Month: June 2007

Chechen singer shot in Grozny

Via Prague Watchdog [my tr.]:

GROZNY, Chechnya, June 29 (Ruslan Isayev) – In a shooting incident in the Chechen capital the well-known Chechen singer Milana Balayeva has been seriously wounded, and her mother has been killed. The tragedy took place late at night at an apartment block on the recently rebuilt Mozdokskaya Street, 100 metres from Grozny’s government buildings .

Several men broke into the apartment in which the singer Milana Balaeva lived with her 41-year-old mother. Both women were shot at point-blank range with Makarov pistols. 10 cartridge cases were found at the site.

The mother died on the spot, and her daughter Milana was taken to City Hospital No. 9 with serious wounds to the face and abdomen. The doctors there assess her condition as critical. Later on Russian soldiers came to the hospital and probably took her to a military hospital.

The reasons for the shooting of the two women are not known, but law enforcement agencies say that preliminary reports suggest there may have been a dispute about the apartment in which the two women lived.

Sublimating the past

At Prague Watchdog, Dr Dmitry Shlapentokh takes a look at the recent ethnic violence in Stavropol, where ethnic Russians and Chechen migrants fought one another in a mass brawl reminiscent of the scenes at Kondopoga in September 2006. He reveals that to many Russians, the present government of Mr. Putin is seen as actually supporting ethnic minorities at the expense of the native Russian population. And he notes the following:

The presence of tension is also indirectly indicated by Putin’s extreme reluctance to discuss revolutions, even those in the past, such as the February and October (Bolshevik) Revolutions of 1917, which took place exactly 90 years ago. While there are some structural similarities between the revolutions of the past and the present tension, they are separated by one clear difference. Today, much more so than in the past, the social conflicts are sublimated in ethnic conflicts.

It is this fear and dislike of people from the Caucasus, especially Chechens, that has contributed enormously to the general xenophobic thrust of Russian society. One of my old friends from Moscow stated that hatred of people of Caucasian nationality and of Jews has spread. And, indeed, this ethnic animosity has replaced the sense of social hatred that was so strong at the time of the Russian revolutions of 1905-1921; to be precise, the social animosity has been sublimated in ethnic animosity.

My conversation with a young Russian woman on one of my recent trips to Russia could illustrate this point. While travelling, we observed through the train window the nearby villages; and she commented on the houses we passed, saying that some are good and some are bad. In order to check her sense of social animosity, I replied, “Capitalist landlord and poor peasants.” She snapped angrily, “I don’t like to divide people along social lines.”

The statement of my casual interlocutor should, of course, should be taken with a grain of salt. It simply means that social divisions have been transformed in the minds of many Russians into ethnic divisions while minorities – including Chechens but not only Chechens – are affiliated with the elite, whereas Russians are implicitly seen as the representatives of the lower class.

The involvement in crime of Chechens and other people from the Caucasus is seen in a sort of twisted way as an additional manifestation of oppression/harassment of ethnic Russians by those minorities and the government/elite on their side. It is not surprising that this feeling of animosity is spreading not just against the “people of Caucasian nationality” but also against the government.

Read it all.



From late July to late August this year, Daimohk, a children’s dance group based in Grozny and trained by the former first dancer of the Chechen national theatre, will be visiting the US for their first ever tour there. The tour will take them to Boston, New York, New Jersey, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, OR. As a non-profit undertaking, all proceeds will be used to cover expenses incurred or to rebuild Daimohk’s Grozny theatre, which was bombed and looted ruing the second war. The organizers are looking for partners and sponsors at the locations above (advertising opportunities are available), as well as volunteers to welcome the children, help out at performances and promote the tour. For more details see the CAN website.

Bush and Ilves on cybercrime

Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, in the United States for an official visit and discussions with President Bush at the weekend,  found common ground with the U.S. leader on what proved to be a key issue — the recent hacker attacks on Estonia’s government computer systems. Most of the attacks are thought to have originated in the Russian Federation, and to have been launched with at least tacit Russian government support. From the USINFO report:

“Cyber attack makes us all vulnerable,” Bush said in joint remarks at the White House following their meeting June 25.  “I really want to thank you for your leadership, and thank you for your clear understanding of the dangers that that imposes not only on your country, but mine and others as well.”

Ilves thanked the United States for standing by his country‘s quest for independence “even in the darkest of times.”

In the 15 years since regaining its freedom from Soviet occupation, Estonia has built a robust economy with a renowned information technology industry.  A majority of its citizens have access to the Internet, where banking, voting and many government services are readily available, leading to a new nickname for the country — “e-Stonia.” 

“Estonia is a thriving example of how freedom has transformed the nations of Central and Eastern Europe,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters June 25.

In April, government and commercial servers were hit with a series of attacks by hackers, which Estonian authorities linked to a dispute with neighboring Russia over the recent relocation of a Soviet war memorial from the World War II era in the capital, Tallinn.  Moscow firmly has denied any involvement in the incident. 

“It is a serious issue if your most important computer systems go down in a country like mine, where 97 percent of bank transactions are done on the Internet,” Ilves said.  “When you are a highly Interneted country like we are, then these kinds of attacks can do very serious damage.” 

A NATO member since 2004, Estonia received support from computer security experts from the 26-nation alliance who, along with experts from Estonia’s Scandinavian neighbors, helped to contain the hackers.

Ilves proposed establishing a NATO cybersecurity research center in Estonia to build on his country’s experience and help member states safeguard their own computers from future attacks.

Fox and Hedgehog

Edward Lucas, commenting on the dullness and near-anonymity of many of Eastern Europe’s political leaders, notes that

Post-communist leaders were once big, internationally known figures. Lech Walesa of Poland and the Czech Republic’s Vaclav Havel remain world famous. Poland’s Aleksander Kwasniewski was widely admired abroad for his diplomatic skills. Reformist politicians such as Estonia’s Mart Laar, Russia’s Yegor Gaidar and Slovakia’s Mikulas Dzurinda wowed the policy wonks with their zealous embrace of flat taxes and free-marketry.

Now things are different. Only two leaders really stand out: the presidents of Russia and Estonia. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has many critics, but when he speaks, people listen. Estonia’s president, the Swedish-born and American-educated Toomas Hendrik Ilves, now speaks up for all the Kremlin’s former European satellites. The brainy Mr Ilves is the only senior politician in the region with real experience of Brussels (he was once a member of the European Parliament) and Washington, DC. He has the ear of George Bush: both are keen farmers (although on rather different scales), and both like the same make of Stihl brush-cutter.

Hat tip: Leopoldo

Prior knowledge


On June 19, the (Truth about Beslan) website published copies of faxes written in August 2004 by officials of the North Ossetian interior ministry. These show that the local authorities were aware of preparations for a major terrorist attack involving the movement of convoys of vehicles, and targeting a public building, most probably a school, on “Knowledge Day” (September 1, the day when the new school year begins in Russia). The documents even made reference to the specific demands that the hostage-takers would advance.

One example [my tr.]:

Information has been received concerning the movement of members of illegal armed formations from the plains of the Chechen Republic into an area of mountain and forest on the border between the Republic of Ingushetia and the Republic of North Ossetia. The gathering of fighters is projected for mid-August this year, after which there are plans to carry out a terrorist action on the “Budyonnovsk scenario” on the territory of the Republic of North Ossetia. According to the information received, the fighters are planning to seize a public building with hostages, and then advance demands to the country’s leadership concerning the withdrawal of units of the federal forces from the Chechen Republic. A large sum of money in Western currency is said to have come from Turkey to finance the action.

Chechen Society Today

From Prague Watchdog, my summary of the contents of the latest issue of  the Russian-language monthly magazine Chechenskoye obshchestvo segodnya (Chechen Society Today):

Continuing a varied analysis of life in Chechnya today, the fourth issue of the magazine this year considers recent events and developments which have affected ordinary Chechens both inside the republic and abroad. In particular, there’s a focus on recent disturbing events in Moscow which involved the targeting by police and special services of young civilian Chechen males. This apparent campaign of persecution by the Russian authorities sits uneasily with federal claims that the war is “over”, with Grozny’s intensive programme of reconstruction and prestigious large-scale building projects, and with President Kadyrov’s assertion that “by 2008 there will be no traces of the war left in Grozny”.

An important feature in this new issue is Tatyana Gantimurova’s interview with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. From it, Kadyrov emerges as something of a split personality. On the one hand, he expresses apparently sincere concern and regret about humanitarian issues like the poisoning of Chechen children by the ecological disasters that the wars have caused. But on the other, he shows an almost total support for and identification with the policies of President Putin, whom he credits for having “stopped the war” – to the point where he can say: “If Putin says the word, I will carry out any of his commands. If you like, I am Russia’s most committed patriot.”

Three linked reports explore the workings of the disinformation and rumour mills that seek to blame Chechens abroad for many of Russia’s problems. Khamzat Saidov discusses an organization that is designed to counter such propaganda. Calling itself the Association of Chechen Public and Cultural Organizations, the body tries to function as a safety-valve in situations of provocation and conflict, giving Chechens a lifeline to which they can turn when threatened. With the recent arrest of two Chechen students in Moscow in mind, Said-Khamzat Gerikhanov interviews the Association’s chairman, Musa Dzhabrailov, who gives a panoramic view of the lies, myths and prejudices that sit at the root of the characterization, deeply embedded in the Russian psyche, of Chechens as “terrorists”, and the associated idea of a “Chechen underground”. He also shows how these psychological factors influence the unfolding of events – in the clashes with skinheads, in the student fights in Moscow and elsewhere, and in the distortions of these incidents that were published by Russian media. Finally, a Caucasian Knot report focuses on the mass fighting that broke out on May 24 between Chechen migrants and local skinheads, and links it with the events at Kondopoga. The report’s author believes that someone is provoking such conflicts in order to sustain a negative image of Chechens, even though the war is over, and that Russian security services may be involved in this.

The remainder of the issue contains articles on Chechen culture, history, politics and society. An interview with a Chechen veteran of World War 2 whose son was recently abducted by Russian-backed security forces is juxtaposed with a conversation with folk singer and musician Ramzan Paskayev. A section on contemporary Chechen writers features German Sadulayev, who was recently selected as one of 15 authors invited to meet President Putin, discusses his life and career; Zareta Osmayeva examines a new collection of poems by Roza Takhigova, with background supplied by the poet herself; and there’s an excerpt from the historical novel by Kanta Ibragimov, which was highlighted, along with its author, in the magazine’s previous issue. Archaeologist Rezeda Dautova reviews a new book on Chechen history, and there’s a feature on a group of Chechen children who are going to spend the summer in the United States as guests of the World Life Institute. There are continuations of Edilbek Matsiyev’s historical study of the Sharo-Argun area, and of Indar Byzov’s exploration of the history of the Vainakh migration. At the back, in the sports pages, Khamzat Saidov takes a look at the Daymohk football team and its participation in the fourth international football championships in Moscow.

Visit this page to see and download the issue.


As some will have noticed, posting to this blog has come to a temporary halt. I’m moving house. Normal service will resume as soon as I get a new dsl connection, which hopefully should be fairly soon.

Update: though I don’t yet have a dsl connection (or even a landline phone) at my new address, I do have a Nokia, so am going to use that as a modem for the time being.