Akhmed Zakayev: Subjugate or Exterminate! A Memoir of Russia’s Wars against Chechnya
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Akhmed Zakayev: Subjugate or Exterminate! A Memoir of Russia’s Wars against Chechnya
17 October @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Russia has been at war with Chechnya twice since 1991, and Chechnya has been involved with the gravest of national crises that Russia has faced since the end of the Cold War. Yet, Chechnya has never received any sustained international attention. One reason for this is that many of the activists and journalists who sought to shine light on the region have been killed.
In this context, the book ‘Subjugate or Exterminate!: A Memoir of Russia’s Wars in Chechnya’ (Academica Press, 2019) by Akhmed Zakayev, the London-based Chechen leader whom Russia has long sought to extradite from the UK, provides a fresh account of the past quarter of a century. It also provides a unique firsthand account; Zakayev fought in both of the Chechen wars, and was variously a minister, a military commander, a negotiator, and a presidential candidate.
The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to a fascinating panel discussion with dissident and Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic’s government in exile, award-winning translator Dr Arch Tait, the book’s publisher Dr Paul du Quenoy, and foreign correspondent Luke Harding on the subject of Akhmed Zakayev’s recent book ‘Subjugate or Exterminate!’: A Memoir of Russia’s Wars in Chechnya (Academica Press, 2019), which relates a major participant’s role in Russia’s conflict with Chechnya.
Akhmed Zakayev is Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic’s government in exile. Zakayev was first trained as an actor and became the chairman of the Chechen Union of Theatrical Actors in 1991. A veteran of the First Chechen War, Zakayev was one of the signatories of the Chechen-Russian peace treaty when it was signed in 1997 and served as Chechen deputy prime minister after the war. When Russia attempted to implicate him in the planning of the Moscow theatre siege in 2002, a British court refused to extradite Zakayev. He was granted political asylum in 2003. Zakayev leads a political movement which both opposed the turn in Chechen militancy towards Islamism an the current Russian-backed Chechen government of Ramzan Kadyrov. Between the Chechen Wars he co-authored a book, Wahhabism, The Kremlin’s Remedy Against National Liberation Movements, positing a link between Soviet Union support for terror groups and dictatorial states and political Islam’s growth. It was discovered in 2008 that Zakayev was targeted for assassination along with friend and acquaintance, Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered by polonium-210 poisoning in 2006. He continues to campaign for Chechen independence from exile in London, and Russia continues to attempt his extradition. His recent book, Subjugate or Exterminate! seeks to provide a personal telling of the Chechen conflict.
Dr Arch Tait learned Russian at Latymer Upper School, London; Trinity Hall, Cambridge; and Moscow State University. He has a PhD in Russian literature from Cambridge and began translating in earnest in 1986 after a meeting with Valentina Jacques, then editor of the magazine Soviet Literature. From 1993 he was the UK editor of the Glas New Russian Writing translation series, whose editor-in-chief was Valentina’s successor, Natasha Perova. To date he has translated 35 books by leading Russian authors of fiction and non-fiction. Dr Tait’s most recent translations are Yelena Rzhevskaya’s Memoirs of a Wartime Interpreter (Greenhill), and Maxim Trudolyubov’s The Tragedy of Property (Polity); and Ivan Chistyakov’s The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard (Granta).
Paul du Quenoy is President and Publisher of Academica Press, a leading independent publisher based in Washington, DC and London, and Professor of History at the American University of Beirut. He received his Ph.D. in Russian History from Georgetown University and has also taught at Georgetown, the American University in Cairo, and St. Petersburg State University. Twice a Fulbright scholar in Russia, Professor du Quenoy is the author of three books and numerous scholarly articles, including work on Russia and the Middle East. He is also an internationally recognized cultural critic, regularly publishing on art, theatre, and music, and chairman of the Russian Ball of Washington, DC.
Luke Harding is an award-winning Guardian foreign correspondent. Resident in Moscow between 2007-11, he was expelled from the country by the Kremlin, the first case of such an expulsion happening to a journalist in Russia since the end of the Cold War. Afterwards, he penned Mafia State to describe the Putin regime. He has reported from Delhi, Berlin and Moscow and covered wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. His book, The Liar: The Fall of Jonathan Aitken, was nominated for the Orwell Prize, while The Snowden Files and (as co-author) WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy have both been turned into films. In November 2017, Harding published Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win on the subject of Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election, examining the dossier of former British Agent Christopher Steele.
On the 17th of October the Henry Jackson Society hosted the event Akhmed Zakayev: Subjugate or Exterminate! A Memoir of Russia’s Wars against Chechnya, chaired by Dr Andrew Foxall, Director of the Russia and Eurasia Studies Centre and Director of Research at the Henry Jackson Society. The event included multiple speakers: Akhmed Zakayev, Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic’s government in exile and the author of Subjugate or Exterminate! A Memoir of Russia’s Wars against Chechnya, the subject of the discussion, Dr Arch Tait, an award winning translator, Dr Paul du Quenoy, President and Publisher of Academia Press as well as an author and the publisher of Mr Zakayev’s book, and Luke Harding, an award-winning Guardian foreign correspondent who was expelled from Russia by the Kremlin in 2011, the first case of such an expulsion happening to a journalist in Russia since the end of the Cold War.
Dr Foxall began by introducing the speakers, beginning with Akhmed Zakayev, followed by Dr Arch Tait and Dr Paul du Quenoy, and ending with Luke Harding. Akhmed Zakayev began with recalling his friendship with Alexander Litvinenko, and their plans to write a book on the Chechen Wars, recounting the same events from opposite sides, but their plans were cut short by the assassination of Litvinenko. Mr Zakayev remarked that there is a very limited amount of materials and documents from and about the Chechen side of the conflicts, a result of systematic destruction by Russia. Mr Zakayev noted the immense importance for future generations having access to more than just the one perspective created by the Kremlin, and that his book is an attempt to ensure the preservation of Chechen history and culture. Mr Zakayev continued by discussing the continuous attempts to suppress and even erase the Chechen people, first by the Russian empire, then by the Soviet Union, and finally by the modern Russian Federation, led by Vladimir Putin. Mr Zakayev noted that even though there is currently no mass killing of Chechens in Russia, the Kremlin is committing a spiritual genocide in Chechnya, dividing the population along religious lines and ruling them with the help of recruited local leaders, a favoured tactic since Kathrine the Great. Mr Zakayev concluded his speech with his thoughts on the unwillingness of the international community to hear the Chechens, and criticised western leaders for their continuous support for eastern despots due to economic considerations, asking whether economic interests are truly more important than human rights, freedom of speech and the continued suffering of the Chechen people.
Zakayev’s speech was followed by Dr Arch Tait’s elaboration on the content of Akhmed Zakayev: Subjugate or Exterminate! A Memoir of Russia’s Wars against Chechnya. Dr Tait noted that the book covers the first 40 years of Mr Zakayev’s life, and that the title of the book is a quote from Nicholas I, referring to the Chechen people in 1829. Dr Tait then said he would attempt to briefly take the audience through the book, and read out several quotes about several notable events from the life of Mr Zakayev as he was experiencing the Chechen struggle for freedom from Russian oppression.
Dr Tait was followed by a short speech from Dr Paul du Quenoy, thanking Mr Zakayev for his bravery, noting that criticising Putin is a challenging experience, especially because most of the people involved in the events described in the book are now dead, either having perished in combat or under suspicious circumstances. Dr du Quenoy also expressed his gratitude towards Dr Tait, commending his skill as a translator.
Dr du Quenoy was followed by Luke Harding who provided his thoughts on Mr Zakayev’s book, saying that while it was brilliant on the abominable behaviour of Russia, what makes it truly multi-dimensional is Mr Zakayev’s unrelenting criticism of the failings of the Chechens. Mr Harding also added that the book is very well written and has a lyrical quality to it, making it very pleasant to read in addition to its importance as an account of the events of the two wars between Russia and Chechnya.
The event was then concluded with a Q&A session.
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