Friday, June 15, 2007

Chechen Society Today

From Prague Watchdog, my summary of the contents of the latest issue of the Russian-language monthly magazine Chechenskoye obshchestvo segodnya (Chechen Society Today):

Continuing a varied analysis of life in Chechnya today, the fourth issue of the magazine this year considers recent events and developments which have affected ordinary Chechens both inside the republic and abroad. In particular, there’s a focus on recent disturbing events in Moscow which involved the targeting by police and special services of young civilian Chechen males. This apparent campaign of persecution by the Russian authorities sits uneasily with federal claims that the war is “over”, with Grozny’s intensive programme of reconstruction and prestigious large-scale building projects, and with President Kadyrov’s assertion that “by 2008 there will be no traces of the war left in Grozny”.

An important feature in this new issue is Tatyana Gantimurova’s interview with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. From it, Kadyrov emerges as something of a split personality. On the one hand, he expresses apparently sincere concern and regret about humanitarian issues like the poisoning of Chechen children by the ecological disasters that the wars have caused. But on the other, he shows an almost total support for and identification with the policies of President Putin, whom he credits for having “stopped the war” – to the point where he can say: “If Putin says the word, I will carry out any of his commands. If you like, I am Russia’s most committed patriot.”

Three linked reports explore the workings of the disinformation and rumour mills that seek to blame Chechens abroad for many of Russia’s problems. Khamzat Saidov discusses an organization that is designed to counter such propaganda. Calling itself the Association of Chechen Public and Cultural Organizations, the body tries to function as a safety-valve in situations of provocation and conflict, giving Chechens a lifeline to which they can turn when threatened. With the recent arrest of two Chechen students in Moscow in mind, Said-Khamzat Gerikhanov interviews the Association’s chairman, Musa Dzhabrailov, who gives a panoramic view of the lies, myths and prejudices that sit at the root of the characterization, deeply embedded in the Russian psyche, of Chechens as “terrorists”, and the associated idea of a “Chechen underground”. He also shows how these psychological factors influence the unfolding of events – in the clashes with skinheads, in the student fights in Moscow and elsewhere, and in the distortions of these incidents that were published by Russian media. Finally, a Caucasian Knot report focuses on the mass fighting that broke out on May 24 between Chechen migrants and local skinheads, and links it with the events at Kondopoga. The report’s author believes that someone is provoking such conflicts in order to sustain a negative image of Chechens, even though the war is over, and that Russian security services may be involved in this.

The remainder of the issue contains articles on Chechen culture, history, politics and society. An interview with a Chechen veteran of World War 2 whose son was recently abducted by Russian-backed security forces is juxtaposed with a conversation with folk singer and musician Ramzan Paskayev. A section on contemporary Chechen writers features German Sadulayev, who was recently selected as one of 15 authors invited to meet President Putin, discusses his life and career; Zareta Osmayeva examines a new collection of poems by Roza Takhigova, with background supplied by the poet herself; and there’s an excerpt from the historical novel by Kanta Ibragimov, which was highlighted, along with its author, in the magazine’s previous issue. Archaeologist Rezeda Dautova reviews a new book on Chechen history, and there’s a feature on a group of Chechen children who are going to spend the summer in the United States as guests of the World Life Institute. There are continuations of Edilbek Matsiyev’s historical study of the Sharo-Argun area, and of Indar Byzov’s exploration of the history of the Vainakh migration. At the back, in the sports pages, Khamzat Saidov takes a look at the Daymohk football team and its participation in the fourth international football championships in Moscow.

Visit this page to see and download the issue.

Post a Comment