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Ramzan Barbarossa

Published: February 22, 2007 (Issue # 1248)


The circumstances of Chechen President Alu Alkhanovs departure and replacement by Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, right down to the date, was worked out with President Vladimir Putin in December 2006. This information comes from Kremlin and Southern Federal District sources who have become more talkative since the announcement.

One of the terms of the deal was that all of the parties concerned would stick to the agreed-upon script during the announcement. Strangely, Kadyrov, who is often considered difficult to manage, stuck to the bargain. It was Alkhanovs side that staged a counterattack in the press, suggesting that they should hang on to their positions or at least be provided with golden parachutes.

Up until last week, there had been two centers of power in Chechnya: the actual leader of the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, and Russias ambassador to Chechnya, Alu Alkhanov. Alkhanov was clearly no threat to Kadyrov, whose attention had been focused on next years national presidential election. Because Kadyrovs authority is based on Putins personal support, the only way he could avoid losing his position amid the Kremlins pre-election power struggles was either to immediately become president of Chechnya or hope that Putin would remain president past 2008.

Lets be frank here: Any way you look at it, Chechnya is a mess. NATO ranks Chechnyas guerrilla forces as the strongest of their type in the world. Its not hard to understand when you consider that the republic was laid to waste three times in the 20th century: in 1944, 1995 and 1999. It is hard to hope for much when dealt such a hand, and it is hard to spell out a positive future using the letters m, e, s and s.

The only realistic options open to the Kremlin under the current circumstances besides granting Chechnya independence are simple. One is to create a federal regime free of strict Kremlin oversight. This is what we would have had under federal military officers like Captain Eduard Ulman and Colonel Yury Budanov, for whom every male Chechen is a terrorist and every female Chechen they rape is a sniper. Theirs was a reign of terror during which a clean-up operation involved tossing a grenade into a cellar full of children, ultimately creating more separatists than they destroyed. Such a regime would be run by a political puppet who would have no realistic hope of maintaining order. In that case, the Kremlin would end up having to sacrifice the lives of federal soldiers to kill Chechens in order to prop up the government.

The second option could be labeled Ramzan Barbarossa, in which Chechnya has a single functioning social institution by the name of Ramzan Kadyrov. Can anyone really doubt that Kadyrov would ever do anything but follow his own best interests in his dealings with Russia? And if Moscow can set things up so that Kadyrovs interests become identical to Russias, he would manage the republic pretty much on his own. The results arent likely to be pretty, but they give those in power on both sides what they want.

The Kremlin siloviki favor the first option, while Putin prefers the second. It is hard to say whether or not the decision he reached in late December came as a result of political squabbling, but it is clear that there are two ways to govern Chechnya: with Putins personal support or with a bureaucrat puppet loyal to the Kremlin. These two systems are too contradictory for the state to allow them to try to weather the pre-election storms this year.

What remains to be seen is whether current loyalties in Chechnya will shift along with conditions there and in Moscow. The Spanish grandees of the 12th century solemnly swore they would maintain vassal loyalty to the king as long as the king could force it from them.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburgs showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the teams website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literatures most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poets birthday. The tragic tenors work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russias greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.



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