Monday, November 29, 1999

Russia`s Chechnya opens museum for dead leader

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A white dress shirt and black tie worn by Chechnya's late leader Akhmad Kadyrov the day he was assassinated hang behind glass in a shrine-like museum in the capital of the turbulent Muslim region in southern Russia.Headscarved women and bearded men slide on pastel pink marble floors, making their way around the office where the gruff-voiced, barrel-chested Kadyrov worked -- recreated with his own brown leather chairs, gold pen holder and desk calendar.A clock on the wall has been stopped at 1005 local time, marking the minute a bomb in a stadium grandstand ripped through Kadyrov and a dozen others on May 9, 2004, as Chechnya marked Victory Day, commemorating the Nazi defeat in World War Two.The museum glorifies Kadyrov, a former rebel the Kremlin installed as Chechnya's president after driving separatists from power in the second of two devastating wars in the province."It is important that ... our compatriots know their heroes and always remember who fought for our freedom. Akhmad is first and foremost," the director of the recently opened museum, Abdul-Vakhab Akhmadov, told Reuters Television.Kadyrov, installed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2000 and much-loved by Russian leaders, was replaced by his firebrand son Ramzan when he grew old enough to take office three years after his father's death.Chechnya's streets are lined with posters and tributes to both Kadyrovs, and rights workers have described the state's devotion to Akhmad as fostering a personality cult.Built of Spanish and Iranian marble and crowned by a half-tonne chandelier of 790 lamps and 20 kg (44 lb) of pure gold, the complex is reminiscent of museums dedicated to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and U.S. rock legend Elvis Presley.Within its foreboding brown granite walls, the late Kadyrov's sheepskin grey hat, prayer beads and a university diploma are set carefully in glass cases beside black-and-white baby pictures of the leader, who was 53 when he died."This building, in my opinion, represents the most beautiful dreams Kadyrov had -- he always wanted to see his dreams come true, which were to see a happy Chechen people," said Musa Labazanov, the museum's deputy director.The Kremlin saw Kadyrov as essential to regaining control over Chechnya, and has given his son Ramzan broad leeway to maintain a grip on a province which now faces a raging Islamist insurgency, along with neighbouring Dagestan and Ingushetia.But the late leader did not face the same barrage of criticism that his son has from rights groups, who say he runs the tiny province as a violent, personal fiefdom.Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who jetted into Chechnya this week for the 10th anniversary of Akhmad Kadyrov's appointment, called him "a really special man" who "contributed to the consolidation of the republic and restored order".In the large garden encircling the museum outside, a 36-metre (118 ft) gold obelisk celebrating the Soviet World War Two victory looms overhead."I have no words, I am just filled with pride," said visitor Zara Amkhadova, sporting a cream and brown polka dot headscarf. (For a FACTBOX on Chechnya: [ID:nGEE5B91SY])

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