There were further signs yesterday of a power struggle developing in Chechnya. Selim Beshaev, first deputy speaker of the Chechen parliament, denied the assertion made earlier in the week by President Aslan Maskhadov, who is holidaying in Turkey, that Ichkeria would from now on be known as the Chechen Islamic Republic. (Itar-Tass, November 5, 7) Beshaev acknowledged that a parliamentary committee is considering amending the constitution to bring it into line with Islamic law, but he insisted that Chechnya remains a secular state.
Chechnya’s first president, Djohar Dudaev, claimed on several occasions that Chechnya was an Islamic state. But those statements were empty declarations. The constitution of the self-proclaimed independent state was based on those of the Baltic countries, and consequently stipulated that Chechnya was a secular state. Dudaev’s successor, Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, introduced an amendment declaring that Islam was Chechnya’s state religion, but this did not alter Chechnya’s secular status.
During the election campaign in January 1997, then-presidential candidate Maskhadov was not seen as an active supporter of Islamic ideology — at least not in comparison with Yandarbiev and Movladi Udugov. Maskhadov’s announcement, and the deputy speaker’s denial, appear therefore to be connected with the power struggle now going on within the Chechen leadership, where parliament has three times rejected Maskhadov’s request for additional powers.
Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin recently warned that Russia’s failure to put its money where its mouth is, and to follow up the Chechen peace agreement with financial support to rebuild the republic’s war-shattered economy, could lead to the increased influence of extremist forces in the republic. (Itar-Tass, November 4)
Kulikov Calls for Sealing Chechnya’s Borders.