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GUEST COMMENTARY: Change in Chechnya—Part 1 of 2

Posted by kinchendavid on July 19, 2006

GUEST COMMENTARY: Change in Chechnya—Part 1 of  2

 By  Tom Proebsting

Moberly, MO  — Shamil Basayev was killed by a bomb blast recently in Ingushetia. The Ingush region is next to Chechnya and both are autonomous Russian republics located in the Caucasus. Basayev, a Chechen separatist leader and admirer of Che Guevara, helped to lead the struggle to free Chechnya from Russia. He was responsible for dozens of the most infamous attacks against Russia and the Caucasus since the insurgency started in the early 1990’s.

Basayev’s most notorious strike was his planning of the Beslan School hostage seizure in 2004. More than 1200 school children and adults were taken hostage. After three days of standoffs, gunfire broke out between the resistance fighters and the Russian security forces. When it ended, 344 hostages were killed, 186 of whom were children.


Basayev remained an avowed enemy of the Russian government.

Basayev’s death is not likely to be mourned. His ways were cruel and he won’t be missed. What caused this former fireman and computer salesman to turn to terrorism? To access the problem, I will remind you of Isaac Newton’s third law of physics. It states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

The reaction is the terrorism and wanton cruelty of Basayev and his resistance fighters. What was the action that caused this madness?


The turbulent history of Russia and Chechnya date back 500 years. Russian leaders such as Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great attempted to conquer the region, but failed. Many Chechens were killed and their lands destroyed in the process. Finally Russian General Alexei Yermolov succeeded in 1859 after a thirty-year war. The conflict turned into a prolonged slaughter of the Chechens and a rape of their environment. An uncomfortable peace ensued.

One year after the Russian Revolution of 1917, Chechnya saw its chance and declared its independence. After the Russian Civil War, however, the Red Army stormed into the Chechen republic and reclaimed it. What followed was the quiet before the storm.


During World War Two, Joseph Stalin deported 600,000 Chechens to Kazakhstan. He decided this after Germany had invaded Russia, thinking the civilians of Chechnya would side with the Germans. Around 200,000 Chechens died en route to Central Asia. Even more perished during the first of the four bitterly cold winters that followed. In 1957, the Soviet government allowed the remaining Chechens to return home.


In 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved, shedding 14 of its states. It still retained 80 of its republics and principalities. That year, Chechnya, dredging up the centuries-old hatred of Russia, declared its independence. President Boris Yeltsin was fearful of losing more ground and was a firm believer in the Domino Theory. He went to war with the republic. An estimated 50,000 Chechens died by the end of the war in 1996.


Mr. Yuri Mamchur, a senior foreign policy fellow and a specialist in Russian politics at the Discovery Institute told this writer that Boris Yeltsin wanted to destroy Chechens. Mr. Yeltsin viewed Chechen males as enemies of the Russian state. To the contrary, Mr. Vladimir Putin said that terrorists are the enemy. He emphasized that Chechens are Russian citizens and should be treated with respect. Differences notwithstanding, both Chechen wars were hard and bitter.


In 1999, two things happened to instigate the second war. Basayev and his troops invaded Dagestan, but were driven out by the Russians. Then, a series of bomb blasts destroyed buildings in Russia. Mr. Putin sent in 100,000 troops to crush the resistance. An estimated 20,000 Chechen civilians perished this round.


The war was especially bloody as the Russians used torture, kidnapping, murder, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, and bribery. They also showered Chechnya and its cities with SCUD missiles, Topols, one-thousand pound bombs, mines, napalm, and phosphorus, often wasting entire populated areas. All of the tactics listed are violations of the Geneva Convention. Both sides were guilty of such infractions.


The capital city of Grozny was leveled during the second war. It is estimated that Russia used more firepower against the city of Grozny during the 1999 Chechen war than the US and its allies had used against Iraq during the entire 1991 Gulf War. The Russians also destroyed much of the thick forestry in Chechnya which the resistance fighters used to hide in. Today, the war and the resistance has slowed down. 


Russia used cruelty and violence to seize and hold Chechnya for many long decades. After years of passivity, the Chechens resorted to outrageous terrorist tactics in an attempt to gain their independence from Russia. Shamil Basayev has held the resistance fighters together since 1994 and his death brings Chechnya to a crossroads. Will another fighter take the place of Basayev? Will the resistance continue its violent movement? Or will they seek peace in the region?


Part two of this two-part series offers clues to these questions.

                        * * *

Tom Proebsting is a writer and blogger in Missouri. Tom Proebsting, 823 N. Ault St. Moberly, MO 65270

                     e-mail: truthprobe777@yahoo.com

Proebsting invites comments. Reply to: http://truthprobe.blogspot.com





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