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The Inheritors of the Kadyrov Regime

Harold Chambers takes stock of the rising influence of Ramzan Kadyrov’s teenage children in Chechen politics

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Photo: Scanpix

The specter of a post-Kadyrov Chechnya has again been provoked by the resurgence of reports around Kadyrov’s health and a recent slew of personnel changes that strengthened the positions of Kadyrov’s children as stakeholders in the regime. This article highlights the development of their roles in the regime, particularly emphasizing Kadyrov’s daughters, who have been relatively overlooked despite their importance.

Sparring successors?

Ramzan Kadyrov’s first and third eldest sons have received the most attention as potential successors. This is because they are male and both have official positions within the regime. Akhmat, 18-years-old, entered government as the First Deputy Minister for Youth Politics, but recently became the Minister of Physical Culture and Sport. He appointed as his deputy ministers Umar Daudov, eldest son of Magomed Daudov, and Akhmad-Khadzhi Delimkhanov, MP Adam Delimkhanov’s eldest. This replicates the Ramzan-Adam-Magomed power relation in the rising generation.

Adam, 16-years-old, was rapidly appointed in late 2023 as the head of his father’s security—mirroring Ramzan’s first step toward power—then as the curator of the Baysangur Benoevskyy and Sheikh Mansur Battalions. At the end of April 2024, he also became the curator of the Russian Spetsnaz University (RSU). As «curator» Adam oversees, but does not command, these units, a difference that allows the regime to appoint Adam in seemingly leadership roles, despite not being allowed to as a minor. These appointments place him near the forefront of Kadyrov’s propaganda efforts, although his actual work appears to be only superficial.

Both sons have engaged in domestic policy, with particular emphasis on the duties of their positions and tasks associated with the regime’s special interests, i.e., the war effort and liaising with Muslim countries. Akhmat has overseen the Akhmat Kadyrov Fund (AKF) outreach, welcomed federal officials, attended youth events, and promotes sport. Adam engages with the RSU’s visitors and events and equips the units he oversees, as well as welcoming officials—not surprising, as he is theoretically guarding his father. He also accompanied Adam Delimkhanov to visit kadyrovtsy in Mariupol. In the international arena, Akhmat has engaged with Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Jordan; Adam only met with the president of Guinea-Bissau upon his visit to the RSU.

They have also sought to legitimize their standing with awards and ceremonies, Akhmat had an underage marriage on March 4, 2023, essentially blessed by Putin the night before. Akhmat is less decorated than Adam, although the latter’s awards mostly stem from beating Nikita Zhuravel, who burned a Koran in Volgograd. Ramzan also capitalized on this moment, leveraging Tatarstan, Karachay-Cherkessia, and Kabardino-Balkaria into conferring awards on Adam. These awards, while blatantly nepotistic, are meant to prove the boys’ worth. Considering religion, Akhmat has visited regional pilgrimage sites and supported mosque construction in Chechnya and Tatarstan. Adam’s religious legitimization stems from beating Zhuravel, after which propaganda portrayed him as a «hero of Islam.» These legitimization attempts are to ease their future succession.

Ramzan’s second son, Zelimkhan, commonly referred to as Ali/Eli, has started his integration, appearing mostly in the background of posted videos, although this has recently changed. In March, he was appointed president of the republic’s boxing federation. He also joined the official trip to Uzbekistan with his father and Putin. On June 9, Zelimkhan, only seventeen-years-old, was married, again meeting Putin the night before.

All three sons «deployed» to Ukraine in 2022 and conducted hajj to Mecca in 2023. This year, they also attended iftar meal with the Delimkhanovs and joined the visit of Yemeni Islamic doctrine scholar (in Russian, «ulem» or «alim») Sheikh Khabib Umar. Succinctly, the sons are coexisting in their bids to legitimize themselves, although Zelimkhan is considerably more removed.

The overlooked

Kadyrov’s daughters have received significantly less attention with respect to their involvement in the regime’s generational transition, compared to the succession discussion surrounding Akhmat, Adam, and, less so, Zelimkhan. However, they are perhaps more important than the warlord’s sons, at least within the current political environment. Ayshat, Khadizhat, Khutmat, and Tabarik (in order, eldest to fourth youngest), serve as regime officials, engage in business, and, maybe most significantly, co-opt other regime families through marriage.

Ayshat was appointed the First Deputy Minister of Culture in 2020, but was promoted to Minister of Culture the following year. In October 2022, Ayshat was elevated to deputy head of government for the social block, with one of her closest friends becoming the new Minister of Culture. Beyond cultural activities, she has primarily worked with the AKF, for which she was received a variety of awards. She has also engaged in paradiplomacy, paying visits to occupied Ukraine and to Uzbekistan. Outside government, Ayshat took over the Firdaws fashion company from her mother in 2016. The clothing brand recently supplied clothes to fighters in Ukraine and regime officials. As the eldest child, she bore the majority of the public image until the sons began coming of age.

Khadizhat (often referred to by her second name, Karina) was the head of preschool education in Grozny until becoming the first deputy head of administration for activities in the social block at the end of January 2024. Additionally, Khadizhat has worked closely with her brother Akhmat, representing Russia at COP28 in Dubai and serving on a council for the preservation and development the Chechen language.

Khutmat (occasionally called Khedi) serves as the deputy head of the secretariat of the head of Chechnya and the curator of the republic’s healthcare system. She is considerably less public an official, compared to her sisters.

Tabarik, the most recent to come of age, is an entrepreneur. Her company, «IRS GRUPP» has a number of subsidies, which connect to various notable families: «IRS Consulting» to Movsadi Alviev, Kadyrov’s main oligarch; «IRS Property» to Movsadi Alviev; «IRS Service» to Khasain Alviev, Movsadi’s son; «IRS Development» to Alvi Arbievich Daudov; and «IRS Business.» Further, it owns «Bereket,» «Tiinalla,» «Grozny Taksi,» «Minutka» (acquired from Khalid Alviev, Movsadi’s son), «Al’piiskie Luga,» and «Omikron 96.» Tabarik’s businesses secondarily connect her to members of the Khizriev, Tsakaev, and Shakhidov families, Nurid Alviev (Movsadi’s son, via Ramzan Shakhidov’s connections) and Kozh-Akhmed (Movsadi’s brother), and, most notably, Ramzan Kadyrov’s second wife Fatima Khazueva, through Khasain Alviev’s involvement with «Granit.» Finally, Tabarik often partners with the Sheikh Zayed Fund, co-founded in 2017 by Ramzan Kadyrov and UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nayhan.

Kadyrov’s daughters have thus far significantly co-opted other regime families through marriage. Ayshat married Viskhan Mutsaev, the son of Ramzan’s deceased friend & classmate. He is now vice premier of the government and Minister for Agriculture. Khadizhat married Adam Alkhanov, son of Ramzan’s former MVD chief. Current Minister of Health Khutmat married Lom-Ali Sadulaev, first deputy director of the territorial fund for necessary health insurance of Chechnya, previously deputy head of client services in the Grozny office of the Russian Pension Fund. Finally, Tabarik married Ramzan Vismuradov, the son of Ramzan’s closest childhood friend, and the new Minister of Youth Politics, having previously served as the general director of the «Akhmat» sport club. Once again, Tabarik stands out, this time as the only daughter to marry into an already significant stakeholding family.

Conclusion

There are two big questions moving forward. First, will Zelimkhan’s integration catch up to Akhmat’s pace? Ramzan’s second eldest son will come of age in mid-December, yet he pretended to be a competitive fighter, and continues to recklessly drive sports cars. It was not until recently he began assuming responsibility. In contrast, Akhmat headed regional youth politics for years and served as an advisor before joining the regime.

Second, how and when will the children differentiate themselves from Ramzan? The potential to do so currently is limited by the fact that Ramzan still governs and they remain quite young. Even after Ramzan’s rule ends, Moscow’s expectations for Chechnya’s governor will remain. Once they assume command the children will certainly change smaller policies in accordance with the times, but it must be remembered that they grew up in an environment created by Ramzan. What have been major changes over the past two decades were simply a part of their childhood, and thus normal.

What is certain is that the eldest children will continue moving up and, as they come of age, more of Ramzan’s kids will continue to both integrate into the regime as officials and through leadership roles in associated enterprises (like AKF and the family businesses). They will also continue co-opting other families.

After all, it is control over the regime’s sources of stability that will be fought over in a post-Ramzan world. It is these assets that ultimately dictate who can control Chechnya, not just some theoretical favor in Moscow. Ramzan’s children thus hold an advantage.

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