Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 32

According to journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s sources in Grozny, the role of Ramzan Kadyrov in his father’s administration is in some ways reminiscent of that played in the 1990s by Boris Yeltsin’s chief bodyguard, Aleksandr Korzhakov. In both cases, Politkovskaya writes, the head of the president’s personal security team interpreted the term “security” so widely that “in effect it meant that he was the state’s second highest official.”

As an example of Ramzan’s role, Politkovskaya described in an August 28 article for Novaya gazeta how he has been pressuring members of Kadyrov’s cabinet to collect donations from subordinates for the boss’s election campaign. “For each minister in the Chechen government,” she wrote, “Ramzan has designated a sum of money which that ministry must hand over…It’s not a question of thousands of rubles, but of thousands of dollars. The minister puts together a list, specifying the amount each official must donate according to his rank. A deputy minister is expected to come up with as much as five thousand dollars, a section head with one or two thousand. It is made clear to the bureaucrats that they will be fired if they fail to produce the amounts specified by Ramzan. Naturally they are in a state of panic over the fear of losing their jobs, since government money is the only more or less stable form of income in today’s Chechnya.”

Another source of compulsory donations to the Kadyrov political machine involves Chechnya’s markets–characterized by their modest, one-woman trading stands for new and used goods. (The reason why women dominate this trade is that their husbands and sons would be too much at risk of being kidnapped or assaulted by Kadyrov’s or Moscow’s gunmen.) According to Politkovskaya, Ramzan has used the same technique with these markets as with the government bureaucracy: A total sum is demanded from the market’s director, who then allocates that demand among the individual traders. Some of the women recently tried to protest by going on strike, refusing to bring their goods to market unless the Kadyrov campaign reduced the amount that it was demanding. But Ramzan’s men threatened to slaughter the ringleaders’ families, and the strike fell apart.