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Ethno-Radicalism and Centralist Rule: Western and Eastern Europe at the End of the Twentieth Century.



Case Study: Chechnya and the Caucasus

Lecture held at the International Conference "Ethno-Radicalism and Centralist Rule - Case Studies", organised by the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI), Sandbjerg Estate, 17 to19 October 1997. Manuscript updated in 1998.
A summary can be found at

By Helen Krag, University of Copenhagen. Copyright: the author.

Introduction: The war in Chechnya

Russia's war in Chechnya 1994-96 was, so most Russians and Chechens today agree, a severe mistake. Probably all wars fought by central powers against regions in upheaval, minorities or ethno-radical movements can be said to be mistakes in the final run. It can be seen as a sign of political maturity to admit it. Admitting, though, does not change the severe consequences. Russian and Chechen observers agree that appr. 100,000 ( 20, 000 depending on source) civilians were killed during the 20 months of regular warfare in Chechnya[1] and Chechnya was left in ruins to such a degree that international media compared post-war Grozny (the Chechen capital) of 1996 to the post-WWII-Dresden of 1945. When on 11 December 1994[2] troops were sent into Chechnya followed by a full scale armed attack on the Chechen capital Grozny in January 1995[3], the Russian government openly demonstrated its willingness to solve by force a longstanding political disagreement with regional Chechen government structures. It is no secret that this model of conflict resolution resulted in an extraordinary catasptrophy in terms of deaths, wounded, orphans, displaced and homeless families, destroyed towns and villages and the like. The war also changed much of Russian societal attitudes towards the use of force, and it added significantly to the vulnerabilities of Chechen society. 

The "ethnic" factor in transition and conflict development in the Caucasus

So-called "ethnic conflicts" became a major trend in the break-up of the USSR. They have accompagnied the transition process fromits beginning a decade ago. The Caucasus is the most conflict stricken region in this respect, and thus offers itself for closer scrutiny concerning general and parallel dynamics in conflict development, especially with concern to the issue of ethnic mobilization visavis centralist rule.[4] In this respect Chechnya is no isolated case, neither in geographical nor in geopolitical terms. Simultaneously, it has to be stressed that the war in Chechnya not only or not simply confirms a general trend but also constitutes a unique experiene - particularly with respect to the Russian government's use of violence as means intended for conflict resolution on her territory.

                      The campaign for reforms within the Soviet Communist Party known as "Glasnost and Perestroika" did not include the nationality or ethnic question. Mr Gorbachev explicitly stated that this issue had been solved satisfactorily during the period of "real socialism". It did not take long before this interpretation of the prevailing social reality turnedout erroneous, as massive protests against centralized structures and Russian/Slavic dominance surfaced. The first incident happened as early as December 1986 in the capital of Kazakstan.[1] Politicians as well as the media categorized the protesters as "criminals", "mafiosi", "hooligans" and "anti-reformers", and many applauded when internal troops retained control despite several deaths and arrests.

                      Parallel scenarios developed in Armenia in 1988, in Georgia in 1989, in Azerbaijan in 1990, and in Lithuania in 1991 to mention the best known. These task force actions against the new parliaments of the streets protesting against "Moscow's long arm" and demonstrating for additional regional self-expression and self-determination were ruthless and had shocking and escalating effects. In the years before and after the break-up of the Soviet system (1988-92), four major conflicts evolved in the Caucasus out of the initial discontent with the Soviet system: The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan; the Abkhaz and the South-Ossetian  conflicts in Georgia; the Prigorodny  conflict[5] in Russia). They killed and disabled in the hundred thousands, produced appr. 2,5 million refugees and internally displaced persons, destroyed houses, industry and infrastructures, laid barren fertile soil and natural ressources, left an enterprising population in social need and threw societies into political, legal, moral, and economical chaos. To state, that the break-up of the Soviet Union into new independent countries was a peaceful process, is, seen on this background, not the whole truth[6]. In the beginning, the major drive of regional and local popular movements was a desire for increased economic and cultural influence in regional affairs, including insight in their own non-Russian cultures and histories, which in many cases had been tabooed, falsified or suppressed during the Soviet period. Former republics and autonomies expected that Perestroika implied that rights which had been explicitly enshrined in Soviet law finally would be implemented. When the leadership in Moscow met protests and claims by force, the popular protest movements regularly transformed their main slogans into claims for sovereignty and independence, hereby triggering off even more opposition from Moscow. In all cases political disagreements on autonomy and legitimacy turned ethnic in the course of conflict. Political claims turned down by central authorities radicalized the involved popular movements and deepened the gulf between the adversaries beyond repair.

                      Chronologically, the first armed conflict came to be known as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which turned into a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The conflict took its beginning neither from cultural barriers or territorial claims between the two former Soviet republics, nor was it a consequence of religious dissonance between Christian Armenians and Muslim Azeri - as is often claimed in media coverage. Armenian intellectuals were actively involved in the reform process of the 1980ies. Their slogans at demonstrations included claims for more de facto cultural autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh, a primarily Armenian populated region in Azerbaijan. The Armenian minority in Azerbaijan had significant difficulties in maintaining their language and their culture compared to Armenians in Armenia[7]. In post conflict logic Nagorno-Karabakh's claims can be analyzed logically but in the first phases of the build up, the history of Karabakh autonomy within Azerbaijan - tabooed as it had been by Soviet history writing – was hardly known to local activists[8]. When the Armenian reform movement spread to Nagorno-Karabakh, Karabakh leaders, in accordance with Soviet legislation, forwarded an application for changing the internal administrative structurs and come under Armenian in stead of Azerbaijan legislation to the Azerbaijan as well as the Soviet leadership. It was denied in both places. The Soviet State then was not ready for understanding "ethnic conflict". Claims for changes were seen as anti-reform movements. Anti-Armenian demonstrations took place in Azerbaijan, people were killed, others had to flee. Soviet special forces became involved. The discourse between Azerbaijan and the Armenian minority became increasingly confrontational, and "ethnified". Nagorno-Karabakh with all its claims ignored and not being able to participate in official talks opted for sovereignty - which was turned down as well. Armenia turned against her own Azeri minority, and a flow of out-migration took its beginning. The conflict escalated, until, in September 1989, the war was in progress. A political disagreement on legitimacy and autonomy had turned ethnic. Although the international community became involved in conflict resolution[9], no solution to the question of Nagorno-Karabakh's status has yet been agreed upon.

                      The Abkhaz conflict was the second conflict, chronologically, which turned into war. In the late 1980ies, Georgia's dissident movement demanded a stronger impact on local development. Also in Georgia, language claims were important. It was a stone of contention for those protesting the centralized Soviet state, that minorities within Georgia - one third of the population  - did not speak Georgian. Abkhazia, then an autonomous republic within Georgia, applied for separation from Georgia in order to avoid the Georgianization process. Abkhazia, in this movement, was, for reasons of State integrity, silently supported by Moscow. Mass demonstrations against what was perceived as Abkhazia's lack of loyalty towards Georgia's interests were brutally crushed by Soviet special forces, a shocking event which radicalized the Georgian reform movement. When Georgia, in 1990, declared herself sovereign[10], Abkhazia did not wish to follow, and declared her sovereignty as well. This, in turn, was seen by Georgia as threat against Georgian integrity. After a coup and a short but bloody civil war, former Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eduard Shevardnadze, took over the Georgian leadership in 1992 and intervened in Abkhazia with military force. Little Abkhazia, helped by Russia and North Caucasians, withstood the Georgian forces. One quarter of a million Georgians fled from Abkhazia. Again, a political disagreement on autonomy and legitimacy had turned "ethnic" and radicalised the involved popular movements. The international community became involved[11]. The war has ended, but no solution to the question of Abkhazia's status has yet been agreed upon.

                      Georgia's claim for Georgian language priority on the entire Georgian territory also inspired the Popular Movement in the Autonomous Region of South Ossetia to apply for an upgrading of its autonomous status. To cut a longer process short: armed confrontations between Georgians and Ossetians ended with the intervention by Soviet special forces – and armed confrontations. When Georgia opted for independence from the Soviet Union, South Ossetia applied for inclusion into the Russian Federation in order to become united with her kin in Russian North Ossetia. The war was followed by a mass emigration of 100.000 Ossetians from Georgia to Russia (North Ossetia).

                      The South Ossetian conflict with Georgia, and the mass emigration of Ossetians to North Ossetia had its impact on a fourth violent conflict in the region - the so-called Prigorodny conflict, Prigorodny Rayon is a small piece of land in the Russian Republic of North Ossetia. This territory had been part of Ingushia until the Ingush people, in 1944, were collectively declared enemies of the Soviet state and deported to Asia. Their republic (which they shared with the Chechens) was given away to others. On their return, their autonomous republic was reestablished, except the territory of Prigorodny, which remained with North Ossetia. When, in 1991, Boris Yeltsin became Russian leader, he issued a Decree on the Rehabilitation of the Repressed Peoples, including their right to lost land, a decree that was not implemented. In 1992, armed clashes between Ingush and Ossetians took place, and Moscow sent special forces. Almost all Ingush had to leave North Ossetia. Also in this case, a political injustice, too long neglected, had turned "ethnic".

                      Again, there is a direct line to the latest war and conflict - Russia's military invasion in the Chechen Republic in December 1994. Also this conflict goes back to a time, when it was "politically correct" to take over power from communist leaders. In 1991, after the Moscow coup, former Soviet Air Force general Dzhokhar Dudayev, who, while serving at Tartu Air Base in Estonia, followed the Estonian Popular Front and independence movement closely, became head of the Chechen National Congress, which declared Chechnya independent, elected him President and started to abolish all symbols of Soviet and Russian power throughout the Chechen Republic. When Chechnyaopted for independence, the Ingush opted for continued membership in the Russian Federation. The two groups parted their territory in a very undramatic manner, and Russia recognized the new Ingush Republic. Moscow, now under President Yeltsin, declared state of emergency and sent special units in 1992. Although these troops were neutralized by the Chechen National Guard, the competition on political legitimacy in the Republic of Chechnya proceeded with economic and political means, among others an economicblockade by Moscow and support to Moscow-friendly opposition groups. Chechnya on the other hand boycotted all Russian elections and structures, while Moscow launched an anti-Chechen campaign and ignored Chechnya's claims and complaints. In 1993, Chechnyawas included in the new Russian constitution despite Chechen non-participation. Thus, Chechnya became de facto independent from 1991. At no point during the pre war phase were serious attempts at talks[12].

                      Reasons given for the interventions from Moscow were the need to protect the integrity of the State against nationalist movements and criminals.

                      These are very generalized presentations of the conflicts in the Caucasus.All have been analyzed in detail in numerous publications. The generalizations are presented here to point out the common background for the conflicts and the dynamics for their development. Glasnost and Perestroika had promised new opportunities to voice desires for change with concern to political stuctures, reconciliation of grievances and a new order of self-determination. When such desires were voiced as complaints against earlier humiliations and as claims for stronger regional influence, they were regularly ignored or even sanctioned by the central authorities. They were then more pointedly formulated as claims for constitutional changes, which in turn were opposed by force. In the process, political claims transformed into conflicts which became increasingly more clearly defined in ethnic and national terms by the conflicting sides. Although all conflicts ignated on political issues (and not on ethnic issues), they are minority conflicts in the sense, that they question formerly unquestioned minority-majority relations and the legitimacy of majority rule on minority territory. These political disagreements between region and center increasingly developed into ethnic discourse and thus supported the insight brought forward by Adam Roberts, that "… , what binds a group together, separates it from others, and fatefully leads it into action, is [...] a sense of common vulnerability: past history and present experience teach who are one's enemies, and who one's friends. [...] Whether or not it is right to apply the term "ethnic" to all these conflicts is not very important"[13].

                      It is interesting to point out, that the mentioned conflicts -despite many differences - also have some outcomes in common. E.W. Walker points out that in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and Chechnya alike secessionists have triumphed on the battlefield and now control their territory, that in all cases have ceasefires ended the conflicts, while they have failed to win international recognition despite their military success. Also at home they are in a stalemate: while they assert their right to self-determination, the governments in question (Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia) insist on state integrity which makes the settlements on legal status rather difficult.[14]

                      In no case did the use of force by the government solve the problems:  state integrity was not  strengthened, peaceful and democratic developments were not promoted  in the insurgent republics, the center's political legitimacy in the region did not grow, the issues of political status were not solved, neither were the issues of alleged criminality[15], and last not least could the nationalist or ethnic mobilizations not be stopped. To the contrary. The actions deteriorated any trust in the good intentions of the center. They contributed to a process of ethnification, i.e. of political dividing lines increasingly being expressed in ethnic terms.

                      Historically the Caucasus region is positioned between Ottoman/Turkic, Persian/Iranian and Russian/Soviet spheres of influence, economically it is a major source of oil and gas deposits with all the geopolitical interests involved in that, and ethnically it is the home to fourty or fifty distinct ethnic groups (diversity running along a range of cultural, linguistic and religious lines). Diversity, or at least the symbolic memory of it, survived the Soviet decades. While nationality/ethnicity verbally was accepted as an essential criterion of individual, group, and territorial identity, the expression of these identities and attachments to certain cultures and places was discouraged as nationalist and anti-Soviet.[16] Time and again ethnic groups (e.g. the Chechen) were collectively and on ethnic grounds persecuted and punished. These factors of cultural neglect - upheld by specific Soviet totalitarian structures - created fuzzy ideas of the content of identity.

Despite the differences the peoples are known for their unique co-existence through history. Prevailing norms and values were not incompatible and did often syncretise. Still today, after the most severe and cruel of armed conflicts, peoples opposing each other in conflict situations, can talk and joke together with ease – and in the same language - outside these situations[17]. 

Why separatism and centralist force?

                      How could the Russian leadership in the face of an allegedly democratic development with an apparent need for confidence building choose force as a method of conflict resolution and even expect to win? Several contextual reasons have been discussed widely: that the decision was not made by the President, that there was no clear military command, that the military was in bad shape, that the President was badly informed, etc. None of these arguments can explain why governmental players could take force and violence as legitimate means for governance as happened in all the instances of conflict mentioned. One can not even call on lack of experience as plausible explanation as cruelty did not decrease with time:  the Chechen war, the latest of the conflicts mentioned, turned out to be the most cruel of them all. And by the irony of it, using this method, onlysupported the arguments of distrust.

                      One explanation imposes itself: A very traditional, arrogant colonial mentality of power, force and strength has survived. The Russian language has lately developed the widely used term "a person of Caucasian nationality". It is neither a neutral nor a polite expression, and it has been used as verbal expressions of near-to-racist attitudes - which were never opposed by power structures.[18] There is another expression "Our Caucasus", exclaimed with a sigh of love and longing by Russians. It depicts the Caucasus as legitimate Russian territory, or something near-to-crown colony. It still very much mirrors strong centralist thinking when central executives talk of the relationship between Moscow and Grozny as one of civilization versus barbarism or of the need to force Chechen youth to other regions of the Russian Federation[19]. There is adequate proof of the fact that democratic thinking has a far way to go with those who analysed the situation in Chechnya before the war and those who made the decision to go for a war.

                      Not even to the outside world democracy or human rights seem to have been a prime objective: despite well developed standards on human, indigenous and minority rights and on these rights being a concern of the international community, this did not have consequences in practice during the pre-war phase. Russia was even accepted as a member of the Council of Europe in the middle of her massive warfare against the Chechen population. Perceived stability and balance of power appear to be seen as more important than democracy and human rights - even the right to existence. Looking at the conflicts as inadequate and unsuccessfull minority-majority relations it seems adequate to say that post-Soviet society has not yet acquired the preconditions for consensus or dialogue based conflict resolution. If it is correct that the value of democracy lies in peacefull negotiations, in listening to and acknowledging each others grievances and claims and finding solutions together- and not in the use of force[20] - Soviet society knew no democracy, and post-Soviet Russian society has still a lot to learn. This is not the place to discuss the Russian governments motives for retaining control in Chechnya but the question why these motives were acted out.

                      Also Chechnya is part of the post-Soviet space. But why did Chechnya chose a way which no other of the Russian republics chose and opt for independence and why was the Chechen movement mobilized to an degree where a war against Russia could be won? There are several answers to that question:  On the eve of the invasion by Russian forces Chechnya was prepared for long term guerilla warfare - as ultima ratio - in case of the expected Russian invasion. Most political movements in Chechnya -also anti-Dudayevian opposition forces - supported the so-called "Caucasian revolution" as a natural reaction to a long and cruel colonial conquest in the 18th and 19th centuries and to the humiliations of forced deportation during and after WWII. The Estonian parallel - the size of the population, the position at the fringes of Russia, the setting of "colonialism" and a strong attachment to Chechnya as home territory - appeared logical to many Chechens, also to those who did not support the independence drive. In any case, it seems indisputable that the setting of being ignored as potential negotiation partners, of being campaigned against as criminal devils, nationally and internationally, by the press, or scapegoated and harrassed by Moscow police or internal troops[21], of being isolated economically and politically etc. did contribute to the increasing popularity of the Chechen independence movement. It was obvious to whoever wanted to visit Chechnya prior to the war, that Chechens were prepared to unite loyally under the Chechen flag of President Dudayev - and to win against Russian troops - when Moscow made true what many Chechens feared. Not only did President Yeltsin not wish to communicate with President Dudayev but even the democratic movement in the Russian capital was reluctant to listen to Chechen grievances. The question has often been asked why Chechnya chose a path that no other of the Russian republics chose? There are several answers to that question: After the peaceful "divorce" from Ingushetia Chechnya was one of the few republics with a simple ethnic majority and leadership; with a population of 1,2 million inhabitants Chechnya was of a size not unusual for countries (e.g. Estonia); with Dshokhar Dudayev Chechnya had a leader who knew European traditions (while Chechnya had been isolated throughout Soviet history) and with a Soviet general as the top leader Chechnya had a disciplined, selfconscious and goal oriented head. Also, Chechens have a reputation of continuous opposition to Russian governance. But no analysis of the Chechen case independently of the other armed conflicts in the region can project the real reasons of radicalization. As the parallel scenarios of the conflicts in the region demonstrate (Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia,…) the spiral of violence was set in force by the condescending reactions of central authorities more then by the so-called ethnic movements.

                      In the beginning of organised warfare on Chechen territory aid agencies, outside observers including the media were prevented from assisting, informing or mediating. There was very little information about the situation and the region, and even less understanding of the development. What existed was one-sided Moscow based. The Russian government insisted that it was necessaryto fight a terrorist and criminal separatist local government. Moscow television broadcasted shortly after the invasion pictures of the Russian flag on the roof of the presidential palace in the Chechen capital Grozny to proof a quick victory. The pictures were shown all over the world - untill it became known that they were faked. As element of the conflict Russia had fallen back to policies of closing the region for potential governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental outside players. It tooksome time before the global changes in information technology demonstrated that this policy of closing in of a conflict no longer can be upheld[22].

After the war. Strengthened loyalties and the role of outside players

Like in the other Caucasian conflicts, the Chechen war as such has ended, but no solution to the question of Chechnya's status has been agreed upon. Not only have negotiations been postponed but the lines of disagreement have sharpened: Chechnya, de facto independent since 1991, has strengthened her will for de iure independence after the military victory. Russia has not moved an inch in her will of discussing this issue. The conflict is not the same in postwar context: the preconditions for economic souvereignty are much worse due to large scale destruction; unemployment is high with allegedly 50.000 young men under arms and a break down in the educational system; the infrastructural break down adds to radicalization due to mounting vulnerabilities and decreasing tolerance. In the course of thewar ethnic mobilization run high. The value of national symbols such as the Chechen flag, the national anthem, the heroes of Chechen history,  - especially those of resistance to Russian colonization has risen dramatically. The feeling of a need for souvereignty has likewise risen, particularly due to the perceived experience of moral superiority to Russia (little Chechnya could win against huge Russia; the Chechen President who from a Chechen perspective united the nation, and gave it back its dignity, was killed disgracefully; Chechnya conducted elections in January 1997 which by international organisations and media were acknowledged as according to international standard; contrary to what had been used as Russian argument not even under the worst pressures of war were terrorist acts conducted in Moscow by Chechens; and the various clan structures or political groupings did not turn Chechnya into the predicted Afghanistan scenario - but by and large accepted the constitutional leadership. At the same time Russia had to admit its mistakes. Russia's cruel and devastating war against Chechnya, i.e. against its own population is a fact that has changed the country for many years to come.

                      Chechnya stands now at a cross roads concerning her future. During the war, and shortly after its ending, Chechnya had a great interest in proving to the West her standard of "civilized" behaviour - in spite of the fact that she felt let down by the international community. As time goes by, and Europe still does not wish to support Chechen economy, legalization, education etc. the call for alternative order becomes louder, and groups seeking support outside the European circles turn stronger. This was clear from the elections taking place in Chechnya in January 1997, and whichwere praised by the OSCE as free and fair. Since then, being neglected and isolated, and far awar from any prospects of investment, Chechnya has become a dangerous place to go. Most international aid organizations have left Chechnya. Hostage taking has become every day practice. And the interests in proving to the Western world that Chechens are able to develop a democratic society are diminishing each day. The support to extremist Muslim norms is increasing.

                      How can discoursive interaction be promoted? The immediate answer would be: not by neglect. No matter what the content of negotiations will be, Chechnya needs IGO guarantees against future state violence. Chechnya needs to be listened to seriously - with direct access to international fora if future conflicts shall be avoided. As it is now, to win a war seems to be a precondition - but no guarantee - for being listened to. A minimum requirement for a future positive development is the acknowledgment of suffering, during long spells of Chechen history, as well as assistance to and guarantees for economic development and post war reconstruction. The comparison of Grozny with Dresden by the media should help to understand the issue at hand. The building of trust and confidence between the opponents - and between European organisations and the opponents as well as thorough information on good practices in the area of selfdetermination and assistance in the development of the legislative process and to gain access to international fora also when central authorities do not wish this to happen could be a good case for NGO's. Dignity and acceptance are better ways than humiliation and neglect.

                      The relationship between Moscow and Grozny is at a stalemate, and like in the other conflicts in the Caucasus, prospectsof proceeding towards a solution are weak. It is difficult for the Russian leadership for the time being to accept Chechen independence, and it is near to impossible for the Chechen leadership to accept dependency on Russia after this war. The last word has not been said in the Caucasian drama, oil and new alliances are in the making behind the scene.


[1] President Yeltsin's special envoy to Chechnya, Secretary of the Russian Security Council Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen President Zelikhan Yandarbiev in October 1996, according to Edward W. Walker, "Obstacles to War and peace in Chechnya", 20No Peace, No War in the Caucasus: Secessionist Conflicts in Chechnya, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh, Strengthening Democratic Institutions Project, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, 7, no. 10.

[2] Ironically, the CSCE review meeting in Budapest ended 6 December 1994, less than a week prior to the invasion, with the signing of a "Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security", guiding the role of armed forces in democratic societies, CSCE Budapest Document 1994. Towards a Genuine partnership in a New Era, 11-18.

[3] According to V. Tishkov, "Explaining and Categorizing the Chechen War", in Pavel Baev & Ole Berthelsen, eds., Conflicts in the Caucasus, (Prio Report 3/96), the invasion started from the neighbouring regions Daghestan, North Ossetia and Stavropol and included 40,000 Russian Army and MVD troops supported by some 500 tanks. Against them stood, when mobilization was at a climax  8,000 Chechen men, mainly with small arms, according to Sharip Asuev, "Hoping for Peace, Willing for War", Warreport, number 42 (june 1996), 25.

[4] In some earlier articles the author of this paper discussed the volatility of the Caucasus Region prior to the war in Chechnya and the parallel dynamics of all conflicts in the region. E.g. "The Caucasus - a Troubled Region at the Rim of Europe", Regional Contact 1993 (1994) 34-44 and "The Break-Up of USSR and the Dynamics of 'Ethnic Conflict'", Coming out of War and Ethnic Violence, Proceedings of the International Peace Studies Symposium '96 in Okinawa (1997) 186-206.

[5] A territorial conflict on the rights of Ingush to remain settled in the Prigorodny Rayon of what was then the Autonomous Republic of North Ossetia (and is now the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania). In October-November 1992 following armed clashes and the intervention of Russian troops, almost all Ingush fled from the Prigorodny District to Ingushia. See Helen Krag and Lars Funch, The North Caucasus.Minorities at the Crossroads, The International Minority Rights Group 1994 and The Ingush-Ossetian Conflict in the Prigorodnyi Region, A Human Rights Watch/Helsinki Report, 1996.

[6]20 This is often stated as a positive comparison with the break-up of Yugoslavia. Such a statement may be based on diffenrences in Western involvement, in conflict representation in the international media and the influx of20refugees into Western European societies.

[7]20 Armenia had maintained language and script in the public domain throughout the Sovietization process.

[8]20 In 1988-1989, on Sunday afternoons, the Armenian cemetry in Moscow regularly was the scene of more or less secret exchanges of information on Karabakh history.

20[9] The CSCE/OSCE/Minsk Process.

[10] In Soviet terminology this meant a lack of will to recognize the priority of Soviet legislation

[11] The UN

[12] Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev repeatedly claimed that all20his attempts at discussing the issues at stake with Russian officials had been turned down. See for instance, an interview in Der Spiegel, nr. 41/1994, 176. This is supported by V. Tishkov, 1996.

[13] Foreword by Adam Roberts in Daniel Patrick Moynihan: Pandaemonium. Ethnicity in International Politics, Oxford University Press 1993, p. xi-xii,.

[14] Edward W Walker, No Peace, No War in the Caucasus:, 1998.

[15] Arms trade and hostage taking are of a major concern

[16] The public exercise of religious expression or the use of local languages was mostly not promoted, and the history of smaller peoples was regularly distorted.

[17] e.g. An illustrative news item was a soccer match in the Chechen capital Grozny between the St.Petersburg OMON crack police squad and rebels of field commander Kurbanov, where the Russian soldiers beat Chechen rebels 3-1, just after the withdrawal of troops. The pitch, where the match  took place, had first to be cleared of mines left by recent fierce fighting. Reuter Russia Report 10 Sept. 1996.

[18] The expression mirrors a more wellknown expression in Russian "a person of Jewish nationality". There are several analysis of "new" Russian language, e.g. Gassan Gussejnov, 20Materialien zu einem Russischen gesellschafts-politischen Wšrterbuch, 1992-93. EinfŸhrung und Texte, Forschungsstelle Osteuropa an der UniversitŠt Bremen, Bremen 1994. As examples see: Henry R. Huttenbach: "Counter-revolutionary "Ethnic Cleansing": Ethnic "Sweeping" in Post-October Moscow", ASN Analysis of Current Events, Year 5, No. 9, December/1, 1993 and Olga Vasilyeva: ""Devils": National in Appearance, and Criminal in Essence", New Times, 20. October 1994, 20-22.

[19] Expressed by official Russian participants during a conference on Conflicts in the Caucasus held in Oslo, 24-26 November 1995.

[20] A definition according to Alf Ross: Hvorfor Demokrati? (Why Democracy?), Copenhagen 1967, 123-133.

[21] e.g. ASN-Analysis of Current Events Decembr 1993 and New Times October 1994.

[22] Despite Russian attempts to monopolize the information circuit around Chechnya by preventing international media access to the site of the armed clashes, the internet made this impossible. Less than a month after the invasion, in January 1995, a discussion list based on a server at the University of Warsaw was established "devoted to" - as the owner put it in his presentation - "the current situation in Chechnya, particularly sharing the news about recent developments. The list will be also focused on the problem of human rights of the victims of invasion as well as humanitarian aid issues. Please avoid emotional comments, the list is first of all for information purposes. No flames will be tolerated." The list functioned as a major source of information throughout the war and in the post war period. Information was supplied internationally and was at the disposal of and used by a broad range of researchers and media people. The list, one should assume, changed the information war despite the fact that Grozny could not participate directly. (For subscription send e-mail to LISTSERV@PLEARN.EDU.PL; type in the body: SUB CHECHNYA firstname lastname.