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Russia's True Symbol: A Chechen Mosque?

"Heart of Chechnya" mosque in Grozny, Chechnya, photo by Andre Maiakinfo, 17 October 2008, CC 3.0.

“Heart of Chechnya” mosque in Grozny, Chechnya, photo by Andre Maiakinfo, 17 October 2008, CC 3.0.

The second round of a contest to choose ten lesser-known Russian tourist attractions (and replicate them in a Moscow park) turned violent on Saturday, August 31, 2013, when a crowd in Grozny began egging select telecoms offices. The contest, sponsored by Russia’s main television station and the Geographical Society, began innocuously enough in July with limited interest and even less participation. However, in August, the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, began posting photos on his Instagram account of the main mosque in Grozny, encouraging his followers to vote.

As the second round of the contest came to a close, the tallies were neck-and-neck between Kadyrov’s mosque and the Kremlin in Kolomna (located 60 miles southwest of Moscow). The “Heart of Chechnya” mosque narrowly lost, and almost immediately Kadyrov posted a black-and-white photo of the mosque on his Instagram account with the following message:

Поэтому мы им заявили что это ничто иное, как откровенное мошенничество. Более того, мы не исключаем, что это искусственные препоны с целью не допустить занятия Сердцем Чечни первого места.

This is why we told them that this is nothing but blatant fraud. Moreover, we cannot rule out that these are artificial barriers to prevent the Heart of Chechnya from taking first place.

Blogger Oleg Kozyrev titled his post on the scandal “Chechnya is for fair elections,” and wrote:

Если вы за честные выборы – помогайте тем, кто за них борется, не помогайте тем, кто выборы уничтожает.

If you are for fair elections – help those who are fighting for them, don’t help those who destroy elections.

However, many Russians did not even know that the Russia 10 contest was taking place. One commenter on Kozyrev's blog responded confusedly:

Что это было? Вы с кем это сейчас разговаривали?

What is this? What are you talking about?

Ramzan Kadyrov shows off his horse riding skills, 29 August 2013, screen capture from YouTube.

Ramzan Kadyrov shows off his horse riding skills, 29 August 2013, screen capture from YouTube.

Another of reader noted:

посмотрите правде в глаза!!! Погромщики-чеченцы, не за честные выборы, а за победу своего кандидата (в данном случае – мечети), любой ценой)))

Let’s face it!!! Rioter-Chechens are not for fair elections, but are for the victory of their candidate (in this case—the mosque), at any cost)))

Another wanted to know where the money had come from that enabled people to vote (as votes by SMS cost 3.54 rubles each):

Мне больше интересно, из какого бюджета была оплачена стоимость почти 40 млн. смсок из чечни. Очень уж я сомневаюсь, что все чеченцы в едином порыве стали отправлять по нескольку десятков смс по призыву кадырова.

I am more interested about which budget was used to pay the cost of nearly 40 million text messages from Chechnya. I very much doubt that all Chechens were in such a rush that each sent a few dozen text messages for Kadyrov.

Meanwhile, blogger Oxana Volva complained :

Символом России для большинства может быть медведь, матрешки или, на худой конец, балалайки, но никак не главный символ Ислама, а это уже, друзья мои, ничем не прикрытый призыв к оккупации и исламизации, чего Кадыров явно не “чурается”.

The Symbol of Russia for most is maybe a bear, a matryoshka doll or, at worst, a balalaika, but not the main symbol of Islam, and this already, my friends, is an undisguised appeal to occupation and Islamization, of which Kadyrov is clearly not “shy.”

One reader wondered:

А теперь простой вопрос: кто вообще додумался включить мечеть в список символов России? Кто затеял очевидную и неприкрытую провокацию?

And now a simple question: whose idea was it to include a mosque in the list of Russian symbols? Who started the blatant and obvious provocation?

Blogger Alexei Freeman called the egging of the mobile operators’ Grozny offices a “pogrom” and noted:

Вообще-то эти деяния подпадают под УК РФ, но, как известно, далеко не все законы РФ действуют на территории Чечни.

In fact, these actions fall under the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, but, as you know, not all of the laws of the Russian Federation apply to the territory of Chechnya.

He also pointed out that the issue was with all mobile phone operators, not just Beeline and Megafon.

Интересный момент: проблемы с обработкой SMS были от всех компаний, а под огонь критики попали только «Билайн» и «Мегафон». Очевидно, что Кадыров пытается удалить с рынка компании, которые неподконтрольны ему.

An interesting point: the problems with the SMS processing were from all [mobile] companies, but only “Beeline” and “Megafon” were under fire. It is obvious that Kadyrov is trying to remove these companies from the market, which are not under his control.

Popular blogger Ilya Varlamov admitted that he, too, was unaware of the Russia 10 contest, but was was quick to dismiss the contest. Sharing a photo of a building site at Moscow State University that contained a fence, a couple of outhouses, and a guard shack, Varlamov joked:

Настоящий символ России это ни мечеть и ни Кремль. Настоящий символ России – это забор, биотуалет и охранник, сторожащий камень. Все остальное суета.

The true symbol of Russia is neither a mosque nor a Kremlin. The symbol of Russia is a fence, an outhouse, and a guard, watching over a stone. All the rest is vanity.

The Russia 10 website, for its part, posted a message on Monday, September 2, announcing a delay in the third round of voting, as it undertakes an audit of the second round.

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