Chechens Remember Yeltsin, Not Fondly…

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 17

Kavkazky Uzel, on April 24, published the comments of Chechens about Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, who died on April 23. Lechi, a 49-year-old Chechen who formerly belonged to the Vainakh Democratic Party, which in the early 1990s was headed by the late Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, told the website: “The Chechens in their time supported Boris Yeltsin in his fight against the GKChP [the state of emergency committee set up by the August 1991 hard-line coup plotters], but then came to bitterly regret doing so. Remember: even Shamil Basaev was on the barricades in Moscow [against the GKChP]!”

Lechi continued: “We really considered Yeltsin to be a democrat at the time, but he ended up being who he was – a person ready to do anything for the sake of power. I – probably like a majority of the inhabitants of our republic – only regret that he did not go on trial for having unleashed two bloody wars here and for shooting up his own parliament in 1993. I hope that the Most High will give him his just desserts. The death of any person is heart breaking, above all for his family. But someone who has brought so much suffering to people cannot expect others to grieve for him.”

Islam, a 23-year-old student at one of Grozny’s colleges, said of the deceased Russian head of state: “Yeltsin brought us only disaster – only blood, death and devastation. No one in Chechnya regrets his death. Because of him, tens of thousands of people died here. And not only Chechens, but also Russian soldiers. It’s a great pity that people like him, guilty of committing heinous crimes, get the chance to live out their days peacefully in retirement, and not die in prison – like, for example, Slobodan Milosevic.”

Ruslan Aliev, a former Soviet Interior Ministry official, said: “I heard the comments of some politicians about Yeltsin. They said he was a larger-than-life personality, almost the savior of Russia and so on. It is absolute nonsense! It was precisely Yeltsin who was one of the main initiators of the breakup of the USSR. I would put him on trial for that alone, because all the rest – the war in Chechnya, the events in the Prigorodny district of North Ossetia in 1992, the wars in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Trans-Dniester – are only consequences of the collapse of a great power. Who brought Djokhar Dudaev to power here in 1991? Yeltsin and his entourage did that in order to depose the [Communist] Party leadership of the ChI ASSR [Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic]. And then, in order to win elections, they launched a war here that they thought would be ‘small and victorious.’ We are still straightening out the mistakes made during the years of Yeltsin’s rule.”

An elderly inhabitant of Chechnya, Markha Saidova, told Kavkazky Uzel correspondent Sultan Abubakarov: “I lost three of my sons in the last two wars. In the first war, [my] eldest and middle sons were killed, and in this one, the youngest. Until I die, I will not tire of cursing those who unleashed war here. One of them is Yeltsin. He brought a great deal of evil not only to us Chechens, but also to Russians. How many Russian mothers, just like me, mourn the loss of their sons killed here? What were they fighting for, what did they die for? Let Allah punish Yeltsin and all the others guilty of the deaths of our children.”

The Chechen separatist websites, not surprisingly, posted items about Yeltsin that were even harsher. In a comment posted on the Chechenpress website on April 25, Akhmed Karachoevsky wrote that Stalin’s deportation of the Chechens in 1944 looked like “an easy excursion to the virgin lands of Kazakhstan” compared to “the crimes of Yeltsin’s gang” in Chechnya. “More than one hundred thousand killed, thousands and thousands tortured in concentration camps [or] disappeared without a trace into the boundless expanses of the empire; more than fifty thousand children who became cripples under Russian bombs; tens of thousands of orphans robbed of one or both of their parents – this is by no means a complete list of the ‘services’ of this ‘democrat’ in the first ‘Chechen’ campaign, for whom the caretakers of Russian and Western ‘democracy’…are today shamelessly shedding tears.”

Karachoevsky concluded: “Another murderer has died without receiving just punishment. But ahead is Judgment Day, when everything will have to be answered for – both worldly, righteous deeds and ‘feats of arms,’ in the course of which crimes before the Most High – violating the basic commandments of Christianity set forth in the Bible: ‘Thou shall not kill,’ ‘Love your neighbor,’ and so on – were committed. Will he rest in peace?”

Perhaps the harshest comments came in an item posted on the separatist Daymohk website on April 24. In it, Data Tutashikha, wrote of the late Russian head of state: “His place is not simply on the garbage heap of history, but in the rubbish dump, or on the streets of Djokhar [Grozny], where [the bodies of] Russian soldiers that he threw into war were eaten by wild dogs and cats. I wonder: in his final moment, did the butcher remember the Chechens he killed or [remember] his own…18-year-old soldiers who, [according to] his best defense minister of all times and peoples Paskha-Mercedes [Yeltsin’s first defense minister Pavel Grachev], died with smiles on their faces? Judging by the fact that he [Yeltsin] didn’t repent of his sins, he didn’t remember them.”

Tutashikha continued: “Many today are paying their respects…Chechens are also mourning the deceased, but only because they didn’t have time to stick a knife in his throat. Many Chechens were waiting for an opportune situation to do that. But time intervened, and the enemy passed away without vengeance being exacted. There is no doubt that God’s judgment will be frightful.” She ended her commentary by saying: “Burn, pig, in the blue flames of hell!”

Kavkazky Uzel on April 25 quoted a source in the apparatus of the Chechen president and government as saying that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov had sent a telegram with condolences to Naina Yeltsina, widow of the deceased Russian president. According to the source, Kadyrov also paid his respects to Yeltsin in a letter to President Vladimir Putin.

According to Kavkazky Uzel, Kadyrov’s telegram to Naina Yeltsina read: “It was with profound sorrow that the Chechen people took the news of the passing of your husband, the first president of the Russian Federation, Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin. His name is closely associated with the history of the New Russia, and particularly with the country’s transition to democracy. With dignity, he went through one of the most difficult periods in the formation of our state, taking upon himself historical responsibility for the people who believed in him and supported him. You, together with him, had to endure the heavy weight of responsibility for the country. You were his tower of strength. This loss cannot be made up for, but words of gratitude will be the best remembrance of this great person.”

According to Kavkazky Uzel, Kadyrov said in his letter to Putin that “Boris Yeltsin was a great person” and “a courageous fighter for democracy and freedom,” and called Yeltsin a democrat and larger-than-life politician whose name “is connected to an entire epoch in world history.”