Ramzan Kadyrov’s first decree following his inauguration as Chechnya’s president confirmed a concept for the Chechen Republic’s nationalities policy, Ekspert Online (Expert.ru) reported on April 11. The website quoted the Chechen government’s website Chechnya.ru as saying that the nationalities policy concept amounts to a “system of views and principles for the activities of the state power bodies of the Chechen Republic” concerning relations between nationalities in the republic. Chechnya.ru added: “Among the priority tasks in this sphere are the development, on the basis of the Russian Federation and Chechen Republic constitutions, of a legal and normative basis for regulating and improving federal and inter-ethnic relations, guaranteeing the national interests of the Chechen people and other ethnic groups living on the republic’s territory, [and] the passage of laws aimed against religious and political extremism.”
According to Ekspert Online, the Chechen government’s nationalities policy concept, which was developed in April 2003 and later approved by the republic’s parliament, includes an analysis of the role of the Chechen people in Russian history and condemns “anti-Chechen propaganda and slander” allegedly propagated by Russia’s national and regional media and certain Russia politicians, scholars and journalists. The document states: “Chechens are identified with terrorists and in Russia’s regions are subjected to unjustified discrimination on the basis of nationality, which substantially eases the task of the separatists and extremists to replenish their ranks, especially with young people from among the slandered, offended [and] humiliated.” As RIA Novosti reported on April 11, the nationalities policy concept calls for steps to be carried out jointly with the federal authorities aimed at preventing anti-Chechen discrimination and ensuring the constitutional rights of Chechens in all of Russia’s regions, as well as for laws aimed against religious and political extremism and for action to counter any expressions of nationalism or plots targeting “the territory and integrity of Russia or the Chechen Republic.”
In addition, the nationalities policy concept calls for returning the Russian-speaking population that left Chechnya in the early 1990s, and for developing a number of economic, legal and political measures to help do so. Indeed, RIA Novosti on April 11 quoted Chechen Minister for National Policy, Press and Information Movsar Ibragimov as saying that while a 1989 census found that 294,000 ethnic Russians and more than 60,000 Russian speakers were living in the republic, a 2003 census found that the number of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers totaled only more than 70,000. “That testifies to the relevance of a nationalities policy in the Chechen Republic that takes into consideration the interests and needs of all national communities, including small ones,” Ibragimov said.
According to Ekspert Online, the nationalities policy concept contains an “economic bloc” containing measures to obtain the financing to achieve its various goals. These include “the creation of a special economic zone in the Chechen Republic for ten years,” “the transfer to the republic’s ownership of enterprises and establishments unjustifiably taken into federal ownership,” “the reconstruction of oil refineries” and “ensuring that the population of the Chechen Republic receives a corresponding share of the national property privatized at the beginning of the 1990s.”
Commenting on the nationalities policy concept, Ekspert-Online wrote that its “vague formulations” show that the document will be only a “sham element” in Ramzan Kadyrov’s relations with Moscow. The website quoted Aleksei Mukhin, director of the Center for Political Information, as saying: “The concept is an intelligent, splendid document, but completely useless. Russians will not go back to Chechnya, just as they will not be lured there [by the Chechen authorities].” In approving the document, Mukhin said, Kadyrov wanted to demonstrate his loyalty to Moscow, but also risked nothing, because the nationalities policy concept will not change the situation in Chechnya. “On the other hand, the concept can bring the republic quite a number of tangible benefits,” he said. “After all, under the program for attracting back Russians who have emigrated from the republic, it will be possible to shake down Moscow for additional funds.”