Adam Kadyrov, Chechnya’s prince who would be king

Adam Kadyrov is the inexperienced son of Chechnya’s current dictator who is being positioned as a potential successor.

Adam Kadyrov

Adam Kadyrov, one of the sons of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, has assumed a higher public profile in recent months. This suggests that Ramzan may be positioning him as a potential successor. Adam’s experience thus far is extremely limited, with his main ‘achievements’ consisting of collecting awards and being involved in scandals. His network of relations are mostly familial, and it is likely to be decisions made by that family network – rather than Adam’s own actions – that determine whether Adam eventually assumes leadership of the republic. Adam has not yet been sanctioned by foreign governments, something that is not particularly surprising, given that he is still a minor and has only recently assumed a formal position in the Chechen regime.

Date profile information last updated: 10 May 2024.

The much-decorated Adam Kadyrov and the succession question

In October and November 2023, Adam Kadyrov received multiple awards. From within Chechnya, these include Hero of Chechnya; Daymekhkan Siy (Honour of the Fatherland), the highest order of the Chechen parliament; and the For Services to the Religion of Islam order, awarded by Chechnya’s mufti. From outside the republic, Tatarstan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachayevo-Cherkessia were among those to recognise the then 15-year-old Adam’s ‘achievements’ (2, 3, 4).

Adam was also appointed as head of Ramzan Kadyrov’s personal security (5) and to an unspecified role on the Chechen Security Council (6) – his first formal positions within the Chechen regime. On 29 November 2023, he was appointed to a role overseeing the Sheikh Mansur Battalion, which is subordinate to the Russian Ministry of Defence (77), and in April 2024 he was made supervisor of the Gudermes-based Russian University of Spetsnaz (81). The rapid boost in Adam’s public profile raises the possibility that he is being positioned to take over from Ramzan Kadyrov, whose health has in recent months has been the subject of considerable speculation (see the 21 September 2023 Threatologist newsletter). He may even have overtaken his older brother, Akhmat – who himself has previously been viewed as “heir apparent” (7).

Adam Kadyrov’s elevated profile fuelled by prisoner abuse scandal

Most of these awards followed a scandal in September 2023 that was prompted by Ramzan posting a video showing Adam beathing up Nikita Zhuravel, a detainee accused of burning the Qur’an. Groznyy police refused to investigate the incident (8), which Ramzan explicitly approved of (9). The response of Russian state officials, meanwhile, was negligible. Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitriy Peskov said he had no desire to comment on the incident (10). Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalova expressed mild disapproval, saying that those who destroy religious texts should answer before the courts and be held in pre-trial detention facilities; she declined, however, to mention Ramzan, Adam, or Zhuravel by name. Presidential Council for Human Rights Chairman Valery Fadayev was similarly non-committal – though it should be remembered that Moskalova and Fadayeva are both officials with roles that seek to co-opt the language of human rights, rather than genuine activists. Eva Merkacheva, another member of the Council, went further, claiming she would ask for an investigation and the prisoner’s transfer from Chechnya (11).

Inevitably, the incident has passed without any form of punishment or accountability. Kremlin-linked journalist Kseniya Sobchak claims that Ramzan personally phoned her to warn her not to write about his family after she had reported on the incident with Zhuravel (12). Within Chechnya, the response has arguably been more mixed. The Telegram channel of Chechen state TV ChGTRK polled its audience as to whether they supported Adam Kadyrov’s actions. Only 46% of the 300,000 respondents said they did – a surprisingly high disapproval rating for an outlet run by a regime that brutally punishes any form of dissent (13). It is, of course, impossible to gauge how reflective that is of broader public opinion – and how many of the unfavourable responses came from people located outside the republic. Zhuravel was eventually, in February 2024, sentenced to three and a half years in prison (80).

Positioning Adam Kadyrov – including beyond the law

Political scientist Ivan Preobrazhenskiy opined that the flurry of awards and appointments were intended as a signal that Adam Kadyrov is “outside of Russian legislation. He can beat a person and nothing will happen; he can be appointed to a state position that someone under the age of 18 cannot be appointed to, but nevertheless this appointment occurs” (14).

Indeed, the appointments are not the first legal violation involving Adam, as will be seen in the discussion below. According to Preobrazhenskiy, the latest manoeuvres will help smooth the way for the further violation of the law that would be required for him to succeed Ramzan: Article 20 of the law “Regarding General Principles of Organising Public Authority in the Subjects of the Russian Federation” stipulates that the head of the republic must be at least 30 years of age (15). It was this requirement that forced Ramzan to wait until 2007 to succeed his father, Akhmat Kadyrov, who was killed in 2004.

Commenting specifically on awards made by Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Assembly of the Peoples of the Caucasus President Ruslan Kutayev reached a similar conclusion to Preobrazhenskiy, arguing that they had been initiated by Moscow as a way of signalling support for Adam as Ramzan’s successor. Ethnographer Akhmet Yarlykapov, meanwhile, insisted that they were a means for the heads of other republics to show their respect for Ramzan (16).

Adam Kadyrov one of three children in line for the throne

As already noted, Adam Kadyrov is not the only one of Ramzan’s children who has been positioned as a potential successor.

Given the gendered nature of Chechen politics and society, Adam’s older and more experienced sisters – including 24-year-old Ayshat Kadyrova, whose various roles include Chechen deputy prime minister and culture minister (17) – are highly unlikely to be candidates for the role.

However, Ramzan’s sons – particularly Adam, 18-year-old Akhmat, and 16-year-old Eli (Zelimkhan) – have occassionally been promoted simultaneously. Thus, for example, in October 2022, Ramzan claimed that the three had all travelled to the front lines of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, and Chechen state television published a video report showing them engaged in conflict. Chechen opposition Telegram channels analysed the footage and showed that it was taken a few kilometres from the front line. Chechen Information Minister Akhmed Dudayev admitted that the video footage was a “montage” of clips (18, 19).

The first substantive attempt to promote Adam as a martial figure came in March 2023, when two alleged militants were killed in a special operation in Gudermes. A video from the scene showed Adam in body armour and carrying an automatic weapon – another violation of the law, given that it is illegal for juveniles to bear arms (20).

Also in March, the Chechen Interior Minister awarded both Adam and Akhmat merit badges “for distinction in the fight against terrorism” (21). The Russian University of Spetsnaz, based in Gudermes, was among those to decorate Adam in the recent flurry of awards, for his “contribution to developing” the institution (22).

Adam Kadyrov’s key relationships dominated by familial connections

Given his age and lack of formal roles within the Chechen political system, it is little surprise that Adam’s relationships are dominated by family connections. He has no evident power base of his own. As a result, his chances of succeeding Ramzan are – much like his brothers – likely to be determined much more by the decisions made by people around him, rather than his own actions. The two most important people in this regard are arguably his uncle and State Duma deputy for Chechnya Adam Delimkhanov and, of course, Ramzan.

Adam Kadyrov’s family

Adam Kadyrov’s family connections are covered throughout this report and displayed on the above network map. It is worth noting that there is uncertainty over exactly how many children Ramzan has – and therefore how many siblings Adam has. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes that 10 are often reported, but the total may be as high as 14 (53). For example, one article on Caucasian Knot lists Abubakar Kadyrov as one of Adam’s brothers (54), but another article claims that Ramzan has four natural and two adopted sons – and Abubakar does not appear on the list (55). The names of the adopted children do not appear to be reported anywhere.

Adam Kadyrov’s business interests

None reported.

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Adam Kadyrov’s biography

Basic details

Full name:Akhmat Ramzanovich Kadyrov
Variants and nicknames:Ахмат Рамзанович Кадыров
Date of birth:24 November 2007 (56)
Place of birth:
Place of residence:
Citizenship:Russian Federation (57)
Passport number:
Other identification numbers
Military/police rank:
Awards:Merit badges, Chechen Interior Ministry (March 2023); Hero of Chechnya (October 2023); Order of Friendship, Tatarstan (October 2023); For Services to Karacheyevo-Cherkessia (October 2023); For Services to the Umma, Karachayevo-Cherkessia (October 2023); For Services to Kabardino-Balkaria (November 2023); Daymekhkan Siy (Honour of the Fatherland), highest order of Chechen parliament (November 2023); Honourable badge of excellence, Labour Prowess of Russia organisation (November 2023); University of Spetsnaz medal (November 2023); For Services to the Religion of Islam order (November 2023); UAE SWAT Challenge, Dubai (February 2024) (58, 59, 60, 79).

Education

No specific information on Adam’s education is reported, only general claims by members of the Chechen elite about how exceptionally gifted and erudite he is. It was claimed in 2013 that Adam, then only six, had become the youngest hafiz (person who has memorised the Qur’an) (61).

Adam is, of course, in good company when it comes to his intellect: Members of the Kadyrov family are routinely appointed to senior positions, with appointments framed as recognition of their exceptional ability and most definitely not evidence of nepotism.

Professional career

  • November 2023-date: Head of Ramzan Kadyrov’s personal security (5);
  • November 2023-date: Unspecified role on the Chechen Security Council (6);
  • November 2023-date: Supervisor, Sheykh Mansur Battalion (77);
  • April 2024-date: Supervisor, Russian University of Spetsnaz (81).

Adam Kadyrov’s illustrious sports ‘career’

Early efforts to promote Adam’s image came through coverage of his sporting ‘career,’ with multiple accusations that he had participated in rigged competitions.

In 2016, for example, Adam participated in a mixed martial art (MMA) fight that was broadcast on Match-TV – even though he was only eight and MMA rules ban the involvement of anyone under the age of 12. He was awarded a knockout victory, even though spectators claimed his opponent was able to participate. Famous MMA fighter Fedor Yemelyanko criticised Adam’s participation, prompting a strong reaction from other prominent Chechens. This appears to have been the first time he was mentioned in the media (62, 63).

Adam Kadyrov: Major incidents and controversies

In September 2022, Chechen human rights group Vayfond claimed that Adam had been involved in a car accident, as a result of which two people died. He reportedly left the scene in a bodyguard’s car and killed another pedestrian in the process. No investigation was conducted (68). The Chechen opposition channel Niyso alleged that Murad Agmerzoyev (Bars) was the bodyguard involved and was executed by Deputy Prime Minister Abuzayd Vismuradov on Ramzan’s orders – for his involvement in the incident, and for supplying drugs to Adam (69, 70). There is no independent confirmation of these claims.

In February 2023, another driving incident illustrates the impunity with which Adam and his brothers operate. Chechen sportsman (and Swedish citizen) Khamzat Chimayev posted a video of himself, Adam, and Eli all driving in Dubai. The legal age for driving there is 18 (71).

In January 2024, Adam Kadyrov publicly threatened the regime’s critics, stating “There is no doubt that we will catch up and deal with people who have taken the path of deceit, enemies, shaitans, no matter what state they are in: in the West, Ukraine” (78).

Adam Kadyrov’s online presence

Adam used the “Kadyrov_Dustum” Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/Kadyrov_dustum/) to respond to the scandal that erupted over his beating of Zhuravel. Access to the account was restricted shortly afterwards (72, 73).

Adam is also reported to use the “Adam_Benoevsky_K13” Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/adam_benoevsky_k13/) (74); the account, however, is currently inaccessible.

A VK account in Adam’s name (https://vk.com/id367354878) features pictures of a young Adam with various family members and friends of the family; it has not been active since 2017 (75).

Adam Kadyrov on the world stage

UkraineUnited KingdomUnited StatesCanadaEuropean UnionOther
NoNoNoNoNoNo

There are currently no known sanctions imposed against Adam Kadyrov. This is unsurprising, given his age and – until the recent appointments – lack of a formal role within the Chechen regime.

Indeed, one of the difficulties in formulating a legal response to the Kadyrov children is that they are technically minors: while they are beneficiaries of the Kadyrov regime, they are simultaneously its victims. For example, Adam’s involvement in MMA fights at the age of eight is a form of child abuse.

The only other notable international engagement involving Adam came in 2019, when he had a two-word cameo in the fifth and final season of Diriliş: Ertugrul (Resurrection: Ertugrul). He was reportedly invited to participate by the show’s creator, Mehmet Bozdağ (76). There is no suggestion that Adam’s outstanding performance had anything to do with there not being a sixth series.

Sources

Show sources
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