Even Russian despots have trouble reserving original handles.
Ramzan Kadyrov is Vladimir Putin’s strongman in Chechnya.
The 39-year-old has been leader of the Russian republic for almost a decade, given free rein to rule with impunity – as long as he tows Putin’s line.
But while his relationship with the Kremlin is all very USSR, he’s showing himself to be a thoroughly modern dictator on social media.
With the Instagram handle 'kadyrov_95', he proves even Russian despots have trouble reserving original handles.
Kadyrov’s account is an exercise in the absurd, but its contradictions reflect those inherent in his leadership.
Kadyrov’s backing from the Kremlin rests on his ability to suppress anti-Russian dissent and ensure stability. But while human rights groups express ongoing concern over violence and intimidation, Kadyrov wants to be seen by his people as sensitive and approachable.
“He is a skillful and popular politician, one of the few in modern Russia, where nearly all officials tend to be charmless functionaries,” Joshua Yaffa wrote in a detailed profile for the New Yorker.
“Kadyrov’s rule rests on propaganda, fear—and real popularity,” editor of Caucasian Knot, Gregory Shvedov, said in the same piece.
Trawling through his Instagram, you could be forgiven for forgetting he's a clandestine dictator:
He’s hardcore about promoting his tough-guy, manly image.
Which jars a little with his cat photos.
Kadyrov uses Instagram to promote himself as a devout Muslim, and makes much of his connection to Chechen culture.
And his embrace of Putin as his idol couldn’t be more enthusiastic.
Sometimes you can reveal a little too much on social media. Proxy dictators are no exception.