Chechens Weigh In on the “Caucasus Emirate” Idea

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 43

Kavkazky Uzel and Prague Watchdog published reports on November 6 and November 1, respectively, quoting the opinions of ordinary Chechens about Chechen rebel leader Dokka Umarov’s declaration of a “Caucasus Emirate” (see articles by Andrei Smirnov and Mairbek Vatchagaev below).

Ramzan, a Grozny resident and former teacher at one of Chechnya’s higher learning institutions, told Kavkazky Uzel correspondent Sultan Abubakarov that Chechnya declared independence once already in 1991 and that the supporters of the republic’s first president, Djokhar Dudaev, were in favor of independence, not “mythical ‘Emirates.’” “Everything that has happened and is happening in Chechnya, for some reason, is always advantageous to the Kremlin leadership,” said Ramzan. “In 1999, when they had to bring Yeltsin’s ‘successor’ to power, the apartment building bombings and the militants’ incursion into Dagestan took place. When the West began to demand that Moscow begin the process of political settlement [of the Chechen war], ‘Nord-Ost’ [the October 2002 Moscow theater siege] took place. Then, when the international community again started to pay serious attention to Chechnya, the tragedy in Beslan took place. Even the death of Shamil Basaev took place on the eve of the arrival in St. Petersburg of the heads of the G8 [a reference to the July 2006 G8 summit in St. Petersburg]. And now, when parliamentary and presidential elections are at hand, when the West is again beginning to criticize Russia … Chechens come out with the idea of a Caucasus Emirate.”

An unnamed former deputy of the Chechen parliament of 1991 told Kavkazky Uzel: “I know that standing behind this crazy plan to create a ‘Caucasus Emirate’ is Movladi Udugov, who in 1999 organized the Congress of the Peoples of Ichkeria and Dagestan and drew the Chechens into a second war. In any case, the announcement of an emirate will only mean … that the separatists will lose their last supporters in the countries of Europe, and Moscow will be announcing on every corner that Chechnya is a component of the international Islamic terrorist network and will be ‘wasting’ Chechens with even greater zeal.”

An anonymous Chechen Interior Ministry officer told Kavkazky Uzel: “Umarov and other Ichkerians, both those running around the mountains and those hiding abroad, lost touch with reality already a long time ago. The Chechen people don’t need any emirates or caliphates. People want to live a peaceful life, build homes [and] educate their children, not to carry on an endless Jihad for the sake of incomprehensible goals. Umarov could equally well announce the creation of a ‘Caucasian Empire’ or a ‘United States of the Caucasus’.”

Earlier, on November 1, Prague Watchdog published comments by Chechens about Dokka Umarov’s declaration of a “Caucasus Emirate.” “The declaration of a Caucasus Emirate with Dokka Umarov at its head is a result of the separatists’ total radicalization,” Ruslan, a 46-year-old political scientist and journalist in Grozny, told Prague Watchdog. “By the way, the word ‘separatist’ just slipped off my tongue. From now on they won’t be called that any more. It may be that the preaching of radical Islam will help them in this war more than all the holy Sufi saints and sheikhs who are thought to be traditionalists. I think that the declaration will benefit Russia, of course. Everyone knows that the guerrillas are doomed, and that there will be no Emirate, but by taking this step they are cutting themselves off from their last source of help – the support of ordinary people. On the other hand, I think that the guerrillas will receive an increased level of financial aid from the Arab countries. It may be that those sponsors have set certain conditions on the aid, and that they expect the guerrillas to declare goals that are more ambitious than the mere liberation of Ichkeria. I anticipate that we shall soon see another escalation of tension in Chechnya and the other republics of the North Caucasus.”

Movladi, a 33-year-old unemployed amnestied separatist guerrilla in Gudermes, told Prague Watchdog: “I can’t help secretly envying the guerrillas and I pray Allah to help them. What does it matter what the Emirate will be like? What is needed in Chechnya and all over the Caucasus is Sharia law. What relation does Russia have to the peoples of the Caucasus? None at all. Russia merely took us over at various times in history. Now it’s time for us to take back what was stolen. I don’t agree with the part about declaring jihad on America and Britain. There are many righteous Muslims living there – let them do it. To put it briefly – it’s a thankless and unnecessary act to declare jihad on other states. God created human beings the way they are. So I don’t think we are right in this. Every Muslim should do his own Jihad in his own country. The guerrillas should concentrate on liberating their own land.”