Amongst world leaders one name seems to be more closely associated with combat sports than any other, that is Ramzan Kadyrov. Whether it is having his children competing in full contact MMA matches, his own MMA fight club Akhmat Fight Club, or hosting and sponsoring international fighters such as Mike Tyson, Badr Hari, Fabricio Werdum etc. his name has come to be in media headlines for combat sports as often as most fighters.
As Ramzan’s infamy has grown so has condemnation of Ramzan himself and those who associate with him.
When we read of Ramzan we are consistently reminded of his intolerance, reminded of death squads, and the torturing of homosexuals.
Comments which he has made many of which likely hyperbole such as challenging the UFC to face off against Akhmat Fight Club in “fights to the death” end up being presented as the literal challenges of a maniac.
There is rarely a mention that Ramzan is only the leader of an autonomous region, not an actual country. He is only allowed to lead Chechnya as long as the Russians allow him to lead Chechnya.
Prior to Ramzan’s political faction, which was previously lead by his father, being given control of Chechnya, the region had spent the previous ten years in a bloody war against Russia, wars which cost up to hundreds of thousands of lives. Casualties which are not too different than those in Syria now.
Even if we go beyond the Chechen wars in the 1990’s, and consider that Chechens have been fighting for independence since their country was first occupied in the late 1700’s, the cumulative death toll from the beginning of Chechen resistance would number in the millions, and also resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.
The Kadyrov faction was able to largely bring peace to Chechnya by allying and pledging allegiance to Russia while not sacrificing the Chechen identity.
Many of the qualities Ramzan publicly displays such as his shows of machoism and social conservatism are part of the Chechen culture.
When we view Ramzan we need to do so by putting everything in context. He has the characteristics that a leader would need to have control of Chechen society, considering the current circumstances and culture of the society. We cannot compare him to leaders in countries or regions with established social and security controls. Those controls do not yet exist in Chechnya, in the same sense they do not exist in Afghanistan.
By having control and appealing to the Chechen identity Ramzan has been able to increase economic growth as stated in the Carnegie Moscow Center “As for Chechnya’s economic outlook, the sustainability of the Chechen miracle was entirely contingent on Kadyrov’s ability to deliver. The initial benefits were obvious: repaired roads, the absence of checkpoints, nights free of fighting. These were followed by the construction of schools, daycare centers, parks, and stadiums. An entire generation of Chechens proudly adorned themselves in Kadyrov T-shirts.”
From the same article they wrote about his appeal to the Chechen identity “The greatest innovation in Kadyrov’s leadership model was the incorporation of Chechen nationalism into the system of national patriotism advocating Russia as a great power.”
Does that excuse his actions? No it does not. However, expectations of gay rights and increased political freedoms do not fairly represent the current situation and really current need of Chechen society.
Integration and modernization of Chechen trade will likely lead to social and cultural changes. Ostracizing and isolating the Chechen government will only lead to resentment and strengthen resistance to the outside world.
Russia made peace with Chechnya by allowing the society to have greater autonomy and keep it’s ethnic identity, which has resulted primarily in peace and progress. Perhaps if the rest of the world can engage Chechnya in much the same way there can be further peace and progress.
Bai Ali Shaipov Khabib Time“Do not let your difficulties fill you with anxiety, after all it is only in the darkest nights that stars shine more brightly.”
Ali Ibn Taleb