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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
February 1, 2016

Publication: Windows on Eurasia
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Kadyrov, Putin and the Desensitization of Russia
Staunton, VA, February 1, 2016 - Each day seems to bring a fresh outrage from Ramzan Kadyrov, Vladimir Putin and their ilk, an outrage many dutifully denounce without connecting the dots and seeing the ways in which this drip-by-drip set of actions is making Russians and indeed many outside observers increasingly insensitive to what is going on and thus what lies ahead.

Among the rich harvest of horrors over the last few days are the following:

· Ramzan Kadyrov has posted on Instagram a photo showing Mikhail Kasyanov, the leader of the opposion PARNAS party, in the crosshairs of a rifle site, an action Kasyanov’s colleagues denounced but that Putin’s press secretary did not have anything to say.

· The pro-Putin All-Russian Popular Front has made a series of cartoons showing Vladimir Putin killing those he has identified as corrupt.

· German Klimenko, Putin’s new advisor on the Internet, says that if he were allowed to, he would “shoot” those who use the Internet in ways that the Kremlin doesn’t like. Challenged on his words, he said he was being “completely serious."

· Igor Kholmanskikh, Putin’s plenipotentiary for the Urals, says that it is necessary to get rid of the fifth column in ways like those described in the 1930s by Ilf and Petrov. He isn’t calling for executions of the extra-systemic opposition -- at least not yet.

· And KPRF activists in Yekaterinburg are accusing the Yeltsin Center there of violating the law on “the rehabilitation of Nazism” by providing information about the victims of Stalin’s repressions. 

This list could easily be extended, and as Novy Region-2 journalist Kseniya Kirillova points out in summarizing this list, it is not clear that “the worse the economic crisis in Russia becomes, the ‘better and happier’ will be the lives of its citizens. Apparently,” she suggests, “there isn’t a lot of time to wait until the promised shootings.”

Beyond doubt, Kirillov is right to call attention to this trend, something many are reluctant to do.  But three immediate points need to be made. First, Kadyrov must not be dismissed as some kind of new Zhirinovsky, whose words simply allow people to get things out of their systems. He is changing the system and promoting the Chechenization of Russia.

Second, every time such statements are made and are not immediately and actively denounced by Russians and by the West, it gets easier for Kadyrov and Putin to say and do even worse things. It would have been hard to imagine the gunsight picture appearing even on Kadyrov’s site a year ago; now, it is likely to become background noise.

And third – and this is the most important point – Putin bears responsibility for all of this. If Russia is heading in the wrong direction, it is not because it is facing opposition from the Kremlin. Rather, Putin is encouraging such things, desensitizing Russians to them, and could stop them if he wanted to.

He must be held accountable, as difficult and even dangerous as that task may be.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
What Chechnya Has Become Under Kadyrov – A Checklist of 20 Things Many Don’t Know

Staunton, VA, February 1, 2016 -- Now that Ramzan Kadyrov’s flamboyant and threatening statements have again put Chechnya at the center of Russian media discussions, Russian Business Consulting ( offers a list of 20 developments in that North Caucasus republic that have taken place since he became its head in 2007.

A team of researchers from that news and analysis portal have investigated the situation and come up with what is virtually a checklist of the most important trends in Chechnya under Kadyrov not only for Chechens and Russians but for all those analyzing developments in the North Caucasus.

1. A Subsidized Republic. Over the last nine years, Chechnya has received more than 539 billion rubles ($6.9 billion) in subsidies from Moscow, making it along with Dagestan and Sakha one of the regions most heavily dependent on the center. To put that in context, Chechnya has received just a little less than Moscow spent in Vladivostok to prepare for the Asian-Pacific summit. Federal aid fell only twice, in 2010 and 2013, but it increased in 2015 even as Moscow was cutting back elsewhere.

2. A Demographic Boom Now and In the Future. The republic now has 1.4 million residents, a little less than one percent of the population of Russia. Almost two-thirds live in rural areas. It has the highest natural growth rate (births over deaths) in the country, fewer divorces than anywhere else, and the largest share of people under 18 of any federal subject.

3. High Official Unemployment but High Real Employment. Grozny reports that 16.7 percent of Chechens are unemployed, but that figure, many experts say, is inflated and intended to extract more money for Moscow. Most adults are working, albeit not always on the books or in official structures. Over 40 percent of incomes in Chechnya are “from other sources,” according to surveys. And real incomes are growing, although they are still low by all-Russian standards.

4. Outmigration Continues But Isn’t Large. More Chechens leave Chechnya to live and work elsewhere than return, but their numbers are relatively small (12,000 left in 2014) and consequently Chechnya ranks 54th among Russia’s regions and republics.

5. “Crime Down but Terrorism Continues.” Statistics show crime declining, with most cases now involving drug sales and trafficking or theft rather than violent actions. But despite that, the RBC analysts say, “Chechnya is one of the few regions of Russia where open attacks by militants in the capital are possible.” And Chechnya still ranks second after Dagestan in terms of the number of terrorist incidents.

6. An Enormous Siloviki Presence. Statistics are hard to come by, RBC says; but the number of uniformed personnel from the Defense Ministry, Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service and judicial agencies as well as in Chechnya’s own forces is by all accounts far larger per capita than in any other part of the Russian Federation. Kadyrov himself controls as many as 10,000 to 12,000 fighters personally.

7. Poor Health Care and Education. Chechnya is next to last of the federal subjects in the number of hospital beds per capita and last in terms of the number of doctors and nurses. It has far fewer places in its kindergartens than there are applicants, and the number of schools has grown far less than the population.

8. Fast Foreign Cars for the Elite. Chechnya leads in the number of expensive foreign cars owned by the elite.
More Mosques Per Capita than Any Other Russian Region. There are 931 mosques in Chechnya, or about one for every 1,490 residents. In Dagestan, that figure is 1,908, and in Tatarstan 2,610. There are seven Russian Orthodox parishes, although five of them opened only in 2014.

10. Number of Russians Continues to Fall Precipitously. Most ethnic Russians left Chechnya in the 1990s, but between 2002 and 2010, the number of ethnic Russians there declined from 40,600 to 24,300. As a result, Chechnya is now the most mono-ethnic non-Russian republic in the Russian Federation.

11. Housing Boom, Much of It in Private Homes. As Chechnya seeks to recover from the two post-Soviet wars, it has experienced a housing boom. The share of private homes among all housing that has been constructed is 95.5 percent, the highest of any region in the country.

12. A Powerful GONGO. Chechnya has one major NGO, the government-controlled Kadyrov Foundation which builds mosques, schools and housing for those favored by the regime. It operates completely without transparency and many view it as a kind of slush fund for the Chechen president.

13. Few Businesses. Only 9,700 businesses are registered in Chechnya, and most of those are very small. Only 125 of them had incomes greater than one million rubles (US $1,500) last year. Nonetheless, per capita GDP has been rising, although it is still the lowest in Russia.

14. Too Risky for Outside Investment. Chechnya is still rated too risky for outside investors and has attracted little money except from the Russian government.

15. Chechens Love i-Phones and Other High Tech Items. Chechens spend far more of their incomes on i-phones and other high tech items than do people in other regions of the country. They especially like Apple computers.

16. Sports are Big Government Business. Kadyrov supports a football team and a boxing club and almost never misses a match. He has poured enormous but uncounted sums into the development of both.

17. Kadyrov a Major Presence on Social Networks. Although he only set up his Instagram account three years ago, Kadyrov now has 1.65 million readers and viewers, more than almost any other regional leader and only slightly fewer than Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

18. Kadyrov Likes to Receive Awards and to Give Them. Like his Soviet predecessors, the Chechen leader likes to receive medals and other awards and to give them. According to RBC, he has received at least 59 medals, orders, and other marks of distinction over the last nine years; and he has handed out thousands of awards to Chechens and others.

19. Kadyrov Can Deliver the Vote. The Chechen leader has established an electoral system that even Soviet leaders would envy: he routinely ensures that Chechen cast more than 99 percent of their ballots for Vladimir Putin and his preferred list, as well as for himself.

20. Kadyrov Clan Controls Chechnya. Russians see Kadyrov as someone who controls his republic and have a more positive view of him perhaps as a result than they did when he first came to power.