Published June 8, 2011
A decade ago, Russian federal forces were at war with separatists in the internal republic of Chechnya. Grozny, the capital, was battered by artillery strikes and aerial bombing. Today the republic is undergoing a renaissance. Much of Grozny has been built anew. The rebels long ago retreated from the city and their guerrilla war from safe-houses and mountain hide-outs has dwindled.
Yet this semblance of peace has been achieved at a cost. Militia loyal to Chechnya’s Moscow-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, are frequently accused of torturing and kidnapping suspected rebels or their relatives. And the 34-year-old Kadyrov has fostered a personality cult that sees his face beaming from countless billboards, and dominating TV news bulletins.
Critics say the impulsive young leader runs Chechnya like his own personal khanate and is encouraging a moral conservatism that oppresses women and contradicts Russian law.