In July 1998, Professor Jabrail Gakayev, head of the Chechen cultural Centre in Moscow, published the article "Russia-Chechnya: Is There a Way Out?" (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 8, 1998). Having analysed the post-Khasavyurt period, the professor came to the conclusion that it did not bring civil peace and national accord to the Chechen Republic. Furthermore, the apprehensions voiced by many analysts that the leaders of Ichkeria drawing on their own social, political and intellectual foundations could not create a system of government which would work productively in the interests of the majority of the population, were confirmed.
According to Gakayev, Aslan Maskhadov missed his chance of becoming the leader of the Chechens to unite the Chechen people and their political elite. Maskhadov who placed his stake on the ideology of ethnonationalism and discarded cooperation with the modernised strata of society still loyal to Russia began to play in the field of extreme national-radicals and further deepened the split in Chechen society that had existed since 1991. The anti-Maskhadov opposition took shape among his supporters, the former field commanders. Many facts testify to the inability of the official authorities to control the situation in the republic.
The republic has no economy or social sphere, and more than 400,000 are unemployed. Common citizens who do not receive wages, pensions, or benefits are losing hope for the future. Most of the funds allocated for these purposes from the federal budget are embezzled or spent on the needs of the regime. The extremely impoverished population is fed up with pseudo-sovereignty, which has helped and is still helping the new Chechen quasi-elite to become fabulously rich. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the real boss in Chechnya is the underworld that has exploited the idea of independence since 1991 in order to preserve the cleptocracy. Armed groupings have divided among themselves the territory, spheres of influence, and sources of income. The larger gangs control illicit trade in oil products, arms and drugs. Others are specializing in robbery, kidnapping and the slave trade.
The regions of the North Caucasus bordering on Chechnya have also become involved in the criminal business. In Ingushetia, the Stavropol Territory, Daghestan and North Ossetia, there are international criminal groups, a network of points for the trans-shipment of smuggled goods and kidnapped people. The supply and sale of oil products from Chechnya at dumping prices is a large-scale racket. The illicit trade in oil products is extremely lucrative not only for the regional underworld structures but also for government officials and law-enforcement bodies implicated in the process.
Professor Gakayev indicates that human rights are violated in Chechnya on a mass scale. Murder, kidnapping and trade in people have become an everyday occurrence. According to the data of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria alone, 3,558 crimes were committed and 246 people kidnapped in 1997 (50 people were kidnapped during six months of 1998). On average, 60-70 crimes, including from one to five murders, are committed in the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria every week. The legal and judicial system has been destroyed. There are no civil courts in Chechnya. The practice of the existing Shariahh courts looks like a mockery and discredits Islamic law. The population is terrorised, and the opposition that raised its voice against ideology and practice of armed separatism has been outlawed, while any dissent warrants persecution. For ordinary people Chechnya's sovereignty turned out to be an unprecedented freedom to be killed, disgraced, robbed, kidnapped by someone who will get away with it entirely or to die of mass disease and hunger.
At the same time, for the new Chechen quasi-elite "independence" became a godsend, "camel milk" and an oil pipeline with "golden taps". In the estimates of experts, the slave trade alone amassed one billion dollars for Chechnya.
Professor Gakayev harshly criticises the Kremlin's policy towards Chechnya, particularly actions by such officials as Ivan Rybkin and Boris Berezovsky. He believes that the essence of that policy was formulated by Boris Berezovsky and boiled down to the simple maxim: "What cannot be bought for money can be bought for very big money". Translated into the language of diplomacy, this means that Moscow not only recognised the regime of the separatists, but also in the person of Rybkin-Berezovsky promised the leaders of Ichkeria financial and economic assistance in exchange for loyalty towards Russia and its preserved territorial integrity. However, it turned out that Russia did not have big money to spend, Berezovsky naturally did not want to spend his own money, and the new formula for resolving the Chechen conflict began to malfunction. Taming separatists at the cost of political and economic concessions and financial injections was viewed in Chechnya as Russia's weakness and only worked up the appetite of Ichkeria's leaders. Demanding ever more money from Moscow and simultaneously insisting on Chechnya's "full sovereignty", the Chechen separatists began to resemble puppets, which know nothing about the puppet master, or pretend that they know nothing about him.
Gakayev also names among the negative consequences of the Kremlin's policy the refusal by the federal Centre to talk to other political forces in Chechnya. Essentially, the federal Centre recognised the right of the separatists (an armed minority of the people) to be the only mouthpiece for the Chechen national idea. The Kremlin actually repudiated the larger part of Chechen society loyal to Russia. Meanwhile, it is only that modernised part of the population that can reject the policy of confrontation with Russia and present an alternative to armed separatism and attempts to impose Islamic fundamentalism on Chechnya, Gakayev believes.
According to Gakayev, the Kremlin's Chechen policy had one more inherent flaw from the outset. It bent to the pressures of the political situation and sought to resolve the immediate problems of the ruling elite to the detriment of the long-term strategic national interests of Russia. The formula of dealing with the Chechen conflict changed depending on the domestic political situation in Russia, clan and group interests of the oligarchic regime of authority. As a result the situation became an impasse, and the process was left to itself. The Afghanisation of Chechnya became a reality.
Gakayev points out that modern Chechnya ran into a most complicated culturology problem. Over the past eight years, a whole generation (in some estimates, 150-200 thousand) grew up in Chechnya without receiving a proper education and knowing only how to fight and rob. Unable to engage in useful work, it may become, or may have become, a social base for the advocates of war and violence not only in the Chechen Republic but also beyond its borders. High birth rates combined with declining living standards in Chechnya create a problem for society's quality. The unresolved culturology problems made Chechnya an ideal testing range for the technology of managed conflicts. The Chechens who suffered the most from tsarism and Stalinism during the past century in their bid to achieve freedom and independence again fell victim to an unproductive regime, which is national in form and anti-popular in essence. The marginal Chechens leapt from a state of slavery into a state of "complete freedom" and criminal sway.
Because of the pseudo-nationalists, Chechnya and its people became a small token in the struggle between the world powers over the re-distribution of spheres of influence and resources of the Caucasus. Certain forces both in the West and in the Islamic world are banking on Russia's disintegration, and the North Caucasus has been assigned the role of a detonator in this process. Chechnya and Daghestan are gradually being turned into a bridgehead for achieving the geopolitical objectives of the USA, Turkey and a number of other states of Europe and the Middle East. Anti-Russian political organisations seeking to geopolitically re-orient the Caucasus and its resources to new centres of power are being generously financed.
According to Gakayev, particularly dangerous in this regard is the Wahhabi movement, which recently proliferated on a wide scale in Chechnya and Daghestan. Wahhabis do not recognise nations, reject the forms and norms of popular Islam traditional for the Moslems of the North Caucasus, and sow seeds of discord, intolerance and enmity among the believers, trying to widen the generation gap and undermine the traditional foundations of life and culture of the mountain peoples. This gives rise to an intra-Moslem and inter-confessional rift. Wahhabism has become an instrument of political struggle, an ideology of national radicalism and separatism. Its advocates are receiving powerful financial support from foreign centres conducting subversive operations against Russia. Professor Gakayev specifically indicates that at issue is not the content of the ideas of Wahhabism. He believes that moral depuration of Islam and the return to its original sources is an excellent idea in itself. At issue is the level of culture of the social environment, the political and religious elite, which exploits this idea and tries to implement it replacing the objective with means, which are unsuited for its attainment. The tragic experience of our peoples graphically shows that the most humane social, national or religious idea may be distorted beyond recognition, turning into something entirely opposite if it falls into an unprepared environment and if ignorant and selfish people make it their business to implement that idea, Gakayev writes. We must remember that all ideologies, which served the building of an earthly paradise built hell instead.
The role of Islam as an important factor in the political life of Chechnya, the Caucasus and Russia is the subject of many press articles. One of the most recent ones is "Extremists Vs. Traditionalists. Islamic Factor in Modern Chechnya and Its Foreign Sponsors" by Ramazan Jabarov, Cand. Sc. (Law) (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 20, 1999).
Jabarov indicates that the Chechens have always been traditionalists in their attitude to Islam often giving preference to adat (customary law) which has deeper historical roots. The branch of Islam, which came to the Caucasus in the form of Sufism, unsuccessfully tried to compete with adat for a long time. Eventually, Sufism had to agree on a compromise, "sanctify" adats and get adjusted to the local conditions. Later, in the 19th century, all attempts by Imam Shamil to liquidate the institution of adats ran up against fierce resistance, including armed opposition, from many Chechen communities. In the 19th century, the struggle for "pure Islam" was virtually lost and Chechen society remained under the rule of traditional institutions without outbursts of religious extremism or clericalism.
The situation radically changed in the late 1980s. Social-political processes in society had an impact on the religious situation not only in Chechnya but in Russia as a whole. Having abolished councils for religious affairs, the state actually forwent the legal regulation of the arrangement where the church was separated from the state.
Jabarov points out that "perestroika" of religious life coincided in time with the opening of the Saudi embassy in Moscow. The emergence of an official Saudi mission in Russia introduced adjustments to the tactics of foreign Islamic organisations and centres. Financed by the World Islamic League (WIL) (Saudi Arabia), the Islamic organisations stepped up their efforts on the territory of Russia and the CIS countries. Through the section for Islamic affairs of the embassy, links were restored with representatives of the Moslem clergy in Russia who were of importance to the foreign centres, and the necessary conditions were created for promoting them to religious leaders in some or other republics.
Having established a "base of backers" among the local ecclesiastics, the embassy began to enlist various Saudi funds and organisations to work in Russia. By 1993 offices in Moscow and other cities had been opened by the Ibrahim-ben-Ibrahim Fund, Akhmed al-Daghestani, the Organisation of Islamic Solidarity, the King Fahd Madrasah, the Shamil Society, etc. It is these organisations managed and funded by the WIL through the department of Moslem minorities, which were to establish parallel Islamic structures and the Islamic opposition in order to affirm Saudi influence in the Caucasus and in Russia. Every means was used to that end: tens of millions of copies of the Koran and other religious literature prohibited for publication in this country were brought and distributed freely, individual ecclesiastics were bribed, various contracts to build mosques and cultural Islamic centres were signed, free pilgrimages and training programmemes abroad were organised, etc.
In the meantime, Islamic organisations of Turkey, which did not make any secret about their support for the "Moslem movement in the Caucasus", also intensified their activities in the region.
Aware that the official clergy had virtually no influence on the Moslems in Russia, foreign Islamic organisations encouraged the establishment of the Islamic Cultural Centre, the Supreme Coordinating Centre, the Islamic Congress, etc., with offices in the regions. According to Jabarov, those entities were assigned the following tasks:
- to cause a rift among the official Moslem communities and exacerbate ethnic differences in the regions traditionally populated by the followers of Islam to "activate ethnic separatism";
- to conduct anti-social and extremist actions against the official clergy and government institutions;
- to provide information support for the embassy's "Moslem section";
- to create conditions for befriending government officials and deputies from among Moslems;
- to select and study potential candidates for training in Saudi Arabia and other foreign training institutions, etc.
Jabarov emphasises that in 1992-1994 Saudi organisations acting through the entities they had established began to open a whole network of clandestine paramilitary camps allegedly for studying the fundamentals of the Moslem religion in Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachai-Circassia, Bashkiria and Daghestan. In fact, the camps were used to offer rigorous ideological and military training to young people, "future defenders of Islam". The importance attached to such camps in Chechnya is revealed by the following quote from a document: "Developing the young physically and having the nature of military organisations, they (the camps - R.J.) can fill in the void that we have in our movement for the liberation of the motherland. The youth educated in the nationalist and Islamic spirit may become the backbone of steel which will be the foundation of the future national army". Under the guidance of foreign missionaries and instructors, those camps shortly turned into centres for training Islamic militants.
According to the author of the article, Dudayev's coming to power in Chechnya introduced major changes to the republic's religious life. Aware that the traditional institutions of Vainakh society did not recognise the legitimacy of their regime, the new leaders of Chechnya decided to use Islam as a means of asserting their power. Without any democratic traditions of organising Chechen society in their political arsenal, Dudayev, Yandarbiyev and their supporters engaged in political flirtation with individual leaders of Sufi communities of the Qadiriyah tarikat. At Yandarbiyev's initiative, a programme for using the tamed leaders of Sufi fellowships in a political struggle against opponents was developed. Riotous rallies which lasted for months on end and were accompanied by the performance of the ritual prayer, or dhikr, congresses of individual Chechen teips, engineering of conflicts between religious groups of various schools eventually split society into two "republics", two hostile camps, and led to bloodshed in the summer of 1994. Yandarbiyev formed from among individual religious "functionaries" and the so-called Sufi elders an "ideological nucleus" whose main objective was to consecrate Dudayev's power. Religious hypocrites declared the President of Chechnya to be the "mahdi" (messiah) who was to take the Chechen people to national independence from the "kaffirs" (infidels) in the person of Russia. (Indicatively "witnesses" of Dudayev's descent from the heavens soon appeared in the republic.) After the first mass rallies, the organisers of gatherings announced that pro-Islamic political parties had been established. Religious radicals were summoned from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Daghestan, and the establishment of a "Caucasus emirate" headed by a vizier was announced. Religious organisations of the official Moslem clergy were accused of collaboration with the secret services and disbanded.
Chechnya's political life was increasingly influenced by the newly established radical Islamic organisations, such as the Moslem Brothers, Jamaat Islami, Islamic Youth and others, Jabarov writes. Their leaders maintaining contacts with similar Saudi, Pakistani and Lebanese organisations under slogans of Islamic solidarity began to receive from them financial and other material support. Representatives of such organisations acting through their overseas patrons organised Dudayev's pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in 1992. On his return, the president of the republic began to actively voice the idea of the Islamisation of Chechnya. Shortly afterwards, a congress of Moslems held in Grozny outlined the programme for the future - "building a non-ethnic Islamic state". The policy directives of the congress dovetailed well with the doctrine of Wahhabism, which began to gain momentum in the region in the early 1990s. Therefore, Jabarov believes, all the necessary pre-requisites for a new mass "invasion" by Wahhabism preachers had been put in place in Chechnya by the end of 1992. They did not take long in coming. It is unlikely that the leaders of Chechnya realised when they began their flirtation with the Islamic radicals what a dangerous game they had begun, the author of the article believes.
Indicatively, the first preacher of Wahhabism in Chechnya in the early 1990s was Fathi, a US national of Jordanian descent who had fought in the Afghan war against the Soviet troops. He offered instruction in the new teaching luring the young into his circles not only by religious appeals but also by giving them material incentives. Many of his students later became commanders of the so-called Shariah battalions and regiments. After they received their ideological drill, they were put under the command of the known militant Khattab whose military bases provided training in the art of intelligence and subversion. Some of the graduates were sent to Afghanistan and Pakistan for continued training.
The Chechen Wahhabis did not have a specifically formulated political programme on the eve of the hostilities of 1994-1996. During the military conflict, there was a "coalescence of interests" with the traditionalists (followers of Sufism) in the struggle against the common enemy. What's more, the leadership of Chechnya fighting a war against Russia was interested in financial injections from the Wahhabis and their patrons, Jabarov writes. That, in its turn, met the interests of the foreign Islamic organisations. Dudayev's regime received assistance through international Islamic organisations, including the WIL, the World Islamic Congress, Jamaat-at-Tablig, the International League of Moslem Youth, the Islamic Centre of Japan and others. Thus, the necessary conditions were being created for strengthening the positions of the Wahhabis in Chechnya and other North Caucasus regions.
Relations between the Wahhabis and the Sufi fraternities changed abruptly upon the conclusion of the hostilities. According to Jabarov, the main differences are rooted in the differing approaches to the set-up of the post-war Chechnya. The Wahhabis are proponents of the continued "holy war" concept and the establishment by force of arms of a "just Islamic order" which allegedly existed during the Arab caliphate. The Wahhabi leaders believe that there is a real threat of a new war in the North Caucasus, which prods the Moslem peoples to be permanently prepared to repel aggression and fight military for their national rights. In one of his reports to his overseas patrons, Khattab wrote the following: "Islam today means struggle. Struggle between governments and peoples. The Moslems want to move in one direction, whereas their governments want to proceed in a different direction. Such incessant struggle is going on in all of the Moslem republics of the former USSR without exception. In the Caucasus occupied by Moscow, a continuous struggle is on against the Russian presence. We must make the best of Moscow's Russification policy conducted in a new form not only to achieve the actual recognition of an independent Chechnya but also to instigate ethnic separatism in the Russian Federation".
According to Jabarov, affirmations that Khattab is a preacher of Islamic fundamentalism do not hold water. Khattab is not a theological theoretician, although to some extent he seeks to preserve the image of a "preacher of pure Islam" and has declared war on Sufism, the traditional belief of the Chechens, "as a teaching destroying the Islamic concept of God and producing a corruptive effect on the Moslems" which should be completely banned and eradicated. Khattab is a common terrorist who cares not about the Islamic slogans but rather about how they are paid for. Jabarov believes that Khattab is a rather pragmatic person. For him, war is a way of making money. Who pays the money and for what slogans does not matter. In Northern Iraq, his services were paid for by the CIA, while in Afghanistan and Chechnya he was on the payroll of both the CIA and Saudi Arabia. Here is another important fact which characterises Khattab as a religious hypocrite. He is better known in Chechnya and abroad as an active Muridi of the Sufi order of al-Qadiriyah headed by sheikh al-Kasnazani, an Iraqi Kurd. This is a new peculiar phenomenon in contemporary Islam which advocates eclecticism, or a mixture of Hinduism, Yoga, and Sufi ritual dances to the accompaniment of songs and music. There are followers of this order among Russia's Moslems, too. In Moscow, the so-called Adamalla movement is patronised by various agencies. Its leader, a certain caliph Adam, poses as a representative of the said order in the former Soviet Union and claims secular and spiritual power in Chechnya. In Chechnya, he is known to be a mentally sick person who believes himself to be a saint. Back in the early 1990s, he was obsessed with the harebrained ideas of moving the Moslem shrine of Ka'bah from Saudi Arabia to Chechnya and establishing an organisation to fight Sufism in the Caucasus. The attempts by the "Chechen caliph" to receive his education in Iraq failed. The administration of the "Saddam" university expelled him during the first year as a result of his poor academic performance and disrespect for student ethics. He was initiated as a member of the sheikh Kasnazani's al-Qadiyriah order and received a photocopy of a membership certificate at the initiative of the local students.
As to the official Moslem clergy, they do not support the aggressiveness of the Wahhabis and uphold the peaceful principles of Islam.
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