Monday, May 08, 2017

Chechnya - Image and Reality 4

Looking through the New York Times against the background of the recent Novaya Gazeta reports of gay and bisexual men fleeing Chechnya, with a certain amount of relief I came across the article by Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, project director for Russia and the North Caucasus at International Crisis Group – it puts the present events into context in a way that to some observers had seemed no longer accessible, given the West’s apparent acceptance of the Kadyrov-dominated status quo in Chechnya. After giving a detailed account of the persecution of gays in Kadyrov’s Chechnya, Sokirianskaia focuses on the specific characteristics of the Kadyrov regime – its use of collective punishment, of fear and intimidation against entire families, its parallel economy based on bribery, kickbacks and extortion, its fusion of conservative traditionalism, Sufi Islam and Putinism in the service of a repressive, gangster-like state within a state. The regime’s policies are dictated from above, mostly from Moscow, and the new initiatives are carefully harmonised with official Russian state propaganda. Until the recent reports emerged, Sokirianskaia notes, “Chechnya never had any record of organised violence against gays.”

In addition, Sokirianskaia places the current events within the frame of the deceptive image of Chechnya that has been built up by the Kadyrov-Putin nexus. Under the constant invocations of stability, tradition and order lurks a reality that is different and chaotic, governed by the internecine feuds between the teips, or clans, and by the ever-growing hostility of Russia’s military establishment, which sees Kadyrov as a dangerous separatist and wants to put him in his place. What is more, the present security situation is beginning to drift out of control, with attacks claimed by Islamic State becoming more numerous. Given all this, it is hardly surprising that Sokirianskaia sees trouble on the horizon:

Mr. Kadyrov and his clique depend entirely on Mr. Putin. It is within the Russian president’s power to halt the violence against gay men, empty the illegal prisons and force an investigation into this crackdown. If Mr. Putin continues to give the Kremlin’s tacit approval to Mr. Kadyrov’s repressions, he is only storing up trouble for the Russian Federation.

The Chechen conflict has not been resolved but merely contained by brute force and a personal bond between the two leaders. In the long run, such an unstable situation makes a deadly new conflict in Chechnya almost inevitable.

See also in this blog:
Chechnya - Image and Reality
Chechnya - Image and Reality 2
Chechnya - Image and Reality 3
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