Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Chechnya’s Kadyrov a Model for Russian Leaders, Silantyev Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 18 – The leaders of predominantly ethnic Russian and Orthodox regions of the Russian Federation should “immediately” copy Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s enthusiastic public support for the nationality and religion of the people of his republic, according to Roman Silant’yev.
Unlike most Russian regional leaders, the controversial Orthodox specialist on Islam told Interfax, Kadyrov has not been afraid to openly declare his republic to be both ethnically Chechen and religiously Muslim and to do what is necessary to support both identities (http://www.interfax-religion.ru/islam/print.php?act=news&id=20368).
Like Kadyrov, he continues, Russian leaders should “declare their regions mono-religious, introduce in all schools the Law of God, pay for seminaries and Sunday schools from the state budget, … put the gaming business under state control, and ensure that local women do not marry non-Russians.”
And if in addition to that, these governors should happen to arrest “a hundred or so” Wahhabis” -- radical Islamists who are spreading their influence throughout Russia at the present time -- then those leaders can, Silant’yev says, confidently put themselves forward as potential “Heroes of Russia.”
Were Russian regional leaders to try to do so and were Moscow willing to go along, of course, there would almost certainly be explosions of popular anger in the increasingly mixed populations of these areas and the ensuring danger of ever greater government repression.
Silant’yev ignores these dangers, noting that Kadyrov has already done for the Muslim Chechens what the Russian commentator argues Russian regional leaders should now do for their Russian and Orthodox populations and that “everyone” from the Kremlin to “a majority of Russian and Western human rights activists” is pleased.
Indeed, he points out, “everyone praises Kadyrov” as simultaneously a Kremlin loyalist, “a true Muslim, and a thoroughgoing defender of the interests of the Chechen people.” Therefore, it should be obvious, Silant’yev concludes, that Russian governors have every right to take similar steps.
Silant’yev, who currently serves as the director of the human rights center at the World Russian Popular Assembly, is no stranger to controversy. A protégé of Metropolitan Kirill and himself a specialist on Islam, he was ousted in 2006 from his position as secretary of the Inter-religious Council for criticizing Muslim leaders.
This latest intervention is certain to land him once again in the center of a sharp political debate. But Silant’yev’s words are worth noting for at least three reasons.
First, they reflect growing anger among Russian nationalist and radical Orthodox groups at the Kremlin’s double standards in dealing with Muslim groups like the Chechens, on the one hand, and with Orthodox Russians, on the other -- an anger that is leading them to propose policies that would likely lead to social and political explosions.
Second, Silant’yev’s ideas are likely to be picked up by nationalist politicians in the run-up to elections in the Russian Federation later this year and next, a possibility that will increase the risk of inter-ethnic conflicts even if the Russian government blocks the introduction of any of his notions.
And third, Silant’yev’s comments about Kadyrov’s policies may cause at least some observers and human rights activists to reconsider their support for the Kremlin’s backing of the Chechen president’s approach, leading them to recognize that what happens in Grozniy almost certainly will trigger new problems elsewhere in Russia.

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