Speaking about kidnapping
By Albert Digaev
Everyone has heard about the extension of kidnappings in Chechnya and in the entire northeastern Caucasus. Where did it come from and why did it spread with such speed in the Caucasus? Everyone who has visited the Caucasus and who is familiar with the ethnic traditions of its people knows very well that the tradition of hospitality and a deep respect for a guest are generally accepted norms of ethics of the Caucasians.
Let's turn to the war of 1994-1996. Not a lot of people remember the phenomenon displayed by Chechens in the first half year. Despite the total State terrorism policy of Russia against Chechnya, Chechen defenders did not react with the same against the civilian population of Russia. The most amazing thing is that Russian POW's were released to Russian mothers without any conditions or ransom.
All of this was happening while Russia was conducting massive kidnappings of the Chechen civilians torturing them in concentration camps and then, as a rule,they gave either the dead or alive back only for a huge ransom. The question is why did Chechens behave themselves so honorably at the beginning of that terrible war and how unexplainable is the behavior of some of them later and especially after the war?
There is a very simple answer for that complicated question. At the beginning of the war, the values of the Chechen culture with its knightly ethics were still dominant among Chechen fighters. Only later,when in place of the above, came another cultural dominance and the war became a "holy struggle against the infidels", other occurrences started to appear, the presence of which in Chechnya to this day remains a puzzle. It would be blasphemy and not very intelligent to suppose that the source of all of the negative occurrences in Chechnya as well as in the entire North Caucasus, is Islam.
We are talking in this case about the religious fanatics and criminals who feel safer under the protection of the norms of "Sharia" then under the rules of "Adat" (the norms of traditional Chechen rights). However, the representatives of both of those categories have equally become humble instruments of the political influence of forces outside of the Chechen borders.
Let's look at the facts. In the first half of February of this year, the Chechen authorities caught two people involved in kidnappings. The Chechen President , Aslan Maskhadov, spoke about it on Chechen TV. And responding to a question "Who are they and from where?" he said that the kidnappers admitted that they belong to an Islamic organization called "Jamaat" and they had a special "Fetva" (permission) for the kidnappings. Thus, these people operate not in accordance with the norms of the Chechen rights "Adat" or the Chechen code of honor, but according to some higher religious directives. Another example: In one of the reports of the Associated Press dated March 19, we read that one of the well known Chechen commanders, the head of the anti terrorist brigade, General Khunkar-Pasha Israpilov, spoke on TV on March 18th , and publicly accused the "Islamic regiment" headed by Arbi Baraev of the kidnappings. That came after March 16th, when there was an attempt in Urus-Martan to free two British citizens , Camilla Carr and Jon James, from the hands of Islamic fanatics. Three Chechen soldiers as well as one local woman were killed and many others were wounded in that operation.
There is no doubt that the actions of criminals who are hiding behind religious slogans go beyond kidnappings. It can be concluded that the horrific, intentional, and obviously ordered political assassination of six physicians of the Red Cross in December of 1996 in the Chechen town of Novie Atagi, was also done by bandits who belong to religious organizations.
It is possible that one of these people could be Adam Deniev, officially accused by the Chechen Government, who went through training in Iraq and then proclaimed himself to be the heir of the Prophet Mohammed. He is currently in Moscow under careful protection of the Russian authorities. Regardless of who committed that atrocity, this maniac or someone else, nobody doubts that those who ordered the assassination did not want either peace nor stability in Chechnya or in the Caucasus.
I have only referred to some of the facts, that show how a war and subsequent international isolation can aid the shift in human values. We can find similar parallels in other historic facts as well. For example, Mr. M.Pokrovskii in his book titled "Diplomacy and Wars of Tsarist Russia in the XIX century", Moscow, 1924, page 201, describing the first Russian-Caucasian war, writes that despite the anti-Chechen propaganda spread among soldiers by the Russian generals, "the soldiers had a different opinion and a lot of them joined the democratic Chechnya. The requests by the Russians to turn those soldiers over were an issue that worsened the relationship between the Russian administration and Chechens". At the same time, kidnappings of civilians was one of the main Russian warfare methods in the Caucasus.
In particular, a well known Russian commander, A. Ermolov strictly advised his officers " Avoid leaving without hostages. These people are ignorant and damaged by our weakness and they might think that it would be possible for them to not fulfill our demands" ("Russia and Caucasus", Sankt-Peterburg, 1995 page 25).
If Chechnya the beginning of the 19th century can be described as a democratic country where shelter and freedom were provided, which was different not only from Russia but from the rest of the Caucasus as well, then in the second half of the 19th century after the "holy war against Russians", we, as described by John F. Baddeley, can see presence of kidnappings and other negative things, that are foreign to the Chechen ethnic culture.