By Paul Goble
Many Russian opposition figures assume that Ramzan Kadyrov must be held accountable for his statements and removed from office before he can push Russian toward Stalinism, Aleksandr Skobov says; but those who say so clearly fail to recognize the nature of the threat Kadyrov’s rule poses and the radical measures needed to overcome it.
“The Chechen state built by Ramzan Kadyrov is a state of death squadrons and ton-tons macoutes, something absolutely by unthinkable in a Stalinist state,” the Moscow commentator says, even though many think that establishing a state of that kind with Vladimir Putin as its head is his goal (grani.ru/opinion/skobov/m.247853.html).
In a Stalinist state, people are “destroyed in complete correspondence with the letter and the spirit of existing laws,” and the arbitrariness and oppression of the system are implemented “only by officially authorized organs created according to all formal procedures.” Kadyrov’s state, Skobtsov says, “is not the state of Stalin.”
Instead, Kadyrov’s state is “the state of Papa Doc Duvalier;” and what is most serious, it is ever more spreading its practice throughout Russia.” In order to prevent that, Russians must face up to the fact that Putin is not going to defend Russia from Kadyrov, that holding Kadyrov responsible isn’t sufficient, and that even removing him from office won’t be enough.
Instead, Russians must recognize that “the problem of Chechnya is that it is not Russia and will now never become one. The last Chechen wars inflicted a trauma on the coexistence of Chechens and Russians in one state that is incompatible with life.” Instead, what exists now might be described as “life after death.”
Such an existence is possible “only in the ugly and repulsive form of Kadyrovshchina [the style of rule of Kadyrov] which has introduced the poison of fascism into the entire body of Russia.” As a result, the commentator says, “Putin and the Kadyrovshchina are indivisible,” and “Kadyrovshchina is the direct product of the Russian occupation of Chechnya.”
“This is the only possible means of the formal retention of Chechnya within Russia because this is the form of the survival of the Chechen people under conditions of Russian occupation.” Consequently, to address Kadyrovshchina, one must address its source – “the Russian occupation of Chechnya” that Putin re-imposed.
“Russia, of course, could formally remove Kadyrov from power.” It could do so not because of his words but because of the actions that he and others have taken there under his rule. “But removing Kadyrov from power will be insufficient to end the Kadyrovshchina. At a minimum, there will have to be a disarming and reforming of all his fighters who form a single organism of illegality and terror. And this certainly would involve a new war.”
“Can [such a war] be justified?” Skobtsov asks. “Only in one case: if it will not be a war for retaining Chechnya under Russian rule. Otherwise it will only give birth to a new Kadyrovshchina.” Chechnya must be offered independence “after the defeat of Kadyrov’s military machine. This is all that Russia can do for the Chechen people.”
As sometimes happens, Skobtsov’s important if provocative article has appeared at the same time as two others that should be considered alongside it. In the first, Ilyas Akhmadov, who served as the foreign minister of the Republic of Ichkeria discusses his book “The Chechen Struggle” (rufabula.com/articles/2016/01/21/chechen-nazdem).
In it, he shows how Chechnya could have evolved in a vastly more positive direction if it had not been for the wars launched against that North Caucasus republic first by Boris Yeltsin and then by Vladimir Putin and for the tragic ignorance and indifference of the West to what occurred.
And in the second, Victor Buravlev, a commentator from St. Petersburg, raises the even more provocative question: he asks whether “Russia after Putin” is possible because Putin and Putinism are part and parcel of that country’s tragedy. Indeed, he says, the population of the place where Russia is designated on the map can survive “only after the disappearance of Russia, unqualifiedly and completely.”
If that happens, he suggests, there will be “a chance to build something new and to break through the vicious circle, to break the chain of revivals and to destroy the matrix. But to recognize this is complicated” because that state is “inside” Russians even if they “don’t like” that very much (facebook.com/victor.buravlev/posts/411734809021228).