The revival of an official hunting season in Chechnya–it will take place for the first time in nine years–will almost certainly be used by the pro-Putin and pro-Kadyrov media as another sign that life there is returning to “normal.” But a close reading of Musa Muradov’s article on the subject in the January 12 issue of Kommersant suggests that this development will make little practical difference for Chechnya’s civilian populace.
For one thing, the hunting season that began on January 11 applies only to the republic’s lowlands–the Gudermes, Naursky, Nadterechny, Grozny and Shelkovsky districts. These of course are the areas most solidly under the control of Kadyrov’s and Moscow’s gunmen, where there is the least risk of civilian hunters being mistaken for rebel guerrillas. But these areas lack wild boar and other game worth hunting. The southern highlands used to attract hunters, but today those highlands are of course “wild” in more than one sense.
Another absurdity is that the Russian military authorities forbid the sale of any kind of weaponry to Chechens. They make no distinction between assault rifles and shotguns, to the frustration of the Kadyrov administration’s newly reactivated directorate for the regulation of hunting.
So far Chechnya’s civilians have responded to the new hunting season “without enthusiasm,” wrote Muradov. The Kommersant reporter interviewed an instructor at Grozny University, who said that he had obtained a hunting license and was keeping a shotgun at home–not in order to hunt boar but to protect himself from bandits, who he said are now “significantly more numerous than wild game” in Chechnya. The instructor complained that “it’s dangerous to go about unarmed, but it’s forbidden to be seen outside one’s home with arms, even a shotgun. All of this [the formal revival of a hunting season] is necessary only to the bureaucrats who have reestablished their pre-war agency and who want to grab the taxpayers’ money.”
Muradov noted that “even in the most tranquil times hunting did not previously attract Chechens. Local residents never used forest game as food, especially since Muslims are forbidden to eat boar. Chechens used to register as hunters and to obtain shotguns solely for the purpose of legalizing their weapons, which were present in almost every household even during the Soviet period. Hunting for boars, which were indeed numerous in the highlands, was a pursuit of the Russian speaking part of the republic’s Soviet party elite; the local bureaucrats would also take their high ranking guests from Moscow on hunting trips.”