Chechen parliament speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, the eminence grise behind Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov, has died at the age of 59 after a long illness.
Among the Russian politicians who have paid tribute to him are Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko, who characterized him as a man of talent and a true patriot, and Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov, who described him as "wise and courageous" and "a true Chechen."
Kadyrov, who attended Abdurakhmanov's funeral in his home village of Djalka in Gudermes Raion, has decreed three days of mourning.
Abdurakhmanov was born in Kazakhstan in March 1956, just a couple of weeks after Nikita Khrushchev's "secret speech" to a congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union condemning the excesses of Soviet leader Josef Stalin, including the 1944 deportation of the entire Chechen and Ingush nations to Central Asia. Exonerated of the charge of collaboration with Nazi forces, the Chechens were allowed to return home. Abdurakhmanov graduated from the Djalka high school in 1974, performed his military service, worked for several years as a teacher, and in 1985 graduated from the history faculty of Grozny State University.
Abdurakhmanov claimed to have been involved in the unofficial groups that mushroomed in the late 1980s under then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of "glasnost" and engaged in publicizing ecological problems and researching hitherto-closed chapters of recent history. According to his official biography, from 1992-94 he was also among the opposition to then-Chechen Republic Ichkeria President Djokhar Dudayev, and in 1994 he received a second degree, in economics, from the Checheno-Ingush State Pedagogical University.
Abdurakhmanov must also at that time have engaged in business, to judge from his statement to the daily Kommersant that at the outbreak of the 1994-96 war, he owned a bank, 14 houses, 11 apartments, and his own farm.
In 1995-96, Abdurakhmanov served as first deputy minister of agriculture in the pro-Moscow Government of National Revival headed by Salambek Khadjiyev. His whereabouts during the brief and turbulent presidency of Aslan Maskhadov are not known; but following the retreat of Maskhadov's forces from Grozny in February 2000, five months after the second Russian incursion, he resurfaced as minister of agriculture and deputy premier in the new pro-Moscow leadership.
Abdurakhmanov claimed to have been a close associate of Ramzan Kadyrov's father, Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov, whom then-Russian President Vladimir Putin installed as Chechen leader in the summer of 2000. Newspapers from that period, however, suggest that Akhmad-hadji's most trusted advisers and supporters were two of the Yamadayev brothers, Ruslan and Sulim, in whose company he was frequently photographed. Both were sidelined and murdered after Akhmad-hadji's death in May 2004.
Abdurakhmanov was one of the architects of the cult of personality surrounding the elder Kadyrov, and even wrote a book about him.
Whatever the nature of Abdurakhmanov's working relationship with Akhmed-hadji, he became an indispensable adviser to Ramzan. He was named speaker of the parliament elected in 2005, and served in that capacity until his death. The North Caucasus Parliamentary Assembly launched in 2011, one of the instruments for extending Kadyrov's influence across the region, was his brainchild.
In 2009, Kadyrov chose Abdurakhmanov as his representative to successive rounds of talks with Akhmad Zakayev, the London-based head of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria government-in-exile, but Abdurakhmanov failed to persuade Zakayev to return to Grozny.
Abdurakhmanov also regularly floated controversial initiatives that were clearly in line with Kadyrov's ambitions but which the latter did not wish to be identified with unless/until they proved amenable to Moscow. In 2006, for example, Abdurakhmanov publicly advocated merging Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Daghestan into a single federation subject, a proposal that the Ingush and Daghestani leaders immediately protested.
More recently, as Russia's relations with the West became increasingly acrimonious, Abdurakhmanov went even further than Kadyrov in his denunciation of the United States. Three months ago, he announced that Russia should provide arms to Mexico if the U.S. Congress went ahead with its plans to supply arms to Ukraine. Clearly not amused, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov nixed the idea immediately.