Kavkazky Uzel reported on March 11 that a group it described as “Yunykh Kadyrovtsy”—the Young Kadyrovites—has appeared in Chechnya’s grammar schools. According to the website, Chechen television on March 10 showed an entire class in a school in the village of Novogrozny joining the group in a ceremony similar to the one that was used for joining the Young Pioneers during the Soviet period. As described by Kavkazky Uzel, a banner of the republic was brought into the class, after which the students declared: “In the face of my comrades, I solemnly swear: I will devote all my strength, knowledge and intellect to [the] cause of serving the Motherland! I will always fulfill the laws of the kadyrovtsy!”
The website quoted an unnamed official in Chechnya’s Ministry of Education and Science as saying that the creation of a children’s organization similar to the Soviet Union’s Young Pioneers will help strengthen discipline in the republic’s schools, and raise the students’ level of responsibility and desire to excel. The official did not say whether the initiative to create the group had come from his ministry or at the local level. “The presence of some kind of student organizations in the schools is a good thing,” the official said. “It is enough to remember our childhood, when Pioneer and Komsomol organizations were operating in the country, when there was the Timurovsky movement [another Soviet-era youth movement-NCW].” He added: “Beginning with early childhood, such qualities as honesty, straightforwardness and mutual readiness to help are built in a person. It’s not important what this movement or organization is called. The main thing is that a feeling of patriotism and love for their Fatherland is instilled in children.”
Yet, Kavkazky Uzel quoted some Chechens who were not happy about the emergence of Soviet-style youth organizations in the republic. “I remember very well that one of the main Pioneer heroes in the USSR was Pavlik Morozov, the teenager who informed on his father,” Akhdan Makhmudov, a 49-year-old resident of Chechnya, told the website. “The Pioneers and komsomoltsy were taught to be devoted to the Communist Party. At that time they also spoke lofty words about the Motherland, but the goal was the same—to raise obedient slaves. Why are we now producing our own Pavel Morozovs here?”
A Grozny resident identified only as Roza said that she had seen a report about the Young Kadyrovtsy on local television. “It was window-dressing—the deliberately cheerful faces of the children, the joyous teachers,” she told Kavkazky Uzel. “It was funny, stupid and horrible all at the same time.”
The website quoted an unnamed member of a Chechen public organization, who said that a cult of personality of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has been actively spreading in Chechnya in recent years. “Local officials will do anything in their zeal to curry favor with Kadyrov,” he said. “It is enough to look at the countless portraits of him and banners with his image hanging on virtually all of the streets in Chechnya, at the holding of every possible kind of competition in the name of his or in honor of [Ramzan Kadyrov] himself, at the … films and broadcasts about Kadyrov, at the creation of fan clubs. And now they’ve reached to the children. The idea of creating the Young Kadyrovtsy belongs either to the director of—or a teacher at—that school in Novogrozny, with the aim of getting preferences from the president. Everyone knows full well how the Chechen president loves to give presents to people who have pleased him in some way.”
Kadyrov, for his part, was talking up celebrations in the republic marking the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday (North Caucasus Weekly, March 6), declaring that the festivities in the republic showed that “Wahhabism” has no “social base” in Chechnya, Interfax reported on March 10.
“Today, tens of thousands of people are taking part in a festive ceremony in Grozny,” the news agency quoted Kadyrov as saying. “It is the call of the heart and the best of belief that take people to festive events. This is the way for them to show that there has never been any social or other base for Wahhabism in Chechnya. We do not deny that there may be ten or maybe twenty people staying in the mountains. But hundreds of thousands of people celebrate the birthday of Prophet Mohammad.” Kadyrov added that those who are attempting to impose an order “foreign to Islam” have gotten “nowhere” in Chechnya and that the celebrations in the republic honoring the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday are a “convincing demonstration of that.”
Meanwhile, Anzor Maskhadov, the son of the slain Chechen president and separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov who now lives in exile in Norway, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Russian Service correspondent Andrei Babitsky in an interview that he is increasingly concerned about his own and his relatives’ security. “I am very worried about my relatives who are in Chechnya, because they have been pressured and blackmailed many times,” RFE/RL quoted him as saying in the interview on March 12.
He also said that he is being pressured to return to Chechnya but will not succumb to the threats. “About a week ago, we received a message that it was known that some of our relatives have returned to Chechnya and were supposedly prospering,” he said. “We were told: ‘You have relatives in Chechnya. Are you concerned about them?’ It turns out that we were blackmailed.” According to RFE/RL, Maskhadov said that two or three more such messages were received, and that “the last time they said directly that if we don’t return then it will be very bad” for Maskhadov and his relatives.
Earlier this month, the video arm of Kavkaz Center—the radical Islamist Chechen rebel website—posted a video clip in which a young Chechen man, Ruslan Khalidov, claimed that Kadyrov had hired him to kill Magomed Ocherhadji, a leader of the large Chechen exile community in Norway. Khalidov said he did not carry out the killing but that he had been tortured and threatened in an attempt to force him to comply. He claimed he was also ordered by Kadyrov to establish contacts with Norwegian authorities and provide them with disinformation incriminating Chechens living in Norway. Meanwhile, Turkish media reported on March 1 that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) had launched a probe into the murder of three Chechen resistance “leaders” in Istanbul over the last six months and that it suspects “Russian involvement” in the killings (North Caucasus Weekly, March 6).
In January, Umar Israilov, the former rebel fighter who was forced to become a member of Kadyrov’s bodyguard unit and subsequently accused the Chechen president of torture in a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, was shot to death in Vienna as the New York Times was preparing to publish a story detailing his accusations against Kadyrov (North Caucasus Weekly, January 15, 23, 30; February 6, 12 and 26; March 6).
Reacting to news reports about Khalidov’s accusations, the Chechen president’s press service released a statement accusing some foreign and domestic media of engaging in a campaign to discredit Kadyrov and his administration. Interfax on March 7 quoted the statement as saying that “the so-called ideologists of terrorism,” having been defeated in “armed resistance against the power bodies,” have unleashed “a massive information war against the Chechen Republic and its leadership.” The press service also quoted relatives of Khalidov as referring to him as “an absolutely dissolute and amoral person” and saying that they had been forced to break relations with him three years ago after various people had come to them asking to pay off debts Khalidov had incurred through “constant frauds and machinations.” The statement also denied Khalidov’s claims that he is a close relative of the former head of Aslan Maskhadov’s bodyguards, Shai Turlaev.