Akhmed Zakayev’s Book Presented in the House of Commons
The Henry Jackson Society organised a panel discussion on October 17 with the participation of Mr Akhmed Zakayev, the Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria’s government in exile, award-winning translator Dr Arch Tait, the book’s publisher Dr Paul du Quenoy, and Luke Harding, foreign correspondent of the Guardian on the subject of Akhmed Zakayev’s recent book “Subjugate or Exterminate!” : A Memoir of Russia’s Wars in Chechnya (Academica Press, 2019), which relates a major participant’s role in Russia’s conflict with Chechnya.
Mr Akhmed Zakayev made a short speech at the event :
Thank you Mr Chairman.
Good evening dear friends, I would like to thank you all for being here on this occasion.
I would also like to thank the organizers of our meeting, the Henry Jackson Society.
Before I start talking about my book, I would like to thank those who helped me publish this book. First of all, Arch Tait, a wonderful translator who not only translated my texts, but also did the initial work necessary for this book to be published. Thank you so much Arch! I also want to thank my publisher Paul du Quenoy
President of the Academica Press for the very high quality work. I think that everyone who has bought this book will agree with me. I want to thank David Suter, my friend who introduced me to Paul and finally Luke Harding, a writer and journalist who wrote a preface to my book and praised my work. Thank you so much Luke! My special gratitude to you for the work that you did in covering the case of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, in your book “Very Expensive Poison”.
Now about my book. Firstly, how and when the idea arose to write this book. Since 2004, Sasha Litvinenko and I lived as neighbors and talked almost every day. One morning he came to me and very emotionally began to tell me about the dream he had. It was if we were back in the war, during a brutal battle, and suddenly he heard the rumble of an airplane. This was Russian aviation and Sasha described that he was very happy and thought: Well, now you “Czechs” are done. Czechs was what russians called Chechens during the first war. At that moment, Sasha realized that now he was on the side of the Chechens in this war and those bombs from Russian airplanes were going to be dropped on him as well, and that’s when he woke up in horror from this nightmare.
And that same morning we had the idea to write a book together. The main idea was to write the same event from a different position. I would write from the Chechen side and Sasha would write from the Russian side. But this idea was not destined to materialize. Unfortunately, Putin got Sasha. Several years after his death, I began to write this book.
In the centuries-old history of the confrontation between Russia and Chechnya, there are very few materials written by the Chechens themselves about these events because all historical documents were deliberately destroyed.
And therefore, it was very important for me to describe the events in which I participated and to which I was a witness. When I began to write these memoirs, I was also sure that we should not allow for future generations to have only one version of recent history – the one written by those who are used to hiding their crimes in a lie. But this does not mean that we should be silent about our shortcomings. In this case, what we write will not have any value. I am deeply convinced that instructive experience can be learned only from the truth. And if at any point my descriptions of our fallen leaders and commanders seem unpleasant to their relatives, they should understand that I had no intention of criticizing people close to them; I was just trying to give a political assessment of events of a historical scale in which these personalities played a huge role.
We, the participants and eyewitnesses of these events, have a duty to our successors to convey to them a true description of the war, not hiding our mistakes and miscalculations, but at the same time not letting the enemy insult the memory of our heroes and massive achievements of our nation. And only in this case can we be sure that new generations of Chechens will not become mankurts that have lost the traditional values of their nation. And this will guarantee the preservation of the Chechen people, and therefore guarantee their victory, because freedom is only needed for people who show high moral values and save the memory of their past.
December 11 of this year marks the 25th anniversary of the beginning of Russian aggression against the Chechen state. At present time, Chechnya is under Russian occupation. And it’s no secret to anyone that over these 25 years, the Russian special services managed to split the Chechen society on religious basis. By dividing the Chechens into good and bad Muslims. And they also managed to split those who stood at the origins of the national liberation movement.
Thats when doubts began coming to my mind: maybe all this was in vain – both our struggle and all these sacrifices? Maybe we have not yet taken our place as a nation? But in that moment, I would recall my comrades-in-arms with whom I went through many difficult days of trials, and many of whom are no longer alive. Then I began to think that the God extended my days precisely so that I can make sure that memory of these people who had given their lives for the freedom of the Chechen people was not finally betrayed.
Chechens have had such a fate that the life of each generation is marked by tragedy. From history, we see previous centuries were spent by Chechens in war, defending their freedom. But the tragedy of our entire history lies in the fact that each generation of Chechens who survived their tragedy, at the end of their lives, witnessed a new tragedy caused by the Russian state against our people. So, the generation of my parents, who survived the deportation to Siberia and Central Asia, had to live through two wars in the later years of their lives. And now, my generation has to live with the recollection of these wars and pray to God that the liberation of the Chechens from the Russian Empire would interrupt this chain of tragedies.
I also want to say a few words about the attitude of the international community towards the Chechen tragedy. Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov, former soviet dissident and Chechen politician who moved to the western world in 1943 until his unfortunate death in 1997; by reading his works you are convinced that the attitude of European politicians towards the long Chechen tragedy has not changed at all during this time, although it would seem that they had the opportunity to carefully study our problem. However, the Western politicians, just as they did not understand the Chechens one or two hundred years ago, still do not understand us now. Or maybe they just don’t want to understand because going deep into the tragedy experienced by a whole nation for such a long time enforces on people with moral qualities an obligation of sympathy and support. And for many, this requirement is imposed not only by morals, but also by professionals on duty. But apparently it is much more convenient to protect the rights of animals than the rights of the people subjected to systemic genocide by the Russian state.
I would like to bring up another shared view which comes from former Soviet dissident, Russian writer and a historian Igor Bunich who wrote: “By the scale of the persecution, by the methods of genocide (from mass extermination and deportation to despicable discrimination of the entire nation as criminals.) The fate of the Chechens can only be compared with the fate of the Jews of Nazi Germany. But if the Jews managed to put the matter in their thousand-year struggle for survival so that the whole world reacts painfully and sharply to any manifestation of anti-Semitism, wherever it comes from, the Chechens have not succeeded to do it so far. The world did not know anything about them, and, worst of all, was completely uninterested in them. Kafra, Zulus, Australian Aborigines and even, excuse me, Canadian seals, when they were threatened with extermination or their civil (!) Rights were violated, evoked more emotions in the Western world than the tragedy of the Chechen people, which lasted for over 200 years. ”
It is no secret that the leaders of Western countries have always maintained close relations with the despotic regimes that ruled in Russia. And on the Chechen issue, they reached cynicism, labelling the murder of a nation as an internal affair of the Russian state.
According to various human rights organisations, in the last 25 years in the Chechen republic, 250,000 Chechen civilians have been killed by the Russian military and secret services, more than 40,000 of them children. Dozens of thousands have also been wounded or disabled and hundreds of thousands of people were left on the streets. 80% of our capital city, Grozny, was destroyed, dozens of villages were completely destroyed. 26,000 young Chechens were kept in Russian prisons just for their nationality and potential resistance against the Russian military for their own freedom. More than 500,000 Chechens were forced to run and seek political asylum around the world to save their children and families from the violent threat of death from the Russian military. And those who remained are under such oppression and humiliation that people, in order to maintain their honor and dignity, are forced to flee Chechnya. Yes, today in Grozny civilians are not bombed and mass ethnic cleansings are not carried out in villages. But as a Chechen, I can assure you that what is happening in Chechnya today is spiritual genocide.
Putin initially needed Ramzan Kadyrov not only to pacify the defiant Chechens, but also to create power structures with elements of eastern despotism. Putin knew that if this experience was successful in Chechnya, where there was never servility and grovelling before those in power, then in Russia, where such a conduct before the higher authorities was a deeply rooted tradition and where a “strong hand” was always needed to rule, this experience will find its application without much effort. Putin also calculated that for the past 50 years, Western leaders have supported authoritarian regimes in the East because of economic benefits, that is, because these regimes have ensured the uninterrupted flow of energy resources. And Russia, with its enormous reserves of energy resources that it supplied to the West, and big number of nuclear weapons that it could threaten the West with. Putin knew that it could count on the West’s support in the Chechen issue. We warned the international community that Putin would not stop in Chechnya, they did not hear us, or rather they did not want to hear us. But this is another topic, I will not go deep into it. Now everyone knows the answer to the question: “Who is Mr. Putin?”
I am deeply convinced that the economic interests of certain countries and the political interests of certain politicians should not be more important than the fate of the entire Chechen nation. In fact, for several centuries the Russian state has been subjecting the Chechen people to systemic genocide.
My friends, this is not my conclusion. In the year 2000, PACE adopted Resolution N1456: Which strongly recommended to the international community to start an independent investigation of war crimes which Russia committed in the Chechen Republic. But this investigation never happened. In 2004, EU recognized the deportation of Chechens and Ingush in 1944 to Siberia and Central Asia as an act of genocide. But nothing was done further than that.
In order to change the attitude of the international community to the Chechen problem, I believe it is necessary to convey to the Western public the truth about the historical problem of relations between Russia and Chechnya. Therefore it was very important for me that this book was published here and in English. I want to once again thank everyone who participated in this. Arch, Paul, Luke. Thank you very much and thank you all for your attention.
17.10.2019 / London