Moscow municipal authorities have decided to name a city street for the assassinated Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov, according to an Interfax report of August 17. The renaming of the street, located near Moscow’s southern boundary, is said by critics to violate a local law against honoring any public figure in this fashion less than a decade after his death.
An August 19 analysis published by the Gazeta.ru website interpreted the new street name as part of “a special propaganda campaign aimed at creating a new Chechen pantheon — the ‘right’ kind of heroes that will aid in strengthening the Chechen people’s faith in the federal authorities.” In this interpretation, “the Kremlin spin doctors are using the memory of Akhmad Kadyrov in the same way that other Kremlin spin doctors manipulated the memory of Vladimir Lenin 80 years ago. Not only are they turning a deceased man into the ‘main politician of all nations and all times,’ but they are presenting him as a figure who marks the beginning of a new and correct form of politics.”
Another move in this new propaganda campaign was Vladimir Putin’s blitz visit to Chechnya on August 22, where he spoke at the graveside of Akhmad Kadyrov in the Kadyrov family stronghold of Tsentoroy. In addition to being the last Sunday before the pro-Moscow administration’s special presidential election, August 22 would have been the eve of the late strongman’s 53rd birthday. In words not likely to win agreement from future historians, Putin called the late Kadyrov “a sincere, courageous, talented and decent man” who “had no other goal but to serve his people.”
At the same time, the Itar-Tass news agency reported on August 23 that parents are receiving cash rewards of 10,000 rubles (about $US340) for naming their newborn sons after Akhmad Kadyrov. (One thinks of the Soviet-era boys named “Vladlen” for “Vladimir Lenin.”) Regardless of their names, the families of all children born on Kadyrov’s birthday are to receive 5,000 rubles. The pro-Moscow authorities in Grozny announced that every kindergarten in Chechnya would receive 10 free bicycles in honor of the late Kadyrov’s birthday.
Yet another part of the propaganda campaign, reported by Novye izvestia on August 5, was Putin’s decree of the previous day awarding the anti-separatist military commander Ruslan Yamadaev as a “Hero of Russia.”
The struggling pro-reform party Yabloko announced that it would picket the mayor’s office in order to protest the street’s renaming, and that it would seek a neighborhood referendum to reverse the mayor’s decision. But Novye izvestia reported on August 19 that none of the country’s other political parties—not even the Union of Rightist Forces, which, like Yabloko, was declared to have suffered a crushing defeat in last December’s parliamentary election—is supporting Yabloko’s protest.