Kadyrov’s ‘Chechen Sufism’ Accommodates Christmas Trees, ‘Holy Water’

RFE/RL Caucasus Report
January 16, 2012

There can be little doubt that Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov sees himself — and craves recognition  — not just as a secular political leader, but as the head of a national-religious community.

In that latter capacity, Kadyrov has sought in recent years to systematically impose, by force if necessary, his own eclectic vision of what constitutes "traditional Chechen Islam," along with the code of behavior, ethics, and dress he considers one of its key components.
 
But although some eminent Arab leaders treat him with respect, Kadyrov’s relentless promulgation of a bizarre syncretic amalgam of Chechen Sufism and popular Islam; canonical Sunni Islam, as represented by the Shafii legal school; and, more recently, Christian practice has alienated many clerics and ordinary believers in Chechnya. Few dare risk incurring his wrath by openly expressing dissent, however.
 
A classic example of Kadyrov’s idiosyncratic approach is the way he has sought to exploit his acquisition last summer of a chalice allegedly owned by the Prophet Muhammad and two rugs that temporarily covered his grave.
 
One of the two rugs has been placed on the grave in the village of Khosi-Yurt of Kadyrov’s father, former Chechen mufti Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, which has become a site of pilgrimage. Cisterns containing "holy water" from the chalice, liberally diluted with tap water, have been delivered throughout Chechnya in light of its imputed miraculous healing and reconciliatory properties, even though the Christian concept of "holy water" is totally alien to Islam.
 
While individual Chechens are reportedly convinced of the miraculous qualities of the chalice, theologians remain divided over whether Shari’a law permits the veneration of material objects considered sacred.
 
It is both odd and incongruous that Kadyrov, the son of a respected mufti who studied in the 1980s first at a madrasah in Bukhara and then at the Islamic University in Tashkent, should have grown up with such a rudimentary and flawed understanding of both Islamic dogma and ritual. In contrast to 20-year-old insurgent commanders who quote the Koran in flawless Arabic, he has never been known to quote verbatim from the Koran in public.
 
Some of Kadyrov’s assertions border on the heretical. Addressing religious advisers last month, he characterized Sufi saints as "companions of God" whose lives the media should make familiar to every Chechen. At the same meeting, he equated respect for the secular Russian state with piety, affirming that "he who is embarrassed to rise to his feet when the flag of the Russian Federation is hoisted is no Muslim."​​
 
Such pronouncements play into the hands of the North Caucasus insurgency, whose members profess a puritanical Salafi Islam that is increasingly proving more attractive to young Chechens than Kadyrov’s bastardized Sufism. Salafis reject such elements of Sufism as the worship of Sufi saints and pilgrimages to holy places ("ziyart").
 
The insurgency’s ideologues routinely denounce Kadyrov and his henchmen, including the republic’s official clergy, as "murtads" (apostates) and "mushriks" (idolators). Challenging Kadyrov’s pronouncements is fraught with risk, however. An imam from Urus-Martan who publicly denounced last year as a pagan ritual the celebration of the Christian New Year, complete with the traditional Russian New Year’s tree, was abducted by Kadyrov’s security personnel and beaten to within an inch of his life.
 
Chechen Saint Kunta-Hadji
 
Central to Kadyrov’s institutionalization and exploitation of Chechen Sufism for political ends is his elevation to cult status of the 19th-century Chechen Sufi preacher Kunta-hadji Kishiyev, one of the most venerated representatives of the pacifist Qadari tariqah (Grozny’s Islamic University is named after him).
 
Kunta-hadji advocated the acceptance of infidel Russian domination in order to avert the extinction of the Chechen nation in an endless war against the Tsarist regime. To that end, he even advised believers to enter an Orthodox church if required to do, as "it is only an edifice."
 
Such dissimulation, whether or not consciously deriving from Kunta-hadji’s teachings, was widespread among Chechens in the 1970s and 1980s. In his stellar "Chechnya. Tombstone of Russian Power," the British scholar Anatol Lieven quotes Chechen friends who explained to him that it was not considered a sin to deny one’s membership of a Sufi "vird" (brotherhood), or even to consume pork while serving in the Soviet military.
 
Kunta-hadji was deported in January 1864 to central Russia, where he died in prison three years later. His followers have never been able to come to terms with the collective trauma of losing their spiritual leader. To this day they await the return of their sheikh; he is rumored to have been sighted in Mecca in 1971.
 
The importance imputed to Kunta-hadji by Kadyrov and the Chechen official clergy serves two interrelated political purposes. First, it substantiates Kadyrov’s implicit claim to religious leadership by showcasing the Kadyrov family’s association with the saint: Akhmed-hadji’s great-grandfather Iles was reportedly arrested together with Kunta-hadji.
 
Second, the superficial resemblance between Kunta-hadji’s creed of nonviolent resistance and dissimulation in the name of preserving the Chechen nation and the professed subservience to and financial exploitation of Moscow espoused by first Akhmed-hadji and then Ramzan Kadyrov serves to rationalize, even ennoble that latter strategy in the eyes of the Chechen population.
 
The anniversary of Kunta-hadji’s deportation on January 3 was celebrated this year on a far more lavish scale then ever before. And increasingly, Kadyrov and his advisers attend public functions dressed in the traditional garments and skull cap favored by Kunta-hadji’s followers.

 

Holier Than Thou: Ramzan Kadyrov And ‘Traditional Chechen Islam’
RFE/RL Caucasus Report
June 16, 2010

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov cries during the opening ceremony of a mosque in the village of Kurchaloi, outside Grozny, in October 2009

Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov, arguably the most powerful — and dangerous — regional leader in the Russian Federation is resorting to increasingly draconian measures to impose his own eclectic vision of what constitutes "traditional Chechen Islam," along with the code of behavior, ethics, and dress he considers one of its key components.

So far this year, Kadyrov has instituted the ideological vetting of all imams and dismissed those deemed incompetent; decreed a uniform schedule for daily prayers; and named an Islamic theologian to run a new website intended to promulgate Sufism and attract young believers who might otherwise be drawn to the websites of the various subdivisions of the North Caucasus Islamic insurgency that promote Salafi Islam.

And since early June bands of masked men in military uniform have patrolled the streets of Grozny and fired paintballs at any woman not wearing a head scarf in line with an edict issued by Kadyrov in 2007.

Two forms of Islam have traditionally coexisted side by side in Chechnya.

Dogmatic or canonical Sunni Islam, represented by Shafii legal school, is followed primarily by the so-called official clergy, i.e. imams and leaders of officially registered congregations, which are overseen by Chechnya’s Spiritual Board of Muslims. That school of Sunni Islam was tolerated in the Soviet Union, while Sufism, a more esoteric and internalized expression of Islamic teaching, was suppressed and driven underground.

In 2005, a campaign was launched under then Chechen Republic head Alu Alkhanov to promote a variant of "traditional Islam" as a counterweight to salafism.

When Kadyrov was named republic head three years ago, he set about intensifying that campaign, grafting selected elements of Chechen sufism and popular Islam on to traditional Sunni Islam. The resulting synthesis, which selectively borrows, and in some cases grotesquely distorts, the symbols and rituals of Chechen sufism while ignoring its essence, is the primary component of the ethno-territorial nationalism that Kadyrov energetically promotes as part of his efforts to position himself as defender and promoter of a new Chechen national identity.

In October 2007, then Chechen Republic Ichkeria President Doku Umarov publicly proclaimed a pan-North-Caucasus Muslim emirate with himself as leader. That move effectively added a new, quasi-religious dimension to the competition between Kadyrov and Umarov for political control over Chechnya.

Kadyrov’s approach to that battle for influence is informed by a visceral fear and loathing of Salafi Islam, not, one suspects, so much on narrow doctrinal grounds as because of the threat the Islamic insurgency poses to his authority and his standing in the eyes of the Russian leadership. In that context, it is worth noting that Kadyrov never quotes verbatim from the Koran in his public pronouncements.

Further evidence of his shaky grasp of the fundamentals of Islam is his predilection for naming mosques or other Islamic institutions after specific persons, including members of his own family. Caucasus Knot quoted a member of the Chechen clergy who asked not to be identified as pointing out that while doing so is contrary to the fundamentals of Islam, no one dare say so publicly for fear of being branded an "extremist."

Parallel to redefining what constitutes "traditional Chechen Islam" and perfecting the various channels (the clergy, the official media, and the education system) whereby that concept is inculcated into the population from an early age, Kadyrov has simultaneously set about building an extensive Muslim infrastructure comprising mosques, an Islamic university, and a center for Islamic medicine.

In addition to the grandiose Heart Of Chechnya mosque in Grozny — inaugurated in October 2008 and reputedly the largest in Europe — four new mosques opened in October 2009, including one in the village of Kurchaloi. Five more mosques, each with a capacity of 5,000 worshippers, were also reported to be under construction in Gudermes, Urus-Martan, Tsentoroi, Djalka, and Tsotsin-Yurt.

A Russian Islamic University opened in Grozny in August 2009 to teach a five-year course comprising Islamic studies, the Koran, and the Arabic language; plus law, psychology, world history, and the Chechen and Russian languages.

Construction of a school in Kadyrov’s home village of Tsentoroi for hafizes (scholars who can recite the entire Koran by heart) got under way last year. A second such school, also for 100 students, will be built in Grozny.

A center of Islamic medicine — this reportedly, too, the largest in Europe — opened in Grozny in February 2009. Its staff of 15 alims will treat up to 80 patients per day free of charge, by readings suras and ayats from the Koran.

Given that the success of Kadyrov’s indoctrination campaign depends in the first instance on the clergy, Kadyrov holds regular meetings both with Chechen mufti Sultan-hajji Mirzayev and with local imams and kadis. The message he conveys to them invariably focuses on the need to step up efforts to eradicate "wahhabism," meaning the Salafi Islam espoused by the North Caucasus insurgency, and to deter young men from falling for Salafi propaganda and "heading for the forest" to join the insurgents’ ranks.

At one such gathering last summer, Kadyrov angrily challenged the clergy to explain why young men "won’t listen to you, but they will to that Said Buryatsky" — the young convert from Buryatia who joined the insurgency in 2008 and served as its chief ideologue until his death in March 2010.

At another such meeting, in January 2010, Kadyrov argued that "without a spiritually developed and highly moral society, the republic has no future." He stressed that "sermons by imams of mosques must reach the heart of every inhabitants of the republic, including those who are far from religion."

That exhortation calls into question the effectiveness of the requirement, announced by Mirzayev in May 2008, that imams submit their Friday sermons to Chechnya’s Muslim Spiritual Board for prior approval. Mirzayev’s stated rationale was that "no one has the right to impose his reflections on the population" and that such evaluations would preclude "distortions of Islam" that could have "pernicious consequences." He did not say who would be responsible for the process, or by what criteria sermons would be evaluated.

Last fall, a separate commission composed of five Muslim theologians was established within the Muslim Spiritual Board to assess the merits and competence of regional kadis and imams of local mosques. Valit Kuruyev, Mirzayev’s first deputy, explained the introduction of that procedure in terms of the need to ensure that the clergy are exclusively men with a "profound knowledge of religion, who are capable of explaining the whole essence of Islam to society."

The commission duly evaluated 325 imams and did not remove a single one of them. But in late April, Kadyrov complained to Mirzayev that some clergymen "only appear among their parishioners to conduct weddings and funerals" and "make no effort to combat wahhabism and extremism." Kadyrov ordered that the offenders be dismissed, and within two weeks nine imams were replaced in the Nozhai-Yurt and Shelkovksy districts alone.

One imam of a mosque in Grozny Raion was dismissed in May, and a second warned of the need to shape up. It is not clear whether the 10 men dismissed were among the 325 who had successfully undergone scrutiny a few months earlier.

One unnamed cleric told the website Caucasus Knot that the dismissals were simply a pretext to enable the Muslim Spiritual Board to kill two birds with one stone: get rid of those imams who refused to brand as "wahhabis" anyone who expresses the slightest dissatisfaction with or dissent from Kadyrov’s policies, and provide jobs for a surfeit of unemployed mullahs.

Also in early May, three of Chechnya’s 18 madrasahs were temporarily closed for various reasons, including the poor quality of teaching.

Meanwhile, there are tentative indications that Mirzayev (who like Kadyrov’s late father Akhmed-hajji Kadyrov occupied a prominent position within the Muslim hierarchy in 1997-1999 under then Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov) may have reservations about Kadyrov’s efforts to dilute orthodox Chechen Sunni Islam with elements of Sufism.

In early March, Mirzayev summoned the leaders of the Naqshbandi and Qadariyya Sufi brotherhoods in Chechnya and warned them against attempts to introduce unidentified "innovations" that, Mirzayev said, "undermine the foundations of traditional Islam."

Kadyrov’s vision extends far beyond ensuring that the population can attend prayers regularly at newly built mosques whose imams are considered ideologically sound. The media, too, have been co-opted to promote Kadyrov’s concept of "genuine Chechen Islam." In January 2008, Kadyrov issued instructions that the media, both state and privately owned, should reduce rebroadcasting of Western music and entertainment and increase the volume of programming devoted to religious and patriotic themes. He warned that those TV channels that failed to comply would be closed down.

In November 2009, it was announced that a new radio station that would broadcast primarily on Islam-related topics would begin broadcasting "very soon." And last month a new website was launched with the specific intention of providing information about Islam and thereby undercutting the attraction insurgency websites have for the younger generation. It has already been hacked.

Attendance at mosques across Chechnya is high, especially among persons over the age of 35-40. A recent poll of 200 residents of Grozny found that 43 percent attend prayers at a mosque once a week.

But it is impossible to assess how many people do so only due to what one of the human rights activists who met last month with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev termed the "climate of fear" that pervades life in Chechnya under Kadyrov, and in which failure to attend Friday prayers carries the stigma of political unreliability.

Any believer who dares criticize the official clergy risks being branded as a "wahhabist" sympathizer. A young man who sought to challenge Mirzayev’s vilification of Said Buryatsky during a sermon last October as "an enemy of Allah" was summarily frog-marched out of the mosque; it is not clear what happened to him after that.

Attendance at mosques is lower among the 18-35 age group, who can remember, if only vaguely, a normal, peaceful life prior to the first Russian invasion in December 1994. They are more likely to be attracted by Salafism than by Kadyrov’s idiosyncratic take on Sufism.

No effort is spared to brainwash children of school age. Children are required to study the basics of Islam, but the 30 lessons do not mention, let alone explain, the difference between Sunnis and Shi’a, nor do they mention the existence of wahhabism. In addition, from fifth to 11th grade, children attend weekly classes in "Vainakh [Chechen and Ingush] ethics," the only classes taught in Chechen not Russian.

The message is reinforced by monitors in school buses that show clips about religion and about "Chechen national customs and traditions."

Some Russian commentators have argued that Kadyrov has gone further toward building an Islamic state than the leaders of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria ever dreamed of doing. But Kadyrov has not formally proclaimed Shari’a law, as Maskhadov did in February 1999 under pressure from the radical Islamists among his subordinates.

On the contrary: when a French journalist recently quoted Kadyrov as saying that in his opinion, Shari’a law takes precedence over the laws of the Russian Federation, Kadyrov’s press spokesman immediately demanded a formal explanation, claiming that Kadyrov had been misquoted.

 

Chechnya: Kadyrov Uses ‘Folk Islam’ For Political Gain
By Liz Fuller and Aslan Doukaev
December 06, 2007

Since his appointment as pro-Moscow Chechen Republic head in early March, Ramzan Kadyrov has energetically promulgated a revival of Chechen popular or "folk" Islam. Some observers see that campaign as a bid to pit the Chechen strain of Sufism against the Salafi Islam espoused by the North Caucasus resistance. The Russian authorities routinely denigrate Salafi Islam as "Wahhabism," a term that is routinely applied to any Muslims whose political loyalties are considered suspect.

A closer analysis, however, suggests that the term "Sufism," like “Wahhabism,” is being used in this context as a political marker rather than a doctrinal one. Kadyrov, the son of a former chief mufti, is apparently promoting a brand of ethno-territorial nationalism that is based largely on popular Islam, but that also selectively borrows — and sometimes grotesquely distorts — the symbols and rituals of Chechen Sufism, even as it ignores its essence.

In this respect, Kadyrov and his advisers may have been inspired by the argument espoused by the Tatar Jadidists — reformist Muslims who sought in the late 19th and early 20th century to reconcile faith with political thought — that "love for the fatherland derives from faith."

Chechnya’s Islamic Spectrum

Besides Salafism, which is a relatively new and still-marginal phenomenon in the area, Islam in Chechnya is practiced in two forms. Dogmatic or canonical Sunni Islam, represented by the Shafii school of religious law, is followed primarily by the so-called official clergy — imams and leaders of officially registered congregations. There are reportedly 72 such congregations, all overseen by Chechnya’s Spiritual Board of Muslims. This is an age-old religious tradition looked upon more or less favorably by the Russian government.

But Sufism, which is a more esoteric and internalized expression of Islamic teaching, has increasingly been receiving approving nods from the Russian state as well. This is surprising given the harshness with which tsarist Russia, and later the Soviet authorities, treated Sufi brotherhoods in the past. Beginning in the second half of the 18th century, practically all those leading the resistance to Russia’s expansion in the North Caucasus — from Sheikh Mansur and Imam Shamil to Najmuttin of Hotso and Sheikh Uzun Haji — were inspired by Sufism, primarily of the Naqshbandi brand. Hence the suspicion the Russian authorities always harbored against the Sufi orders.

Even the more pacifist Qadiriya tariqat, or brotherhood, which spread in the mid-19th century under the influence of the Chechen preacher Kunta Haji and which advocated the acceptance of infidel domination for the sake of self-preservation, drew the ire of the tsarist administration.

In 1864, the Russian authorities, wary of the growing popularity of the Qadiriya tariqat in Chechnya, Ingushetia, and parts of Daghestan, arrested and deported Kunta Haji to central Russia. Kunta Haji’s followers, of whom Kadyrov counts himself one, have never been able to come to terms with the collective trauma of losing their spiritual leader. To this day they await the return of their sheikh.

Repression, Assimilation

Other Sufi orders suffered a similar plight. Between the 1860s and the mid-1920s, first the tsarist government and then the Bolsheviks wiped out the entire spiritual leadership of all Sufi brotherhoods in Chechnya and Ingushetia. But despite those reprisals, such groups in the Caucasus survived underground and continued to practice Sufi rituals out of sight of the authorities until the collapse of the atheist regime in the early 1990s.

The war in Chechnya that began in late 1994 served as the catalyst for the emergence of various Islamist groups, both in Chechnya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus. Russian leaders, their barely concealed distaste for Islam notwithstanding, by the late 1990s became so concerned about the spread of radical interpretations of Islam that they considered it expedient to co-opt official Muslim clergy and even some Sufi sheikhs into the struggle against burgeoning Islamic radicalism.

The end result was an artificial dichotomy between "traditional Islam" and “Wahhabism.” Because those efforts often lacked subtlety and relied to a great extent on the use of force, they frequently proved counterproductive, driving many of those groups to take up arms against the authorities.
 
The publicly touted rationale for the punitive Russian intervention in Chechnya in the fall of 1999 was the incursion, launched in August of that year, into neighboring Daghestan by just such a group of Chechen and Daghestani Islamic radicals.

Headed by field commander Shamil Basayev and ideologue Movladi Udugov, the incursion’s stated aim was declaring a North Caucasus Islamic republic. The Russian and pro-Russian Chechen authorities continued to identify Wahhabism as the primary force that impelled young Chechens to join the ranks of the resistance even after full-scale hostilities peaked. And it was the resistance that was identified as responsible for the killing, during the early years of this decade, of at least 17 and possibly as many as 50 Muslim clergymen. They are also blamed for the murders of an elderly relative and the son of Akhmed-hadji Shamayev, who stepped down in the summer of 2005 after serving for five years as Chechnya’s head mufti.

The Search For ‘Traditional Islam’

Insofar as radical Islam was perceived as the driving force behind the continued steady exodus of young Chechen men to join the resistance, the pro-Moscow Chechen authorities in early 2005 launched a counter-campaign. In January 2005, they announced a plan to introduce a course of instruction in "traditional Islam" in schools.

To date, however, the plan has never fully materialized — either for lack of trained instructors and teaching materials, or the difficulties inherent in defining the phenomenon in a way that satisfies the authorities. As elsewhere in Russia, Chechen schools teach a course in the "Basics of Religion," which for the most part reflects the teaching of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In February 2005, then-Chechen Republic administration head Alu Alkhanov chaired a republic-level meeting, attended by representatives of Russia’s Council of Muftis, to focus on ways to combat Wahhabism. At that meeting, Alkhanov ordered the drafting of a "comprehensive program" aimed at countering the propaganda of “Wahhabism and extremism" with measures to promote "traditional Islam and patriotism."

Alkhanov also stressed the need to create jobs for young people and recreation facilities, in particular sports clubs — an undertaking that Kadyrov, then first deputy prime minister, enthusiastically espoused as a vehicle for personally winning the hearts and minds of the younger generation.

As part of the broader effort to control religious practice, the pro-Moscow Chechen authorities also set about restoring mosques damaged during two successive wars, as well as building new ones. In May 2003, Shamayev said Chechnya had 300 functioning mosques; today, Kadyrov claims that every one of Chechnya’s 423 villages now has a functioning mosque.

A huge mosque that will accommodate 10,000 worshippers is currently under construction in Grozny at an estimated cost of $20 million. The number of Chechens traveling to Saudi Arabia on the hajj has also risen exponentially, from 140 in 2003 to 1,300 in 2006.

Redefining Standards

At the same time, Kadyrov has issued a series of decrees imposing prohibitions common to many Islamic societies, for example on gambling and the consumption of alcohol, and requiring that all women employed in the state sector, and all female school and university students, wear the hijab. Female students who ignore that requirement are no longer permitted to attend university classes.

Kadyrov has described both the head-scarf requirement and his recent edict forbidding brides to wear low-cut wedding dresses as part of a program of "moral education." Other aspects of that program, however, have no clear basis in Islamic belief, and are apparently geared to redefining what is aesthetically and culturally acceptable under Chechen tradition.

The new requirement that all theater performances and songs performed publicly should "conform to Chechen mentality and education" is just one step away from the ban imposed by the late Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on performances of European opera and ballet.

The practice of divorcing religious belief from religious ritual, and promoting the latter while cracking down on the former, was one of the hallmarks of the Soviet approach to controlling and manipulating all faiths. Kadyrov appears to be reverting to that approach with the aim of reducing “Chechen Islam" to a lowest common denominator — an Islam that is "easy to understand," in contrast to much of the theological debate on Chechen resistance websites, and that imposes a minimum of requirements on its practitioners.

Central to Kadyrov’s religious revival is the public performance of the zikr, the mystic Sufi prayer-cum-dance ritual through which adepts seek to escape the existential illusions of the world and remind themselves of God.

Kadyrov’s apparent lack of either understanding or respect for Chechen Sufi tradition is evident from clandestine video footage showing him repeatedly firing a pistol into the air as elderly Chechen men perform the zikr. A true Sufi would no more fire a gun during the zikr than a devout Catholic would during the celebration of High Mass.

Weapons, Faith, Country

Yet such behavior is not simply blasphemy in the eyes of devout Sufis: it carries a potent and dangerous political message. On the political and psychological plane, it serves to promote and reinforce not just a sense of belonging to a community that defines itself in both ethnic and quasi-religious terms, but a perception that the use of weapons to defend that community is acceptable, if not obligatory.

The conflation of the zikr with readiness to take up arms to defend Chechnya against Russian aggression dates back to the early days of the 1994-96 war, when Russian television cameras filmed men performing the zikr in front of the presidential building in Grozny as Russian war planes dropped bombs on the city.

A second aspect of Chechen popular religious tradition that Kadyrov seeks simultaneously to promote and to control is that of pilgrimages to "holy" places, including the grave in the eastern village of Ertan of Kunta Haji’s mother.

In May 2006, Shamayev’s successor as Chechnya’s mufti, Sultan-hadji Mirzayev, was quoted as saying that over 100,000 people visited that shrine over the preceding month. Ertan was one of the shrines that Kadyrov himself visited immediately after his inauguration as republic head in April 2007.

One of Kadyrov’s more bizarre borrowings from Sufi tradition was to order for prisoners at the infamous Chernokozovo penal colony special uniforms modeled on the traditional garments worn by members of the Qadiriya tariqat in Chechnya and Ingushetia as "the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace." Again, the message that innovation conveys is that all Chechens — regardless of their social status and any offenses they may have committed against secular law — are part of a broader community that defines itself in both ethnic and quasi-religious terms.

There is little evidence to suggest that, preoccupied as they are with day-to-day survival, most Chechens care about the folly of Kadyrov’s plans — assuming they realize their possible long-term implications. Even those who consider their faith an integral component of their personal identity are likely to refrain from criticism or protest, lest they expose themselves and their families to Kadyrov’s wrath.

(Liz Fuller is an RFE/RL analyst and Aslan Doukaev is director of RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service.)

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