This interview, made in April 1995 and published by Kommersant on September 1, 1998, has an unusual story. The tape with the recording of the conversation disappeared under strange circumstances, leaving only its transcript. To remove doubts about the authenticity of the interview, Kommersant questioned the journalist who carried it out, the famous ITAR – TASS reporter Sherip Asuev.
Here is what Sharip Asuev recalls: “It was three years ago, in the spring. It was very difficult for me to get to Dudayev. His base was in the mountains, near Shatoi, in an old stable. I was accompanied by his associates, especially Daud Akhmadov. We talked almost until the morning … Then for two days I could not leave. Then they took me to another road. A few months later I was persuaded to give the cassette of the journalist of Komsomolskaya Pravda Alexander Yevtushenko, I agreed, because I knew it would never go through the TASS channels. All night I deciphered the tape. The next morning Sasha left. I return in the evening. Some people in camouflage took away his car, with all its contents… ”
Yevtushenko confirmed that he had received the tape, and that his car was confiscated, which was destroyed a few weeks later at a federal troop checkpoint, hit directly by a tank shell. “Even if the tape had still been in the car” he replied “there would have been nothing left of it after the bombing…”
Daud Akhmadov also confirmed Sherip’s version, declaring that he was present while Dudayev was giving the interview, and that he worked to get people to pass by a different road than the one by which he had come, because the first one in the meantime had been bombed .
Below is the translation of the interview:
Shatoi, April 1995
Dzhokhar, on the eve of the entry of Russian troops into Chechnya, did you personally feel this danger? Did you expect this development of events? After all, there was a giant tragedy of the people.
“This is a tragedy not only of the Chechen people. There has been a tragedy for Russia and the Russian people.”
I mean Grozny destroyed, the villages executed, thousands of widows and orphans. Did you foresee something like this happening?
“I’ve always said that Russia is dying and needs victims.”
Many today (April 1995.-Kommersant) say about you that you were specially trained and sent to destroy her people.
“It’s all bullshit. Bullshit, which I despise and do not perceive. I know exactly how these lies are formed. This is propaganda.”
They also talk about the fabulous money you get from selling oil, drugs…
“Bluff and talk. I don’t even want to comment.”
How do you see the future of Chechnya today?
What do you think will happen to Russia next?
If the Russians knew what fate they were preparing – not only for their descendants, but also for the current generation – they would probably have incurable diarrhea. Russia has two ways of developing. And both are stupid.
What is the path to Russia? Take the dollar and make it your god. They are ready for it right now. What will come of it? This is self-destruction, a destructive path. You can go another way – I know which way Russia needs. But I will never tell. Let them fall and roll! One way is to accept Islam and follow the way of Islam. This is a more realistic way for them.
And could not our people with you be victims of all these global processes?
“Today it is the victim of these problems.”
Victory or defeat, how will this war end?
“Questions about the start of the war and its completion are the Almighty’s business. So far, Russia itself is not prepared either for war or for its logical conclusion. But it’s not the war that worries me now, it will end anyway . And we will sign the peace. Not in Moscow – I will never go, and not in Chechnya – I have to let Russia save face. This (the signing of the peace. – Kommersant) will take place in the Caucasian land, in Dagestan. Do you want me to tell you where? In a train carriage…”
Dzhokhar, don’t you feel guilty that everything turned out like this in Chechnya?
“I don’t feel guilty.”
Couldn’t we have avoided this nightmare of war?
“We could not. If we tried to solve (the problem of relations with Russia. – Kommersant) by peaceful means, by politics, by loyalty, by humility – I can assure you that we would be destroyed to the root. And there would never again be a Chechen nation or its state. And I can responsibly say that already in 1991, the idea arose to populate the disputed territories on the Sino-Soviet border, under the branding that the Chechen mafia, rackets will not let you live. In 1991, how many Were there locomotives in Gudermes? With the excuse of maintenance? On which the factory grease had not yet been removed!? There were 56 locomotives! And how many wagons stood at the railway junctions around and on the territory of the republic? Cattle wagons. And without any movement for more than three months?! How many covered vehicles, under the guise of collection were in 11 districts, standing motionless, with people in green jackets?! Each car has an officer. And from how many units were additionally unloaded military equipment and the military contingent arrived on the territory of the republic to those who were already here?! And the Chechen nation would be destroyed. And the Emergency Committee was supposed to implement the idea of the genocide, another deportation of the Chechen people. And only an accident thwarted these plans.”
There is an idea that if Dudayev left now, saying: “If you want elections, hold them, if you want, join Russia”! Many more lives could be saved. Why do not you do that?
“I testify before Allah that such an act would bring great harm to the people. 300,000 men – aged between 17 and 50 – now have no shelter, no food, no work. They have nowhere to go – families are being destroyed, houses are being destroyed. These people have only one goal: revenge. As long as they trust me they obey me. If the landmark is broken, they will go out of control… Terrible! An internecine war will begin. In distant Russia, who should take revenge? Here we will seek blood revenge. They will again call for help from the Russians. And the latter, not understanding where theirs is, where they are strangers, will raze everything to the ground.”
Would you like to talk to Yeltsin now?
“I always have something to say to the leadership of Russia. I have always understood perfectly well, and I understand now, that such a huge Russia has its own interests, which are difficult to give up in an hour, in an instant. At first I suggested to take into account the interests of Russia: joint defense, joint armed forces. I even called him. I said more than once: recognize the path chosen by my people, and I will leave the political arena in 3 days.”
Dzhokhar, how do you evaluate today’s events, as a result of which you came to power in the presidential elections on October 27, 1991?
“The Supreme is my witness that I did not want to present my candidacy for president. But then my supporters were indignant because, they said I was afraid.”
Who were these people who convened the first national congress of the Chechen people (November 23-25, 1990), at which an executive committee was created (September 6, 1991, the Executive Committee of the Chechen People’s Congress seized power in the republic – Kommersant)? What do you think now, did they really support the idea or did they use the name of the first Chechen general to achieve their goals?
“That’s all! When I saw to whom the Vainakh people’s congress entrusted its sovereignty and its future, I – I give you my word of honor – got goosebumps. Already at the very first meeting of the executive committee there, they – those who organized and held this congress – started a fight for money.Literally because of the money raised for the last congress.
I didn’t need places in this republic, in that environment, spoiled to the point of lawlessness. In general, I was not only afraid of this environment but, frankly, I despised it. This environment was so far from my intellect and level with all its luxury, bravado and behind-the-scenes games. This environment was wild and far away for me… I looked and shuddered in horror. Who was given the trust of the people! It became clear that it was a collapse. That things would turn out so differently from the direction people had imagined. That they would literally pervert this idea (of sovereignty-Kommersant), they would smear it, they would spit on it. And that the people would be reduced to nothing. This is what made me take on this heavy burden. But it’s one thing to pronounce high-sounding words from the stands, quite another when it is necessary to implement a decision.”
They say your inner circle was corrupt.
“Everyone was corrupt. In the old days, money was brought to the first people in the highest echelons of power in the republic, and there was a certain tax. It took some time to clear the upper echelon. A cabinet of ministers was replaced , the second cabinet, the third. And we passed the upper level, we succeeded. And those who planned it, they felt the sword of Damocles upon them, which would cut off their heads. But on the lower level, the corruption continued to exist with unbridled force.
If you started all over again, what would you change about your actions in the last few years (1991-1996 – Kommersant)?
“Even if I wanted to change something, they just wouldn’t let me. Of course, I wish I had done things very differently.”
Who didn’t allow it?
The context didn’t allow it, a society that wasn’t ripe for democracy and respect for rules and laws. Do you think I wouldn’t want to have talented, intelligent, intellectual, creative, dedicated people next to me?! But there were little bastards around who had only one interest: unbridled profit. The environment turned out to be like this due to the circumstances, there was no other.”