Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 36

Is Alu Alkhanov just a temporary president of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration, waiting for Ramzan Kadyrov to reach the age when he can take over? Not in the view of Svetlana Gannushkina of Memorial, who told Chechnya Weekly that Alkhanov “will have to move slowly, but he may be gathering strength behind the scenes.” But she depicted such concentration of power in the president’s hands, no matter who that president is, as fundamentally at odds with the Chechens’ decentralized political traditions. She suggested that a genuine process of reconciliation in Chechnya would put the election of a parliament first, so as to create a truly representative body that would allow free debate among all factions—including the advocates of independence. But instead, “people are being chased into the highlands,” she said.

Andrei Piontkovsky, by contrast, depicted Alkhanov as a powerless figurehead. “Notice how he simply disappeared from public view” during the first two weeks after the Beslan tragedy, he told Chechnya Weekly. In his view, Alkhanov, who for all practical purposes was appointed by the Kremlin despite the formality of a rigged election, is a forerunner of the new system of Kremlin-appointed regional governors that Putin announced after Beslan. Piontkovsky emphasized the contrast in behavior between Ruslan Aushev and the current governors of Ingushetia and North Ossetia during the Beslan crisis: it was only Aushev, an independent local leader not beholden to the Kremlin, who displayed the courage and initiative to take action on his own and help rescue at least some of the hostages.