Politics of Chechnya

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Political background[edit]

In November 1990, the first Chechen National Congress was convened. It was an opposition movement headed by Major-General Dudaev. Immediately after that, in October 1991 the legislative body of power — the Republican Supreme Soviet headed by Zavgaev adopted a declaration of the republic’s sovereignty. And in March 1991, the Supreme Soviet refused to take part in the All-Russian Referendum on the introduction of the position of the President of the Russian Federation. That was the beginning of Chechnya’s refusal to be involved with any All-Russia voting, which lasted for many years. The official power, already doomed, was trying but in vain to intercept the opposition slogans. Those gradual processes were replaced with spasmodic ones after August 19, 1991. Zavgaev who had supported the 1991 Coup (GKChP) was overthrown on September 6 by the Dudaev National Congress, and on October 27 presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Chechnya, and Dudaev became President.

On September 11, Gennady Burbulis and Mikhail Poltoranin were dispatched from Moscow by the federal leadership to try restore order. On September 14, Ruslan Khasbulatov, a Chechen elected in 1990 to the RF Supreme Soviet from Grozny and its acting chairman after June 1991, arrived in Grozny. On September 15, at a special session of the Chechen-Ingush Supreme Soviet, he persuaded the deputies to remove Zavgaev and to disband, in anticipation of new parliamentary elections, which were set for November 17. The political struggle between the radical nationalist forces, grouped around Dudaev and pushing for independence, and the conservative nomenklatura, trying to preserve the status quo, continued.

Instability in North Caucasus has increased since October 1991, when the Chechen Republic declared its independence. On October 8, the Presidium of the RF Supreme Soviet adopted a Resolution on the Political Situation in the Chechen-Ingush Republic, which expressed concern regarding the situation in the Chechen-Ingush Republic "where escalation of violent actions by illegal formations is continuing "and life, rights, and property of citizens of the Chechen-Ingush Republic are subject to growing danger". The Presidium then declared that the Provisional Council was the only legitimate state power in the Republic, that this Provisional Council should take all necessary measures to stabilize the situation, that armed formations" should hand in their weapons by midnight October 10, and that the forthcoming elections should be held on the basis of the Russian Federation's existing legislation.

In Moscow, the struggle for power started with the federal center responding to the Chechen developments in a controversial way: the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) did not approve of Yeltsin’s decree on imposing a state of emergency in Chechnya. Even the attempted interference in October 1991 displayed lack of coordination among various law-enforcement agencies and armed forces. Another attempt to send troops to Chechnya was made in November 1992, under the pretext of the Osetia-Ingushetia conflict settlement. Russian Vice-Premier, Igor Gaidar, managed to prevent the war at that time.

On November 7, President Yeltsin declared a state of emergency in the Chechen-Ingush Republic. The newly elected Chechen parliament responded by voting emergency powers to Dudaev, who ordered martial law in Chechnya and mobilized the National Guard. When planes carrying Russian troops landed at the airport near Grozny, their deployment was blocked by Chechen forces. On November 10, the RF Supreme Soviet voted to withhold the confirmation of Yeltsin's state of emergency decree.

After Russia's failure to reassert sovereignty over Chechnya in November 1991, an extended stalemate developed. Chechnya attempted to assert the prerogatives of an independent sovereign state, while Russia continued to regard the Chechen Republic as part of the Russian Federation and subject to its laws.

Chechnya for three years managed to function effectively outside Russia's control, refusing to participate in any federal initiatives including the elections/referendum in December 1993. That did not provide for internal stability, and the contradictions between the Chechen parliament and President Dudaev, elected in October 1991 by a very questionable ballot, escalated to confrontation. In March 1992 an attempted coup was crushed by force, and in June 1993 President Dudaev, in a last resort to avoid a referendum on a vote of no-confidence authorized by the parliament, used his troops to dissolve it and to dislodge the opposition from Grozny to Nadterechny district bordering with Stavropol Krai. Limited clashes and terrorist activities continued after this.

Increasing instability in the Chechen Republic in 1992-1993 was related primarily to the competition between several major teips (clans) which started to struggle for control over oil, drugs-trafficking and arms smuggling. In 1993, several presidential decrees and government orders were issued in Moscow for tightening control on the Chechnya borders - but with little practical effect, since Dagestan was not particularly interested in implementing those while the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia was not even demarcated after the split.

On 31 August 1996 Alexander Lebed and Aslan Maskhadov have signed a Statement on Basic Principles of Relationship between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic (Khasavyurt Accord). Both sides have agreed to abandon the use of force. During the meeting between Russia's President Boris Yeltsin and Chechnya's President Aslan Maskhadov on 12 May 1997 a political agreement normalizing relations between Russia and Chechnya and banking agreement were signed.

In January 1997 there were presidential and parliamentary elections and Aslan Aliyevich Maskhadov was elected as president. The political game between 1997 and 1999 was more driven by military capacities than actual skills to govern the newly independent state. In that period most members of the government had their own personal militias and were former military commanders.[1] Instead of seeing a military disengagement and foreign fighters leaving Chechnya, as was the case with the Dayton Accords after the Bosnian war, Chechnya witnessed an increase in militarization and insecurity between 1997 and 1999. The period also saw a growing opposition between the early secular Mashkadov government and a heterogeneous amalgamation of radical Islamists, composed of ethnic Chechens such as Shamil Basayev, Salman Raduyev or Arbi Barayev, and foreign fighters, such as Khattab. As soon as the First War was over, the fragile coalition between Sufi, Chechen nationalists and radical Islamists eroded very quickly, a usual pattern following the end of a civil war.[2] In order to co-opt and control the radical Islamists, Maskhadov appointed Basayev as Vice-Prime Minister and head of the government between 1997 and 1998. However, even Basayev was not able to re-establish order. Maskhadov was reluctant to order a crack-down on rampant criminal activities, such as hostage-taking and robberies across Chechnya, for fear of provoking a protracted civil war. In February 1999, as a result of his inability to govern, President Maskhadov decided to integrate Islamist elements in his cabinet and to re-introduce Sharia law in the republic. This step strengthened the cleavage between radical Islamists and Sufi traditionalists within the Chechen society. If they were able to cohabit during the First War, these groups now proved to be polarized when it came to the debate concerning Islam in Chechen society. Akhmad Kadyrov, the Mufti of Chechnya who called for the gazavat in 1995, was now firmly opposed to Salafist influences in the Republic.

Government of Akhmad Kadyrov[edit]

Russian President Vladimir Putin established direct rule of Chechnya in May 2000. The following month, Putin appointed Akhmad Kadyrov interim head of the government.

Government of Ramzan Kadyrov[edit]

Since December 2005, the pro-Moscow militia leader Ramzan Kadyrov is functioning as the Chechnya's prime minister and the republic's de facto ruler. Kadyrov, whose irregular forces are accused of carrying out many of the abductions and atrocities; has become Chechnya's most powerful leader since the 2004assassination of his father Akhmat.

The 29-year-old was elevated to full-time premier in March 2006, in charge of an administration that is a collection of his allies and teip (clan) members. In the same month, the Ramzan Kadyrov government officially took control of Chechnya's oil industry and rejected a federal proposition of the republican budget, demanding much more money to be sent from Moscow; for years, Chechnya was known as a Russia's "financial black hole" where the funds are widely embezzled and tend to vanish without trace. On March 30, 2006, Interfax reported Chechen People's Assembly Chairman Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov has spoken in favour of a complete withdrawal of all Russian federal forces except the border guards.

In April 2006 Kadyrov himself criticized remaining units of federal police, namely Operational/Search Bureau (ORB-2), and called for their immediate withdrawal from the republic. He also called for refugee camps scattered about Chechnya to be closed down, saying they were populated by "international spies" intent on destabilizing the region. Later this month, Abdurakhmanov said Chechnya should be merged with Ingushetia and Dagestan; Ingush and Dagestani leaders disagreed. Paradoxically, a merger would reflect the will of Chechen separatists of establishing an Islamic state across the North Caucasus.

On April 29, 2006, after a deadly clash between Kadyrov's and Alkhanov's men in Grozny, Ramzan Kadyrov officially disbanded his security service. Kadyrovites, an irregular army of thousands of former rebels, have been pivotal in supporting Kadyrov. Rights activists working in Chechnya say the Kadyrovites abused their powers to crush any rivals to Kadyrov; they have repeatedly accused Kadyrov's personal guard of using kidnapping, murder and torture to cement his rule. On May 2, 2006, representatives of European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), the Council of Europe's anti-torture watchdog, said they were prevented from entering the fortress of Ramzan Kadyrov, the alleged site of prisoner abuse; rights activists claim that prisoners and kidnap victims are tortured in secret jails in Chechen villages, including Tsentoroi, the ancestral home of the Kadyrov clan.

Kadyrov's deputy is Idris Gaibov.


A constitution was adopted in March 1992. The constitution was semi-presidential. It is unclear how long the constitution was even nominally operational. In April 1992 President Dudayev began to rule by decree and in June 1993 parliament was dissolved.

Following the First Chechen War and the Second Chechen War, the constitution was not in force due to the political and social catastrophic situation in the Republic.

On March 23, 2003, a new Chechen constitution was passed in a referendum. The 2003 Constitution granted the Chechen Republic a significant degree of autonomy, but still tied it firmly to the Russian Federation and Moscow's rule. The new constitution went into force on April 2, 2003.

The referendum was strongly supported by the Russian government but met a harsh critical response from Chechen separatists. Many citizens chose to boycott the ballot. The international opinion was mixed, as enthusiasm for the prospect of peace and stability in the region was tempered by concerns about the conduct of the referendum and fears of a violent backlash. Chief among the concerns are the 40,000 Russian soldiers that were included in the eligible voters' list (out of approximately 540,000).

Following the approve of the constitution President Putin said "The results have surpassed even our most optimistic expectations, This shows that the people of Chechnya have made their choice in favor of peace, in favor of positive development together with Russia".[3]

No independent international organization (neither the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) nor the United Nations) officially observed the voting, but observers from Organisation of the Islamic Conference, League of Arab States, CIS, Muslim countries (Malaysia, Indonesia, Yemen, Oman et al.) have recognized a referendum "free and democratic." The OSCE, the United States State Department, and the United Kingdom's Foreign Office all questioned the wisdom of holding the referendum while the region was still unsettled.


  • 2003 presidential elections

On October 5, 2003, presidential elections were held in Chechnya under the auspices of the March constitution. As with the constitutional referendum, the OSCE and other international organizations did not send observers to monitor proceedings. The Kremlin-supported candidate Akhmat Kadyrov earned a commanding majority, taking about 80 percent of the vote. Critics of the 2003 election argue that separatist Chechens were barred from running, and that Kadyrov used his private militia to actively discourage political opponents.

  • 2004 presidential elections

On August 29, 2004 a new Presidential election took place. At night on August 21, 2004, a week before the appointed elections of the President of the Chechen Republic, large-scale military operation was carried out by Chechen fighters in the capital city of Grozny, targeting polling stations and other government targets. According to the Chechen electoral commission, the Kremlin-backed Militsiya General Alu Alkhanov was reported to have won the elections with almost 74%, with over 85% of the people having voted according to Chechen elections commissions head Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov. [1] Many observers, such as the U.S. Department of State, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, as well as the opposition, question the election, citing, in part, the disqualification of the major rival Malik Saidullayev on a technicality. Polling conditions were also questioned, but no formal complaints have been made. The election was internationally monitored by the Commonwealth of Independent States and Arab League; western monitors didn't participate in monitoring the election in protest at previous irregularities, despite being invited.

  • 2005 parliamentary elections

The latest Chechen elections were held in November 2005. The independent observers said that there were plenty of Russian troops and more journalists than voters at polling stations. Lord Judd, a former Council of Europe special reporter on Chechnya, regarded the elections as flawed; "I simply do not believe we will have stability, peace and a viable future for the Chechen people until we have a real political process," he said. [2] The candidates all belonged to Moscow-based parties and were loyal to Chechnya's Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov. [3]


In 2006 Kadyrov has also started to create laws he says are more suitable to Chechnya's Islamic heritage—banning alcohol and gambling on January 20, and enforcing women's use of headscarves—in defiance of Russia's secular constitution. He also publicly spoke in favor of polygamy on January 13, and declared that lessons in the Koran and Sharia should be obligatory at Chechen schools. On February 11, Ramzan criticized the republican media for broadcasting immoral programs and officially introduced censorship in Chechnya. Because of the cartoon scandal that shook the whole Muslim world, Kadyrov issued a brief ban on the Danish Refugee Council, the most active humanitarian organization in Caucasus.

On June 1, 2006, Moscow-backed Chechen President Alu Alkhanov said he would prefer his republic be governed by Sharia law and suggested adapting the Islamic code, speaking in Paris after inconclusive talks with the Council of Europe. "If Chechnya were run by Sharia law, it would not look as it does today." Alkhanov also dismissed reports of conflicts with Kadyrov, who was widely believed to want to take over the presidency when he turned 30 in October that year and now can legally assume the job.

Rule of the Beno clan[edit]

In several days after Ramzan Kadyrov was promoted to the post of President of Chechnya on March 2, 2007, serious changes have taken place in the leadership of the republic, affecting not only the top-ranking officials but also the middle-ranking ones.

Kadyrov dismissed Grozny's mayor, Movsar Temirbayev, who was appointed to the post by his father in late 2003, and his place was taken by Muslim Khuchiyev. Former deputy prime minister Odes Baysultanov (a cousin of Ramzan Kadyrov on his mother's side of the family) received the vacated post of prime minister. The deputy interior minister, Sultan Satuyev, was replaced by Alambek Yasayev. Khalid Vaykhanov was given the post of secretary to the Chechen Council for Economic and Social Security, replacing German Vok, who tendered his resignation shortly before Alu Alkhanov resigned as Chechen President.

In the view of local observers, Ramzan Kadyrov is actively building his own "vertical of power" in the republic, placing his men in all the leading and more or less important positions.


  1. ^ Akhmadov and Lanskoy, 2011)
  2. ^ Schaefer, 2011, pp. 172-175
  3. ^ Chechnya approves new constitution