A Failure That Transformed Russia; the 1991-94 Democratic State-Building Experiment in Chechnya
Isaenko, Anatoly V., Petschauer, Peter W., International Social Science Review
We're the children of the mountains, We have been here for years. The wind frightens the heart of any stranger here. Nobody understands us, The mountains will protect us, The wind frightens the heart of any stranger here. (Chechen Folk Song)
The purpose of this essay is to redirect the current views on the origins and the nature of Russia's 1999 war against Chechnya. Our argument is that one of the major reasons for the war lies in the "Chechen Revolution of 1991-1994". More immediate reasons for it are imbedded in the Russian political situation of the summer and fall, 1999.(1) But we will stress the most important events that influenced the subsequent transformation of Chechen and Russian society and assisted in determining the intensity of the current tragedy. Much of the information is based on Isaenko's personal experience with Chechnya in the early 1990s. Another part is derived from the official papers of the Chechen Republic that were published by its legal institutions. Finally, another part stems from the research and observations of both authors.
Tracking the so-called "Chechen Problem" or "Chechen Revolution" and its role in Russian history has been a concern for scholars for some time. For us, this effort is connected with our primary interest, namely the exploration of forms of ethnic cleansing in the areas of inter-ethnic and ethnic tensions and conflicts.(2) Before then and since then, dozens of analysis have appeared; Valerii Tishkov and A.S. Orlov (Russia) and Anatol Lieven (Great Britain) have authored the most carefully argued accounts.(3) Lieven's approach contained a particularly comprehensive analysis of the long-standing and immediate reasons and causes for the conflict; it also accurately predicted the latest developments on the local and Russian levels.
In order to better understand the positions connected with the war that started in October, 1999, we will begin with an outline of some of them. Many of these positions were stated clearly in the International Conference, "Chechnya: Unlearned Lessons," which was organized by the editorial board of the Russian weekly, The Moscow News.(4)
Colonel-General Valerii Manilov, the First Deputy to the Chief of General Staff of the Russian Army, presented the official version of the character and goals of this latest military campaign. In his words, Russia's attack is "a counter-terrorist operation"(5) (by contrast, the Russo-Chechen War of 1994-1996 was officially called a "retrieval of Constitutional order"). Manilov's point is popular in Russian society as a whole,(6) but particularly among Russian nationalists, the semi-democratic and military elite, many officials, and some parts of the media. Russia's media, ever mindful of the politics involved and the support it needs from political figures like acting President Vladimir Putin, offers this official version to an already frightened public. Accordingly, Russia supposedly confronts a division of international and local Islamic terrorism in Chechnya.
This version of the confrontation in the south found an attentive ear with Russians because of a series of horrible terrorist acts in Russian cities that were immediately attributed (without convincing evidence) to "Chechen terrorists." Since then, this coverage has carefully exploited genuine and deep-seated fears. We may place them with the long-standing real and perceived danger that Russians see in being encircled. From our point of view, these fears of encirclement may be traced at least as far back as the Polish invasion of 1612, the invasions of Charles XII of Sweden and Napoleon of France. They gained profound reality recently through the German attack of the 1940s and the latest extension of NATO to the East. Today, someone like Yossef Bodansky sees it as originating with Muslim Iranian and Turkic nations and groups, the possible loss of strategic outlets in the Black Sea and Caspian, and Moscow's fear of pan-Islamic and pan-Turkist movements.(7)
In this context, Chechens have been seen as more rebellious, politicized and inimical to Russian interests than other ethnic groups living at the periphery of Russia proper, like the Ossetes. These perceptions have been reinvigorated recently because the civil and religious Chechen leadership in the early 1990s began to promote a sense of identity and ethnocentric nationalism; an emphasis that quickly took on a supra-national and extraterritorial dimension. One may argue that long-standing Russian fears and Chechen ethnic extremists thus enabled the success of the current anti-Chechen stance, especially after the victory over Russia in 1996.
The French philosopher Andre Gluksman rejected this version and asserted instead that the Russian military was involved in systematic genocide of the Chechen people.(8) Thomas DeVaal's assessment is fascinating. This British journalist had recently returned from the theatre of action. He argued that a real war is underway in Chechnya.(9) In agreement, Valerii Tishkov, the Director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, insisted that as long as those who initiated this conflict, inspired it ideologically and were directly, involved with it are still in power, peace will elude Chechnya. He also proposed a vast program of "social rehabilitation" for different groups of the population that became involved in the conflict.(10) Alia Yazykova, a political scientist, reflecting the opinion of international organizations, stated that a solution to the conflict could only be found through negotiations.(11) Vadim Belotserkovsky, a human rights activist, was alone in his argument that the roots of this bloody confrontation must be sought in the corruption and gradual degradation of the Russian (including Chechen) society.(12)
Interestingly, none of these participants at the Moscow conference placed the roots of the current tragedy in the events of 1991-1994; that is the point at which Chechnya undertook an unsuccessful experiment of building a democratic state and society. We want to assert instead that the breakdown of this attempt negatively affected the democratic process not only there, but also in the rest of Russia. Even the best explorations, like those of Lieven, mentioned this crucial situation of this dramatic period in some detail, but only in passing.(13)
In the fall of 1991, during the final breaths of the Soviet Union, a longstanding economic and political crisis exploded into attempts to build an "independent and sovereign Chechen state." Those who lived in the area still recall the tremendous impact of this moment on the minds of Chechens and non-Chechens alike. Chechnya experienced what can only be called spontaneous and unprecedented mass protests against the corrupt regime of the Communist party elite. This popular movement was headed by the Executive Committee of the National Congress of Chechen People (OKChN); a body that had been established in the fall of 1990 by the First Congress of Chechen People. The Congress reflected a genuine desire among many Chechens to attempt a rebirth of their culture, customs, traditions, language and religion in order to elevate the significance of these issues in national life and to restore the ideologically perverted history of Chechnya and its people. Interestingly, the major points of this agenda correspond with what specialists of ethnic conflicts define as "principal building blocks of ethnicity."(14)
One of the main activities of the Congress was the adoption of the "Declaration of Sovereignty of the Chechen Republic." In spite of its weaknesses, particularly in that it was not a legally binding document and that it did not resolve an underlying issue of statehood, it united most Chechens.
To almost everyone's delight, the Declaration was adopted during the regular session of the Supreme Council of the Chechen-Ingushetian Republic.(15)
The most divisive aspect of the document was Article 1. It states that "The Chechen-Ingushetian Republic is a Sovereign State, that has been created as a result of a free self-determination of the Chechen and Ingushetian people."(16) Possibly because of the presence of some Communist party bureaucrats in the ranks of the framers of the document, it avoided elevating this sovereign state to a completely autonomous status. This compromise could only mean that the framers intended to obtain special status within the Russian Federation and the Soviet Union. This ambivalent character of the "Chechen Revolution" was very skillfully exploited by the local party elite in its approach to balancing between Russian and Soviet leadership.
However, their tactic was a temporary solution to a difficult issue. First, the collapse of the Soviet Union changed the political landscape. Second, many members of the popular movement felt a genuine aversion to official subservience. Third, the ethnocentric radicals took an increasingly aggressive stance against living under Russian "colonial enslavement." Initially, the radicals' strategic goal was to seize the leadership in the popular Executive Committee of Congress and then to turn it against the communist-dominated Supreme Soviet of Chechnya-Ingushetia. Once the Soviet Union had collapsed, they modified their approach to suit the new situation, but they did not waver in their desire to create a parallel power structure.
In the fall of 1990, the leadership of the Executive Committee was dominated by its moderate wing. Lecha Umakhaev, the First Deputy to the Chair of the Supreme Soviet, and Dzokhar Dudaev, a Soviet air force general who was elected almost by accident to the post, headed this group. Dudaev lacked strong support in the republic because his clan was poor and insignificant but his rank of the first Soviet general from the area played an affirming role in the traditional Chechen society.
The situation changed drastically in June, 1991, when nationalistic forces organized the so-called "second stage of the Congress of the Chechen People."(17) They succeeded in promoting their candidates, and Dudaev joined their leadership; it was headed by Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, Movlady Udugov, S-kh. Abumuslimov, and other pragmatists who founded the nationalistic-radical party of Vainakh Democrats.(18) These men accused the Communist leadership of the Chechen-Ingushetian Republic of collaboration with the "Russian imperialists in order to stay as an appendage of the colonial Russian Empire." They argued that in order to attain "true liberation of the Chechen People it was necessary to stay away from the Russian Federation and the USSR. To achieve this end, they encouraged their compatriots to mobilize all resources for armed rebellion in order to throw off the Russian colonial yoke once and for all."(19)
Umakhaev's supporters (sixteen influential individuals) understood the provocation of this call to arms and withdrew from the Executive Committee. Subsequent events proved this to be a mistake because the nationalists, as a consequence, were able to seize power in an environment of a constantly changing corps of deputies; they simply disturbed a healthy political discourse and co-opted resources for themselves.
The coup of August, 1991, triggered a dramatic speed-up in the "Chechen Revolution." The Executive Committee now came under full control of the radicals and they effectively exploited the Communist leadership's silence about the events in Moscow. Using the Communists' ineptitude, the Executive Committee demanded the resignation of the Communist Government and Parliament. It also called for free elections to a new representative body and demanded "real actions to achieve real independence and sovereignty of the Chechen Republic from the Russian Federation."(20)
These calls fell on fertile ground; most Chechens were already disenchanted with the corruption of the local Communist party elite. When the latter finally resisted, it only triggered an explosion of mass indignation and protest. In addition, the clans that were excluded from political power added fuel to the mix. In addition, subsequent events show that the radicals were only using democratic posture and slogans to achieve their end. A visible split into two hostile camps arose with the placement of the new Provisional Supreme Soviet of the Chechen-Ingushetian Republic.
B. Bakhmadov, a former regional prosecutor, led one camp. It endeavored to insure democratic procedures in the preparation and execution of the general election for the new parliament and a referendum regarding the powers of Chechnya's presidency. Kh. Akhmadov headed the opposing camp. He sided with the radicals of the 0KChN and, under its monopoly, pleaded for accelerated elections for the presidency and parliament. At that point, they had already created a National Guard and, with its help, established full control of the media and seized the most important public buildings in Grozny, the capital. In addition, partisans of the OKChN Executive Committee formed a Central Electoral Commission, which did everything possible to promote radical candidates.
Trying to assure its success, the nationalistic members of the provisional Supreme Soviet declared the dissolution of the Chechen-Ingushetian Republic and announced accelerated elections for the parliament of the new, separate Chechen Republic. This task became their first priority so as to legitimize their seizure of political power.
The pro-democratic part of the provisional Supreme Soviet resisted the nationalistic coup by creating an alternative popular movement for the preservation of a united Chechen-Ingushetia. They appointed an alternative date for elections and an alternative Central Electoral Commission. They even created their own home guard and occupied the building of the Republic's Trade Unions.
As might be imagined, the republic now entered a period of instability. On October 27, 1991, the pro-Dudaev Central Electoral Commission carried out presidential and parliamentary elections. Dudaev was declared the "nationally elected" President of the Chechen Republic. This step immediately triggered a negative reaction by the democratic opposition. That reaction alone could have resulted in armed clashes between the opposing parties.
At this crucial moment, Boris Yeltsin's administration, which had kept at a distance, decided to step in. It did so in the most inappropriate manner, at least from the point of view of traditional Chechen mentality, which has historically reacted negatively to intrusions by outsiders, but especially Russians.(21) That is why Yeltsin's decree, "Introduction of Marshal Law in Chechnya," was viewed by the great majority of native Chechens as an act of imperial aggression. Dudaev, who immediately called on Chechens to resist by referring to the need to reestablish Chechen national pride and dignity, became a national hero.
Thus Russia's interference reawakened dormant suspicions, reinforced the memories of past losses and the connected image of Russia as the enemy. Russia's approach helped to revive and reopen the traumas of past humiliations and defeats that Chechens had suffered at the hands of the Russian imperial and Soviet communist governments. It also rekindled dormant hatreds, and indignant Chechens readily transferred their hostility to Moscow's latest rulers and, as a byproduct, to the latest generation of Russians living in their republic; they were now thought of as potential traitors. The decree thus triggered ethnic cleansing of the Russian population. Oddly, this campaign never found adequate reflection in the Russian media. The stark findings of the Chechen journalist Arbi Arbiev in Chechnya and Ingushetia were not published until 1998.(22) He revealed that 320,000 Russian residents lived in that area in 1989; after 1991 only half of them remained. Only those persons and families who could not sell their property (particularly at the ridiculously low prices proposed by Chechens and Ingushetians) and who had no money to buy apartments in Russia proper were left. They were not paid their salaries, they were robbed, harassed, forced out of their homes and kidnapped, and their documents and identities were destroyed.(23)
In order not to be accused in betrayal of the "national cause," the democratic opposition had to retreat and to slow down its political activity, with only one exception. Umar Avturkhanov, the leader of the Nadterechny district, which had a mixed Russian (Cossack) and Chechen population, organized anti-Dudaev's meetings and ultimately announced the succession of the district from Grozny's jurisdiction. But this isolated stance could not change the overall picture. In fact, the Executive Committee of the OKChN took power. The regime that came to power acquired ethnocentric legitimization but in fact has never obtained legal status neither on the Russian national level nor internationally.
The second stage of the Chechen experiment to build an independent state fell under the aegis of Dudaev's ethnocentric regime, minimally interrupted by the attempts of the democratic opposition.
We outline here some key developments and measures to reflect the true character of this process. In the fall of 1991, the pro-Dudaev Parliament dissolved the provisional Supreme Soviet and effected the nationalization of all enterprises including plants, factories, institutions, industrial, amalgamations and other units that so far had been under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation. Chechnya also stopped tax payments to the RF. It additionally decreed the creation of a National Guard, a Ministry of National Security, a Ministry of the Interior, an Independent Inquisitorial Committee and a Prosecutor's Office.
Simultaneously, Parliament authorized the transformation of the Council of Ministers into a Cabinet of Ministers of the Chechen Republic headed by the president. Because the formation of the Cabinet took some time, Dudaev decreed the creation of the Committee for Operations and asked Yaragy Niamodaev, a well-known Chechen businessman accused of having a criminal past, to head it. It was subject only to Dudaev. Continuing with the concentration of power in his hands, Dudaev took under his personal control the National Bank and the Committee of Legal Reforms, and created the Presidential Council for Combating Organized Crime and Sabotage. He created the latter in order to strengthen his grip on the Prosecutor's Office, interior forces and the Ministry of Justice because all of them were subject to this Council. Because Dudaev already had full control of National Guard and other paramilitary units and the Committee on Operations, one can conclude that power had shifted to the Presidential Office. The only agency left outside of Dudaev's control was the Inquisitorial Committee, which had been created by Parliament.
A fascinating phase now opened. Feeling undermined, Parliament now launched a hectic series of legislative activities, thus hoping to create the legal underpinnings for the realization of the principle of separation of powers. This was a difficult undertaking. Not only had Dudaev moved expeditiously to attain as much power as possible, but the clan-based Chechen society was also not ready for democratic behavior. In fact, behind outwardly "democratic" attempts stood alternative interests of different political groupings that were backed by the extended clans ("teips"/"tukhums"). Each of these clans wanted to lead the emerging structures of power.(24)
Clan rivalries were accompanied by many declarations of adherence to the principles of democracy and human rights. Especially important, the contesting parties proclaimed their adherence to principles of international law. As might be imagined, democratic concepts were not well understood and simply exploited to attract outside support so as to discredit rivals. In Chechnya, and to a large extent in other post-Soviet societies, the understanding of democracy was neither deep nor widespread. Least understood and rooted were the art of compromise and accommodation for peaceful resolution of differences and as a way of setting priorities; the rule of law as an inclusive and a systematic set of legal procedures; and human rights as entailing respect for everyone. All the same, in order to attain international recognition for Chechnya, Dudaev created a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its envoys became very active in European and Muslim countries.
In order to create some balance between the principal governmental branches, the parliament on December 18, 1991 adopted two important laws: "The law regarding the authority of the President of the Chechen Republic" and "The law regarding activities of the Parliament of the Chechen Republic." The first one stated that the "President of the Chechen Republic neither be simultaneously a deputy (of Parliament) nor can he occupy another position except that of Supreme Commander of Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic. He cannot be a member of any political party or be elected to his office for more than two terms."(25) All the same, Parliament gave the President rather sweeping authority. As a "guarantor of Constitution," he was authorized to issue decrees (that had the authority of law), head the law enforcement organs, represent the Republic in the international arena, head the state's administration, form the cabinet of ministers, and initiate procedures for the removal of ministers in Parliament. He was also given the right of legislative initiative and veto of laws adopted by Parliament; vetoes that had to be upheld by two thirds of the deputies.(26)
In its turn, Parliament assumed considerable powers. They included the direction of domestic and foreign affairs, adoption and change of the constitution and definition of the administrative structure of the republic. It also took the right to appoint ministers, the chair of Constitutional Court, the chair of Supreme Court and local justices. In addition, it assumed the power to cancel presidential decrees and to impeach the president. Parliament additionally assumed the privilege to appoint the general prosecutor and his deputies, the chair of Inquiry Committee, the chair of the national security agency and the head of the National Bank. It could also adopt the national budget and call for national referenda.(27)
In a show of their respect toward the traditional institutions of Chechen society, both president and parliament stated that they would consult with the Council of Elders ("Mehk-Khel") when considering important decisions.
The Council of Elders is a remnant of a traditional Caucasian civilization. Here Dudaev's regime made no real attempt to create a symbiosis of archaic and modern institutions. In fact in many crucial circumstances Dudaev (and Parliament) did not address the Mehk-Khel; and when the latter tried to interfere on occasion, its members were treated rather harshly.(28)
Thus, in the fall of 1991, the leadership of the Chechen Republic was undertaking an attempt to build a presidential-parliamentary republic. This approach differed from Russian solution in three respects. First, the Chechen Parliament enjoyed genuine power and legal recourse in its efforts to restrain the president. Secondly, in a pragmatic move, the groups in power exacerbated the ethnocentric ideology and sometimes appealed to traditional Chechen institutions. Thirdly, they also revealed their desire to achieve full independence from Moscow, a move that opposed the vital interests of the ruling elite of Russia.
At the time, the situation in Russia and in Chechnya was characterized by fierce competition between two principal branches of government: the presidency and the parliament. Their struggles were carded out in a background of a feeble and underdeveloped democracy, which were characterized by the political apathy of the population and deepening economic crises.
But the situation in the two areas was different as well. In Chechnya, especially on the local level, the situation was somewhat different than in Russia proper; the republic was still dominated by powerful clans (or families). The rivalry between them created the underpinnings for the collision between the two main branches of government. This rivalry revealed itself especially after the adoption on December 29, 1991 of the law regarding "Local Self Government."(29) In the Russian situation, the president forcibly subdued Parliament and most recently did so again without much negative reaction by Russians.(30)
In fact, the clan rivalry was a crucial component for subsequent developments in Chechnya. Yet this perspective escaped the attention of Western and Russian observers, who are still inclined to depict Chechen society either in romantic and archaic terms (the Western tradition) or in "russified" terms, (the Russian official position).
On April 1, 1992, the Parliament of the Chechen Republic adopted a law entitled "Exemplary Establishment of Rural Self Government in the Chechen Republic" and "Exemplary Establishment of Townships in the Chechen Republic."(31) These two laws endeavored to address one of the most contentious issues in Russian and Caucasian history, namely the ownership of land. The laws endowed local administrations with the right to grant or eliminate ownership of land.(32) In fact, ownership of land that was being traversed by a major oil pipeline was a critical issue during the "Chechen Revolution." Under different slogans, different clans and powerful families, and the branches of government engaged in an uncompromising struggle over this financially critical issue.
Quite naturally, Dudaev wanted to extend his control on such a vital issue as well. Thus he published on May 14, 1992 the decree "Regarding Coordinators (Prefects) of the President of the Chechen Republic." According to this decree, the prefects and their administrations were declared assignees to the former local Soviets with full authority to distribute land.(33)
Again, the land along the pipeline was at stake. This decree triggered a new and ruthless round of ethnic cleansing against the so-called Russian-speaking population. The anger vented itself especially against Cossacks ("rooted Russians") who might possibly demand the return of "their" land that had been confiscated by the Bolsheviks (with the help of Chechens and Ingushetians) in the process of a genocide from 1918 to 1920.(34) But Cossacks, because of numerous purges, were not capable of self-organization and, for the most part, preferred to stay out of the controversy. But their loyalty did not smooth the situation.
Thus pressure on the fragmented Russian population increased. Together with the growing crime rate, the general instability and the rapidly worsening economic conditions, they fled the Republic in increasing numbers. In 1992 alone a total of 60,000 Russians fled; this is out of the 308,000 who had lived there according to the census of January 1, 1989.(35) A byproduct of this Russian outflow was a drastic deterioration of educational offerings and industrial output because that is where they had mostly been occupied.
Initially weak attempts of the leadership of the Terek Cossacks to establish self-government in their villages on the left bank of the Terek River were never supported on the national level and ignored by the Chechen government.
These steps were a clear violation of legal procedures by Dudaev and his regime and they provoked attempts by the Chechen opposition to organize a counter-offensive; and less influential clans in particular backed this move because they were under-represented in Dudaev's entourage. By the summer of 1992 the nucleus of the opposition was concentrated on the popular movement in "Daymohk" ("Motherhood") and headed by Salambek Khadjiev, Lecha Umakhaev and Dz. Gagkaev, three distinguished representatives of the Chechen intelligentsia. They endeavored to bring about new parliamentary elections that included full participation of the Russian speaking population. They also wanted to begin real economic reforms and restrictions on the Mafia and organized crime. Additionally, they wanted to reorganize the Mafia-backed state government to introduce real checks and balances, and to initiate a clear division of power between branches of government (that is, the president, parliament, constitutional court and local administrations, which were elected, not appointed). They wanted to undertake these steps in the context of the Constitution of the Chechen Republic, which had been adopted on March 12, 1992, but not activated.(36) In the spring of 1993, these efforts received support from the parliamentary faction "Bako" ("Right") which was headed by Yusup Soslambekov, a former radical nationalist and accused criminal. They also supported the mass meeting organized by the Chechen Federation of Trade Unions on April 15, 1993.
Dudaev's reaction was immediate. With the support of nationalistic radicals, he summoned a counter-meeting for April. But it did not stop the pro-democratic meeting in the theatre square of downtown Grozny demanding that Parliament defend the constitution.
Responding to this call, Parliament excluded the members who were most active in the Dudaev camp and had encouraged the executive's anti-constitutional actions. Then, with the support of the municipal council of Grozny, Parliament created an alternative council of ministers and placed Yaragy Mamodaev in charge of it. Mamodaev had, by that time, quarreled with Dudaev and had been removed by him from the post of vice premier. Parliament also established a minister of defense (placing I. Suleymenov in the position) and announced the creation of a multi-ethnic "People's Army." In addition to these steps it introduced some vital social measures and fixed a national referendum for June 5, 1993. The agenda included as a principal proposal the removal of the sitting president and the abolition of the institution of the presidency.(37)
At the same time that these issues were coming to a head in Chechnya, a very similar crisis was culminating on the Russian level. There it was the confrontation in Moscow between the Russian President and Parliament. Its resolution, just like that in Chechnya, in favor of the president has undermined the democratic process on the national and local levels ever since. The total defeat of the democratic forces was based on the most fundamental principle of democracies, namely that in all cases and circumstances political rivalry should be resolved peacefully and rivals must be able and willing to compromise.
The democratic breakdown came first in Chechnya.
In spite of some significant early losses by Dudaev in his confrontation with Parliament he continued to control the executive apparatus (including the prefects who were his personal appointees from loyal clans). He was also still in control of the National Guard and other paramilitary formations from the same clans (including criminals whom he had released from Chechen prisons, or had, through bribes of relatives, transferred to Chechnya from Russian prisons). Additionally, he enjoyed full control over the electronic media, which now launched a fierce campaign against his political opponents. Not to be ignored either, he had at his disposal huge sums of oil dollars that were mostly provided by the Mafia.(38) Most importantly, the overwhelming majority of Chechens was impoverished and trying to survive in a situation of deepening economic crisis. For the most part, they were politically disinterested as they endeavored to survive on their own and looked on the power struggle as a skirmish between elite clans for power. Finally, whatever different observers have said about Dudaev's character,(39) in this critical situation he showed himself as a politician ready, no matter the cost, to fight for the preservation of his personal power.
One other context is important here: Up to that point Chechens had not fought a Civil War. That is why Dudaev's next steps are central to the destruction of democracy in Chechnya and in Russia.
Dudaev's first step was to close down all opposition newspapers. His second move came unannounced in the early hours of June 4, 1993; his mobsters stormed the democratic movement's stronghold, the municipal council building of Grozny. During this attack, a battalion of municipal police officers suffered severe casualties and more than 60 people were killed. The same day, Dudaev's forces also shot up a pro-democracy demonstration. And the next day, the presidential guard besieged the headquarters of the movement. Unwilling to unleash a full-scale civil war, the opposition gave in and announced the cessation of all political activities.
The resolution of the political crisis in Chechnya meant that the democratic experiment was defeated and that the personal dictatorship of General Dudaev was established.(40)
The attack on October 3, 1993 by Yeltsin on the Russian Parliament is much better known than the events in Chechnya. How can contemporaries forget the TV footage of that day and the charred parliament building? And, like in Chechnya, this was a major turning point. In fact, it is a principal turning point in Yeltsin's period in office and in the post-Yeltsin period as well.
From now on, violent solutions became the norm for Russia proper and for Chechnya. No matter what the official rhetoric, the Russian and non-Russian publics alike understood that their political leaders, and the political and Mafia elites that backed them, would take the most ruthless measures to attain their personal goals. This was a devastating blow at the emerging civil society in post-Soviet states. One result was that the fragmented Russian population responded with ever growing political apathy. Another result was that oligarchs, tycoons, godfathers, bureaucrats, and regional elites grabbed the immense opportunity that unrestricted and unprecedented expropriation of the so-called "common" property opened for them. A further result was the strengthening of oligarchic regimes and the growth of ethnocentric nationalism.
Many people began to realize that a return to real economic progress and true modernization would be arduous and time consuming. The stress of economic and political uncertainty threatened to revive unresolved conflicts that had lingered just below the surface. Fewer individuals understood that the long-standing Imperial and Soviet legacy was much stronger than they imagined and that in Russia (and in many other former Soviet Republics) a new, unprecedented variety of totalitarian rule was emerging; a totalitarianism that one can call post-communist or pseudodemocratic neototalitarianism. This form of government can be characterized as a political system in which overall control over individuals and society is exercised by combination of familiar and new techniques. Control is not exercised through ideology, as in the past, but through other means. These means may include elections, for example, but these are merely used as a way to exert total control over citizens and tend to undermine this process itself and the social fabric and consensus in general. Observers in Chechnya and Russia noticed a "multidimensional dependency" that had begun to assume both obvious and latent economic (social, cultural, legal, traditional, religious, etc.) and extra-economic forms. Such forms determine the numerous power relationships associated with coercion, violence, and the constant threat of the use of either.(41)
An indispensable feature of the post-coup regime in Chechnya became attempts to renew the notorious control over intellectuals. According to L. D. Magomadov, the former deputy of the Supreme Council of the USSR, "intellectuals were almost outlawed and subjected to rigid pressure because they dare to assert that black is black, and white is white."(42) As a reaction to such coercion intellectuals started a new wave of out-migration, including even many native Chechens.
The Russian government in turn, inspired by the success of the subjugation of Parliament in October of 1993, and stirred by the rising influence of military officers (like Pavel Grachev) and rapacious oligarchs, reverted to the imperial tactic of "divide and conquer." After all, the prize of control over who controlled the oil route in Chechnya justified all means. That is why Moscow exacerbated the inner rivalries of Chechnya. In particular it encouraged consolidation of different groups relegated by Dudaev's regime (like that of Ramazan Labazonov's) or nourished their own ambitious plans (like that of the so-called "peacemaking group" of Ruslan Khasbulatov, the former speaker of the defeated Supreme Soviet of Russia). Gradually, these separate groups consolidated around Umar Avturkhanov, the head of the Nadterechny District and Chair of the dissolved Provisional Soviet. Russian special services armed these groups, gave them armored vehicles, tanks with instructors and disguised Russian crews and ultimately provoked a military raid on Grozny on November 26, 1994. But Dudaev's men showed themselves skilled urban anti-tank fighters and the attack was repulsed successfully.
This turn of events did not sober Moscow's "Party of War." The euphoria from the successful military suppression of the recent parliamentary rebellion in Moscow was still so fresh in the minds of the hawkish members of the Yeltsin's Security Council. And they are said to have persuaded the President that the regular army would readily cope with the task. The fatal decision of a direct assault on Chechnya was made in December of 1994.
There is no need to comment on what happened next; it is well known. The disastrous results of the First Chechen adventure for the North Caucasus and Russia are known and were analyzed in details in many publications. We need only stress that it immensely increased the sufferings of the common people in Chechnya and surrounding areas, prompted a degradation of the last traces of legal institutions, and enhanced the rapid barbarization of life in the Republic.
This barbarism implies the current deterioration of capitalism into gangsterism and terrorism, and the decline of traditional and local law and local law enforcement agencies. This trend has been especially pronounced in Chechnya proper and other ethnically charged areas like Ingushetia, Dagestan, Ossetia, and Kabarda. In these areas, field commanders have made hostage-taking a very lucrative business and more than 150 bands are operating independently of local authorities. In Chechnya alone thousands of Russians and a number of foreigners remain hostages. According to Magometov Tolboyev, the former head of the Security Council of Dagastan:
Islamic fundamentalists strengthened themselves in the area; they received ... skills and experiences of carrying out military operations ... People are sick and tired of them: raids of brigands, kidnappings, stealing of cattle, murder and assassination ... I warned then Interior and Foreign Ministries of Russian many times, do not let people come to the North Caucasus region that is Kabarda, Dagestan and Ossetia. I know how (kidnapped) people live there ... they sit like slaves in dungeons ... If you want to be kidnapped, go to Chechnya, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Ossetia. Maybe you will be ransomed afterwards, maybe you will not. If not you will be killed ... In Moscow the officials do not understand what the Caucasus looks like.(43)
Whatever the reasons, pretexts and possible new consequences of the latest Kremlin adventure in Chechnya might be for the Caucasus and Russia alike, it is already obvious that the above mentioned negative and antidemocratic tendencies have received yet another strong impulse that pushed them further into regressive projection.
We agree with Kovalev and Michael Alexeev who have noticed that revitalized great power illusions and nationalistic (anti-Chechen) hysteria threaten Russia well beyond the Caucasus. Moscow is neglecting the massive work needed to give ordinary Russians a lift from years of economic and social decline. The Kremlin's second military campaign in the Caucasus casts doubt on its genuine ability to compromise, or even to dispose well of Russia's plentiful resources wisely. And it further encourages regional leaders to fend for themselves and be wary of the Kremlin even if publicly they loudly sing praises to Putin. Some have already played with trade embargoes, quasicurrencies and regional security forces. The Republic of Tatarstan, for example, just passed a law forbiding Moscow to send local residents to the North Caucasus.(44) Other republics with large non-Russian populations are likely to follow suit, setting the stage for broader conflicts between the center and the periphery. If the Kremlin chooses to remain on the warpath with Chechnya, it also will be choosing the path to a weaker economy, regional fiefdoms, and social unrest.
(1.) Sergei Kovalev, "Putin's War," The New York Review of Books (10 February 2000): 4-8 and the same, "Russia After Chechnya," The New York Review of Books (17 July 1997): 6
(2.) Anatoly Isaenko and Peter Petschauer, "The Long Arm of the Dead: Traumas and Conflicts in the Caucasus," Mind and Human Interaction, 6 (3): 104-15; Anatoly V. Isaenko and Peter W. Petschauer, "Traditional Civilization in the North Caucasus: Insiders and Outsiders," in Cultural Issues and Treatment of Trauma and Loss: Honoring Differences (Washington, D.C.: Taylor Francis, 1999), pp. 150-77; and Suzanne Goldenburg, Pride of Small Nations (London: Zed Books, 1993), p. 6; Abdurahman Abtorkhanov and Marie Bennigsen Broxup, ed., The North Caucasus Barrier: The Russian Advance Towards the Muslim Worm (New York: St. Martins Press, 1992); Fleming Splidsboel-Hansen, "The 1991 Chechen Revolution: The Response of Moscow," Central Asia Survey, 13, 3 (1994): 75-98; Emil Payin and Jeremy R. Azrael, eds., U.S. and Russian Policymaking with Respect to the Use of Force (Santa Monica: Rand Corporation, 1995).
(3.) Valerii Tishkov, A.S. Orlov, Chechenskev Krisis (The Chechen Crisis) (Moscow, 1995) and Anatol Lieven, Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998).
(4.) "Chechnya: Unlearned Lessons," Moscow News (21-27 December 1999): #49, pp. 8-10.
(5.) Ibid, p. 8.
(6.) Kovalev, "Putin's War": 6ff.
(7.) Yossef Bodansky, "Chechnya: The Mujahedin Factor": http:www.amina.com/ chechins/article/muj-fact.html: 24-26.
(8.) Moscow News, #49 (Moscow, 21-27 December 1999): 8.
(9.) Moscow News, p. 9.
(10.) Ibid., p. 10.
(11.) Ibid., p. 10.
(12.) Ibid., p. 10.
(13.) Lieven, Chechnya, chptr., 2, pp. 56-65; 74-84.
(14.) Amy C. Hundall, Anatoly V. Isaenko, Peter W. Petschauer and B. Stamm, "The Middle Path: The Practical and Theoretical Center Between Ethnic Extremes," 15th Annual Meeting, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Miami, FL., November 14-17, 1999.
(15.) Ternistii Put'k Svobode: Pravitelstvennye dokumenty Chechenskoi Respubliky, stat'y, intervju (The Thorny Way to Freedom: The State Papers of the Chechen Republic: Arcicles, Interviews) (Vilnius, 1993), p. 376.
(16.) Dokumenty, p. 376.
(17.) Dokumenty, p. 376-77.
(18.) Dokumenty, p. 377.
(19.) Dokumenty, p. 377.
(20.) Dokumenty, p. 378-79.
(21.) Isaenko and Petschauer, "The Long Arm of the Dead": 108 and 111.
(22.) Arbi Arbiev, "On the Run," Moscovsky Komsomokets (Moscow, April, 1998): 2.
(23.) Arbiev, "On the Run": 2.
(24.) Isaenko and Petschauer, "Traditional Civilization in the North Caucasus": 161.
(25.) Parlament Chechenskoi Respubliki. Zakony v pvati vipuskakh (Parliament of the Chechen Republic. Laws in 5 Volumes) (Grozny: State Publishing House, 1992), vol. 2 p. 1.
(26.) Zakony, vol. 2, p. 1.
(27.) Zakony, vol. 5, pp. 1-5.
(28.) Lieven, Chechnya, chpt. 2.
(29.) Zakony, vol. 5, pp. 1-5.
(30.) Kovalev, "Putin's War": 7-8.
(31.) Parliament Chechenskoy Respubliky. Polozenya. V dvukh vypuskah. Vypusk 2 (Parliament of the Chechen Republic. Major Procedures in 2 Volumes) (Grozny: State Publishing House, 1992), art. 1-25.
(32.) Polozenya, art. 1-25.
(33.) Sbornik Ukazov y Rasporyazenii Presidenta Chechenskoy Respubliky (Collection of Decrees and Injunctions of the President of the Chechen Republic) (November 1, 1991-May 26, 1993) (Grozny: State Publishing House, 1993), p. 130.
(34.) [Authors not identified], "Repressirovannye Narody. Kazaky" ("The Repressed Peoples. Cossacks."), The Spy (Moscow: "Misticos," 1994), #1, p. 38.
(35.) Emil Pain and A. Popov, "Rossiiskaya Politika v Chechne, Kriminalny rezim" ("Russian Policy in Chechnya; A Criminal Regime"), Izvestia (News) (Moscow, February 8,1995): 2-3.
(36.) Programmnye documenty obshestvenno-politicheskoyo dvizenya "Daymohk". (The Program of Social Movement "Daymohk") (Grozny: State Publishing House, 1992), pp. 3-16.
(37.) Emil Pain, "Chto proizoshlo v Chechne vesnoy 1993 goda?" ("What Happened in the Chechen Republic in the Spring of 19937"), Spravedlivost" (Moscow, 1993), #10.
(38.) Emil Pain and A. Popov, "Rossiiskaya politika ...," Izvestya (Moscow, February 8, 1995): 2-3.
(39.) Lieven, Chechnya, pp. 65-70.
(40.) Pain, "Chto proizoshlo v Chechne vesony 1993 goda?"
(41.) Volodymyr Polokhalo, The Political Analysis of Postcommunism (College Station: Texas A and M University Press, 1997), p. 7.
(42.) L.D. Magomadov, "Put k dictature lezit cherez apatiu naroda "("The Way to The Dictatorship Lies Through the Apathy of the People"), Marsho (Grozny, May 14, 1993): 3.
(43.) Magametov Tolnoyev, "Do not come to us in the Caucasus," Novoye Russkoye Slovo (New Russian Word) (New York, July 6, 1998): 7.
(44.) http://www.russiatoday.com (November 8, 1999): 2.
DRS. ISAENKO AND PETSCHAUER are professors of history at Appalachian State University.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: A Failure That Transformed Russia; the 1991-94 Democratic State-Building Experiment in Chechnya. Contributors: Isaenko, Anatoly V. - Author, Petschauer, Peter W. - Author. Journal title: International Social Science Review. Publication date: Spring-Summer 2000. Page number: 3. © 2008 Pi Gamma Mu. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.