Frankenstein in Grozny: vertical and horizontal cracks in the foundation of Kadyrov’s rule
Many scholars have suggested that organized violence in Chechnya has ended, and that Russia’s Chechenization policy and Ramzan Kadyrov’s presidency deserve the credit. We suggest that Putin has created a Frankenstein-like ruler over whom he risks losing control. As a result, the conflict only appears resolved, and we draw attention to both vertical and horizontal cracks in the foundation of Kadyrov’s rule that could lead to renewed violence. Vertically, the Chechen strongman and his growing clout in regional and federal politics have antagonized Russian siloviki. Horizontally, thousands of Chechens appear to be in a state of postponed blood feud toward Kadyrov, his clan, and the kadyrovtsy, his personal army. Backed by President Putin’s personal support, Kadyrov has put in motion a brutal machine of persecution over which some signs indicate he has lost control. Fear of extermination at the hands of the Kadyrov and his personal army has kept most prospective avengers at a bay. Once President Putin’s support wanes, locals will retaliate against Kadyrov and against Russian troops stationed in the republic, and Russian law enforcement circles will openly challenge Kadyrov’s rule. Putin’s support is only likely to wither if the costs of continued support (which grow with Kadyrov’s increasing independence) exceed the benefits (derived from an enforced peace). Either a renewed insurgency or ever more recalcitrant behavior would demonstrate a level of interest misalignment that could induce Putin to withdraw his support. Such a turn of events would render these horizontal and vertical cracks in the foundation of Kadyrov’s rule more noticeable and would likely to cause the frozen conflict in Chechnya to thaw, leading to a new civil war.