Continuing to work through this historical piece by Evgeny Krutikov, which “celebrates” the 25-year anniversary of the start of the Russo-Chechen wars.
Where we left off, Dudayev and his political party had seized control of the government in Grozny, capital of Chechnya. The ineffectual central Russian government ordered the rebels to lay down their arms. Dudayev responded hysterically by issuing a call for “jihad”, even though he was not a religious leader and had no right to call for jihad nor fatwah, nor any of that business.
Dudayev and the Other “Strange Men”
Dudayev himself, when one met him in person, did not give the impression of a psychopath, as people have tried to portray him since then. His sometimes eccentric behavior can be explained more as an attempt to shock or dominate people.
Krutikov, the author of this piece, was present in Grozny in the fall of 1991 and witnessed with his own eyes how Dudayev suddenly burst out with some crazy talk, right in front of a bunch of young Chechen males, ages around 18 or 19, all dressed in identical black uniforms and carrying identical automatic weapons, playing at being his bodyguards, in the manner of Hong Kong (kung fu) action movies which they had gorged on.
Dudayev, a highly educated Soviet artillery officer who should have known better, suddenly burst out that the Russians were preparing to use a “seismic weapon” against Chechnya, supposedly to induce earthquakes. This was a common conspiracy theory at the time. Krutikov watched Dudayev seat himself in his carved chair, his back to the window (a sniper’s dream), while the young men froze in dramatic and almost antique poses around him. These so-called “bodyguards” who had not even bothered to frisk people on the way in, played at being vigilant and from time to time peering behind the curtains.
In those times, Dudayev’s hold on power was based on such tenuous support as these half-literate youths. To them, Dudayev posed as a godlike figure, and they were in awe of their fearless leader. This fits in perfectly with the (Caucasian macho) mentality. While Dudayev posed as the Warlord, actual power in the United Congress of the Chechen People (UCCP) passed to a series of “gray cardinals” from among the ranks of the professional “anti-Sovietchiki” intelligentsia. These types were Chechen nationalists and not religious at all. Among them were such as the Brothers Temeshevy and Movlady Udugov. all highly intelligent men.
Other “gray cardinals” of that time include Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, considered the main ideologist of the Chechen nationalist movement, but in reality just a puppet whose strings were pulled by men much more cruel, cynical, and cunning than himself. Then there was Bagauddin Bakhmadov, who was considered to be a real contender for political leadership, but somehow faded away. When I (yalensis) googled Bakhmadov’s name I found this interesting wiki entry which lists in chronological order holders of the various Party and governmental offices of the Chechen-Ingush autonomy for the 70-year period from 1921 to 1991. Under the category “Heads of State”, the entries show the fluctuations of power on an almost daily basis during this time; for example, Bagauddin Bakhmadov, listed as belonging to an “Independent” political party was in office only from 7 October through 2 November.
Another important Chechen political figure of this time was Ruslan Khasbulatov who regarded Bakhmadov as “Threat #1”. Even while stepping down from the stage of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic, as that body voted to dissolve itself, Khasbulatov would not take his eyes off of Bakhmadov. The latter entered the hall fashionably late, accompanied by a youthful bodyguard dressed in a fashionable Versace suit (this in the hungry era of 1991) and carrying an Israeli mini-Uzi, all of this creating a theatrical impression on the seated Chechens.
Bakhmadov, however, in the end did not meet these blown-up expectations of his future dominance; the wheel of fortune soon cast him off as non-entity.
Krutikov reiterates that these transitional political leaders were not even remotely religious. I think he is setting us up for the irony of the Chechen Wars, involving Wahhabi Islam and the Emirate, and all that jazz. The post of Chairman of the Provisional Supreme Soviet went to a man named Hussein Akhmadov, a Professor of secular History. Akhmadov was your typical Soviet dissident, his particular shtick was Chechen nationalism; he wrotes volumes of histories proving that Chechnya never “voluntarily” joined the Soviet Federation, as the Soviets dogmatically insisted it did. The Soviets punished Akhmadov for his dissident views by removing him from his respectable position in the “Scientific Research institute” of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomy and exiling him to a small town, where he was given a meaningless job as a schoolteacher.
Krutikov mentions ironically that the Soviet Union in essence dug its own grave when it built, everywhere and lavishly, in all of the ethnic regions, universities and institutes, humanities faculties and filials all of which, in the final analysis, became hotbeds of nationalist ideology. These filials turned out dissidents and cadres by the skien for the various “democratic revolutions” of the early 1990’s. [yalensis: And for the later “color revolutions” too, let us not forget.]
In many regions, the “new thinking” consisted of rewriting history. The goal was to prove that the local ethnos du jour was not just some small nation raised up by the Communists as Little Brothers to the Great Russian people; but no, some super-ancient and highly terrific people in their own right. For example, in Grozny around this time, many magazines and brochures were churned out “proving” that the “Vainakh” people (precursors of the Chechens and Ingush) were direct descendants of the Sumerians and Babylonians. Nowadays, of course, the Caucasian nationalists are forced to compete with Ukrainian nationalists, the latter also claiming inheritance from such ancient peoples as the Scythians and Sarmatians; not to mention the builders of the ancient pyramids.
These “historical” excursions into Chechen history may have just seemed silly and amusing at the time, but soon enough the masks were dropped and the underlying theme was revealed: an unrelenting anti-Russian propaganda. Seems like the nationalists didn’t so much just love themselves, as despise Russia. And sure enough, the anti-Soviet dissident historial Hussein Akhmadov became head of the “Parliament of Ichkeria”, the newly-born nation-state. But only for about a year. Then, to his credit, he had a principled dispute with Dudayev. Akhmadov did not support Dudayev’s choice to resort to armed insurrection against Russia. Akhmadov retired into private life and, to this day [yalensis: or the end of his life; not clear from the context if Akhmadov is still alive?] continued/continues to teach, despite attempts by the Russian Ministry of Education to revoke his academic license.
[to be continued]