Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 212

During Chechen president Maskhadov’s absence, Vice President Vakha Arsanov has issued a number of decrees strengthening Islamic influence in the republic. Arsanov went on republic TV at the beginning of the week to order female civil servants and students to cover their heads and hair and to wear loose clothes hiding their arms and legs. Managers who fail to ensure that women workers are properly clad will lose their jobs, he said. (BBC, November 10)

Arsanov has also signed a decree outlawing the production, import, and sale of alcoholic beverages in Chechnya. A ban on alcohol production imposed in August of last year was not enforced since cognac produced in the north of the republic found a lucrative market across the border in Russia proper. Now Arsanov seems determined to make another attempt to stop the trade. (BBC, November 11)

The BBC reported that women in Grozny did not seem to be paying any attention to Arsanov’s clothing instructions. Tom Delan, a recent visitor to Grozny, said he thought Arsanov’s instructions were meant as a symbolic gesture. Chechnya, he said, is not really a state but a confederation of 100 villages, "each a law to itself," and the writ of the Chechen government does not run much beyond the capital. Unable to impose law and order in the republic, Delan suggested, the government is resorting to symbolism. He doubted that the Chechen population would pay much attention; the Chechens are Muslims, he said, but even in the nineteenth century the Imam Shamil complained that he could not stop them smoking and dancing. Faced with this reality, he said, the government is trying to build the state from zero and to cleanse the republic of alien influences. Delan acknowledged, however, that some of the younger field commanders who rule the villages have adopted a stricter and more austere moral outlook and may support Arsanov’s rulings. (BBC World Service, November 11)

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