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Chechens complain of compulsory ‘voluntary’ work

20 March 2017
Subbotnik in Grozny (grozmer.ru)

Since the beginning of March, a major subbotnik (voluntary unpaid work) has been taking place in Grozny, aimed at cleaning up the city’s streets and roads. Employees of virtually all official institutions participated, with many of them admitting unofficially that the work is compulsory.

The Chechen authorities are planning to carry on with the subbotnik until the end of the month. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov wrote on his Instagram that over 70,000 people took part in the clean-up.

Ramzan Kadyrov (@kadyrov_95)

Caucasian Knot, quoting anonymous officials, claimed that people took part in the clean-up under coercion.

‘The authorities regularly organise subbotniks to clean Christian cemeteries, city streets, and so on. I don’t mind having our cities and villages clean and beautiful, but let the communal workers take care of it. They receive wages for their work, unlike us, students and pupils’, they quoted Adlan, an inhabitant of Chechnya.

In Chechnya, participation in mass public events, the majority of which are compulsory, is nothing new. Government employees may unofficially complain, but their workplaces do not pay attention in part because they never receive official written complaints. To file such a complaint in present-day Chechnya is tantamount to a crime in the eyes of the authorities.

On 19 March, Chechnya celebrated the third anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea with a festive procession through Grozny. The event was attended by employees of state institutions. Some of them told the media that their participation was compulsory.

Alvi Karimov, spokesman for the president of Chechnya, denied this, calling it ‘nonsense’.

‘This is an absolute lie. Nobody forces anyone to do anything. People even arrived from other regions of Russia. They were not coerced’, Karimov said.