The bromance of the Caucasus that unites Kadyrov and Putin is something you cannot miss when strolling around the streets of Chechen towns. It is the visible part of a strong political effort to create a national sentiment, in the context of the post-war reconstruction of Chechnya.
This national sentiment is very much centred around Islam. It is no coincidence that the first building that the government erected in the then war-destroyed capital Grozny, was a great mosque.
And it is no coincidence that this great mosque bears the name of the previous leader Akhmad Kadyrov, and was opened during a ceremony that Putin attended.
A very impressive and beautiful mosque, now in the middle of a super modern district with skyscrapers, gardens, and a few cafes and restaurants.
The war feels it happened ages ago, and there are no remaining traces of it (unlike in some other parts of Caucasus such as Abkhazia)
And as this great mosque’s prioritisation for the post-war reconstruction manifests, Islam is a serious matter in Chechnya. Almost all men have beards (our host Alik was one of the few who don’t), almost all women wear hejab (albeit sometimes with high heels and make up; but it’s still modest clothing), there is no alcohol available, and the 5 daily prayers are observed by everyone.
All of that sponsored by the government and with the benevolence of the Russian Federation as partner; and with a strong personality cult for Akhmad Kadyrov, because what better way to contain religious fundamentalism than creating a competitive passion for another hero than God?
The personality cult is very similar to what’s observable in Astana. Portraits, quotes everywhere, newly built and enormously pompous museums and monuments to his glory.
24 hours for Chechnya was a bit short; next time I’ll stay longer!