Is a Monument to Chechen Women an Affront to Russia?

Dedication of the Dadi-Yurt memorial. YouTube screenshot.

Dedication of the Dadi-Yurt memorial. YouTube screenshot.

Last Saturday, September 14, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov dedicated a monument to a group of Chechen women who had died when Russia was establishing control over the North Caucasus in the 19th century. According to the story, which some say is apocryphal, in 1819 forty-six Chechen women taken prisoner by Russian General Yermolov threw themselves and their captors off a bridge over the Terek River, choosing to drown rather than face dishonor.

Kadyrov posted a series of photos of the monument’s dedication ceremony on his Instagram account, writing [ru]:

Ахмед Кадыров заявил, что там, где не уважают женщин, не берегут их честь, не вырастают достойные мужчины.

Akhmed Kadyrov [Ramzan's father] said, that where they do not respect women, where they do not protect their honor, they do not raise decent men.

Kadyrov’s move caused an outcry in the Russian blogosphere — many bloggers saw it as tacit approval of the killing of Russian soldiers, something that hits close to home a mere decade after the end of the last Chechen conflict.

LiveJournal user DimkaJD complained [ru]:

Учитывая, что Чечня — дотационная республика, этот памятник построен на российские деньги.

Given that Chechnya is a subsidized republic, this monument was built with Russian money.

Another blogger, Stbcaptain, predicted morosely [ru]:

Не удивлюсь, если власть проглотит эту оплеуху безмолвно и безропотно.

I will not be surprised if the [federal] government will swallow this slap in the face silently and without complaint.

Another made reference to recent violence between ethnic Russians and Chechens:

На самом деле, это очень плохо.

Намного хуже, чем драки с участием ножиков.

Гораздо хуже, чем дотации центра, больше похожие сами знаете, на что.

Неизмеримо хуже, чем красивая мечеть, накрученная аж до ранга “Символа России”.

Собственно, это декларация политического видения, в рамках которого Россия из foederātiō явочным порядком превращена в в сommonwealth.

Really, this is very bad.

Much worse than knife fights.

Much worse than federal subsidies, which seem more like you know what [note: probably “tribute”].

Much worse than the beautiful mosque, which was forced to become a “Symbol of Russia”.

Actually, this is a declaration of a political vision, in the framework of which Russia has been turned from a federation into a commonwealth by fiat.

On the Ekho of Moscow website, social activist and prison rights advocate Anna Karetnikova wrote an op-ed wondering why Kadyrov had erected a monument to women-martyrs, and argued [ru] that the story Kadyrov was memorializing ran counter to traditional views of Chechen womanhood:

Женщина – то, что вы всегда более всего оберегали столетиями. Это то, что я ценю превыше всего в вашей культуре. И что теперь? Не женщина-мать, не женщина – хранительница очага. Убившая себя и других женщина.

Women are what you have guarded most of all for centuries. This is something that I value above all else in your culture.  And now what?  Not a woman-mother, not woman-homemaker. But one who killed herself and others.

Valery Fedotov, a Russian MP, titled his blog post [ru] on the subject: “Again a different standard for Chechnya.”  He cited several other incidents in the past few months where Chechens seemed to be judged by different standards than other Russian citizens.  Fedotov concluded:

Чечня является частью РФ всего лишь номинально. Но на это готовы закрывать глаза до тех пор, пока Кадыров демонстрирует номинальную же лояльность Москве, точнее – лично Путину. А что будет потом, лет через десять-двадцать – об этом вообще стараются не говорить. Меж тем, часики тикают, противоречия накапливаются.

Chechnya is only nominally a part of the Russian Federation. But [the Kremlin] is willing to turn a blind eye as long as Kadyrov demonstrates the same nominal loyalty to Moscow, or to be exact — to Putin personally. But what will happen later, 10 or 20 years from now – nobody wants to talk about this. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, the contradictions are accumulating.

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