Friday, April 29, 2011

Chechnya Conflict Part 3: War And Still No Peace

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here

The Chechen people have been victims of Russian imperialism and control since the early 19th century. Throughout their subsequent conquest and occupation, they constantly resisted, yet always considered the land as their own, even going so far as to serve in the Soviet military during WW2. However, Stalin only paid back their loyalty in the form of forced removal from their historic lands. When the USSR collapsed, it seemed that the people of Chechnya would finally be able to have their own state, but it was not to be so.

In 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union “the Chechen parliament – under President Dzhokhar Dudayev – proclaimed the region the independent Republic of Ichkeria, or Chechnya.” [1] (Of course, Dudayev was part of a group of rebels “under the leadership of a former Soviet Air Force general”[2] who killed the head of the Communist Party and ‘won’ elections that were mired in corruption.)

Initially, the Russian government didn’t do much beyond withdrawing troops from Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, deciding to take a wait and see attitude. However, due to the Chechen situation as well as others, “the government of President Boris Yeltsin shaped the 1992 Federation Treaty, which was signed by virtually all local ethnic governments—but Chechnya refused to accede to the treaty, maintaining its claim to independence.” [3] This was possibly due to the fact that treaty allowed the Russian government to maintain a Soviet-style structure, although with varying levels of autonomy.
What made the Russian government send troops into Chechnya was the increasing violence between the Dudayev regime and the Russian-backed opposition, with the opposition making a concentrated effort to overthrow Dudayev. By mid-1994 “Russian aircraft began to bomb Grozny, and in December Russian troops invaded the region,” [4] thus starting the First Chechen War. The main goal of the operation was “a quick victory leading to pacification and reestablishment of a pro-Russian government,” [5] however, things did not turn out this way.
The fighting went on for quite a while and by the end of December, the Russians were launching major air and artillery strikes on Grozny, which resulted in a “heavy loss of civilian life and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. Air strikes continued through the month of December and into January, causing extensive damage and heavy civilian casualties.” [6]
What is quite interesting is that during the war, Russian troops were helping to arm Chechen fighters. A San Francisco Gate article written at the time states: 
If Russian forces have suffered heavy casualties in their three-month war with secessionist Chechnya, they can start by looking at themselves. Across the breakaway republic, Russian troops are selling weapons to the very rebels they are fighting. [7] 
While the article makes clear that such moves were prompted by greed, it brings up the question of loyalty and how many soldiers actually believed in what they were doing.
The First Chechen war ended in 1996 when 
Dudaev was killed by a Russian strike after his location was pinpointed through his satellite communication system.  His successor, Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, travelled to Moscow to negotiate a cease-fire agreement, which was signed on 27 May 1996. The following day Yeltsin flew to Chechnya and addressed Russian troops at the military airfield outside Grozny, declaring that ‘the war is over’ and ‘the resistance put up by the bandits and separatists has been crushed.[8]
It was mentioned earlier that civilians had been killed in the conflict. Many of these civilian casualties were not by accident; rather, they were intentional slaughters of civilians and soldiers alike on both sides. The Human Rights Watch Organization states that Russian troops “arbitrarily and illegally detained and systematically beat, tortured and humiliated Chechen men suspected of being rebel fighters” as well as “repeatedly blocked or otherwise delayed the delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians, particularly in the early stages of the war, and on at least one occasion fired on a clearly marked Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) vehicle.” [9] The Chechen fighters “admitted to the summary execution of captured Russian pilots throughout the war, and of at least eight Russian military detainees” and also to using “civilian structures to store arms, and employed indiscriminate fire.” [10]

Internationally, the end of the First Chechen War was seen as a Russian loss as the Chechen’s still maintained their independence and the 1992 treaty “provided that Russian troops would leave Chechnya and that Moscow would compensate the Chechens for economic damage resulting from the war.” [11] However, while Chechnya maintained its independence, internally things would get worse.

Islam has always played a role in Chechen society and in the Caucus region since the 7th and 8th centuries; however it was a non-radical form of Islam that was the norm. Yet, as Chechen independence struggle wore on “religion became increasingly important to the conflict.  This no doubt partly simply was the result of the pressures of war, with Chechens turning to religion as a justification for sacrifice and a source of divine sanction for their costly struggle.” [11] Also, there was massive financial and other assistance flowing in from Middle Eastern countries to aid the Chechens. Most of this aid came from radical Islamists who advocated violence. In addition, “for a number of years Wahhabi missionaries (largely funded by Saudi Arabia) had been active throughout Caucasus, as well as in many other parts of the world, seeking to convert local Muslims to the very severe Wahhabi vision of Islam.” [12] The rise of radical Islam in the Chechen region would lead to the lighting of the fuse that would start the Second Chechen War.

On the morning of August 1, 1999 Chechnya fighters of the Islamic Peacekeeping Army crossed the Chechen-Russia border into Dagestan in order to establish Islamic law there. This led to the Russian government launching a massive campaign to retake the region and the objectives went even further in May of 2000 as then-President Putin announced that Chechnya would be under federal control. [13]

Once again the Russian military responded slowly, yet this time they were better organized. By October of 1999, the Chechen fighters were facing a Russian force 
consisting of formations, units and subunits belonging to the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and subunits of the Federal Border Service. The moves by the ground forces of the Combined Group of Federal Forces appeared to be more considered and cautious than in 1994.[14] 
The Russian troops established a cordon around Chechnya and soon launched an assault and encircled Gronzy by December 1999. Once the encirclement was complete, air and artillery strikes began again. By the end of December “airborne assault units had occupied areas adjacent to the Georgian border in the south,” [15] thus stopping any Georgian bid to arm the Chechens. It seemed that the operation was going smoothly, but by New Year’s Day, “the operation had become bogged down because of fighters holding out in Groznyy and taking Federal Forces off-guard by attacks on Gudermes, Argun and Shali from the south and east.” [16]

Just as in the First Chechen war, the air and artillery strikes led to the deaths of innocents. During the war 
Chechnya was devastated, including the almost complete destruction of Grozny, the Chechen capital. Russian artillery and air indiscriminately pounded populated areas. Human rights organizations also documented several massacres of civilians by Russian units.[17] 
By 2000, then-President Putin proclaimed that Chechnya had been subdued, yet the suffering did not stop as the Chechen people “were plagued by abuses committed by Russian forces -- arbitrary arrest, extortion, torture, murder. For years, there were no sustained efforts to rebuild basic social services, such as utilities or education.” [18]

While the Second Chechen war ended, the fighting has not as there is still an ongoing Chechen insurgency. [19] The people of Chechnya, while they are rebuilding, are still not fully independent from the Russian government. In order for there to be peace the issue of Chechen independence must be solved. The Russian government sees Chechnya as a threat to its security while Chechnya wants to be a fully sovereign nation.

While there are serious problems in this conflict, it needs to be solved, not for the leaders of Chechnya or Russia, but for the people of Chechnya, the average ordinary citizens. This conflict has had a massive impact on average Chechens and they deserve to have a bright and peaceful future in which they can work hard and prosper.

The people of Chechnya need peace.


3: Ibid

4: Ibid

6: Ibid

10: Ibid

12: Ibid

15: Ibid

16: Ibid

18: Ibid

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Libya: The battles that raged on when no one was looking

Private Military Companies: A Threat?


Private Military Companies (PMCs) have been in the national and international spotlight in recent years, most famously known are the actions of the PMC Blackwater (now renamed Xe Services) in Iraq. There are many mixed feelings about PMCs, some say that they are a good thing and that they help countries to save money while others argue that they are not regulated and many times go about killing innocent people.

PMCs are a major problem in that they are a threat to state sovereignty as they threaten the state’s monopoly on the use of force. They also have major legality issues that need to be addressed, threaten democracy, and aid in continuing the influence of multinational companies in the third world.

While I will delve into the above issues, I will not be able to give the full picture of the effect that PMCs have on states nor how they operate, thus I recommend that anyone who finds themselves wanting to know more about PMCs read the book Servants of War: Private Military Corporations and the Profit of Conflict by Rolf Uesseler (translated by Jefferson Chase; it also provided the research for this essay), as it provides a comprehensive analysis of PMCs and the manner in which they do business, from interviewing owners of PMCs to discussing how PMCs effect international conflicts and concluding by exploring if there is way to properly handle PMCs.

State Sovereignty

PMCs threaten state sovereignty because they threaten the state’s monopoly on the use of force. In the German Parliament, the conservative faction submitted a proposal in 2004 which stated that the privatization of the military “could lead to a fundamental shift” between a nation’s armed forces and its government as “the state’s monopoly on force could be called into question or even possibly eradicated.” [1] By bringing PMCs into the picture, it creates a “hollowing out of the state,” where the military itself can become weakened due to its reliance upon private organizations to do things such as gather intelligence.

“A third emphasis of the modern military companies is the area of intelligence, which includes everything from information collecting to outright spying. In the wake of the electronics revolution, many firms have developed techniques for information gathering and analysis that only they are able to master and offer as a service.” [2]

The effect that having PMCs gather intelligence for the military is that people then realize that the real intelligence jobs are with PMCs and use government institutions like the military and the CIA as resume-builders for when they go to apply for a position at a PMC.  It also creates a dependency on PMCs to do the intelligence work for the government and thus the influence of PMCs in the Pentagon increases.

This dependence is not only in the area of intelligence gathering, but also extends into what is arguably the most important aspect of warfare: logistics. Companies offer services “from the procurement of toilet paper to the organization of diverse types of vehicles.” Also maintenance of military equipment “represents a huge portion of this spectrum, be it the upkeep and repair of motor vehicles, transport vans, helicopter warships, or other types of military aircraft.” [3]

By supplying US troops, private corporations have increased their influence within the Pentagon to levels in which they hold major sway. Private corporations deeply undermine state authority because due to the fact that they build and supply weapons to our military as well as supply them with the needed materials so that the military can fight wars, they profit from when the US goes to war and may be likely to encourage American military action abroad.

Legality Issues

There are major problems with the legality of private companies and how they operate in countries that they have been deployed to. One example takes places back in Iraq in 2004 when Blackwater employees entered into the city of Fallujah and “under the pretense of looking for terrorists, [they] had carried out nighttime raids, mistreated women and children, and tortured and murdered local men and teenage boys.” [4] Due to this, the local Iraqis took the law into their own hands and killed the Blackwater employees. However, whether one agrees with what the Iraqi people did or not, what occurred would have been the only justice the employees received for their crimes.

It is extremely hard to investigate PMCs due to the secrecy that is guaranteed by government contracts, as well as the fact that they are not accountable to the US military and “receive their orders directly from the Pentagon, and both the Department of Defense and the headquarters of the companies concerned keep their lips strictly sealed.” [5]

The secrecy begins with the contracts themselves where the government leaves out certain legal passages that specify exactly what the companies are supposed to do, how they are supposed to go about doing it, and if they will be held legally responsible for anything that occurs under their watch. Uesseler cites an example of this, one that should be quoted at length:

DynCorp received a contract for more than a million dollars from the US State Department to organize the Iraqi criminal justice system. In June 2004, four of their employees, heavily armed and in battle gear, led Iraqi police on a raid of the former Iraqi leader in exile, Ahmed Chalabi. It is doubtful whether this action was in keeping with the spirit of the original contract. But that fact that DynCorp did not receive an official warning suggests that the contract is vague enough to allow for such “violations.” [6]

The fact that the contracts are so vague as to the point where companies can virtually decide what they want to do has the potential to create serious problems, one example private companies doing night raids which result in the deaths of civilians and thus aggravating the local population and whipping up anti-American sentiment. That would make the job of US solders that much harder because they would bear the brunt of the backlash, not the employees that created the situation in the first place.

The situation gets worse, however, when one goes to the national levels. In the United States, no one is able to hold any private companies accountable. The parties that “issue the contracts are barely capable of doing much in the way of monitoring, because, for example, they are tied down in Washington, and the state military, which would have the capabilities, has little interest in babysitting private soldiers that aren’t part of its chain of command.” [7] Thus the military cannot do it and Congress isn’t much better as they don’t allocate funds to the oversight of private companies. This allows them to “exist in a state of near anarchy and arbitrariness.”

Private companies and their personnel are not “subject to strict regulations that determine to whom they are ultimately accountable.” Private corporations only have to go as far as declarations of intent in which they “maintain that they instruct their personnel to respect national laws and international human rights standards.” [8] Even if major crimes are done, the state cannot do anything as mercenaries enjoy significant protection. “In passing Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 of June 2003, the Iraqi provisional government granted exemption from prosecution to all personnel action on behalf of the coalition- including PMC employees.” [9] This allows for PMCs to go about and do literally whatever they please, without fear of any consequences whatsoever and could potentially have the employees do things that they wouldn’t have done so before if they were under the law, like torturing and killing civilians for example.

Internationally, things have the potential to get complicated quickly. The Geneva Convention clearly distinguishes between civilians and armed combatants. However, the employees of private companies aren’t civilians “since they are involved in the machinery of war, are employed by governments, and frequently carry arms.” Combatants are defined by the Geneva Convention “as people directly and actively involved in hostilities,” yet new forms of warfare muddle this definition. “To take an illustrative question: Is a private solider in Florida who presses a button launching a carpet bomb attack in Afghanistan only indirectly involved in war, while a regular soldier delivering supplies there is directly engaged in hostilities?” [10]

The legality issues of private soldiers need to be solved on an international level as they currently occupy a gray area in the legal system. However, the US government needs to hold these companies accountable for any crimes that their employees are involved in, if not, then situations like the one mentioned at the beginning of this topic will continue.


Private corporations threaten democracy solely because they are not accountable to anyone and can do as they please. By not having any accountability, private companies undermine democratic institutions.

One of the many roles of government is “to maintain security, which includes democratic control over the use of force.” However, PMCs undermine this because citizens do not have any influence over the services offered by PMCs. For example, “The standards that govern the military, the police, customs officials, border guards, and state intelligence agencies do not apply at all to contracts given to PMCs.” [11]

Due to citizens having no control over the actions of private companies, democracy is put on the line because in a democratic society, there is a need for checks and balances on all forms of power. By not having this, PMCs are able to go and do as they please due to having no restrictions and, as was noted earlier, this could lead to potential problems.

The Third World

PMCs will do business for anyone who has the money to hire them, from governments, to non-governmental organizations, to rebel movements. However, PMCs will also gladly work for other companies and in the process, have aided in US corporations maintaining undue influence in the third world.

One major example is Colombia. From the viewpoint of US corporations, unions, the FARC, and the ELN threaten the status quo. In order to remedy this, “Lobbyists for US firms active in Colombia- above all oil, arms, and military companies- made $6 million in campaign contributions to convince the US Congress to approve of Plan Colombia, which was sold to the public as a humanitarian assistance program for the crisis-ridden Andean nation. Yet of the $1.3 billion initially approved for the program, only 13 percent went to the Colombian government to improve its security infrastructure. The rest flowed into the coffer of US firms.” [12]

Since the majority of the money went to American firms, the question that must be asked is: Exactly what did those PMCs do in Colombia? They did a variety of things that were connected with one another, which all ended up aiding US corporations maintain their influence in Colombia. For example PMCs would “collect via satellite or reconnaissance flights information about guerilla troop movements that they then pass onto the military. They plant informants within the workers’ movement or village populations and share what they learn with the police and paramilitary groups.” [13] This has led to workers being killed, wages decreasing, increased unemployment, and human rights violations, all of which are sanctioned or supported by foreign companies. [14]

A counterargument would be that the FARC and ELN are recognized as terrorist organizations by the US and thus it is in American interests to aid in their destruction, however, this ignores the reasons why the FARC attacks US corporations. “Their attacks against business are largely directed at transnational oil companies and are, they say, aimed at ensuring that some of the profits from Colombia’s petroleum reserves go to the country in general, instead of being siphoned off by oligarchs, members of the government, and high-ranking military leaders.” [15]

By maintaining US corporate interests in Colombia, PMCs are aiding in the destruction of left-wing movements and backing right-wing governments. The situation is reminiscent of how the US, during the Cold War, overthrew left-wing governments and installed and backed military dictators that allowed US corporations to move in, this is just a new version of it.


In conclusion, PMCs are a threat on multiple levels and need to be dealt with. Most pressingly are the legal issues and the international community as well as governments within nations need to establish a new classification in their laws specifically for the employees of PMCs so that they will be held liable for any crimes committed. PMCs, without a doubt, need massive reform as to lead to a better society at large.


1: Rolf Uesseler, Servants of War: Private Military Corporations and the Profit of Conflict, trans. Jefferson Chase (Brooklyn, New York: Soft Skull Press, 2008) 146.

2: Ibid, pg 24

3: Ibid, pgs 25-26

4: Ibid, pg 160

5: Ibid, pg 161

6: Ibid, pg 163

7: Ibid, pg 164

8: Ibid, pgs 168-169

9: Ibid, pg 169

10: Ibid, pgs 170-171

11: Ibid, pg 207

12: Ibid, pg 149

13: Ibid, pg 151

14: Ibid, pg 152

15: Ibid

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Libya and Western Hypocrisy

Just last week President Barack Obama, President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Prime Minister David Cameron wrote an op-ed in which the three imperial powers jointly defend their ‘intervention’ in Libya. While it may seem like a legitimate argument, what the op-ed shows is Western hypocrisy and lies.

They first state the reasons that for the ‘intervention’ into Libya, saying:

We must never forget the reasons why the international community was obliged to act in the first place. As Libya descended into chaos with Colonel Gaddafi attacking his own people, the Arab League called for action. The Libyan opposition called for help. And the people of Libya looked to the world in their hour of need.

For some reason, the irony of that statement goes unnoted. They argue that the “international community” went into Libya because “Gaddafi [was] attacking his own people” and “the people of Libya looked to the world in their hour of need.” However, aren’t the citizens of Bahrain, Yemen, and Djibouti also being attacked by their respective governments? Aren’t they just as deserving of help as the Libyan opposition? The three leaders expose their own hypocrisy, yet don’t even realize it!

Their second argument is that they had UN backing and that “the United Nations Security Council authorized all necessary measures to protect the people of Libya from the attacks upon them.”  What is conviently ignored, however, is that the airstrikes have also been killing civilians and rebels. These events have been highly publicized and the fact that they refuse to acknowledge them only serves to show their arrogance and refusal to admit any wrongdoing. The trio states that “Tens of thousands of lives have been protected. But the people of Libya are suffering terrible horrors at Gaddafi's hands each and every day.” Yet they refuse to acknowledge the “terrible horrors” that the Libyan people are suffering at their hands.

Most interestingly in the op-ed, the trio openly admits that they are seeking regime change in Libya. Last month UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated that there would be “no regime change [in Libya], no occupying force.” Yet he and his cohorts state:

Our duty and our mandate under UN Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Gaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in power (emphasis added)

After all the rhetoric from the US, the UK, and France about there being no plan to overthrow Gaddafi, they finally admit their imperial goals. They plan to overthrow the Gaddafi government in order to form “a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process.” One must wonder how much change will actually occur when the head of the rebel Libyan government was an ex-minister in the Gaddafi regime.

In that same paragraph, the trio states that it would be an “an unconscionable betrayal” of the “brave citizens” of Libya if they were to stop bombing their country. However, wasn’t it also “an unconscionable betrayal” of the people Egypt when the US backed Mubarak, who constantly oppressed his citizens? Isn’t it “an unconscionable betrayal” of Palestinians when Israel kills civilians and the US and its allies do nothing?

The West has been lying, cheating, and deceiving people for much too long. The people of Libya need to reject both the Gaddafi regime and the Western-controlled opposition government and find a new way to govern their country where neither madmen or puppets dictate their lives, only then will the Libyan people find freedom.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chechnya Conflict Part 2: Lies, False Independence and Genocide

See Part 1 here

The Russian monarchy had conquered Chechnya, yet found that there was still resistance in the form of armed independence movements. The Soviet Union found that in order to keep resistance to low, manageable levels, they had to allow the Chechen people to believe that they were independent when in reality the Soviets were still in control. From this complex lie came a feeling of false independence among the Chechen people, followed swiftly by genocide.

It began with the overthrow of the last remnants of the Russian monarchy, the Romanov family, and the rise of Communist Russia. During this time “the ethnic groups in North Caucasus tended to cooperate with the Bolsheviks” as “Karl Marx was supposedly a great admirer of the struggle of the Caucasian mountaineers.” [2] Initially, Lenin told the North Caucus groups to organize their “’national life freely and without hindrance’” [3] which the Caucus groups took as a sign to organize into formal states and declare their independence from Russia. This led to the creation of the North Caucasian Republic and declaration of independence from Russia in May of 1918. [4] However, this was done only because the “Bolsheviks were learning that they could more easily bring the North Caucasian peoples under Soviet control by dealing with each separately and giving each one its own geopolitical designation.” [5]

In 1929 the Soviets began the collectivization efforts in the Caucus and this led to the “Russification of Chechen culture at its core.” [6] However, the Chechen people “remained impervious to the numerous attempts to Sovietize them” [7] and their clan system stayed strong and governed their social life. The majority of Russian decisions led to revolts and “Chechens met the Soviet authorities with strong opposition when they imposed brutal collectivization tactics” [8] in the 1930s.

When World War 2 came about “huge numbers of Chechens fought side-by-side with their Russian counterparts during the war – 50 of which received Russia’s highest military honor: The Hero of the Revolution.” [9] While there were some who tried to make contact with the Germans and some tribal leaders “viewed Germany’s advance as an opportunity to gain autonomy or even independence,” overall, documents from 1943-1944 “assess the local population’s role in stopping the German advance and resistance to the invaders.” [10]

However, this loyalty to the Soviet state did not stop Joseph Stalin from sending “the Chechens to Siberia and Kazakhstan on suspicion of collaboration with Nazi Germany” [11] after WW2 ended and he took power when Lenin died. Stalin had always been brutal as he “played an important role in the 1921 Red Army invasion of his Georgia homeland in Trans-Caucasus.” [12] To invade his homeland only showed his brutality and fanaticism for the Soviet state.

This purge culminated in the Caucus having no Chechen peoples for quite some time. This deportation was not done haphazardly in the least. During WW2, approximately 120,000 NKVD [The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, predecessor to the Committee for State Security (KGB)] troops participated in forced deportation. [14] The NKVD commandant, Lavrenti Beria, supervised the situation himself and when the NKVD when into Grozny on February 17, 1944, he contacted Stalin and regularly reported to him. Thus this “attests to the highest central authorities’ involvement.” [15]

Just days later, on February 29, 1944, “159 convoys were already under way, and 21 more were ready to leave.” Many deportees were transported in cattle trucks or freight cars and few political and religious figures “traveled in normal carriages because they played an active part, under NKVD pressure, in the deportation.” The convoys stopped in the Central Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic, Kazakhstan, or eastern Siberia. “Those who resisted deportation and hid in the Northern Caucasus Mountains were either killed or arrested, and then expelled to Central Asia. Chechens living in other regions were also required to relocate.” [16]

After the forced resettlement, virtually “all the symbolic, historical and material signs of Chechen life were destroyed” and “Russians, Ukrainians and North Caucasians settled in the deportees’ houses.” [17]

While in 1957, a law was passed that allowed the Chechens to return to their homeland, the damage had already been done, as the deportation had killed 50% of those exiled. [18] What was committed by the Soviets not only caused the destruction of the history of the Chechens, but also the 4th Hague Convention of 1907 classifies forced deportation as a form of genocide [19] and what occurred was acknowledged as such in 2004 by the European Parliament. [20]

While the situation was hopeless, the Chechen people eventually found independence when the Soviet Union collapsed, yet this was swiftly crushed when the Russian Federation invaded and two wars broke out over the course of a decade.


3: Ibid

4: Ibid

5: Ibid

8: Ibid

14: Ibid

15: Ibid

16: Ibid

17: Ibid


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Revolutions in North Africa / Intervention in Libya: Economic Backgrounds

Chechnya Conflict Part 1: Expansion, Resistance and Destruction

Map of Chechnya region [1]

Since the early 1990s, the Russian government has been dealing with Chechen rebels who have launched terrorist attacks on the Russian people and have fought two wars with the Russian military. The origin of this conflict are, for the most part, unknown as the media only reports on the terrorist attacks and gives no background information. The purpose of this series is to give in-depth background information on the Chechnya conflict and recommend a peaceful way to end the standoff between Chechen rebels and the Russian government.

Before the conflict is explored, there must first be a brief overview of the Chechen people themselves.

Chechens were “geographically concentrated at the intersection of the Russian and Ottoman empires' respective spheres of influence,” [2] this made for quite a difficult life as there was conflict between the Ottomans and Tsarist Russia regimes from the 17th to 19th centuries. Specifically, the Chechen people have lived “just to the east of the principal road crossing the central Caucasus (via the Darial Pass), extending from the foothills and plains into alpine highlands” [3] for the past 6,000 years. 

Islam was introduced into the Caucus region during the 7th and 8th centuries AD, yet this occurred quite slowly due to the formidable terrain and thus even though Islam today survives and is the major religion of the Chechens, Islam has never been formally institutionalized with the exception of “a number of religious brotherhoods and societies or various ‘Muslim committees’ created by St. Petersburg and, later, by Moscow” [4] which have never been very popular with the people.

Russian involvement in the Caucus region, culminating in the Caucasian War, began when Georgia volunteered to join the Russian empire in the early 1800s as they “had been the only Christian island in the Moslem ocean in Asia and for ages remained the object of aggression on the part of Persia” [5] since the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This Georgian proposal had happened before and the Russians were weary to accept it, however, once Russia made the decision to absorb Georgia, it would change the lives of the Chechen people forever.
Up until then, the Russians “had only sporadic clashes with Chechen tribes,” yet when Russia decided to absorb Georgia, “the North Caucasian people, and in particular Chechnya, found themselves surrounded by the Russian Empire, living as they were on the vital road leading from Central Russia to Georgia.”[6] Once Russia became involved in the Caucus, one could say that “the Russian conquest of the Caucasus can be compared to the British conquest of India, or the Spanish conquest of America” [7] in which the Russian government “used force to suppress the mountain groups, or lured the local elite over to its side with presents and posts” [8] as they sought to take over the Caucus for its own material gain as well as to access the large resources in that region, mainly oil.
On the topic of oil in the Caucus, it had been known for centuries that there were oil reserves in the northern Caucus region. Marco Polo made reference to a small 13th century trade export of what seems to be tar sands and Tsar Peter the Great even attempted to transport oil from the northern Caucus to Russia. [9] This is further proven by the fact that once Russia had overtaken the Chechen region, they immediately went about establishing oil refineries in the town of Grozny. [10]
When the Russians sent military forces into Chechnya, there was resistance. The Chechens were led by several rebels, most notably a man named Sheikh Mansur. Mansur was a Chechen freedom fighter who “became the first great leader of resistance against the Russians in the name of both Islam and the cause of freedom for the so-called mountain people” and “brought about Islamic unity among many diverse tribes by declaring holy war on the infidels (Russians) in 1785.” [11] Mansur eventually led forces that defeated 600 Russian troops at the Battle of Sunja River, yet he was captured by Russian forces in 1785 and died 10 years later.
With the resistance defeated, the people of Chechnya were left hopeless and at the mercy of a foreign entity. Things were bad, however, they would get much worse when the 1920s came about and with it the formation of the Soviet Union.


6: Ibid

7: Ibid

8: Ibid

10: Ibid

11: Ibid