“Ramzan” Youth Group Established in Chechnya

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 24

“Ramzan,” an official youth group along the lines of the pro-Putin youth group “Nashi,” has been set up in Chechnya. Kommersant reported on June 9 that the group had held its founding conference at Grozny’s House of Youth, with around 400 people attending. The newspaper quoted Chechen government sources as saying that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov had come up with the idea to create an official youth group after he visited Nashi’s summer camp on Lake Seliger, northwest of Moscow, last year. A Ramzan Kadyrov fan club already existed, but did not meet the Chechen president’s expectations. Thus, according to the source, a decision was made to set up “Ramzan” with the support of the Chechen Republic’s committee for youth affairs. The government source said the group would be politically active and would carry out “loud” actions, but refused to go into detail about the group’s plans or the size and sources of its funding.

A close Kadyrov associate, Grozny Mayor Muslim Khuchiev, was also guarded in his comments about the group. “We want to bring up a moral and strong youth able to defend and strengthen the political system,” he said. He also said that the group might cooperate with Nashi and Walking Together, another pro-Putin youth group, both of which have affiliates in Chechnya. Nashi leader Vasily Yakemenko confirmed that his group has connections to “Ramzan,” telling Kommersant that a deputy head of the Chechen committee for youth affairs, Bashlan Chimaev, is a Nashi member and that other Nashi activists were probably involved in setting up “Ramzan.” “The organization above all must support friendship between Chechnya and Russia, and its members must be helped in every way possible,” Yakemenko told the newspaper.

Commenting on the creation of “Ramzan,” Stanislav Belkovsky, president of the National Strategy Institute, told Kommersant that in setting up the youth group, Kadyrov is “marshalling a new powerful structure, a young battle-worthy army.” Political scientist Marat Gelman, however, had a less sinister interpretation. “It is simply that there will soon be elections [in Russia], and political technologists from Moscow have arrived in Grozny and want to do there what they’ve done in the [Russian] capital.”

“Ramzan” made its public debut on June 12, Russia Day, when more than 10,000 young people, including members of “Ramzan,” Nashi, and Molodaya Gvardia [Young Guard, the youth group of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party], among other groups, participated in a rally in Grozny in support of President Vladimir Putin, Interfax reported. At the urging of Chechen People’s Assembly Chairman Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, the demonstration’s participants approved an appeal to the federal State Duma calling for changes in the Russian constitution that would give the country’s president the right to serve more than two terms in office. Lenta.ru reported that the rally’s participants adopted an appeal to Putin himself, asking him to run for a third term as Russian president “for the consolidation of the achievements of the peoples of Russia and the state.” The appeal to Putin also declared that “standing at the head of the most important stabilization processes in the history of the Chechen people is our leader – President of the Chechen Republic, Hero of Russia Ramzan Akhmatovich Kadyrov, around whom all the healthy forces of Chechen society have rallied.”

Kavkazky Uzel, on June 12, quoted a Chechen State University student who participated in the pro-Putin youth rally in Grozny that day as saying that participation in it was “voluntary-compulsory.” “We were warned that if we didn’t go to the rally that is taking place today in Grozny in honor of Russia Day, we would not be allowed to take our tests and exams,” he told the website. “Such things happen quite often here, when the authorities need to demonstrate the mass character of an action.” RIA Novosti reported on June 12 that stations had been set up around the Chechen capital where young people could sign up to serve as members of the “Russian Presidential Guards” and receive a certificate identifying themselves as “Guards participants.”

Meanwhile, Kadyrov led a delegation of Chechen officials who attended the International Economic Forum that took place in St. Petersburg over June 9-11.