Just days after denying that young citizens were being ordered to apply for "spiritual-moral passports" that would document holders' religious beliefs and clan affiliations, Chechen authorities are pushing eerily similar "spiritual-moral questionnaires."
According to Russian media reports, Chechens are being urged to fill out the questionnaires in schools and mosques.
The International Crisis Group's project director for the North Caucasus, Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya, published a photo of the new questionnaire on her Facebook page:
A person filling out the questionnaire must add his or her photo and grant permission for their personal data to be processed in accordance with Russian law.
Otherwise, the questionnaire is the same as a previously published passport form that met with public disapproval in Chechnya and led the head of the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, to declare that "there is only one passport in our country -- [that of] a citizen of Russia!"
Besides general information, people filling out the questionnaire must state their religion, teyp (local self-identified clan), and vird (a religious brotherhood). The latter is significant because Wahhabists, followers of a religious movement outlawed in Chechnya, don't have virds.
The person's employer or school head, local police officer, and imam must sign the filled-out questionnaire. A related man or religious leader must confirm that the filled-out questionnaire is correct, and take responsibility "for all actions and behavior of this person."
Yelena Milashina, an editor with the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, suggests that the information may be a way to guarantee that a young man or a woman doesn't join extremists -- for example, in Syria.
"What happens if they leave?" she writes. "It is very likely that the guarantor will be charged with complicity. A Chechnya resident was once brought to criminal responsibility because her daughter received a passport, flew to Turkey, and crossed the Turkish-Syrian border."
A resident of the Chechen capital, Grozny, told the news portal Caucasian Knot that he considers the questionnaire a sign of the authorities' uncertainty as they try to control Chechens.
"If I or somebody else broke the law, there is the Criminal Code," said the resident, Islam. "If I did something against our customs, traditions, and religion, there are adats (customs and traditions not mentioned in Shari'a law) and Shari'a", he said.