GROZNY, Chechnya - Three years ago, when Aslan Maskhadov completed his five-year term as president of Chechnya, I recalled the period of his rule as one of instability, chaos, weak leadership, and the rise of extremist Islamic movements and banditry, which in a sense logically, albeit sadly, led to yet another bloody massacre of my nation.
Aslan is dead now. Some call him an international terrorist (they will never realize how ridiculous they are), others refer to him as THE president. In Chechnya people tend to forget, which at rare moments is actually blissful in that it helps us to survive. We also forget and forgive our enemies when they're dead. We don’t humiliate them, as this young, brainless caricature of a vice-prime-minister [Ramzan Kadyrov; ed.] so masterfully did. We pay our respects even to those we scorned and found guilty of causing our sorrows.
Maskhadov, indeed, lacked the power and guts to prevent the terrible annihilation attempt sent us by one ambitious FSB spy, who later became the Russian President. Maskhadov did little to restore law and order in the post-war jungle and was even a lousy politician. Yet, throughout all these years, by and large, he has been considered a decent man of honor - not as cruel as Kadyrov, nor as theatrical as Dudayev.
More importantly, however, he was our president for whom we voted on that chilly January day in 1997. We stood in long lines, lost patience and left, only to return again to check whether the lines may have gotten shorter. Some waited till the late evening to cast their votes. The one rare opportunity that was given the Chechnya population to freely elect a president; and now we all think back about those euphoric times, so full of hope and joy.
Maskhadov was the only president we ever elected. Not Dudayev, not Kadyrov, Alkhanov or Putin, for that matter. The first was never elected, and the rest "elected" in a fraudulent theatre that we chose to ignore for the sake of our own security. Maskhadov was the only true president; and for this, if nothing else, we now mourn his departure. May he rest in peace!
Usman Dikayev is a pseudonym of a Grozny resident.
Translated by Prague Watchdog's Chechen sympathizer and by Jeannette Vota.