Keynesian Spirits

Russia’s Chechnya Problem

The recent bombing at Moscow airport was very tragic and the loss of so many innocent lives highly condemnable and deeply painful. One can but feel immense sorrow at such bloodshed. However, the tragedies that have actually bred such mindless violence deserve more attention too, if we are ever to solve such problems.

To this end, Fareed Zakaria (Time Magazine/CNN) wrote an article in Time that deserves some our…time. You can head over to their website to read the full article;  some interesting parts are excerpted below and commentary follows after it.

In 1944 he [Stalin] deported most of the Chechen population — nearly half a million people — to central Asia and burned their villages to the ground.

Over the course of the past two decades [90s/00s], it has fought two ferocious wars, killed tens of thousands of Chechen civilians and razed large parts of the republic, flattening its capital, Grozny. Moscow finally subdued Chechnya and installed as President a pliable local warlord, Ramzan Kadyrov, whose regime has managed to make Freedom House’s Worst of the Worst list of the most repressive governments on the planet.

As the once secular secessionist movement in Chechnya continued to be brutally suppressed, it became more extreme, taking help anywhere it could find it, including from Islamic extremists. Chechen groups, always fractious, fragmented and became uncontrollable. As Russia destroyed Chechnya’s civil society, the place became a wasteland characterized by anarchy and gang warfare. And as tales of Russian brutality spread, Muslim warriors who were searching for jihad traveled to the Caucasus to do battle with the unbelievers. Muslim fundamentalists from Saudi Arabia and other countries have provided funds to some of these groups. Even today, despite the surface calm in Chechnya, Russia maintains a brutal reign of terror there and in its surrounding regions. Any signs of religious behavior are viewed with hostility.

The last point is particularly telling for it concerns not just Chechnya, but based on my moderate amount of knowledge, other conflict areas such as Kashmir and Occupied Palestine as well. For many years (generally decades) after the gross initial atrocities and commencement of oppression, no major resistance appeared in these areas, if any at all. It is only after very long periods that indigenous/local resistance movements appeared (late 1980s in Kashmir, 1970s in Occupied Palestine) and they too generally tended to be less religious-minded, more secular, nationalistic and relatively ‘moderate’ (in the sense used by Zakaria). I believe this to be the case in Somalia as well.

Thus, ideally, world powers should have engaged with these people, alleviated their just grievances and put pressure on oppressive states to allow greater democracy, freedom and actually, just on a more basic level, an end to these regimes’ murderous campaigns against innocent civilians. These humanitarian concerns are, however, generally subsumed by so-called strategic imperatives. While not wishing to single out the USA, the atrocities in Chechnya increased after the September 11 attacks as the USA turned a blind eye toward  this oppression as it sought another ally in its ‘War on Terror’.


Some useful reports on Chechnya

Chechen Refugees Describe Atrocities by Russian Troops

War Has No Rules for Russian Forces Fighting in Chechnya

Human Rights Watch testimony in US Congress

Just four years ago [2003] the United Nations still called Grozny the most destroyed city on earth. Ravaged by two wars, it had not a single building left undamaged.

Russian forces have committed grave abuses, including war crimes, in their campaign in Chechnya


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