Espreso. Global

Is Kadyrov anticipating Putin's end to detach Chechnya from Russia?

16 November, 2023 Thursday

Numerous myths and speculations surround Chechnya and, specifically, the Kadyrov clan. Let's take a more realistic look at what Chechnya and the Kadyrovs mean for Russians


The latest sociological study, conducted by the Ukrainian Institute for the Future and New Image Marketing Group, included a section focused on Chechnya. The following figures are crucial for grasping how Russians perceive the Chechens and Kadyrov.

Regarding the question "Do you agree that the Kremlin does not control the situation in Chechnya?" 34% of respondents agreed, 53% disagreed, and 13% did not provide an answer (meaning are afraid to answer, which can be partly grouped with those doubting the Kremlin's control over the territory).

Simultaneously, 36% affirmed that Kadyrov is a patriot of Russia, 18% believe he exploits Russia, 32% think he is both a patriot and an exploiter of Russia, and 14% declined to answer. Lastly, 33% agreed that the Chechens have abandoned the idea of seceding from Russia, 46% believe the Chechens still aim for secession, and 21% of respondents had no answer.

In simpler terms, about 40% of Russians view Chechnya as a foreign entity within the Russian Federation, while the remaining 60% think everything is "going according to plan."

It's important to recognize that a consensus has formed in Russia on this issue, summarized by the phrase: "Putin thinks it should be, so it should be." As long as Kadyrov remains in Chechnya, busy with rewarding his children, few show interest in the republic's situation. There's a widespread understanding that there won't be a third Chechen war during Putin's political tenure, leading to Russian indifference to the goings on in Chechnya.

Why is Adam being honored?

The recognition of the son, Adam Kadyrov, along with the related incidents (like confiscating a Chechen history textbook (where the Chechens were mentioned along with Ukrainian “Banderites” and the subsequent visit by Minister of Education Sergey Kravtsov to present a "corrected" version), happens with Putin's tacit approval. More precisely, it's done with Putin's unspoken “absence of prohibition."

In Russia, a pattern has emerged where Putin refrains from giving a clear "yes" or "no" in many contentious matters. Officials navigate this as if walking on a minefield, deciding what's permissible. Adam Kadyrov's recent accolades fit into this trend.

Putin remains silent, Kadyrov takes the spotlight, and officials act within their limited capacities. It's worth noting that the apology from the Tatarstan leader for MP Azat Khamayev, who expressed his indignation about Kadyrov's son becoming a hero basically for assaulting someone, was influenced by Moscow, as discussed in one of my previous posts.

Why does Kadyrov pursue this?

It's highly likely that this "drama" is being improvised. What's certain is that these narratives about awards aren't "vassal contracts of the leaders of certain republics." These leaders are subservient to the Kremlin, relying on it, and will continue to do so. So, it's more about Kadyrov's personal connections than any play for independence. For instance, Melikov in Dagestan doesn't reward Adam and the like, and Pushylin, dealing with control issues in Mariupol (which is controlled by the Chechens in many ways), avoids publicly commenting on Kadyrov's son's award. Meanwhile, regional heads friendly with Kadyrov don’t have a problem with it. 

What's Kadyrov's aim in all this drama? There are at least two key aspects. Firstly, by elevating 15-year-old Adam, he signals his intent to rule at least for the next decade, his health can allow him that. However, Kadyrov is aware that 10 years is lengthy, not just for him, but also for Putin. Thus, he strives to lay the groundwork for a potential power transfer and secures crucial positions for his sons and relatives. Remembering the delay he faced after his father's death, Kadyrov intends to amend Chechnya's constitution within a year or two to facilitate an immediate power transition. Of course, reality always interferes, but he, like any dictator, thinks in ideal categories. And what is no less important for understanding the processes, Kadyrov knows that Putin will not object.

Secondly, Kadyrov aims to be indispensable in the power transition. With Putin at 71, and discussions on power transitions underway, Kadyrov aspires to be Russia's "chief Muslim." Due to his character and intellectual abilities, he could not think of anything better for the active phase of establishing his semi-formal leadership than assaulting a 19-year-old native of Ukraine, Mykyta Zhuravel, who was arrested for burning the Koran. Beating him up in the pre-trial detention center. All of this transpires with Putin's silent approval, allowing Kadyrov to push boundaries as far as permitted. Adam becomes pivotal in this narrative, symbolizing the protection of Muslims.

What happens next?

As paradoxical as it sounds, the answer to this question is quite straightforward: "Nothing new." Kadyrov has a clear goal, and he's determined to achieve it, believing he has at least a year and a half left in reserve. The ongoing war solidifies Kadyrov's indispensable role, with a trust level of 61%. Russians rank him as the second most crucial military leader in this conflict (18%), just below Prigozhin at 19%. Kadyrov's challenge is to maintain this trust level and demonstrate that the Caucasus, despite not seeking secession right now, may start contemplating it after Putin’s death.

Hence, the continuous accolades for Adam will persist unless Putin intervenes. The show must go on.


About the author: Vadym Denysenko, a political scientist.

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the blog authors.

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