Staunton, February 20 – Even though Ramzan Kadyrov quickly backed off from suggestions by his subordinates that Grozny will give out new “passports” to Chechen young people, something many Russians would see as threatening, the Chechen leader wants to register the nationality and membership in teips and wirds of every young person in his republic.
Kadyrov may have recognized that talking about new passports was too much for Russians – in his retreat, he said there can only be “one passport” in the country – but he clearly believes that sub-ethnic groups like teips and wirds are the key to controlling young people and allowing him to block ISIS recruitment efforts.
(A “teip” is a group of people in Chechen and Ingush societies nominally descended from a common ancestor. There are several hundred of these in Chechnya alone. A “wird” is a group of Sufi Muslims who are committed to certain ritual forms of worship such as the voiced and unvoiced expression of prayer. The two often but do not always overlap and re-enforce.)
Earlier this week, Adam Malikov, a deputy in the Chechen parliament, posted on that institution’s official website a declaration that Kadyrov wanted to carry out “a spiritual-moral passportizaiton” of Chechen residents aged 14 to 35 that would include data on nationality, teip, and wird. (grani.ru/Society/Religion/m.248799.html).
In his post, Malikov said that the decision had been supported by the religious authoritiese and had “already entered into force.” He added that such “passportization” would help block ISIS and thus allow the authorities to prevent “any forms of the manifestation of extremism and terrorism.”
A day later Malikov’s post was removed, although Russian agencies said such an order had in fact been given. Then, Kadyrov himself declared that he wasn’t engaged in handing out “any ‘passport.’” “I want to remind that in our country there is only one passport, that of a citizen of Russia! Everything else is an invention” (instagram.com/p/BB-PtfPiRmJ/).
But at the same time, he said that it was important for the religious authorities to work with the secular ones to gather such information so as to be able to fight terrorism and the threat of terrorism. Kadyrov indicated that gathering such materials was only a part of the anti-extremist effort.
On the one hand, this series of events shows that Kadyrov does operate within some limits, at least at present; and on the other, it highlights the continuing importance of sub-ethnic groups in the nationalities of the Russian Federation, groups that Soviet writers generally described as “survivals of the past” but ones that have proved longer lasting than they.