The Muslims of Chechnya in North Caucasus have a long history of resistance against the Russian imperial expansions. It can be traced back to the last quarter of 18th century and the start of 19th century when the Caucasus region was incorporated in the Russian empire. Due to their continuous resistance and aversion towards Russia, they were unjustly accused of helping and supporting Nazis against the Soviet Union in 1944. Consequently, people of several ethnic groups including more than 400000 Chechens were deported to Central Asian Republics as a collective punishment and were not allowed to return home until 1957.
The struggle for an independent Chechnya started again after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Communist leader of Chechnya Doku Zavgayev, was overthrown and replaced by the former Soviet Air Force General Dzhokhar Dudayev, as President. Dudayev unilaterally declared Chechnya a sovereign, independent and secular state which would be run by an elected President and Parliament.
Chechnya remained a de facto independent state for few years followed by two devastating wars in 1994 and 1999 when Russian troops landed and destroyed Grozny, to bring it under the direct or indirect rule of Moscow. The first war lasted for two years, the second war lasted for less than a year but rebels kept attacking Russian civilians and representatives in Chechnya, and other parts of Russia for more than a decade. Hundreds and thousands of combatants and non-combatants have been killed and numerous Chechens have been displaced since 1994.
Ramzan Kadyrov, son of Akhmat Kadyrov is the current President of Chechnya, since 2007. Akhmat Kadyrov was the Imam who declared Jihad against Russia during the first Chechen war and asked the Chechens to kill 150 Russians each, as that was the ratio of the total population of Chechnya (1 million) to the Russians (150 million). The Imam sided with Russia in the second Chechen war in 1999, and was later appointed as the President of the Republic by Kremlin, in 2003. The very next year in May, he was killed by insurgents at the Dynamo Stadium in Grozny.
Ramzan Kadyrov was 27 years old at that time, that is why he had to wait for three years to fulfill the requirements of the constitution to become President. After turning 30 years of age in 2017, he was appointed as President by Putin and since then has been ruling the Republic without any opposition.
Strength of Ramzan Kadyrov lies in his loyalist force of Kadyrovtsy. It is a strong, trained and well-equipped paramilitary force of loyalists that has roots in the security forces he ran for his father.
Kadyrov is an authoritarian ruler with unlimited power and no opposition. He spends the taxpayer’s money on his lavish life style, in making his private militia stronger, and on construction projects in capital which is now transformed from ruined shells of war to a modern city with shiny skyscrapers. Nepotism and favoritism is a tool for him to remain the most powerful person by appointing his relatives and loyalists on important positions. He silences his critics and political opponents by openly threatening, torturing or assassinating them. Violence and regression is rampant under his watch. Ramzan Kadyrov is accused of many murders including the murder of former separatist leader Umar Israilov, former commander of the Gorets Movladi Baisarov, female journalist Anna Politkovskaya and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. These people were killed because they either wrote or spoke against him in public.
Strength of Ramzan Kadyrov lies in his loyalist force of Kadyrovtsy. It is a strong, trained and well-equipped paramilitary force of loyalists that has roots in the security forces he ran for his father. It consists of former anti-Russian guerrilla fighters who were transformed into allies by Putin in the second Chechen war and helped in subduing the Chechen insurgency. Kadyrovtsy is the real strength of Kadyrov. He successfully cashed it by using it against the common threats and for Kremlin, inside and outside Chechnya.
Being the son of a prominent Imam, Kadyrov considers himself the only protector of Russian Muslims. He recently attracted international criticism after reports about homosexuals were being rounded up, tortured and killed by authorities. He has the ability to mobilize his nation with one call and he proved it in September when he led a mammoth rally in Grozny to protest against the atrocities of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. He is believed to be giving preference to Sharia over Russian law. His disregard for Russian law came into limelight with his treatment of the Chechen homosexuals.
Kadyrov is Putin’s counter insurgency strategy in Caucuses, to stop the resistance. His private militia of around 30000 men is the stabilizing force in the region which successfully reduced the threat of anti-Russian resistance
Ramzan always shows his veneration and allegiance to Putin on Instagram (his main method of communication with more than three million followers i.e. over double of the total population of Chechnya) and in public rallies by calling himself a loyal foot soldier of Vladimir Putin and Putin ignores his violation of Russian laws, time and again. This is not because they admire each other, but because they are dependent on each other. Kadyrov is Putin’s counter insurgency strategy in Caucuses, to stop the resistance. His private militia of around 30000 men is the stabilizing force in the region which successfully reduced the threat of anti-Russian resistance. Therefore, it would not be favorable for Putin to lose such a powerful and influential proxy leader in the region at a time when ISIS is looking for loopholes in the Muslim dominated, troubled regions around the globe.
On other hand, Putin is Kadyrov’s source of funding and support for his authoritarian style of governance with no opposition. Almost 80 percent of Chechnya’s budget is in form of subsides from Moscow which he spends on his extravagant life style and increment of his power. In other words, Kadyrov is the political and strategic victory for Putin and Putin is a guarantee to the survival of Kadyrov’s authoritarian rule.
is a Research Associate at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research. He has done MSc. and M.Phil in International Relations from the National Defence University, Islamabad. His areas of expertise are politics and foreign policy of Pakistan and Afghanistan.