Chechens have continued to look back at the record of Boris Yeltsin, who died on April 23 (see Chechnya Weekly, April 27). Judging by interviews conducted by Umalt Chadayev of Prague Watchdog, Chechens, unlike many Western commentators and observers, see little to remember fondly.
“The death of Boris Yeltsin on April 23, the first president of ‘democratic’ Russia, has prompted no feelings in residents of the Chechen Republic other than those of regret – the regret that he was not put on trial for the war he unleashed here,” Chadayev wrote in an item published by Prague Watchdog on May 1. He quoted Usam Chimayev, a 42-year-old Grozny resident, as saying: “For me, the news of Boris Yeltsin’s death was neither good nor particularly bad. I think it would have been far better for the Chechen and Russian peoples if his death had come not now, but exactly 13 years ago, in 1994, before he was able to unleash the carnage here. For me, and probably for most Chechens, he was and remains a criminal and an executioner of the Chechen people, who has hundreds of thousands of lives and crippled human fortunes on his conscience.”
The letter of condolence sent to Yeltsin’s widow by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, Chadayev wrote, “is considered by many as an insult to the memory of the tens of thousands of victims of the two undeclared wars on the republic’s territory which took place during this man’s period in office.” He quoted Zayndi, a 4th-year student at the Chechen State University, as saying: “What shocked me about the story of Yeltsin’s death was the letter of condolence Ramzan Kadyrov sent to Yeltsin’s widow. Especially the part that said the Chechen people ‘received the news of the death of the first President of the Russian Federation with great sorrow.’ To be honest, I used to have a great respect for Ramzan, but after this, my opinion of him has changed radically. How can the people mourn the death of a man who was to blame for the tragedy of the last 15 years? This is the same Yeltsin who sent the army here in 1994 to restore ‘constitutional order,’ and who five years later began the ‘counter-terrorist operation.’”
Zayndi continued: “No one can yet say how many tens of thousands of people – Chechen residents and Russian soldiers – died here during the two military campaigns. He condemned thousands of people to death without blinking an eyelid in order to satisfy his ambitions and hold onto power. Are the Chechen and Russian mothers who lost their children here going to mourn him? Or the children who have lost their parents? Can a resident of the village of Samashki, where the Russian military carried out a real massacre, feel sorry about Yeltsin’s death? Or residents of the villages of Aldy and Kotar-Yurt, where dozens of civilians were murdered during the winter of 2000? The blame for all of these terrible crimes lies with Boris Yeltsin, as the country’s commander-in-chief and the guarantor of its Constitution.”