Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 38

Akhmad Kadyrov’s October 19 inauguration as Chechnya’s newly “elected” president was remarkable for several symbolic gestures. These gestures, Zoya Svetova suggested in the October 20 issue of Russky kurier, might be interpreted as a deliberate effort on Kadyrov’s part to make the ceremony as different as possible from Aslan Maskhadov’s inauguration in 1997. For example, Kadyrov specifically stated that he did not see himself as leader of an Islamic state. He took his inauguration oath not on the Koran, as widely expected, but on the constitution adopted in the rigged March referendum. Apparently wishing to minimize the risk of injuring Chechens’ feelings, he told journalists (as reported by Izvestia on October 19) that the Koran remains the most important law for him personally.

Since Chechnya does not yet have a non-separatist anthem, the current, Soviet-flavored Russian anthem was used. Also, Kadyrov gave his inaugural address not in Chechen but in Russian.

The inauguration saw a degree of security unprecedented even for war-torn Chechnya. Its exact location was kept a secret until the last minute, with several separate sites prepared in advance. It finally took place not in the capital city of Grozny but in Gudermes. The latter city is considered more politically reliable from the Kadyrov administration’s standpoint; Kadyrov’s roots are in eastern Chechnya, and Gudermes is tightly controlled by his allies, the Yamadaev brothers. According to Gazeta.ru, some of the invited guests arrived late since they went to the wrong city; as a result, the ceremonies began forty minutes late. A soldier or policeman was stationed every fifty feet along the entire twenty-five-mile route from Grozny to Gudermes.