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Magomed Kadyrov: Chechnya's Grand and Unwanted Uncle

28 Sep 2023
By Dr Nicolè M. Ford
Magomed and Ramzan Kadyrov. Source: Telegram.

The Kadyrov clan have a particularly brutal history of rule in Chechnya. While the show of popular support for Magomed Kadyrov’s health displays a level of normality among the leadership, a deep animosity toward the family exists. 

It looks like Russian President Vladimir Putin can finally rest easy. After days of wild speculation about the fate of his ally, the leader of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, released a “proof of life” video via his Telegram page. The video depicts Kadyrov, the son of the 1st puppet president of the Putin-created-Chechen Republic, who is still alive. The 48-second clip reveals the Chechen strongman to be at the Moscow Central Clinical Hospital, but Ramzan is not in recovery.

Instead, he sits at the bedside of another of his infamous relatives, Magomed Abdulkhamidovich Kadyrov. Ramzan Kadyrov seems bemused at the confusion caused by his rumoured absence, adopting a familiar refrain from Western politics to scold those who fell victim to “fake news.”

But who is Magomed Kadyrov?

Magomed Abdulkhamidovich Kadyrov is Ramzan’s uncle. Ten years younger, he is the brother of Ramzan’s father, Akhmat Abdulkhamidovich Kadyrov, the first president of the Chechen Republic. Unlike Akhmat, who was born in exile, Magomed was born in the Kadyrov family village Tcentoroy on 15 September 1961, during a difficult period for Chechnya. “Operation Lentil” was the deportation of the entire Chechen population on Stalin’s orders on 23 February 1944.

The deportation of the Chechens resulted in the genocide of one-half of the total population in transit and during their exile in Central Asia. On 16 July 1956 (after Stalin’s death in 1952), the Soviet presidium voted to allow the Chechens to “move freely,” providing Chechens the “opportunity” to return home – though only to find ethnic Russians living in their homes.

From all appearances, Ramzan has a warm relationship with his father’s brother. In 2018, Ramzan publicly wished his uncle a happy birthday writing, remarking that “He is a very close person to me. Since early childhood, I have been constantly feeling his attention… To this day… I get wise advice and instructions. He often gathers representatives of our family at home. Being the brother of my dear father… Magomed Abdulkhamidovich often shares his memories of him, and tells interesting episodes from his life.”

One point of contention between himself and his citizens has been the depth of nepotism. Ramzan has hired many family members for government positions regardless of their qualifications. For his part, “Dear Uncle” Magomed is known to be part of the Chechen elite and a member of his nephew’s inner circle. Magomed has held various positions within the Kadyrov regime.

Because he lives a secretive life, finding out much about him is challenging. This is especially the case when seeking out information regarding his adolescent years.  However, a spartan resumé is available online. Magomed’s (he also goes by Hamid) resumé asserts that he went from working “in various positions” between 1982-1990, to becoming the deputy director of the “Iskra” State Farm in the Kurchaloevsky district between 1990-2000. While deputy director of the Iskra farm, Magomed was also a student and would receive his degree from the Institute of Finance and Law, Makhachkala, in 2008. He was later appointed Deputy Minister of Agriculture General Affairs, Grozny, and then finally in 2001, he reached the position he still holds in the official government structure, Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

Magomed also holds official state positions, presiding as President of the Weightlifting Federation of the Chechen Republic.

The Dear Uncle  has also served his nephew as a member of the advisory council under the head of Chechnya. Along the way, he received the Order named after Akhmat Kadyrov: “For Services to the Chechen Republic.” Last year, Ramzan awarded Magomed and 11 other relatives with medals in honor of the “100th anniversary of the formation of the Chechen Republic.”

Magomed has also been declared a “hero”  “For the Liberation of Crimea,” and was bestowed another medal by the temporarily occupying head of the “Autonomous Republic of Crimea” in 2014. Indeed, Magomed has played a direct role in Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine, allegedly providing more than US$7 million to support so-called “separatists” in eastern Ukraine. As a result, on 1 June 2014, Ramzan was able to express his readiness to send 74,000 Putin-backed Chechen “volunteers” to Ukraine at Putin’s request. In fact, Ramzan was able to send thousands of military personnel to Crimea for military aggression against Ukraine with the help of Magomed. Ukrainian authorities have called for international sanctions against Magomed, though he is still not on the sanctions list, according to the Atlantic Council’s Russia Santions Database.

What is also interesting about Magomed’s resume is that between 1990-2000, Chechnya was going through many changes beginning with breaking away from the USSR. They would also elect former Soviet Air Force officer, Dzhokhar Dudayev, as President of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) in 1991. The ChRI declared its intent to pursue a liberal democratic form of government, writing a largely secular constitution and specifying a desire to seek friendly terms with Russia, which was ratified in 1992. Unfortunately, the Russians continued pursuing a colonial policy towards Chechnya and invaded on 31 December 1994.

During this time, the Kadyrov clan, particularly Akhmat and Ramzan, would become well-known adversaries to the Russian regime. Dzhokhar Dudayev would appoint Magomed’s brother, Akhmat Kadyrov Supreme Mufti of Ichkeria in April of 1995. Chechen cultural norms known as adat expect those men who can to fight for their country against the Russian invader and protect their home and their family. This begs the question, what was Magomed doing for Ichkeria during this time? We do not know.

What is known is Magomed’s brother Akhmat would switch sides at the beginning of the second Chechen war, usurping Ichkeria’s elected president, Aslan Maskhadov. This singular act would taint the entire Kadyrov clan in the eyes of the Chechen people, making the Kadyrovs traitors. The clan betrayed the people of Chechnya to the blood enemies of their coloniser and mortal enemy: Russia. Between both Chechen wars, Chechnya lost approximately 200,000 lives or 20 percent of its population in under ten years.

The Kadyrovs have ruled Chechnya ruthlessly since 2000 using a combination of public humiliation, arrests, kidnapping, and murder of political enemies and their families both inside Chechnya and in the diaspora. The Kadyrovs bear the responsibility for the collective suffering of the Chechen people.

It indeed wasn’t Ramzan in the hospital 15-20  September. To the great disappointment of many in Chechnya and the diaspora, Ramzan still lives – as does his uncle. Kadyrov once said: “The betrayal of one’s fatherland, homeland, the state, in general, is in a special row, and should be punished in the most severe and severe form, as provided for by law.”  Indeed, what does that make Ramzan and the rest of the Kadyrov clan, including Magomed?

Nicolè M. Ford, Ph.D. teaches courses on comparative politics, terrorism, and Eastern Europe and Russia at the University of Tampa. She can be reached here.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Licence and may be republished with attribution.