Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 10

Observers in Moscow continued to mull over the significance of Ramzan Kadyrov’s elevation to the post of Chechen president. The daily Vedomosti on March 2 quoted an anonymous Kremlin source as saying that no special demands had been made on Kadyrov in return for his being picked as Chechnya’s formal leader, but that Kadyrov himself knows there are limits to how far he can go. The newspaper noted that just a few days before being appointed president, Kadyrov has said he would not demand the conclusion of a treaty on delimiting power between Chechnya and the federal center. The Vedomosti source also predicted that Kadyrov would not try to place the republic’s oil industry, which is 51% controlled by the state oil company Rosneft, under Chechen government control.

Aleksei Makarkin of the Center for Political Technologies predicted Kadyrov would carry out a “systematic siege” of the federal center, but only in order to extract economic dividends without provoking an open conflict. Gleb Pavlovsky of the Foundation for Effective Politics called Kadyrov’s accession to the presidency a “symbolic and political end to the war in Chechnya” and said Kadyrov deserved his new position more than some other Russian regional leaders. Another pro-Kremlin political analyst, Sergei Markov, said that if Kadyrov worked hard and avoided mistakes, he could remain in power for 40 years.

However, Aleksei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center told Kavkazky Uzel that Kadyrov’s elevation to Chechnya’s presidency was dangerous for Moscow because a situation in which everything depends on one person is always dangerous. “Because if he vanishes for some reason, then the situation will become absolutely unpredictable,” Malashenko said.

Sergei Markedonov, head of the International Relations department at the Institute for Political and Military Analysis, said in an interview published by Kavkazky Uzel on March 2 that Kadyrov’s assumption of Chechnya’s presidency and the removal of Alu Alkhanov represented a challenge to both “state patriotic values” and “the values of democracy.” “In accepting Alkhanov’s resignation, President Putin showed that elections mean absolutely nothing to him as a procedure, that the will of the top person is more important than any elections,” Markedonov said. “I understand the degree to which the elections of Alkhanov himself fell short of, say, elections in France, but, nevertheless, such a decision by Putin unquestionably deals a blow to the institution of elections – buries it once and for all. The fact of the matter is that the only means of legitimizing power that works here is still [the] electoral [one]. And by destroying electoral legitimation, we are destroying, in general, the state system and striking precisely at the state. They are unable to understand this in the Kremlin.” Markedonov also said that Alkhanov was loyal to the Russian state, while Kadyrov is loyal to Putin personally. “It turns out that the Russian president puts personal loyalty higher than state loyalty,” he said. “That’s a very dangerous step. In the future, this can turn Russia, let’s say, into an Afghanistan, in which regional leaders will simply ‘reach understandings’ with the federal center.”

In an article published by on March 6, “The Chechenization of Russia and the Kadyrovization of Chechnya,” Markedonov wrote: “There is currently an informal agreement between the Kremlin and the new Chechen president. Kadyrov … lets the Kremlin preserve the appearance of a ‘pacified Chechnya.’ For that he is granted significant freedom. … But to what degree will Kadyrov stay within the bounds of his current demands when, in 2008, the post of Russian president is occupied by a different politician?”