In an interview published in the July 15 issue of Yezhenedelny zhurnal, director Sergei Khaikin of the research center Validata discussed the results of the center’s recent polls in Chechnya, which were conducted jointly with the Obshchestvennoe mnenie (“Public Opinion”) foundation. Predictably, perhaps, for an organization that is allowed to function legally in today’s Chechnya–and one that is given coverage in television broadcasts controlled by the Kadyrov administration–Validata reported that 75 percent of those surveyed in June no longer want independence but would prefer that the republic remain part of the Russian Federation.
On the other hand, on July 16 the website Lenta.ru reported in greater detail some findings less likely to be welcomed by Kadyrov. According to the June poll by Validata, 18.3 percent of Chechens said that they trusted Duma deputy Aslambek Aslakhanov, 15.5 percent former speaker of Russia’s parliament Ruslan Khasbulatov, and 14.4 percent the Moscow-based Chechen businessman Malik Saidullaev. Kadyrov came in fourth, with a “trust” rating of only 10 percent.
In any case, there is reason to be highly skeptical of opinion polls conducted in a region paralyzed by fear of both federal servicemen and rebel extremists. Shamil Beno, who served as Chechnya’s foreign minister in 1992, told the radio station Ekho Moskvy in a July 17 interview that “the absence of security” made such research highly problematical–“every second respondent,” he said, “refuses to answer pollsters’ questions.”