Chechnya

Image source: wikipedia.org
Chechnya

Background[i]

Since the 17th century, the people throughout Caucasus have been in constant opposition to Russian attempts at colonization. In the 1780s, a conglomeration of Chechens and Ingush known as the Vaynakhs rose up in rebellion against the Russians, but the uprising was put down in 1789. Their first true war, the Caucasus War, began in the 19th century, and saw the rise of a Chechen Muslim movement in Dagestan in 1828.  This signaled a new stage of national liberation movements.  In April 1859, however, the movement was suppressed, but the Caucasus continued to be a battlefield until 1864. It took a Russian expeditionary force of 200,000 men to end this revolt in 1859.

Czarist forces would then expel the Chechens and Ingush from their territory in order to strengthen Russian influence in the Caucasus, moving Cossacks to their lands. Cossacks were highly capable military units of the Russian Empire whose primary responsibility was to safeguard the Russian border.[ii]  In response to this, abreks (Caucasian mountain guerilla fighters) appeared and attacked the representatives of the local administration, officers, Cossack settlers, and would rob the farms established on their lands. Unrest would continue until 1917.

Russia

In analyzing how current relations between Russia and Chechnya developed, one must turn to World War II.  While the Chechens and Ingush supported the Bolshevik revolution, violations in the collectivization process, (a policy adopted by the Soviet government in order to transform traditional agriculture in the Soviet Union and to reduce the economic power of the kulaks (prosperous peasants)), lead to an uprising in 1929, lasting until 1934.  Coupled with some 10,000 arrests to remove ‘anti-Soviet’ elements, the war of 1941-1945 revived the rebel movements in the Chechen-Ingushetia mountains, and the Caucasian people were said to be awaiting the Germans as guests only if they could provide total independence to the region.  While the Germans failed to achieve this territorial gain, Stalin’s government accused the Chechen and Ingush peoples of treachery and expelled them to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in February 1944.  The mass deaths during this deportation fed the fuel of revolution even further, however by the 1950s, NKVD (internal security) divisions had all but eliminated this movement.

To Russia, Chechnya is a control point. Being part of the pipeline system that carries oil from Baku to the Russia sea port Novorossiysk, Chechnya carries a measure of political clout in the oil and gas game.  In addition, Chechnya, inspired by Baltic uprisings like those in Estonia,[iii] was fueled with its own desire to break from Moscow following the collapse of the Soviet Union.  This threatened Russia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as inspired other Caucasian peoples chafing under Russian control.[iv]  When Chechnya began to fracture due to tribalism, Russia attempted to take advantage of this, arming several factions to take Grozny.  However, all this accomplished was prove to Chechnya that Russia did not want their independence, as used it as an excuse for war. Moscow’s aims in the war are to reverse its systemic decline, arresting the creeping process of Russian disintegration and reclaiming its influence in the Caspian.[v]  The second war was in response to Chechen incursions into Dagestan (intended to ignite an Islamic insurgency).

Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

Chechens are a largely ethnic Muslim[vi] group, who have experienced several brief periods of de facto independence. In January 1921, four years after the Russian Revolution, Chechnya joined Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, North Ossetia, and Ingushetia to form the Mountain Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. But the following year, the Soviet Union seized control of Chechnya and turned it into a Soviet province called the Chechen Autonomous Oblast. Political transitions within Chechnya were a fundamental cause of the two contemporary wars between Russia and Chechnya.

December 1990 saw Major General Dzhokhar Dudayev, a Chechen and former Soviet army general,[vii] elected chairman of the executive committee of the Chechen National Congress. His support for nationalists and desire to overthrow the USSR was a catalyst for the ‘Chechen Revolution,’ which saw the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria declare its official independence the following year, which Russia had no intention of recognizing. However, internal instability and inability to form a functioning government resulted in Russia deploying troops to quell the independence bid, resulting in over 100,000 deaths and a 20-month conflict period, dubbed the ‘First Chechen War’.  This ended in the 1996 Khasavyurt ceasefire.

The second war was the result of radical Islamic elements (it is unclear if they had the support of President Maskhadov) venturing into Dagestan. While the Russians initially responded with a policy of containment, the elevation of Vladimir Putin to prime minister saw this change to a much more aggressive policy of destruction, driving deep into the heart of Chechnya.[viii]

References

[i] Yevsyukova, Mariya. “THE CONFLICT BETWEEN RUSSIA AND CHECHNYA.” Conflict Research Consortium, 1995. https://www.colorado.edu/conflict/full_text_search/AllCRCDocs/95-5.htm.

[ii] Tschebotarioff, Gregory P. “The Cossacks and the Revolution of 1917.” The Russian Review 20, no. 3 (July 1961): 206. JSTOR.

[iii] Bridge., Adrian. “Estonia Holds on to Dudayev Legend.” The Independent. October 23, 2011. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/estonia-holds-on-to-dudayev-legend-1306954.html.

[iv] Kipp, Jacob W. “Russia’s Wars in Chechnya.” The Brown Journal of World Affairs 8, no. 1 (2001): 47-53. doi:10.1017/s1049096502000975.

[v] “Russia, United States: The Chechen War as a Geopolitical Battle.” Stratfor. April 23, 2005. https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/russia-united-states-chechen-war-geopolitical-battle.

[vi] Bhattacharji, Preeti. “Chechen Terrorism (Russia, Chechnya, Separatist).” Council on Foreign Relations. April 8, 2010. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chechen-terrorism-russia-chechnya-separatist.

[vii] Agbeko, Ebenezer. “Understanding the Structural Dynamics of the Russo-Chechen Conflict: A (Hi) Story of an Intractable Conflict and the Prospects for Political Settlement.” Journal of Global Peace and Conflict 2, no. 2 (December 2014). 42. doi:10.15640/jgpc.v2n2a3.

[viii] Kipp, Jacob W. “Russia’s Wars in Chechnya. 58.

1858: Chechnya is conquered by Russia following the defeat of Imam Shamil and his fighters, who had aimed to establish an Islamic state.  Imam Shamil was political, military, and religious leader of the Caucasian Muslims in their 19th century struggle for national liberation. Shamil founded the movement that united Dagestan and Chechnya in their struggle for freedom.[i]  It was Shamil’s desire to establish a unified Islamic state that allowed Islam to play an indispensable role in Chechen society. For at least two centuries it has been an integral component of ethnic identification, and during critical moments in the people’s history it became a powerful source of social mobilization.[ii]

1922: Chechen autonomous region established

1934: Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic established in 1934.

1944: Stalin deports the entire Chechen and Ingush populations to Siberia and Central Asia, citing alleged collaboration with Nazis.

1957: Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev restores the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

1991: Soviet Union collapses and Communist leader Doku Zavgayev is overthrown; Dzhokhar Dudayev is elected president and declares Chechen independence.

1992: Chechnya adopts a constitution defining it as an independent, secular state governed by a president and parliament.

December 1994: Russian troops enter Chechnya to halt the independence movement. Up to 100,000 causalities were estimated during the ensuing 20-month conflict.

June 1995: Chechen rebels seize hundreds of hostages at a hospital in Budennovsk, southern Russia. More than 100 were killed in the raid and an ensuing and unsuccessful Russian commando operation.

April 1996: Dudayev killed in a Russian missile strike; Zemlikhan Yandarbiyev succeeds him.

May 1996: Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Yandarbiyev sign a peace agreement; the short-lived truce lasts until July.

August 1996: Chechen rebels launch a successful attack on Grozny; Yeltsin’s security chief General Alexander Lebed and Chechen rebel chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov sign the Khasavyurt Accords which provide for a ceasefire. An agreement on Russian troop withdrawals is signed the following November.

January 1997: Russia recognizes Maskhadov’s government following his victory in the Chechen presidential elections.

January 6, 1997: Last Russian troops leave Chechnya

May 1997: Yeltsin and Maskhadov sign a formal peace treaty, however there was no resolution to the subject of Chechen independence.

May 1998: Valentin Vlasov, Russia’s presidential representative in Chechnya, is kidnapped and held for six months. Later in the year, four engineers from Britain and New Zealand are kidnapped and murdered.

June 1998: Maskhadov imposes a state of emergency due to increased lawlessness.

March 1999: Moscow’s top envoy to Chechnya, General Gennadiy Shpigun, is kidnapped from the airport in Grozny. His corpse is found in Chechnya in March 2000.  Following this discovery, federal authorities began tightening their grip around the republic, increasing the presence of Interior Ministry troops across the border with shoot to kill orders.[iii]

January/February 1999: Maskhadov declares that Shari’ah law will be phased in over three years.  A group of former rebel field commanders announces the formation of a rival body to govern Chechnya according to Shari’ah law and calls on Maskhadov to step down.

July/August 1999: Chechen fighters clash with Russian troops on the Chechnya-Dagestan border; Chechen rebels stage armed incursions into Dagestan in an attempt to create an Islamic state.

September 1999: Chechen rebels are blamed for the bombing of Russia barracks in Dagestan and several apartment block bombings elsewhere in Russia; some 300 people are killed in the blasts, resulting in redeployment of Russian forces into Chechnya; the new prime minister, Vladimir Putin, says the campaign is needed to quash terrorism.

October 1999: Former members of the Chechen republican legislature establish Moscow-based State Council of the Republic of Chechnya. Moscow recognizes it as the sole legitimate Chechen authority and will not negotiate with Maskhadov.

February 2000: Russian troops capture Grozny and raze most of the city.

May 2000: President Putin declares direct rule from Moscow.

June 2000: Russia appoints former Chechen cleric Akhmat Kadyrov as head of its administration in Chechnya.

2001: Following the discovery of a mass grave, human rights organizations claim human rights violations in Chechnya, including alleged torture and widespread detentions at the hands of Russian troops.

September 2001: Major rebel offensive on the Chechen town of Gudermes; a Russian helicopter carrying senior officers is downed.

In the aftermath of the 11 September attacks on the US, Putin urges rebels to “halt all contacts with international terrorists”.

November 2001: Maskhadov’s representative Akhmed Zakayev and Russia’s Kazantsev hold talks on a peace settlement in Moscow for first time since 1999.

December 2001: Captured rebel field commander Salman Raduyev sentenced to life imprisonment on murder, terrorism charges.  Dies in Russia in December 2002.

July 2002: UN suspends aid operations in Chechnya for six months after a Russian aid worker is kidnapped.

August 2002: Georgia accuses Russia of carrying out air raids in the Pankisi gorge, close to Georgia’s border with Chechnya. Moscow claims the gorge is a safe haven for Chechen rebel groups and presses for an international operation to flush them out.

October 2002: During the Nord Ost attack, Chechen rebels seize a Moscow theatre and hold about 800 hostages. A Russian rescue operation results in most rebels and 120 hostages being killed.

December 2002: Rebels claim responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on the Grozny base of the Russian-backed Chechen government; 80 people died.

March 2003: Russians support Chechen referendum vote in favor of a new constitution stipulating that the republic is part of the Russian Federation. Russia is criticized by human rights organizations for pushing ahead with the vote before peace had been established.

May 2003: Over 50 people killed in suicide bombing of government building in the north of the republic. Two days later administration chief Kadyrov escapes another suicide attack which leaves more than a dozen dead.

October 2003: Akhmad Kadyrov is elected President of Chechnya

December 2003: Russian forces kill about a dozen Chechen fighters after they cross the border into neighboring Dagestan and take hostages.

February 2004: Former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev killed in explosion in Qatar. Two Russian intelligence agents subsequently sentenced to life in jail by a Qatari court for the killing.

May 2004: President Akhmad Kadyrov and many others killed in Grozny bomb blast.

June 2004: An attack in neighboring Ingushetia involving hundreds of gunmen results in dozens of dead.  Aslan Maskhadov’s spokesman denies Putin’s allegations that Chechen rebels were involved but does admit that Chechen volunteers took part in the attack.

July 2004: Chechnya’s acting president Sergei Abramov (a Russian) survives an assassination attempt in the form of an explosion.  Prior to this, Akhmad Kadyrov was the Kremlin-backed president during Putin’s attempts at stabilization of the Republic and was also killed in an explosion.[iv]

September 2004: Siege at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia results in hundreds of children either killed or wounded. President Putin blames international terrorists with links to Chechen separatist fighters. Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov condemns the seizure but says it was carried out by “madmen” seeking revenge for Russian actions against their families in Chechnya.

October 2004: Former Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov, backed by the Kremlin, is sworn in as president following August elections.

February 2005: Separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov calls ceasefire and urges the Russian authorities to agree to peace talks. The official Chechen leadership rejects this and calls for his surrender

March 2005: Russian forces claim to have killed Aslan Maskhadov in a special operation in Chechnya.

May 2005: Maskhadov’s successor, Abdul-Khalim Saydullayev, signals end to policy of seeking peace and decrees organization of Caucasus Front to increase conflict with Russia.

July 2005: About 15 people killed when armored police vehicle blown up north of Groznyy.

October 2005: Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev claims responsibility for a major assault in Nalchik, capital of the North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. Dozens die in clashes between Russian forces and rebel fighters.

December 2005: President Putin attends opening session of new parliament and pledges support for reconstruction.

February 2006: 13 people are killed in an explosion at Russian military barracks near Groznyy. Officials say a gas leak was the most likely cause but do not rule out other theories.

March 2006: Ramzan Kadyrov, son of late president Akhmad Kadyrov and a former separatist leader and fighter during the First Chechen War, becomes prime minister of Chechnya following the resignation of Sergey Abramov.

June 2006: Government forces eliminate separatist leader Abdul-Khalim Saydullayev. He is succeeded by Doku Umarov, Chechnya’s former security minister during its short-lived independence between 1996 and 1999, and commander of the “south-western front” of the rebel armed forces.  Umarov was believed to have been behind many terror attacks, including the Beslan school siege in 2004 (resulting in 300 dead), and called for attacks at the Sochi Olympics.[v]

July 2006: Warlord Shamil Basayev dies in Ingushetia.  While the Russians claim his death was the result of a special operation, the Chechens claim it was an accidental explosion

October 2006: Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian journalist for Новая газета (Novaya Gazeta/New Newspaper) and outspoken critic of the Kremlin’s operations in Chechnya, is shot dead in Moscow.   (One possible reason for this event is that this death took place a mere 7 months after Ramzan Kadyrov was installed as Prime Minister by Putin, and as the conflict was winding down.  As we can see in the timeline, Russia was mainly performing political moves to consolidate its hold on the puppet government.  The EU and UN had already involved themselves prior with a human rights resolution, and Politkivskaya’s writings on further human rights abuses could have potentially reopened an international examination of the area and thrown a wrench in Russia’s fresh operations to seize control of Chechnya.

February/March 2007: President Alu Alkhanov is moved to a post in the Russian government by President Putin, who names Ramzan Kadyrov as Alkhanov’s successor. The Chechen parliament approves his candidacy.  Ramzan and Putin have had a long- standing relationship dating back to Putin’s relationship with Ramzan’s father Akhmad in 2000.  This relationship formed a special agreement between Chechnya and Moscow in which Chechnya received benefits and special privileges in exchange for compliance to preestablished conditions and survived through Akhmad’s assassination to his son’s ascension to power.[vi]

June 2007: In a rare ruling against Russian troops, a military court in southern Russia sentences four soldiers to prison terms for murdering six Chechen civilians.  (Similar to the death of Politkovskaya, a reason for this move may have been to throw off the international community.  The war has only two years left, Kadyrov has barely a year of power under his belt.  Russia makes itself look capable of handling human rights abuses internally by convicting their troops of a crime, thus warding off the potential of involvement by the international community.  And while the guilty verdict was handed down, the members being tried were not actually present as they were in hiding[vii]).

April 2009: Russia declares the nearly decade-old “counterterrorism operation” against separatist rebels to be over.

A month prior, President Medvedev stated that the republic had “normalized to a large degree”.

July 2009: Russian human rights activist Natalia Estemirova, who was investigating alleged abuses by government-backed militias in Chechnya, is abducted and killed.

February 2010: Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov drops three libel suits against human rights activists and journalists accusing him of having his bodyguard attempt to assassinate Isa Yamadayev and his two brothers Ruslan (who was killed) and Sulim.  The Yamadayev had previously been close to Ramzan’s father, however relations deteriorated after his death, with Ramzan and Sulim at one point accusing the other of orchestrating a raid on the village of Borozdinovskaya.[viii]

April 2010: Rebel leader Doku Umarov claims responsibility for deadly suicide attacks on Moscow Metro in March.

August 2010: Doku Umarov appears to announce in a YouTube video that he is retiring because of his age.

Names Aslambek Vadalov, a relatively obscure[ix] mid-level Chechen rebel and early supporter of Umarov, as his successor, but mere days later claims this to be false and that he is remaining in power.

October 2010: Gunmen attack the Chechen parliament, killing four people before subsequently being killed themselves.

November 2010: Three men go on trial in Austria, accused of complicity in the murder of a former bodyguard of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

February 2011: Dozens are left dead in the Domodedovo airport suicide attack.  Doku Umarov claims responsibility, stating that it was a response to “Russian crimes in the Caucasus”.[x]

March 2014: Umarov is killed in a clash with Russian security forces and is succeeded by Ali Abu Mohammed (Aliaskhab Kebekov) as leader of the Caucasus Emirate.

References

[i] “Imam Shamil (1797-1871).” Smithsonian. 2013. http://achp.si.edu/chavchavadze/shamil.html.

[ii] Souleimanov, Emil. “IMAM SHAMIL, ISLAM AND THE CHECHENS: HISTORICAL CONSIDERATIONS IN REGIONAL PERSPECTIVE.” RUSKII VOPROS. 2006. http://www.russkiivopros.com/ruskii_vopros.php?pag=one&id=30&kat=5&csl=11.

[iii] Treisman, Daniel. “The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev”. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2011. 298-299.

[iv] Danks, Catherine J. “Politics Russia”. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014. 197-198

[v] “Profile: Chechen Rebel Leader Doku Umarov.” BBC News. March 18, 2014. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-12269155.

[vi] Dubnov, Vadim. “Chechnya’s New Contract With the Kremlin.” Carnegie Moscow Center. October 27, 2016. http://carnegie.ru/2016/10/27/chechnya-s-new-contract-with-kremlin-pub-64955.

[vii] Слепцов, Сергей. “«Дело Ульмана»: суд нашел состав преступления, но не нашел самого Ульмана.” Радио Свобода. June 14, 2007. https://www.svoboda.org/a/397666.html.

[viii] “Chechen Republic Head Implicated in Two Political Killings.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. April 21, 2010. https://www.rferl.org/a/Chechen_Republic_Head_Implicated_In_Two_Political_Killings/2020247.html.

[ix] Abdullaev, Nabi. “Top Chechen Rebel Steps Down.” The Moscow Times. August 3, 2010. https://themoscowtimes.com/news/top-chechen-rebel-steps-down-318.

[x]Chechnya Profile – Timeline.” BBC News. January 17, 2018. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18190473.

December 15, 1994:  After walking[i] out of truce negotiations in Vladikavkaz, the Chechen government attempted to have Vice President Al Gore mediate between Russian and Chechen negotiators.  However, this was unsuccessful as the United States classified the conflict as a purely internal matter.  However, the U.S. did remain a topic of discussion whenever a U.S. representative travelled to Moscow.

August 22, 1996:  A ceasefire agreement[ii] between Aleksandr Lebed and President Maskhadov in the village of Novye Atagi is hammered out, detailing technical aspects of demilitarization and troop withdrawal.  Lebed is trusted by Maskhadov because “he hasn’t got blood on his hands.”[iii]  Multiple violations of the ceasefire were reported, but none of them resulted in an acceleration of conflict.

August 31, 1996:  Lebed and Maskhadov sign two documents that would come to be known as the Khasavyurt Accords.[iv]  These two documents were “The Announcement of a cessation of hostilities in the Chechen Republic” and the “Principles for identifying the foundations for mutual relations between the Russian Federation and Chechen Republic.”  The agreement garnered ambiguous reception even at the time. The generals spoke of having been “robbed of victory” and “not allowed to finish off the guerrillas”, while the ultra-patriots called the document “capitulatory” and “treacherous” with regard to Russia.[v]  Despite this, the accords set principles for establishing bilateral relations between the two countries and called for political solutions to the armed conflict.  However, the topic of Chechnya’s independent status was not dealt with.

These accords did pave the way for an economic agreement and payment of compensation to Chechens in November 1996., and would also pave the way for the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Chechnya by 31 December 1996; the election of Maskhadov as Chechen president in January 1997 in a ballot recognized as free, fair, and legitimate by both Moscow and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; and the signing in May 1997 in Moscow by Yeltsin and Maskhadov of a further agreement on bilateral relations.[vi]

May 12, 1997:  Yeltsin and Maskhadov sign an official peace treaty, simple in its call for ceasing military operations and attempt to normalize relations without solving[vii] the fundamental dispute, i.e. Chechnya’s status was still left ambiguous.  It does not mention capitulation[viii] on either side, declares no winner, nor does it formulate principles for governing relations between Russia and Chechnya.  This ambiguity may have been the catalyst that caused the treaty to fail, as two years later Russian troops were back in Chechnya in response to a series of apartment bombings, and in 2003 Chechnya declared itself formally independent.

February 1998:  The optimism of the treaty was short-lived and misplaced, as it failed to provide funding for rebuilding Chechnya’s broken infrastructure or employ former fighters.  Yeltsin would name Ivan Rybkin deputy prime minister responsible for CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) affairs, and his designated successor as Security Council secretary, Andrei Kokoshin, announced that the council would no longer deal with Chechnya.  That responsibility was shifted onto deputy prime minister Ramazan Abdulatipov, who was limited in his capacity to accomplish anything due to having no staff.  As such, support for the rebuilding of Chechnya did not come, and crime began to take root.[ix]

October 28-29, 2002:  Following the Nord Ost attack and years of devastating war, the World Chechen Congress convened a conference in Copenhagen to “create a fruitful dialogue to contribute to paving the way for negotiations and peace in Chechnya.”[x]  The conference gathered representatives of the world-wide Chechen diaspora, and invited representatives from the Russian government and Duma, members of European parliaments, Chechen, Russian and international human rights and relief organizations and the arts and media.  The conference resulted in Russians that attended accusing Akhmed Zakayev of participating in the Nord Ost attack, and demanded his arrest and extradition from his imprisonment on Denmark.[xi]

References

[i] Yevsyukova, Mariya. “THE CONFLICT BETWEEN RUSSIA AND CHECHNYA.”

[ii] Fuller, Liz. “Chechnya: Khasavyurt Accords Failed to Preclude A Second War.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. February 02, 2012. https://www.rferl.org/a/10709t9.html.

[iii]Russians, Chechen Rebels Announce Cease-fire.” CNN. August 17, 1996. http://edition.cnn.com/WORLD/9608/17/russia.chechnya/.

[iv] Fuller, Liz. “Chechnya: Khasavyurt Accords Failed to Preclude A Second War.”

[v] Chadayev, Umalt. “Ten Years since the End of the ‘First Chechen War.’” Prague Watchdog – Crisis in Chechnya – The 1997 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in Chechnya, 31 Aug. 2006, www.watchdog.cz/index.php?show=000000-000005-000004-000130&lang=1.

[vi] Fuller, Liz. “Analysis: Look Back In Anger — Ten Years Of War In Chechnya.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. April 08, 2008. https://www.rferl.org/a/1056348.html.

[vii] Stanley, Alessandra. “Yeltsin Signs Peace Treaty with Chechnya.” The New York Times. May 13, 1997. https://www.nytimes.com/1997/05/13/world/yeltsin-signs-peace-treaty-with-chechnya.html.

[viii] Asatiani, Salome. “Chechnya: Why Did 1997 Peace Agreement Fail?” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. February 02, 2012. https://www.rferl.org/a/1076426.html.

[ix] Fuller, Liz. “The Turning Point That Wasn’t.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, 2 Feb. 2012, www.rferl.org/a/1076423.html.

[x] “World Chechen Congress for a Peaceful Solution to the Russian-Chechen Conflict.” ReliefWeb. October 28, 2002. https://reliefweb.int/report/russian-federation/world-chechen-congress-peaceful-solution-russian-chechen-conflict.

[xi] “Europe | Chechen Warlord Claims Theatre Attack.” BBC News. November 01, 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2388857.stm.

Chechnya[i] is formally part of Russia, and President Kadyrov shows loyalty to Putin. While Chechnya is firmly under Russia’s political control, low-level separatist attacks still continue, and jihadists[ii] have also entered the region, including a radicalized variant of the secessionist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria known as the Caucasus Emirate.

Chechnya is a fertile recruiting[iii] ground for the Islamic State, with official numbers pointing towards around 800 recruited fighters (the real number is most likely much higher).

Regional insurgency[iv] in the North Caucuses has for the most part dispersed, following an attempt in August 2012 to reinvigorate it. A group of roughly 20 militants was confronted by Georgian security forces as they attempted to cross the Russian border into Dagestan in what became known as the “Lopota incident” (after the gorge where it occurred).  Around half the militants were killed and the remainder dispersed in the ensuing firefight, with researchers claiming this as a turning point, representing the last concerted effort by militants to invigorate the regional insurgency in the North Caucasus.

This was reflected in the attitudes among the insurgency itself, with one fighter stating that jihad in the North Caucasus had become “1,000 times harder than in Syria.”[v]

2013 saw 101 people affected by the armed conflicts[vi], with 39 dead and 62 wounded. Note that due to the difficulties presented in gaining this information from Chechnya, the numbers may be higher.

Since 2000, Chechnya has enjoyed a special relationship with Moscow, benefiting from massive economic support and privileges in exchange for loyalty and compliance. These economic favors have drawn ire from the Russian community who see the republic as a financial black hole, yet Chechnya was exempt from Russia’s belt tightening during the initial imposition of Crimea sanctions in 2014, allocating enough funds for Chechnya’s “justifiable” expenditures.[vii]

In August 2015, Caucasus Emirate leader Abu Usman Gimrinsky (Magomed Suleymanov) is killed by Russian security forces – a fate met by his predecessor Kebekov in April. A reason this is relevant is that the Caucasus Emirate is a Sufi nationalist organization birthed by Doku Umarov, former president of the secessionist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.  This demonstrates that the Russian conflict with a Caucasus independence movement still continues in a new vein, one now combined with Islamist radicalism.[viii]

A poll taken in January 2016 revealed that Ramzan Kadyrov has been losing popularity among ordinary Russian citizens, citing concerns that his “aggressive response”[ix] to those questioning his authority would spill over onto Russian soil.

In March of 2016, members of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (an independent Russian human rights group) were attacked by unidentified assailants while in Chechnya.[x]  This was the fourth attack in 15 months on members of Joint Mobile Group staff (the Committee was a founder and participator in the Group), with the previous attack being called “absolutely outrageous” by press secretary Peskov.[xi]

In November 2017, President Kadyrov stated he was ready to step down[xii] and allow Russia to choose a new leader. This followed President Putin’s plans to run for a fourth term, as well as denial that five Chechens convicted of the 2015 murder of Boris Nemtsov were guilty.  Boris Nemtsov was Russia’s opposition leader and an ardent and outspoken critic of Putin.[xiii]  Although these five men were convicted for the crime, the family of Nemtsov denounced it as a coverup and that the real killers had not been on trial.[xiv]

In 2017, Kadyrov also confirmed his ambition[xv] of becoming spokesman for all of Russia’s Muslims, even if that means offending Moscow. This casts some doubt on the stability of the pact between Moscow and Grozny.

In April 2017, gay rights activists in Russia tried to organize the evacuation of gay men facing persecution, torture and even death in Chechnya. Kadyrov denies the allegations, saying there are no gay people in Chechnya.

In December of 2017, the US imposed financial sanctions on Kadyrov, accusing him of a systematic campaign of repression.

References

[i] Mirovalev, Mansur. “Chechnya, Russia and 20 Years of Conflict.” Israeli–Palestinian Conflict | Al Jazeera. December 11, 2014. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/12/chechnya-russia-20-years-conflict-2014121161310580523.html.

[ii] “Chechnya Profile – Timeline.” BBC News. January 17, 2018. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18190473.

[iii] Deutsche Welle. “Chechnya: Islamic State’s Fertile Russian Recruiting Ground” | DW | 25.01.2018. DW.COM. January 25, 2018. http://www.dw.com/en/chechnya-islamic-states-fertile-russian-recruiting-ground/a-42311816.

[iv] Hauer, Neil. “The Impact of Chechen and North Caucasian Militants in Syria.” News Deeply. January 19, 2018. https://www.newsdeeply.com/syria/articles/2018/01/19/the-impact-of-chechen-and-north-caucasian-militants-in-syria.

[v] Hauer, Neil. “Chechen and North Caucasian Militants in Syria.” Atlantic Council. January 18, 2018. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/syriasource/chechen-and-north-caucasian-militants-in-syria.

[vi] “2013 Totals by “Caucasian Knot” for Northern Caucasus: Count of Victims of Armed Conflict on Decline.” Caucasian Knot. January 31, 2014. http://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/27145/.

[vii] Fuller, Liz. “Analysis: Kadyrov’s Chechnya Appears Exempt from Russian Funding Cuts.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. July 30, 2017. https://www.rferl.org/a/caucasus-report-kadyrov-chechnya-exempt-funding-cuts/28648698.html.

[viii] “Caucasus Emirate.” Mapping Militant Organizations.” April 11, 2014. http://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/255.

[ix] “Chechen Leader Ramzan Kadyrov Losing Popularity Among Russians – Poll.” The Moscow Times. January 28, 2016. https://themoscowtimes.com/news/chechen-leader-ramzan-kadyrov-losing-popularity-among-russians-poll-51624.

[x] “Миятович требует расследовать инцидент с журналистами в Чечне.” РИА Новости. March 09, 2016. https://ria.ru/incidents/20160310/1387513202.html.

[xi] “Russia: Rights Defender Attacked in Chechnya.” Human Rights Watch. March 17, 2016. https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/03/17/russia-rights-defender-attacked-chechnya.

[xii] Reuters. “Chechen Leader Ramzan Kadyrov ‘ready to Step Down’.” The Guardian. November 27, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/27/chechen-leader-ramzan-kadyrov-ready-to-step-down.

[xiii] Kramer, David, and Lilia Shevtsova. “Boris Nemtsov, Russian Opposition Leader, Murdered.” Brookings. July 28, 2016. https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/boris-nemtsov-russian-opposition-leader-murdered/.

[xiv] Luhn, Alec. “Nemtsov Family Dismisses Verdict as Five Found Guilty of Murder.” The Guardian. June 29, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/29/gunman-found-guilty-murdering-russian-opposition-leader-boris-nemtsov.

[xv] Huérou, Anne Le, and Aude Merlin. “Chechnya’s Very Long State of Emergency.” Le Monde Diplomatique. April 01, 2018. https://mondediplo.com/2018/04/09chechnya-emergency.

United States:  During the initial Chechen wars, the United States held very little stake in the conflict, preferring to take a non-committal stance in order to support the new Russian Federation government, courting an ally in the War on Terror, and attempting to avoid a new “frosting” of relationships.[i]  The conflict should have been a cause for concern though, as prolonged war could cause destabilization and force Chechen fighters into neighboring countries and militant Islam groups (which coincidentally happened anyway).[ii]  However, with the recent attention drawn to the state of human rights for homosexuals in Chechnya and Russia largely silent on the injustices[iii], the United States now has a solid stake in what occurs here, both as a champion for human rights in general, and for gay rights more specifically with its own recent passage of equality legislation.  It already has applied pressure to Russia and its silence with a 2017 bipartisan resolution condemning the anti-LGBTQ persecution and promising sanctions against those involved.[iv]

EU:  Like the United States, the EU saw their stake in the Chechen conflict as one of improving relations with the new Russian government, thus undercutting the integrity of EU functions and human rights policy for the short-term political capital of warm Russian relations.  Chechnya served as a key indicator of the EU’s ability to serve as a “normative power” in its external relations.[v]  And much like the United States, the Eu now has a new chance to choose a new stake in Chechnya, one where it actively pursues the recognition of the rights of gays and their safety.  Currently the EU has continued to pressure Russia to conduct thorough investigations into the persecution and reported abduction and execution of gay men in Chechnya,[vi] and in 2017 sent a delegation from the European Committee Against Torture in an effort to corroborate a report that some 27 people had been detained and executed outside Grozny (however no evidence was found).[vii]

Council of Europe: Europe’s most powerful human rights body, the function of the Council is to ensure the observance of the engagement undertaken by the contracting states in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights and its protocols, that is ensuring the enforcement and implementation of the European Convention in the member states of the Council of Europe.

As a member state, Russia is subject to the Court’s rulings, and in 2000 they were threatened with removal from the organization if demands for ceasefires, negotiations, and better refugee treatment were not met.  This resulted in Putin opening up the conflict to foreign media outlets which had previously been blocked.  Threats of sanction pressure were also applied.[viii]

As of 2009, the Council has held Russia responsible for over 83 counts of human rights violations.  In nearly every ruling, the court called the Russian government to account for failing to properly investigate these crimes, and also faulted Russia for failing to provide requested case files, which amounts to serious non-cooperation with the court.[ix]

ECHR: The Convention is an international treaty to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe.  All Council of Europe member states are party to the Convention and new members are expected to ratify the convention at the earliest opportunity.  As the ECHR provides the framework for which all members must abide, Russia is subject to these as well.  Chechen claims of human rights abuses caused the Convention to bring cases against Russia from 2005 to 2007.[x]  Cases such as “Isayeva vs Russia” and “Musayev and Others vs. Russia,” both of which were cases involving the deaths of relatives of those suing for restitution, as well as the failure of Russia to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances in which the applicants’ relatives died.  In the cases, the Court found Russia guilty of violating Articles 2,3 and 13 of the ECHR.[xi]

UNCHR: The Commission on Human Rights was intended to examine, monitor and publicly report on human rights situations in specific countries or territories (known as country mechanisms or mandates) as well as on major phenomena of human rights violations worldwide (known as thematic mechanisms or mandates).  It was replaced in 2006 by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Over the course of the Chechen Wars, the UNCHR adopted two resolutions condemning both Russia directly and the atrocities occurring in Chechnya.  The first resolution (E/CN.4/RES/2000/58) was passed in April of 2000 and was the first time a UN body had directly criticized a UNSC member.[xii]

The second resolution (Resolution 2001/24) condemned the human rights violations in Chechnya.[xiii]

IS: One of the most heavily-discussed groupings of foreign fighters in Syria are those from Chechnya and the North Caucasus.  Experience gained from two decades of insurgency against the Russian army, these fighters have long been highly touted for their experience and skill. While their numbers are small, they have played a large role in the conflict, participating in major jihadist offensives in the country for half a decade.[xiv]

The Russian government itself also aided the outflow of Chechen fighters to Syria, as “everyone’s happy: they are dying on the path of Allah, and we have no terrorist acts here.”[xv]  This Syrian jihad eventually split the North Caucus factions, with some going to ISIS, others joining al-Qaeda or al-Nusra.

Recent events in the Middle East, including the recapture of Aleppo and deaths of several major leaders, have as of 2017 left the future of all Chechen and North Caucasian jihadist fighters within Syria rather ambiguous.

Chechen Diaspora: The Chechen Wars expelled many Chechens from their homes and into neighboring Russia, Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan as they fled for Western Europe.  The diaspora in Turkey is especially under pressure.  During the second war, Turkey initially provided a safe haven for Chechen warlords and fighters fleeing the republic and housed 3,000-4,000 refugees.  However, as time progressed, the Chechen issue lost focus and the number dwindled to 1,500.[xvi]

Increased cooperation between Turkey and Russia, coupled with the 9/11 attacks, also led to pressure on the diaspora.  Turkey had to balance putting pressure on the diaspora to appeal to Russia, while simultaneously allowing fighters access to their territory in order to have a negotiation tool against Russia.  The active members of the Chechen diaspora take advantage of this two-level game their host plays.

References

[i] Bagot, Elizabeth. “US Ambivalence and the Russo-Chechen Wars: Behind the Silence.” Stanford Journal of International Relations XI, no. 1 (2009). https://web.stanford.edu/group/sjir/pdf/Chechnya_11.1.pdf.

[ii] Cohen, Ariel. “The War in Chechnya: What Is At Stake?” The Heritage Foundation. November 30, 1999. https://www.heritage.org/europe/report/the-war-chechnya-what-stake.

[iii] “Russia: One Year after ‘gay Purge’ in Chechnya, Still No Justice for Victims.” Amnesty International. April 4, 2018. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/04/russia-one-year-after-gay-purge-in-chechnya-still-no-justice-for-victims/.

[iv] Tuakli, Foluké. “Bipartisan Group of Senators Condemns Persecution of Gay Men in Chechnya.” NBCNews.com. November 2, 2017. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/senate-condemns-persecution-gay-men-chechnya-n816496.

[v] Forsberg, Tuomas, and Graeme P. Herd. “The EU, Human Rights, and the Russo-Chechen Conflict.” Political Science Quarterly, vol. 120, no. 3, 2005, pp. 455–478., doi: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20202560

[vi] “EU Local Statement on the Need for Proper Investigation of Human Rights Violations in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation – EEAS – European External Action Service – European Commission.” EEAS – European External Action Service, 10 May 2017, 15:46, https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/council-europe/33368/eu-local-statement-need-proper-investigation-human-rights-violations-chechen-republic-russian_en.

[vii] “Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner Says a European Delegation Found No Evidence of Mass Summary Executions in Chechnya.” Meduza, 6 Dec. 2017, 14:01, https://meduza.io/en/news/2017/12/06/russia-s-human-rights-commissioner-says-a-european-delegation-found-no-evidence-of-mass-summary-executions-in-chechnya.

[viii] Gentleman, Amelia. “Council of Europe Threatens Russia over Chechnya.” The Guardian. January 18, 2000. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2000/jan/18/chechnya.ameliagentleman.

[ix] “Update on European Court of Human Rights Judgments against Russia regarding Cases from Chechnya.” Human Rights Watch. April 17, 2015. https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/03/20/update-european-court-human-rights-judgments-against-russia-regarding-cases-chechnya.

[x] “ANNUAL REPORT 2007.” 2008. https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Annual_report_2007_ENG.pdf.

[xi] European Court of Human Rights. Press Unit. “Armed Conflicts.” News release, May 2018. https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/FS_Armed_conflicts_ENG.pdf.

[xii] United Nations. “Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2000/58 Situation in the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation.” Refworld. April 25, 2000. http://www.refworld.org/docid/3b00f2ba44.html.

[xiii] “U.N. Resolution on Chechnya Welcomed.” Human Rights Watch. April 19, 2001. https://www.hrw.org/news/2001/04/19/un-resolution-chechnya-welcomed.

[xiv] Hauer, Neil. “Chechen and North Caucasian Militants in Syria.” Atlantic Council. January 18, 2018. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/syriasource/chechen-and-north-caucasian-militants-in-syria.

[xv] Hauer, Neil. “Chechen and North Caucasian Militants in Syria.” Atlantic Council. January 18, 2018. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/syriasource/chechen-and-north-caucasian-militants-in-syria.

[xvi] Brody, Marc. “THE CHECHEN DIASPORA IN TURKEY.” The Jamestown Foundation.  https://jamestown.org/program/the-chechen-diaspora-in-turkey-2/.

Predictions

With Kadyrov aiming to step down, Russia is in a prime position to plant a leader totally subservient to their whims and get rid of the elements of Kadyrov that troubled them, such as his desire to be the mouthpiece of all federation Muslims, which caused him to publicly clash with Putin.[i]  While the current status quo with the Chechen Republic may remain, as they are economically reliant on Russia, the rebel government strikes will undoubtably continue as they receive more of the same, and with the added threat of jihadist insurgents moving in, escalation may be coming.

However, Kadyrov’s claim may simply be another power play, this time aimed at exposing Russia’s weakness.  Kadyrov knows that the Chechen people will reject his resignation and beg him to stay, thereby reinforcing his power and prominence.  And if Putin asks Kadyrov to stay in office, in Kadyrov’s mind this will show how indispensable he is to the Kremlin, as well as reveal Putin’s weaknesses in Chechnya.[ii]  Kadyrov has further pushed the boundaries of Moscow’s tolerance of his outbursts by attacking Russian opposition parties with vitriolic rhetoric, intent on painting himself as a pillar of the regime and renewing Chechnya’s economic and political support from Russia.[iii]  But it is this plea for support that exposes Kadyrov’s weakness, and Moscow is already moving to exploit it.

The deal Putin created with Kadyrov’s father is now being changed, Putin sees Kadyrov’s attempts at manipulation, and as such, Moscow no longer feels obligated to maintain relations with Chechnya on Kadyrov’s terms. Putin will not risk a loss of leverage in the region, and will revise the contract—this time, on Moscow’s terms. Kadyrov is reckoning with the partial downgrading of Chechnya’s extraterritorial status and his own personal privileges, and in order to secure Russia’s support will most likely accept this new status quo for the time being.[iv]

Recommendations

During the war, recommendations were primarily leveled against pressuring Russia to cease hostilities.  Rachel Denber, Deputy Director of the Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia division,[v] believed that the international community should have unified and called on the Russian government to halt the forced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention, and should have compiled documentation about abuses into “an authoritative, official record.”[vi]  Denber further continued that this record should have been vigorously pressing for a credible accountability process for perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law, and should stop Russia from forcing the return of displaced people to areas where their safety and well-being cannot be ensured.[vii]

Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center,[viii] had similar opinions to Denber which he addressed in a policy note.  Trenin stated that Russia’s costly military successes would not solve the Chechnya problem unless they were followed up with dedicated and sustained political efforts, and that assisting the Chechens in self-organization for peaceful reconstruction of their republic was the key to any genuine political solution.[ix] This act, according to Trenin, would have been in Russia’s best self-interest, as a conflict that can be managed by political means is a better long-term solution.  Otherwise the conflict would devolve into chronic guerilla warfare.  And like Denber, Trenin called on the West, above all the European Union, to go beyond simply criticizing Moscow for their wartime conduct in Chechnya and engage Russia in constructive dialogue about post-conflict rehabilitation of the region, including the creation of economic incentives for a lasting peace.[x]

Current relations for the most part have been peaceful, with Russia having installed a pro-Russian leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, in Chechnya.  While Kadyrov has had occasional clashes with Moscow, overall, he shows total loyalty to Moscow.  Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, the former project director of the Russia & North Caucasus section of the International Crisis Group,[xi] described Kadyrov as a vivid reflection of Mr. Putin’s third presidential term: fiercely ideological and conservative, with great emphasis on traditional values and macho nationalism.  The peace between Russia and Chechnya stems from Putin giving Kadyrov carte blanche in how he manages things inside Chechen borders.  Sokirianskaia stated that some critics claim Putin fears challenging Kadyrov’s position could lead to a third, far bloodier war.  On the other hand, however, she also notes that Mr. Kadyrov repeatedly declares his readiness to fight and die for Putin whenever asked.[xii]  It seems that as long as Kadyrov remains loyal, Putin has little to be concerned about in terms of Kadyrov’s power and reach.  The Grozny-Kremlin relationship is calculated, controlled and mutually beneficial, with Kadyrov having convinced the Kremlin that only he can control Chechnya, and Putin accepting this “conflict resolution” model as an effective solution for the time being, knowing full well that he can use the war in Chechnya and the threat of terrorism to curb freedoms.[xiii]  This type of relationship seems to be what works in keeping peace at the present time.  While I am not qualified to make policy recommendations, it seems that indirect Russian control through some type of carte blanche agreement is the way to maintain order between Grozny and Moscow, as it has led to relative stability.  While it seems safe to criticize and sanction these nations for their humanitarian rights abuses, it may not be wise to disrupt the current power status quo, at least until a new generation of more open-minded leaders make an appearance.

References

[i] Huérou, Anne Le, and Aude Merlin. “Chechnya’s Very Long State of Emergency.” Le Monde Diplomatique. April 01, 2018. https://mondediplo.com/2018/04/09chechnya-emergency.

[ii] Malashenko, Alexey. “Will Kadyrov Actually Step Down?” Carnegie Moscow Center, 10 Mar. 2016, https://carnegie.ru/commentary/63000.

[iii] Pertsev, Andrey. “Kadyrov’s Calculated Provocation.” Carnegie Moscow Center, 27 Jan. 2016, http://carnegie.ru/commentary/62591.

[iv] Dubnov, Vadim. “Chechnya’s New Contract With the Kremlin.” Carnegie Moscow Center, 27 Oct. 2016, http://carnegie.ru/2016/10/27/chechnya-s-new-contract-with-kremlin-pub-64955.

[v] “Rachel Denber.” Human Rights Watch. June 10, 2015. https://www.hrw.org/about/people/rachel-denber.

[vi] Denber, Rachel. ““Glad to Be Deceived”: The International Community and Chechnya.” Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/legacy/wr2k4/download/7.pdf.

[vii] Denber, Rachel. ““Glad to Be Deceived”: The International Community and Chechnya.” Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/legacy/wr2k4/download/7.pdf.

[viii] “Dmitri Trenin.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. http://carnegieendowment.org/experts/287.

[ix] Trenin, Dmitri. “Land for Peace – A Policy Option for Chechnya?” The NATO-Russia Archive – Formal NATO-Russia Relations. Accessed August 21, 2018. http://www.bits.de/public/policynote/pn00-1.htm.

[x] Trenin, Dmitri. “Land for Peace – A Policy Option for Chechnya?” The NATO-Russia Archive – Formal NATO-Russia Relations. Accessed August 21, 2018. http://www.bits.de/public/policynote/pn00-1.htm.

[xi] “Ekaterina Sokirianskaia.” Crisis Group. July 05, 2017. https://www.crisisgroup.org/who-we-are/people/ekaterina-sokirianskaia.

[xii] Sokirianskaia, Ekaterina. “Is Chechnya Taking Over Russia?” The New York Times. August 17, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/opinion/chechnya-ramzan-kadyrov-russia.html?login=email&auth=login-email.

[xiii] Sokirianskaia, Ekaterina. “Is Chechnya Taking Over Russia?” The New York Times. August 17, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/opinion/chechnya-ramzan-kadyrov-russia.html?login=email&auth=login-email.

June 15, 2018 saw a working meeting[i] between Putin and Kadyrov, in which issues related to the development of Chechnya and investor appeal were discussed.

July 9, 2018 saw the Shali court in Chechnya rule to keep Oyub Titiyev, head of the Chechen branch of the Russian human rights group “Memorial,” in custody despite international criticism of his arrest on drug possession charges.[ii]

References

[i] “Meeting with Head Of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov.” President of Russia. June 15, 2018. http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/57797.

[ii] “Rights Activist in Russian Region of Chechnya Kept in Jail.” U.S. News & World Report. July 9, 2018. https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-07-09/rights-activist-in-russian-region-of-chechnya-kept-in-jail.

Politkovskaya, Anna. Nothing But the Truth: Selected Dispatches: Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist, writer, and human rights activist who reported on political events in Russia, in particular, the Second Chechen War.  The collection in this book presents a solid overview of Anna’s reportage and a bird’s eye view of a totalitarian state.  Anna was well known for her investigative reports on human rights abuses by the Russian military in Chechnya. In seven years covering the second Chechen war, Politkovskaya’s reporting repeatedly drew the wrath of Russian authorities. She was threatened, jailed, forced into exile, and poisoned during her career.  If you can accept the anti-Putin bias, this is a book worth reading.

Emerson, Michael, and Nathalie Tocci. “The Future of the Caucasus after the Second Chechen War.”: Michael Emerson is an Associate Research Fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies,[i] and Nathalie Tocci is Director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali, Honorary Professor at the University of Tübingen, and Special Adviser to EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, with specialties in the Caucus region.[ii]  Both authors craft an interesting analysis piece discussing the potential future outcomes of the Chechen War, during the middle of the conflict itself.  It accurately predicts the rising issue of Islamic fundamentalism in the region that we see now with fighters flocking to ISIS and other extremist groups.  It also analyzes unique stability issues the Caucuses face in terms of economic reliance on gas and oil, as well as the promise of open and mutually beneficial dialogue between Russia, the EU, and the United States.

Tolstoy, Leo. Hadji Murad. Translated by Alymer Maude: Tolstoy is already known to many as one of the greatest writers of all time, and here he combines this talent with his personal military experiences combating the Chechens to create a mix of fiction and fact that follows the life of a Chechen soldier and turncoat.  The events, relationships, and experiences Tolstoy details paint an eerily similar image to the modern-day relationship Chechnya and Russia shared through the second Chechen War, revealing that these ancient disputes are so deep rooted, that they will potentially never fully recede into history.

Billingsley, Dodge. Fangs of the Lone Wolf: Chechen Tactics in the Russian-Chechen WarsDodge Billingsley is director of Combat Films and Research, and has been documenting wars since 1993, often being on the ground in the midst of the conflict itself.[iii]  For those more interested in the tactical aspects of the unconventional conflicts of the Chechen Wars, Billingsley’s novel offers unique and accurate insights from one embedded right in the thick of combat.  Billingsley was present in the battles and skirmishes detailed in these pages, conveying stories of the guerilla combat as told by survivors, an in addition to having a deep understanding of the native culture, brings a more neutral Western perspective to the conflict that prevents any potential favoritism when painting the images of war.

Politkovskaya, Anna. A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from ChechnyaPolitkovskaya’s second book on the Chechen War, “A Small Corner of Hell”, offers an insider’s view of the ongoing conflict at the time.  In this book, Politkovskaya focuses her attention on those caught in the crossfire.  Skipping from year to year and place to place, she recounts the everyday horrors of living in the midst of war, examines how the Chechen war has damaged Russian society, and takes a hard look at the ways people on both sides profited from it.

Gall, Carlotta and Thomas de Waal. Chechnya: A Small Victorious WarCarlotta Gall is the New York Times Istanbul Bureau Chief and began her journalism career with the Moscow Times, reporting on war in Chechnya,[iv] while Thomas de Waal is a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe, specializing in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region.[v]  Gall and Carlotta follow the full story of how the Kremlin came to embark on such an ill-judged military adventure and how the Chechen fighters fought back. Switching between Chechnya and Moscow, the authors cover the whole sweep of the war from the horrendous destruction of the Russian invasion to the Chechen retaliation.  Tracing the Chechens’ history of resistance to the Russian empire and its subsequent effects on Chechen-Russian relations, the authors use exclusive material and eye witness reports to paint a definitive account of such a tragic conflict.

Meakins, Joss. “The Other Side of the COIN: The Russians in Chechnya.”Joss Meakins is a research associate at the European Leadership Network, focusing on Russia-West relations and cyber deterrence.[vi]  This journal article explores the possibility of Chechnya as a counterinsurgency (COIN) success, as well as the West’s tendency to not classify it as such due to the extreme unpalatability of Russia’s methods in suppressing the region.  The article contends that while the Russian COIN methods are anathema to Western practices, they are efficient in their own right and are elaborated on further, in addition to historical outlines of the conflict, geography, and various reasons for success.

Hämmerli, August, Regula Gattiker, and Reto Weyermann. “Conflict and Cooperation in an Actors’ Network of Chechnya Based on Event Data.”:  Regula Gattiker is Senior Advisor in Conflict Transformation at Helvetas.  She is also an Advisory Board Member of the Centre for Peacebuilding and a Board Member of Peace Watch Switzerland.[vii]  The conflict in Chechnya is characterized by a high degree of complexity. To capture this complexity, the authors of this quantitative study produced an actors’ network analysis drawing on one of the largest event databases today. The aim was to identify the main actors involved in the conflict, track down the most important conflictive and cooperative ties between actors, and compare the quality and intensity of interactions among actor groups.

Foxall, Andrew. Chechnya, Russia’s Forgotten War: In this article Foxall, Director of Research and Director of the Russia and Eurasia Studies Centre,[viii] examines the Chechen conflict as part of a larger analysis of Putin’s projected strongman image and his overall lack of control of Russia compared what he is perceived to hold.  While he may have declared an end to the very war that brought him to prominence, and Grozny may b totally reborn, conflict still occurs and there’s nothing Putin seems to be able to do about it.

Hughes, James. From Nationalism to Jihad:  James Hughes has authored several books on events in Eastern Europe, including Stalinism, the New Economic Policy, and the Chechen conflicts.  Called one of the most comprehensive, thoroughly documented, and up-to-date study of the Chechen conflict available by Cornell University, James Hughes locates Chechen nationalism within the wider movement for national self-determination that followed the collapse of the Soviet empire, and its eventual slip into becoming embedded in Osama Bin Laden’s repertoire of jihadist rhetoric against the “West,” attempting to understand conflicts involving the volatile combination of nationalist insurgency, jihad, and terrorism.

Williams, Brian Glyn. Inferno in Chechnya: The Russian-Chechen Wars, the Al Qaeda Myth, and the Boston Marathon BombingsBrian Glyn Williams, a professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth,[ix] takes us through the history of Russian efforts to incorporate Chechnya into the Russian Empire in the 18th century, its 19th century brutal conquest of the region, Stalin’s forced deportation of hundreds of thousands of Chechens to Central Asia in 1944, and two savage wars that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in an attempt to explain the rise of the Chechens’ terror campaign in Russia, document their growing links to Al Qaeda and radical Islam, and describe the plight of the Chechen diaspora that ultimately sent two Chechens to Boston.

Oliker, Olga. Russia’s Chechen Wars 1994-2000: Lessons from Urban CombatOlga Oliker is the Senior Adviser and Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.[x]  This study of combat tactics examines of the difficulties faced by the Russian military in planning and carrying out operations in Chechnya.  Russian and rebel military forces fought to control the Chechen city of Grozny in the winters of 1994-1995 and 1999-2000, as well as skirmishes in surrounding towns and villages. The author examines both Russian and rebel tactics and operations in those battles, focusing on how and why the approaches to combat changed with time.

UDCP/PRIO Armed Conflict Database: For those wanting a more quantitative representation of the conflicts in Chechnya, Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) at the department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University and the Centre for the Study of Civil War at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) have collaborated in the production of a dataset of armed conflicts, both internal and external, in the period 1946 to the present, and graphed by region, conflict type, and conflict intensity.

References

[i] “Michael Emerson.” Centre for European Policy Studies. April 07, 2014. https://www.ceps.eu/content/michael-emerson.

[ii] “Nathalie Tocci.” IAI Istituto Affari Internazionali. August 02, 2017. http://www.iai.it/en/persone/nathalie-tocci.

[iii] “Dodge Billingsley.” Kennedy Center. https://kennedy.byu.edu/dodge-billingsley/.

[iv] “Carlotta Gall.” The New York Times. August 17, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/by/carlotta-gall.

[v] “Thomas De Waal.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. http://carnegieendowment.org/experts/479.

[vi] “Joss Meakins.” European Leadership Network. https://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/person/joss-meakins/.

[vii] “Regula Gattiker.” Helvetas. https://www.helvetas.org/en/switzerland/who-we-are/vision-mission/contacts/Regula-Gattiker_person_970.

[viii] “Dr. Andrew Foxall.” Henry Jackson Society. https://henryjacksonsociety.org/staff/dr-andrew-foxall/.

[ix] Williams, Brian. “Brian Glyn Williams Home Page.” Brian Glyn Williams Home Page. http://www.brianglynwilliams.com/.

[x] “Olga Oliker.” The New Southbound Policy | Center for Strategic and International Studies. August 01, 2018. https://www.csis.org/people/olga-oliker.