Kadyrov Bows Down to Putin…

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 25

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has consistently been effusive in his praise of his main patron, Vladimir Putin, calling the Russian president “the only person who can save Russia” and stating that Putin should remain in power for another ten years or more. Yet, in an interview published on June 18 in the weekly magazine Kommersant-Vlast, Kadyrov outdid himself in praising Putin. In doing so, the Chechen president raised the eyebrows of Russian Muslim clergy. At the start of the interview, Kadyrov said Putin should be Russia’s president-for-life. “My opinion is that, if we want to preserve the integrity of Russia, if we want Russia to be a great power, Putin should be president,” he said. “Why can Kazakhstan have a president-for-life? Or Turkmenistan? Why can’t Russia have one too?”

When the interviewer noted that Putin himself has said that he cannot violate the constitution to extend his term, Kadyrov replied: “Look. Putin is president, he is for the people, the people will say what they want. That means they should be listened to. For example, in Chechnya, 95 percent of the people would come out and say, ‘Putin is necessary for Russia, for our happiness.’ I swear it! The people will come out onto the street and say that they are for Putin. And it’s like that everywhere. Because Putin is pulling Russia together. He is establishing economic relations, friendly relations. I think that the people, and the governors, and the Duma, and everybody who is aware will take it up and ask the president to stay, and he will.”

Kadyrov brushed aside the idea of a successor to Putin. “A successor is a successor, but Putin is a personality,” he said. “I know that it is hard to find a leader – the commander of a unit or a department head. He should have certain characteristics and know how to manage. Appoint a person as the head of a district or even a village, and he will never cope unless he has managerial talent. Putin knows the system completely now – how to run the state, in which direction. Someone like that is a great find for Russia. While he is healthy, we should ask him, we should beg him on our knees, to run the state. Some people have tied my future to Putin’s. I don’t deny it. Putin gave the Chechen people a second life! Allah appointed him to his place.”

Kadyrov added: “I am not the FSB’s or the Main Intelligence Department’s [GRU’s] man, I am Putin’s man. His policies, his word, for me is law. We are traveling his road. Putin saved our people, he is a hero. He not only saved us, he saved Russia. How can we not bow down before him as a person? I never liked to say pretty words in front of anyone, but Putin is a gift from God, he gave us freedom.”

On June 19, the Novy Region website (Nr2.ru) quoted Ildar Khazart, imam of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque and a representative of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the European Part of Russia, as saying that a true Muslim gets down on his knees only before the Almighty. “In the Muslim canon there is no such notion as kneeling before a creation of God,” Khazart said. “The exception for Muslims might be kneeling before your parents. But that’s it. The fact that Ramzan Kadyrov is ready to kneel before Vladimir Putin is strictly his personal business. But he has no right to call on other Muslims to do that. He does not possess deep religious knowledge. Kadyrov is a politician who is trying to bend with this or that wind and hold onto his seat by any possible means. If Ramzan Kadyrov’s call reflects anything, it’s his image in the eyes of all Muslims. It reflects negatively.”

Like Khazart, Shamil Alyautdinov, the imam of the Memorial Mosque on Poklonnaya Gora in Moscow, said there is no such notion in Muslim canon as kneeling before another human being. “When Muslims bend for prayer, they bow only before God,” he said. “Of course, a Muslim can kneel before someone, just as they can crawl on all fours, but this cannot be considered normal behavior.”

The issue of Kommersant-Vlast in which the interview with Kadyrov appeared also featured an article by Kommersant special correspondent Olga Allenova, who was on hand in Grozny on June 12 for the Russia Day rally in support of President Vladimir Putin (Chechnya Weekly, June 14). According to Allenova, that rally, which was attended by some 10,000 young people, including members of the newly formed pro-Kadyrov youth group “Ramzan,” the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi and Molodaya Gvardia [Young Guard, the youth group of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party], was in fact a rally in support of Kadyrov.

On the one hand, Allenova wrote, Kadyrov is genuinely popular in Chechnya. “That young man has succeeded in doing what his father and Putin, whom they [Chechens] feared but did not love, never could,” she wrote. “They love Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya.” At the same time, she wrote that Kadyrov’s future is completely tied to Putin’s – which could explain Kadyrov’s increasingly intense, almost frantic praise for the Russian president.

“[W]hen Ramzan creates youth structures with his name and through them appeals to his people and asks them to support a third term for President Putin, everyone understands that he is really asking for support for himself,” Allenova wrote. “Ramzan Kadyrov very much does not want to be left without Putin’s support. That is why he will not even consider the idea of Putin’s stepping down. A third term was not Kadyrov’s idea, but he picked it up and is running with it. If Putin leaves, even temporarily, Kadyrov’s presidential term could end much earlier than Putin’s return to the presidency. Too many people in high places, in the Russian military and FSB, do not like Ramzan and they will get rid of him at the first chance. So Kadyrov’s love for Putin is understandable. The current Russian president is his only guarantee of power and life.”