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The Dancing Ramzan – OpEd

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Out of all the regimes of the post-Soviet Republics, nobody seems to have made off with more money and power than Ramzan Kadyrov, the self-appointed czar of Chechnya. He’s feeling so happily secure that back in March he even bought himself the Brazilian national football team for a show.

The football demonstration took place in Grozny, and Ramzan himself took over as Captain of the Chechen team, and amazingly twice scored against the great Brazilians despite the team losing the friendly match 4-6.  Then again, even North Korea’s Kim Jong Il has his own legend of hitting five hole-in-ones during his first trip to the golf course.

The holiday was a success – Ramzan even danced the lezghinka in public (in the photo).

In order to understand how much money (whose?) this show cost, it is enough to take a look at the list of the footballers invited to the show (in the capacity of artists?) : Vaghiz Khidiyatullin, Vladimir Beschastnykh, Ilghiz Fakhriyev and Ramiz Mamedov, as well as captain of the German national team Lothar Matthäus and Oliver Kahn, Carlos Dunga, André Cruz, Zé Mario, Roque Júnior, Romário, Bebeto, Cafu, Élbera, Zico, Denílson, Djalmina, Zetti, Raí.

 

Following the match, local newspapers gushed with reports of the flattering praise the Brazilians had for Kadyrov’s gameplay.  The Chechen media quoted the Brazilian players as saying that if Kadyrov had the time to train, his skills would improve dramatically from the backyard to the pro level.

It’s not a new idea to use sports marketing as a way to improve the personal political image of the kingpin and regional reputation of corrupt backwater.  In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if the idea for the pricey invitation of the Brazilian superstars came from Putin himself.  (Given his penchant for judo stunts, flights, submarine voyages, and barechested manhood, I’m surprised we didn’t see the Prime Minister take to the pitch as a forward.)

The Brazilian newspaper Globoesporte was happy to report how the players were so well compensated for their trip to Chechnya. The publication quotes the footballer Romário, who participated in the Grozny match. Romário supposedly admitted that he had gone to Chechnya only because they had offered him a very convincing financial remuneration. “To be honest, I don’t understand at all what the objective of this game was“, he said.

It doesn’t take a genius to see what this whole event was all about:  the laundering of Ramzan’s dirty reputation with quite a nice bit of celebrity PR.  And why shouldn’t he do this, if we take into account that the money, most likely, wasn’t from his own personal pocket anyway, but from the federal budget of Russia, that is, from the pocket of the Russian taxpayers.

It would all be fine and dandy, if we don’t take into account the fact that Chechnya is a heavily subsidized republic. Subsidies to Chechnya from the federal budget for the year 2010 – 52 bln rubles (with a size of the population (official) of 1.2 mln. pers). That gives an amount of the subsidy of 43 thsd rub per person per year.

If we compare with other subsidized regions of Russia, then the picture is the following: the Republic of Tyva (Tuva) got in the year 2010 a subsidy in an amount of 9.45 billion rubles.  The size of the population of Tuva comprises 314 thousand people. In such a manner the subsidy comprised 30,09 thsd. rub per person.

The Republic of Sakha-Yakutia with its diamonds, uranium, the company ALROSA and other wonders – for a population of 949.5 thousand got 42.4 billion rubles in federal subsidies or 44.7 thousand rubles per person.

The Republic of Altai. Population 210,7 thousand persons. The sum of the subsidies from the budget comprises 6.766 bln rubles or 32.1 thsd per person per year.

The overall sum of financing from the federal budget of the regions of the North-Caucasus federal district comprised nearly 160 bln rub., not counting the all-state expenditures of the budget, a part of which is likewise connected with the financing of the regions of the NCFD. In so doing on average for the country the level of inter-budgetary transfers comprises approximately 5 thsd. rub. per one inhabitant, in all — around 725 bln rub. In such a manner, 22% of all the funds allocated by the federal center to the regions is spent on the North-Caucasus region, where just 6.3% of the population of Russia lives.

It is understandable that with such selectiveness (a kind of dividing into privileged ones and into second-sort people) Ramzan Kadyrov can arrange filthy expensive shows for his own dearest self on a weekly basis.  Have you ever wondered how Ramzan earns his keep; what he does to deserve all these bounties from the Russian taxpayer?

Apparently, he performs certain services. Maybe it’s just because he’s been declared “a hero” of the Russian Federation. And also he is a cavalier of the orders «For services to the Fatherland» of the IV degree; of Courage; twice -medals «For excellence in the protection of public order»; medals «For services in the conducting of the All-Russian census of the population»; holder of the Certificate of Honor of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly; cavalier of the order named after Akhmat Kadyrov; holder of the medal «Defender of the Chechen Republic»… And so on, ad infinitum. Hero of the nation, hero of Ichkeria, holder of the Diamond order, laureate of prizes, honorary citizen, honorary elder, merited builder, veteran of Afghanistan, honorary member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, general…

Name me one other like this on the Russian land? How can you not give someone like this a bunch of money from the budget?

And if we also take into account Ramzan’s main title, then absolutely everything will fall into place: he – is a friend of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. (No, really, I mean a real friend. Much more so than Gennady Timchenko, who recently had to deny being friends with Putin in court).

So in the eyes of our twisted broken system, Ramzan will keep on dancing (our money) away. I sure hope the shows he provides continue to be worth it.

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Grigory Pasko

Grigory Pasko is a Russian journalist and publisher of an environmental magazine. In November 1997 Pasko was arrested by FSB agents in Vladivostok and accused of espionage for publications on the environmental problems in the Japanese sea but found not guilty due to lack of evidence. He was found guilty of “abuse of his official position,” but released immediately under a general amnesty. He was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. His articles appear at Robert Amsterdam's website (http://www.robertamsterdam.com) and are reprinted with permission.

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