RFE/RL: How would you describe your relationship with Alu Alkhanov?
Ramzan Kadyrov: Alu was made minister, general, and president by people who are referred to as the Kadyrov team. It was thought that everything that discredited him discredited our people, so we protected him in every possible way. His immediate subordinates acted in a way that ran contrary to the Chechen mentality... Finally I said to him: "Your policy is wrong. You're not doing our people any good, you must change." But no matter what I said, he didn't grasp it.
It's true that it's not customary for Chechens to talk about themselves. But look at the work accomplished by those who call themselves "[the Kadyrov] team." They made it their main goal to save the people. And one can say that they have achieved that. Grozny is being rebuilt. Chechnya is being rebuilt too. And the person who is trying to pull it apart at this time is acting under somebody else's command. So, I think his departure is the right thing.
"[Chechens] are not bad people, they are not killers, they like this world too, they love life, they want to live in peace."
RFE/RL: What can you tell us about the debate with Moscow over oil drilling and exploration in Chechnya?
Kadyrov: Oil alone is not enough to boost our economy. We may run out of oil soon. People need jobs, people should be able to make a living. And as for the ongoing discussions about oil, we say, "Take this oil wherever you want, but send the money you make from it to our budget. But if you start processing oil in Chechnya, making gasoline, diesel fuel, machine oils, this will create new jobs and bring more taxes into our budget." This is what the debate is about.
Last year, there were 19 billion rubles allocated [to Chechnya] from the Russian budget. We had asked only for 6 billion. But we received 11.2 billion rubles, because, although they are taking the oil away from us, we got money for it last year.
A new Orthodox Church on Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov Avenue (formerly, Lenin Avenue) in Grozny (TASS file photo)
The reconstruction process had stalled, but it is picking up now. It will be even better this year. According to our program, Grozny should be completely restored in the next year. The cement factory should begin operations this year. There will be brick and reinforced concrete factories in Grozny. There will be new oil refineries using new technologies. It is becoming clear if that Chechens reach accord and, like others, become their own masters, then the federal center will work for our benefit.
RFE/RL: You are the object of a lot of praise and a lot of fear. Do you feel you're responsible for creating a personality cult?
Kadyrov: It's a beautiful girl who should be praised -- for her beauty and her figure. As for fear -- if you're a leader, people should fear you. Why? They should not fear being beaten, but they should fear letting down the people who have given them their trust. This is what one should fear. And as for the personality cult, I found out about it just recently. I paid attention to it only after our handsome General Alu [Alkhanov] started talking about it.
"Whatever I do is my duty. This talk [of a personality cult] is spread by those who can't do any good, either for themselves or for the country"
Chechnya, which has been destroyed over the last 15 years, now has 86 educational institutions, more than 100 hospitals, and many roads that have been restored. There is now a gas pipeline running to the Sharoy district, which never had gas before. There are 712 buildings in Grozny that have been repaired, which equals more than 24,000 apartments that will be ready by May 1. Thousands of sick people have been sent to hospitals. So, when people express their gratitude and thank me, and it's labeled as a cult of personality or something else, that distorts the gratitude of the Chechens for what I have done. Whatever I do is my duty. And this talk [of a personality cult] is spread by those who can't do any good, either for themselves or for the country.
RFE/RL: Where does the funding come from for these reconstruction projects in Chechnya?
Kadyrov: The reconstruction of the town of Argun cost over 1 billion rubles, of which we were able to provide 840 million ourselves. How did we find that money? We talked to those who had money and asked them to help restore Chechnya, which was destroyed and burned to the ground. We received responses from people with the Chechen mentality: the Dzhabrailov [brothers Hussein and Umar], [Ruslan] Baisarov, [brothers Mikheil and Khamzat] Gutseriyev and many others. We have also organized collective Chechen 'belkhis' [free labor days]. This is how Gudermes was rebuilt.
The federal center has not provided a single ruble for the reconstruction of Grozny either. And so we ask people with money: "Can you rebuild 50 houses?" "Can you rebuild 20 houses?" We will find funds at a later time, but now we need help. We have received bank loans, we ask friends for help. Until now, federal resources have not been reaching us. There used to be an organization called Direktsiya. There were people from [the state and federal construction companies] Gosstroi, Rosstroi. There was only a smell of money coming from them.
About 40 percent [of the money] remained in Moscow or in Mozdok. And local Chechens here signed any document put in front of them, for 5 percent, certifying that something had been rebuilt. And what did we do? We said, we are Chechens, have no right to take bribes from anybody. This is how we began. And now that we're looking at the intermediary results, we often feel surprised that we have been able to achieve that. Talking about our tasks for this year, we ask ourselves if we can we do it. But we began with faith in the Almighty. Grozny should be 60 percent restored by the end of this year. And in the next year it will be restored completely.
RFE/RL: You have made a number of dramatic PR gestures -- like inviting the American boxer Mike Tyson to Chechnya and personally guiding him around. What is your goal in organizing events like this?
"Even when I have the best room at a Moscow hotel, the best car, and exquisite food, I start missing home. And I know that all those who left their homeland... love their native land and want to come back."
Kadyrov: I have one thing to say: those who try to put on a false front will be punished by the Almighty. And the Almighty will also punish those who try to benefit by doing that. The world thinks of Chechens as separatists, bombers, terrorists. But we organized a tournament for Chechen and Japanese wrestlers. The Chechens won. Then we brought American wrestlers. The Chechens won again.
Kadyrov (right) with former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson in Gudermes in 2005 (TASS)
Why do we bring them to Chechnya? They travel around the world and we want them to tell objective stories about Chechens, that they are not bad people, that they are not killers, that they like this world too, they love life, they want to live in peace. This is why we do it -- and it is quite costly, by the way. All of this is done for our people. And if this is not true, and if I do it for my own publicity, may God punish me.
RFE/RL: Why do you think Chechens are depicted in such a negative, violent light by the mass media?
Kadyrov: I took up arms first and foremost because I'm a Chechen. The Wahhabist devils who came to us at the beginning said that we should be not Chechens, but Arabs, mujahedin, Afghans... Then the others came and tormented the Chechen people. We're the ones who wouldn't tolerate the torment of the Chechen people, and stood up against it. It's hard for a person with a Chechen heart to endure the negative portrayal of Chechens in the press. From our side, we write about this, we talk about it. We're working to ensure that we don't accept this negativity.
RFE/RL: Is there room within your circle for criticism?
Kadyrov: If your friends don't point out your mistakes, then others will talk about them scornfully, so friends should be the first to point to your mistakes and correct them. We have agreed among each other that those who see mistakes but remain silent are guilty before the Almighty and their friends. Yes, it is necessary to talk [about mistakes] and seek the truth. I don't want the pursuit started by me, my friends, my father [former Chechen Republic President Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, who was assassinated in 2004] to fall apart through my own doing or because of my friends. It is not proper to talk about my father here, but I do not want his cause to be disgraced. I will not allow that to happen to myself or to anyone else.
RFE/RL: How do you feel about those people who have left Chechnya and gone elsewhere in the world?
Even when I have the best room at a Moscow hotel, the best car, and exquisite food, I start missing home. And I know that all those who left their homeland, including longtime refugees, love their native land and want to come back. They left their homeland because of people who came to be the leaders of the Chechen people. Some [of those who left Chechnya] were tempted by something; some left out of spite. But most of them -- more than 90 percent -- left out of despair.
We will work to give each and every one of them a calm and peaceful life. And we call on them not to listen to those who criticize the Kadyrov team -- the Kadyrovtsy -- who claim we kill, humiliate, or even eat people. They could elect their representatives in every country they stay in, collect money to buy them tickets -- we will pay them back when they come here -- and send their representatives here so they can see everything for themselves. And then I think they should find ways to return home.
A Chechen feels best on his native Chechen soil. Wherever you're coming from, your heart fills with grace as soon as you put your foot on Chechen soil. Chechens cannot find this grace anywhere else. Chechens should get ready to come back home. And we will work to make their lives better.
Kadyrov dances at the reopening of Grozny Airport
Ever since his father, pro-Kremlin Chechen President Akhmed-Hadji Kadyrov was killed in a May 2004 bomb blast in Grozny, Ramzan Kadyrov has risen to prominence.
In March 2006, First Deputy Prime Minister Kadyrov, who heads a personal army of 10,000 heavily armed fighters, was named prime minister. His reign as premier has been characterized by divisions in the Chechen leadership and accusations of torture. But he has also been credited with improving living standards in the republic.
In October, he turned 30, clearing the way for running for president.
The fighting in Chechnya
has raged, with short breaks, since 1994. It has brought misery, death, and destruction to the North Caucasus republic and to Russia as a whole. View an annotated timeline
of the conflict.