CHECHEN PARLIAMENT ASKS FOR HUGE COMPENSATION PAYMENTS
Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 12
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said on March 21 that the issue of signing a treaty delimiting powers between Chechnya and the federal center is currently not relevant, Newsru.com reported. “We don’t have the need for such a treaty,” Kadyrov told journalists, adding that if the regions were to sign such treaties with the federal center, it would weaken Russia. At the same time, however, Chechnya’s parliament has drafted legislation that calls on the federal authorities to pay Chechnya compensation for Soviet-era repression. Russian press reports have been contradictory on the size of the compensation payments that the Chechen parliament is asking for, but it appears that they total hundreds of millions of dollars, at minimum.
Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on March 21 that the Chechen parliament has proposed an amendment to the law “On the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression,” ostensibly to make that law applicable to Chechen conditions. According to the newspaper, the Chechen parliamentarians noted in an explanatory memorandum attached to the amendment that much archived data was lost in Grozny as a result of federal military operations there, so that there is only data on 121,000 repressed people when in fact, far more Chechens fall under that category. The Chechen parliament is suggesting that people can be added to the repressed category simply on the basis of their passport data, and that if their passport data is insufficient to prove their repressed status, then it could be established on the basis of testimony by witnesses made in court.
Following Kadyrov’s comments about a treaty on delimiting powers as being unnecessary, Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, chairman of the People’s Assembly, the upper house of Chechnya’s parliament, said the parliament had forwarded a proposal to the Russian Constitutional Court asking for 8 billion rubles (around $307 million) to be apportioned for the rehabilitation of Chechens who were repressed during the Stalin era. Abdurakhmanov said that the request did not represent a quid pro quo for Chechnya refraining to push for a treaty on delimiting power between the republic and the federal center. Ekho Moskvy on March 21 quoted Abdurakhmanov as saying that the payments Chechens received in 1992 as compensation for Soviet-era repression – 10,000 rubles per person – was an unworthy sum. It should be noted that runaway inflation in the early 1990s rendered such payments almost financially meaningless.
The first deputy chairman of the Chechen People’s Assembly, Zambek Zalzaev, told Interfax: “The law from 1991 on the rehabilitation of victims of political repression, which legally concerned all the victimized peoples, was in no way realized in the Chechen Republic. At a time when victims all around Russia received compensation payments, they were not paid in Chechnya, and this issue is constantly raised by various organizations in Chechnya, and it also troubles us.” Zalzaev added that the compensation sums designated by the law 16 years ago are today “laughable” and “do not correspond to the damage – material and moral – done to the Chechen nation.” He also stressed that the Chechen parliament’s initiative on compensation has nothing to do with the draft treaty on delimiting powers. “What happened to the Chechen nation in 1994 is recognized by everyone as genocide,” he said. “And the parliament of the Chechen Republic does not intend to engage in any bargaining with anyone concerning that tragedy, and we do not intend to tie this issue to the resolving of any other political tasks, including the draft treaty on delimiting political powers, which has no connection to this issue.” Zalzaev added that “in all of the Russian Federation subjects where repressed peoples live – Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Ingushetia and others – the issue of compensation was resolved more than five years ago.”
Akhmar Zavgaev, a State Duma deputy representing Chechnya, told Ekho Moskvy radio that new payments would right an historical injustice, given that “from the beginning of the 1990s, all repressed peoples were paid compensation with the exception of Chechnya, because Chechnya was not located on the Russian Federation’s constitutional field” at the time. Zavgaev said that “both the parliament and president of the republic are demanding that compensation be paid to those who were deported in 1944,” adding that the payments should apply “to those who were born before the restoration of the Checheno-Ingush ASSR, before 1956, and who were deported.”
The idea of paying Chechens compensation for Stalin-era repression also received backing from Yuri Sharandin, chairman of the Federation Council’s Constitutional Law Committee, who told Ekho Moskvy: “It’s not a question of whether or not to pay – it is obligatory to pay. The state must compensate for any damage. This is a constitutional principle.” Sharandin added, however, that the Chechen parliament should not have addressed the Russian Constitutional Court in calling for compensation payments, given that this issue does not fall within the court’s competence.
Aleksandr Cherkasov of the Memorial human rights group told Ekho Moskvy that it was a good thing that the Chechen parliament brought up the issue of the insignificant sums paid out to victims of Stalinist repression and that such payments need to be revised for all victims, regardless of their region or ethnicity. “It would be fair today if some portion of the shares of, say, Norilsk Nickel, were owned by those [Gulag] convicts who built that industrial plant in the tundra, but that isn’t the case – the compensation for material harm [for repression victims] is clearly insufficient,” Cherkasov said, adding that such compensation payments were not given proper attention in the federal law on monetizing in-kind social benefits. Cherkasov also noted that the compensation payments to repression victims were small from the beginning and became “quite laughable” as a result of high inflation in the 1990s.
The reports about precisely how much the Chechen parliament has asked for in the way of compensation payments have been contradictory. Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on March 21 that the Chechen parliament asked Moscow for an initial payment of 18.1 billion rubles (around $691 million), to be followed by yearly payments of 10 billion rubles (around $384 million), and indicated that the federal government’s Stabilization Fund, consisting of more than $100 billion accumulated from windfall oil revenues, should be tapped to help cover the payments.
Commenting on the demand, Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote that experts believe the Chechen legislation is an attempt to win compensation for “the destruction and losses of the two last wars” and that it may constitute “a demand to the federal center for a kind of compensation for Chechnya in return for giving up the idea of a treaty on delimiting powers.” The newspaper reported that Viktor Ilyukhin, deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Security Committee, was surprised by the Chechen parliamentarians’ initiative and said he did not rule out that they viewed it as compensation for Chechnya dropping its demand that the delimitation of powers treaty be signed and a willingness to amend the republic’s constitution to eliminate any mention of sovereignty (see below). Dmitry Rogozin, a member of the parliamentary faction of the pro-Kremlin A Just Russia (Spravedlivaya Rossiya) party, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta he was sure that “Ramzan Kadyrov is making a case for giving Chechnya the status of a special territory with a lot more independence than would be possible with the treaty.”