FROM CHECHNYA TO MOSCOW: A GIFT OF 19TH CENTURY LETTERS.
Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 41
During the first week of November, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Putin’s chief spokesman for issues relating to Chechnya, was in New York City where, together with officials of the Russian Ministry of Culture, he received from a leading Russian emigre, Aleksei Shcherbatov, several letters that had been written by Imam Shamil (1797-1871), a great Muslim Avar leader of the 19th century Caucasus War, who had surrendered to Prince Aleksandr Baratynsky, from whom Shcherbatov is descended, and had then been kept in what has been described as a “gilded captivity.” The letters had been taken out of Russia before the First World War. Noting that Yastrzhembsky is “a figure purely political in his status,” the pro-Putin web-site Strana.ru observed: “The gift is no accident. The recent events in the North Caucasus have given the image of Imam Shamil a highly actual political context…. It is clear that this represents a more than transparent invitation to the present pretender to be Shamil’s heir–‘the president of Ichkeria,’ Aslan Maskhadov–to repeat the path earlier taken by his great countryman” (Strana.ru, November 6).