Some Passports Are More Equal Than Others

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 32

As readers will recall from the July 28 issue of Chechnya Weekly, the strongest rival to the Kremlin’s preferred candidate in this coming weekend’s special election for the presidency of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration was forced out of the race last month. The election authorities claimed that the details in Malik Saidullaev’s passport were not fully accurate. In an August 5 article for Novaya gazeta entitled “Passportgate,” Orkhan Dzhemal has found some piquant details about the passport of Kremlin favorite Alu Alkhanov.

Dzhemal managed to get photocopies of two Alkhanov passports: one issued on June 7, 2004, and the second issued barely three weeks later, on June 29, 2004. The only difference between the two is that the first lists Alkhanov’s place of birth as “Kazakhstan,” while the second uses instead the term “Kazakh SSR” (“Kazakhskaya SSR”), the Soviet-era abbreviation for the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic.

It was, of course, precisely in the identification on Saidullaev’s passport of his place of birth that the pro-Moscow election authorities found a pretext for barring his candidacy: the passport failed to refer to Chechnya by the Soviet name in use when Saidullaev was born. (At that time Chechnya was administratively part of the Chechen-Ingush Republic.)

Journalist Dzhemal concluded from his discovery that “now the history of the removal of Saidullaev from the presidential race can be seen in a completely new light. It turns out that Chechnya’s election commission had already decided in June how to get rid of Saidullaev.” The authorities then quickly came up with a new passport for Alkhanov so that his candidacy would not be subject to the same technical objection.