Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 34

In an interview with the Agentstvo Natsionalnykh Novostei (ANN) published on August 22, the speaker of the lower house of Chechnya’s parliament, Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, reiterated his call for Chechnya’s merger with Ingushetia and claimed that a number of districts in Dagestan belong to Chechnya. Asked by ANN about his call earlier this year for the merger of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan (Chechnya Weekly, April 27), Abdurakhmanov said, “I was talking about the unification of Chechnya and Ingushetia. And Dagestan was imputed to me.” Yet, the April 25 edition of Gazeta quoted Abdurakhmanov as saying the unification of Ingushetia and Chechnya could be extended to Dagestan. “It would be more sensible in the long run to raise the issue of creating a new region in the south of Russia that would include Dagestan,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

In his ANN interview, Abdurakhmanov stated, “I believe that the Chechen Republic and Ingushetia must be united, inasmuch as the division [of the former Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic, which was dissolved in June 1992] took place artificially. No one asked the people; a referendum was not conducted. … As for Dagestan, we recognize this [Russian Federation] subject, its borders, but never in our lives have we forgotten or will forget that a number of Chechen districts are located in the territory of Dagestan. What connection, for example, do the Avars or Lezgins have to Khasavyurt, Kizlyar or Novolak? They don’t have any connection to those cities historically. Our ancestors lived on the Caspian Sea; we had free access to the Caspian and across it to the East. So why are we artificially, by force, isolated from it today? Why is this zone closed to us, but open to the Dagestani people?…The Russian people have not renounced the Baltic [Sea], and the Chechens will not renounce the Caspian.”

Not surprisingly, Abdurakhmanov’s comments elicited a negative response from the Dagestani authorities. Dagestani President Mukhu Aliev gave his at a press conference in Makhachkala on August 26. “The head of the lower house [of parliament] of the neighboring republic has more than once made such statements,” Kavkazky Uzel on August 27 quoted Aliev as saying, “We remember well how the attempts in 1999 to unite some mountainous districts [of Dagestan] with Chechnya and establish a Sharia regime in them ended. To make such statements is to take unfriendly steps with respect to Dagestan. All the more so during days when the 55th birthday of the first [Chechen] president Akhmad Kadyrov was being widely commemorated” [the late Chechen leader’s birthday was August 23]. Referring specifically to Abdurakhmanov’s comment that his ancestors “lived on the Caspian Sea” and had “free access to the Caspian, and across it to the East,” Aliev said, “A serious politician or scholar in similar instances cites solid arguments or reliable historical documents. The author of this statement has neither. Historically, such statements, of course, have no basis whatever.” Aliev added that he had met with Chechen President Alu Alkhanov in Rostov and that Alkhanov had indicated that he does not approve of such “populist” statements by certain officials.

Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov is a close ally of Ramzan Kadyrov, but the Chechen prime minister distanced himself from the Chechen parliamentary speaker’s comments about Dagestan. During a press conference in Gudermes on August 30, Kadyrov said Chechnya has no territorial claims to Dagestan. “Dagestan and the Chechen Republic have long-standing and very close relations, and in this case, to speak of any territorial claims would not be completely proper, and such an issue in the relations between two fraternal republics essentially doesn’t deserve to be raised,” the Regnum news agency quoted Kadyrov as saying. According to Regnum, Kadyrov said that Abdurakhmanov had been expressing his own opinion, which is not the official position of the Chechen government.

Likewise, Kadyrov said that the issue of merging Chechnya and Ingushetia is irrelevant. “Such a point of view is based primarily on emotions and it is … his [Abdurakhmanov’s] personal opinion,” he said. “I, personally, like the entire team of Akhmad Kadyrov, believe that there are currently problems and tasks demanding immediate solutions standing before the Chechen Republic that are more important than issues which are currently not relevant. These include the issues of restoring the republic’s economy and social sphere, the problem of unemployment and establishing peaceful life. I think that time itself will put everything into place.”

Commenting on Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov’s statements, the Vremya newspaper wrote on August 31, “It cannot be ruled out that the scandalous statements of the speaker are merely a part of an inter-Chechen political intrigue, into which the republic’s main figures—Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov and President Alu Alkhanov—are increasingly drawn. The supporters of Ramzan Kadyrov—included among them, undoubtedly, is Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov—are seeking to maximally strengthen the image of their ambitious leader. In their opinion, Mr. Kadyrov will inevitably occupy the presidential post in Chechnya, and the exploitation of radical slogans borrowed from the separatists apparently should raise his authority, including among those who only recently were fighting against Russia with weapons in their hands.” The newspaper added, however, that such comments could be badly received by the federal authorities and thereby strengthen the position of Alkhanov, “who in every way possible emphasizes his adherence to the letter and spirit of Russian law.”