount of authority and autonomy not enjoyed by any other republic in Russia. At the same time, Moscow turned a blind eye to the violent methods that the Chechen leadership used to quell the insurgents.
At first, this policy was placed in the hands of Akhmad Kadyrov, but following his assassination in 2004, it was passed on to his son, Ramzan Kadyrov. Today, Ramzan Kadyrov sets his own political agenda and allows public debate and even criticism of the Federal Security Service and -- normally considered "sacred cows" by the Kremlin. Kadyrov has exploited his free reign on many occasions -- by pushing opponents such as former Chechen President Alu Alkhanov and the Yamadayev brothers out of the way, granting his own form of amnesty to former insurgents and reducing Russia's military presence on Chechen soil.
What has been the result of this Chechenization policy? Today, fewer terrorist attacks are committed in Chechnya than in Dagestan, and only a few insurgent groups are still calling for the republic to break away from Russia. What's more, Chechen's political elite are much more allegiant to President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin than leaders of other Caucasus republics.
It would be difficult to describe Chechnya as peaceful, but Kadyrov has attained "stability" in the Russian and Chechen definition of the word. Nonetheless, this stability has come at a very high price. The flip side is that Chechnya's internal political issues are largely resolved without Russia and with minimal adherence to federal laws.
In this sense, a new type of separatism has won out in Chechnya. Strangely enough, this separatism fits nicely into the Kremlin's power-vertical model. Kadyrov has fulfilled the dreams of the republic's leaders of the early 1990s. He has created his own version of an independent Ichkeria -- and best of all, Kadyrov was able to do it without fighting Moscow.
Sergei Markedonov is the head of the interethnic issues group at the Institute for Political and Military Analysis.