The Chechen Path to Russian Statehood
No. 3 2004 July/September


the past few years, Chechnya has been going through a painstaking
process of military and political settlement. This process was by
no means a particular case. President Putin contemplated Chechnya
as a model which was to demonstrate to the world the desired type
of Russian statehood and the principles and values it would be
built upon. Otherwise, there would be no justification for the
severe fighting against separatism.

The Soviet Union disintegrated relatively peacefully, but what
grounds does the Russian Federation have for defending its
territorial integrity? What ideology, what mission, what
justification? Putin had to use Chechnya as an example by which to
demonstrate the new essence of Russia’s statehood. This means that
Chechnya was a problem pertaining to content rather than to
technique, to the destiny of Russia as a state and a

Putin responded to the challenge in the following manner: Chechnya,
controlled by the federal troops, would be forced to assimilate the
Russian legal and administrative norms. It would also receive the
same type of democratic civil society that other parts of Russia
have accepted. The country was forced to pay a large and bloody
price: the fight for democratic norms and civil law, which are now
viewed as sacred goals, resulted in mass deaths and enormous
torment. Actually, the second Chechen campaign, as well as the
political process of 2002-2004, might prompt a conclusion that the
administrative system of each Russian region, given all of its pros
and cons, is so invaluable that it is worth the deaths of thousands
of men and pools of blood.

Putin was expected to substantiate the essence of Russia’s new
statehood system, however, he chose to delay it. Instead, he
insisted on the “No” part of the program: “Say ‘No’ to separatism!”
“Keep up territorial integrity or die!” He offered a tough stance,
but it was only half the answer. The “No” part of the program was
made perfectly clear, while the “Yes” part remained

Akhmad Kadyrov was the backbone in this whole structure. The
success of the operation, code-named “Kadyrov,” was to underscore
the legitimacy of modern Russia as a whole. It was simply not
permitted to fall apart, and no special explanations were provided.
The Kadyrov model signified the essence of Russian

With Kadyrov as a leader of the region, Chechnya was made to fit
pan-federal Russian standards. The federal government made an
inordinate effort to align the bleeding region with other parts of
the country. It fully mobilized to focus its military and
administrative resources on the task. The effort was reinforced by
the unbending will and strong power instinct of Akhmad-hajji
Kadyrov, who by force and persuasion impelled the members of
different teips (clans), virds (religious communities), and even
separatist groups, to recognize his personal power. This he
presented to the Kremlin as the Chechen element of the
vertically-integrated Russian Federation.

Kadyrov was the main element of Russian statehood. He bolstered the
grounds for severe fighting against separatism, the legitimacy of
tough anti-separatist measures before the eyes of the West. He
maintained a balance of compromise between the Russian federal
legislative norms and the uniqueness of Chechen society that does
not tally with those norms. The essence of the Kadyrov regime
boiled down to demonstrating to everyone that Russia’s statehood
has the ability to tame any forms of internal resistance and is
therefore valuable and efficient.

But there were forces that lurked in the shadows, forces that
waited until that moment when the system of Kadyrov’s rule had
taken hold and acquired a faзade of stability and steadiness. They
waited until Kadyrov had become indispensable for the Kremlin not
only in Chechnya but nationwide, as well as on a global scale –
when it would seem to the world that Russia had handled the
rebellious region.

The explosion that ripped through the Grozny stadium on May 9, 2004
was aimed at the most vulnerable element of Russia’s system – the
legitimacy of its values and techniques. Alas, it reached its
target. If we had regarded Kadyrov and his system as point one on
the political scale, we would have to admit that we are now thrown
back to zero or even minus one. It was in our hands, but we lost
it. This means that Putin will again have to substantiate the
essence and value of Russia’s statehood, as well as provide proofs
of its efficiency and ability to contain the problems. It literally
comes down to this: tell us what the essence of that statehood is,
and we will decide if defending its integrity makes sense.
Furthermore, we will set an appropriate price for it.
Any solution to the current Chechen crisis will depend on the
efficiency of the technology used, promotion campaigns and media
strategy. The solution will also have to include political
agreements between the federal government and Chechen teips and
groupings. But most importantly, it will need a new substantiation
of values and efficiency of the Russian state as a

The previous system proved to be technologically advantageous and
efficient, but devoid of content and rather fragile. Efficiency is
always short-lived, and once it breaks away from content, its
results become adverse to the projected ones. This is comparable
with modern-day political PR campaigns – they contain quick
mobilization, swift and impressive actions, hammering-out of the
desired results, and then – a pause until a new campaign starts,
all of which is equally senseless and efficacious. However, there
was no time for a pause this time, and the problem revealed its
bare essence. In a way, Putin’s resolute motto “Say ‘No’ to
separatism!” has proven to be insufficient: the Kadyrov formula
uncovered a shaky foundation.

President Putin is facing a fundamental choice. Kadyrov’s
elimination compels him to provide a definite “Yes” or “No” answer.
It might have seemed to Putin at the time that the issue was closed
and could only be addressed on the technological level. However, it
is now understandable that such an approach was not correct. We are
witnessing a rather painful failure of the strategy of substituting
effectual technologies and PR simulations for a real meaningful
policy – something that has become a trademark of part of the
President’s team. They have succeeded in this strategy on other
occasions, although their success proves to be transitory and
dubious. Today, Russia is hinged on Putin in much the same manner
that Chechnya was hinged on Kadyrov. Putin is really the only
political actor, and he attained this status by sophisticated PR
technologies. But how fragile the state of affairs is! Real
stability is different  from its virtual

Putin is now choosing between essence and technology. Both options
involve risks, dangers, and unpredictable consequences. Such is the
Chechen path to Russian statehood – strewed with mines, ambushes,
corpses, crimes, blood, and tears. But time goes by swiftly and the
date of the presidential election in Chechnya is approaching.
Something has to be done, because one must not sit

People who care about the destiny of new Russia are in suspense.
Too many things depend on the Chechen situation. Who will Chechnya
be entrusted to? What option will be chosen? What is on the cards?
Every nuance in the Chechen issue abounds in huge historic import.
It is one thing if the problem is delegated to the Kremlin’s
political pundits, and quite another thing if it is devoted to the
patriots of the Motherland and proponents of Eurasian unity. All
subsequent steps and consequences will follow the logic of the
chosen course; and as a chain of developments unfolds, its inertia
and pressure will preclude radical changes in the