Kadyrov Marks May Day the Old-Fashioned Way

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 18

During a May Day demonstration in Grozny, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov called on the rebels to lay down their arms and return to a peaceful life. “I am convinced that your work, aimed at reviving the republic and restoring the cities and villages from the ruins, will serve as an example to those who have given in to false ideas and still not realized that this path has no future,” Kadyrov told the thousands of people who gathered on the square in Grozny’s center, adding that he will do everything possible to unite the Chechen people. “I really hope that all representatives of Chechen society will meet here for the next Day of Labor and Spring: those who for one reason or another ended up outside their motherland and those who were mistaken and joined the ranks of illegal armed groups,” he said. According to RIA Novosti, around 20,000 people, including ministers from the republic’s government and deputies from its parliament, took part in the Grozny demonstration.

Umalt Chadayev of Prague Watchdog said that the May Day demonstration in Grozny was redolent of Soviet times. “To the accompaniment of loud music, festive columns of workers, students, intellectuals, Grozny residents, members of the regional branches of [the pro-Kremlin United Russia and A Just Russia parties] and many more marched in close formation through the center of the Chechen capital carrying placards and banners,” Chadayev wrote. “The republic’s leadership, headed by the Moscow-backed President Ramzan Kadyrov, stood on an improvised podium and welcomed the participants of the rally…Columns of demonstrators carrying placards that bore such slogans as ‘Peace. Labor. May,’ ‘Kadyrov is the leader of the Chechen people!’ ‘Let’s rally round Ramzan Kadyrov!’ and so on, waved multi-colored flags and balloons and marched from Peoples’ Friendship Square to the city’s central district, which has now been renamed Akhmat Kadyrov Prospect. The celebration began in the best traditions of the Soviet era with the placing of flowers at the foot of the Akhmat Kadyrov monument. This was followed by the official opening of the rally by the head of the republic.”

Chadayev quoted a Grozny college professor who participated in the May Day events in the Chechen capital as saying they were strongly reminiscent of the International Workers’ Day celebrations during the Soviet era. “This has all become so politicized, organized and heavily ceremonial that it feels as if we’re back in Soviet times,” the professor said. “As the columns of demonstrators marched through the center of Grozny, powerful loudspeakers in the city center constantly pumped out slogans like ‘Long live May Day!’ ‘Hurrah, comrades!’ ‘Glory to the President of the Republic of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov!’ and again, ‘Hurrah, comrades!’ There was a constant listing of the ministries, departments, enterprises and organizations as their employees filed past the podium where the leadership sat. The whole thing was just as it used to be in the glorious Soviet past. Everyone found the constant ‘Hurrah, comrades!’ particularly jarring. It was just a lot of bullshit.”

Chadayev quoted the employees of a number of companies as saying they were essentially forced to take part in the rally. “We were warned that those who didn’t go would be punished,” said Markha, who works for a firm in Grozny. “You could even lose your job. As far as I know, the same thing happened almost everywhere. And who wants to lose their job, especially as jobs in Chechnya today are practically non-existent. So people ‘celebrated.’”