Saturday, September 4, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Chechens Indifferent to Change in Kadyrov’s Title, Experts Say

Paul Goble

Staunton, September 4 – While commentators in some non-Russian republics see plans to change the title of their chief executives from president to “head,” most Chechens, experts say, are “indifferent” to a change which they believe was initiated in Moscow and only given publicity by Ramzan Kadyrov.
According to a report in Kavkaz-Uzel today, the decision of the Chechen parliament, taken unanimously on Thursday, to give Kadyrov a different title is not agitating Chechens who generally believe that “the initiative for renaming was organized from Moscow” and will have little effect in Grozny (
While Kadyrov has insisted that he is the author of the idea of eliminating the title of republic president, Grozny analysts speaking on condition of anonymity said that Kadyrov was responsible for talking about the possibility of calling himself imam, something Moscow would never permit, Moscow itself was behind the push to call republic leaders “heads.”
“When some leaders are called ‘governors,’ others ‘presidents,’ and still a third group ‘heads,’” one of these sources said, it was somewhat “absurd.” Consequently, the center wants “all the leaders of the regions to be called “heads of republics, krays [or] oblasts” and only the Russian leader president.
Kadyrov, another unnamed Grozny expert said, “in fact is the implementer of all the ideas of the Kremlin directed at the step-by-step unitarization of the state and the rejection of federalism,” as was shown by Grozny’s annulment of its treaty with the center and its backing of Moscow’s decision to end the election of federal subject leaders.
Moreover, he continued, “beginning in 1991, the Chechen Republic was for the Kremlin a special space on which different variants of the political arrangements of the country were worked out.” And “Kadyrov simply executives the will of the Kremlin,” a reality that is underscored by the promptness with which other North Caucasus leaders follow his leads.
If the expert community in Grozny has been trying to interpret this latest move of Moscow and Kadyrov, ordinary Chechens, Kavkaz-Uzel says, are “quite indifferent” to giving Kadyrov a different title. One said he is “absolutely indifferent” as to what Kadyrov calls himself.
It is said, another resident of the Chechen capital added, that “Ramzan very much wanted to be called imam, but Moscow did not permit this.” As for himself, the resident said, he did not understand why Kadyrov did not seek to be called officially what he is called in the Chechen media already, “the shah of shahs.”
But if Chechens are indifferent, many other non-Russians are not. Two days ago, for example, the Circassian Khase movement issued a statement expressing its concerns that the elimination of the title of republic president would be followed by the elimination of republics as such (
And even though Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has suggested that each federal subject should decide on its own what its head will be called, many in United Russia, the party of power, are talking about pushing through a federal law on this subject, all the more so because it appears likely that Tatarstan among other republics may not go along without such a law.
If indeed the Duma passes such legislation, that will further underscore the conclusion of the Grozny experts that the whole notion of dropping the presidential title in the republics was Moscow’s idea, and that in turn will likely generate more resistance among those who, like the Circassians, are worried about what the center will do next.

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