Kadyrov welcomes Slavic Russian nationalists in Chechnya

Nationalists say they want the same “perfect state” in the rest of Russia as the one built in Chechnya (RIA Novosti / Ilya Pitalev)
Nationalist movement leaders have visited the North Caucasus republic on the invitation of the Chechen leadership.

­The Chechen government has arranged a tour of the republic for several bloggers and leaders of banned movements, including the Slavic Union and the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI).

“The idea was first floated back in 2007, when we began to notice that aggression towards the Chechens was growing,”
Lechi Garsaev, the Chechen government’s Deputy Minister on External Relations, Interethnic Policy, and Information, told Gazeta.ru.

He noted that it had become absolutely clear the idea must be realized after the riots on Moscow’s Manezhnaya Square in December of last year.  The riots were sparked when Russian nationalists and football fans filled the square to protest the killing of Egor Sviridov, 28, who was shot dead in a brawl between Slavic Russians and a group of men from the North Caucasus in Moscow. The trial of the alleged murderers started several days ago.

In February of this year, the Chechen authorities joined forces with the Institute of Innovation and Development to organize a round table discussion. It was reportedly attended by Chechen representatives and Slavic nationalist leaders, including Viktor Militarev of the Russian Public Movement (ROD) and Aleksandr Belov, a founder of DPNI. Representatives of the Russia Citizens’ Union, which later started a campaign called “Stop feeding the Caucasus”, also attended the event.   

After the meeting, authorities from the North Caucasus republic started fulfilling a plan to “reconcile the Chechens and ethnic Russians.” They invited nationalists and bloggers with “moderate nationalistic views” to the republic so that they could see “how people live.” They all were supposed to take part in a public discussion, but it never took place.

Nevertheless, Dmitry Demushkin, a former leader of the banned Slavic Union, and Belov arrived in Chechnya last week. Both of them now head the unregistered Russkiye (Slavic Russians) movement. Vladimir Maksimov, another former member of the Slavic Union, also reportedly visited Chechnya. Demushkin said someone from the Chechen Ministry of Information had called him and asked if he was afraid to visit the republic. After such an invitation, the nationalists had to embark on a tour of the North Caucasus. “I can say anything there that I say here,” Gazeta.ru quoted him as saying.

In Chechnya, Demushkin and Maksimov were wearing T-shirts with the inscription “I’m a Slavic Russian.” During the course of the week, they toured the whole of Chechnya and held meetings with officials. They met with the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and asked him about everything, including “the oppression of ethnic Russians, genocide, war and the reconstruction of the republic.”

After the meeting with Kadyrov and the trip, the nationalists said that they wanted the same “perfect state” in the rest of Russia as the one built in Chechnya. Belov noted that many Chechens are stronger nationalists than himself.

The leaders of the Slavic Russian nationalist groups said they had learned a lot of new things about Chechnya, but stressed that no new positive feelings had been engendered. In particular, the issue of “the genocide perpetuated against Slavic Russians remains unanswered.”

Representatives of the Institute of Innovation and Development were disappointed by the tour because they wanted at least 20 people from nationalist groups to take part in it. But the Chechen authorities say they will keep inviting such people to visit their republic. Other republics of the North Caucasus may follow Chechnya’s example and also welcome Slavic Russian nationalists.

But analysts are still skeptical about the trip’s possible effects. And some leaders of other nationalist groups have already blasted the move undertaken by their peers.

On the other hand, the Chechen authorities have also demonstrated that they would not seek a compromise with every politician who criticizes them. In January, they accused Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, of inciting “interethnic hatred.” He had said the people in the North Caucasus pay less tax and get more subsidies from the federal center than the other Russian regions. He also stressed the need to protect ethnic Russians.