Terror in Chechnya: Russia and the Tragedy of Civilians in War

Terror in Chechnya: Russia and the Tragedy of Civilians in War

Terror in Chechnya: Russia and the Tragedy of Civilians in War

Terror in Chechnya: Russia and the Tragedy of Civilians in War


Terror in Chechnya is the definitive account of Russian war crimes in Chechnya. Emma Gilligan provides a comprehensive history of the second Chechen conflict of 1999 to 2005, revealing one of the most appalling human rights catastrophes of the modern era--one that has yet to be fully acknowledged by the international community. Drawing upon eyewitness testimony and interviews with refugees and key political and humanitarian figures, Gilligan tells for the first time the full story of the Russian military's systematic use of torture, disappearances, executions, and other punitive tactics against the Chechen population.

In Terror in Chechnya, Gilligan challenges Russian claims that civilian casualties in Chechnya were an unavoidable consequence of civil war. She argues that racism and nationalism were substantial factors in Russia's second war against the Chechens and the resulting refugee crisis. She does not ignore the war crimes committed by Chechen separatists and pro-Moscow forces. Gilligan traces the radicalization of Chechen fighters and sheds light on the Dubrovka and Beslan hostage crises, demonstrating how they undermined the separatist movement and in turn contributed to racial hatred against Chechens in Moscow.

A haunting testament of modern-day crimes against humanity, Terror in Chechnya also looks at the international response to the conflict, focusing on Europe's humanitarian and human rights efforts inside Chechnya.


We are always finding, all across Chechnya, mass graves
of civilians. Sometimes it's not even a grave but a heap of
dumped bodies.

— Sergei Kovalev, Russia's former human rights commissioner,
quoted in the Moscow Times, February 2003

You speak about the violation of human rights. Whose rights?
Who exactly— give me first names, information, family names!

— President Vladimir Putin, to a Le Monde correspondent,
October 2004

FOR A LONELY BAND of human rights activists, Chechnya represents one of the greatest human rights catastrophes of the post– cold war era. In May 2001, the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum placed Chechnya on its Genocide Alert list, which had been created to sound warnings of potential genocides. Two years later, in Strasbourg, Rudolf Bindig, a German Social Democrat and Rapporteur to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, urged the council to support the establishment of an international war crimes tribunal for Chechnya on the model of the tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Writing from Paris in May 2004, the outspoken French philosopher André Glucksmann despaired in the pages of the Wall Street Journal : “As the 21st century begins, the worst of the worst in terms of cruelty sprawls out in this desolate corner of the Caucasus, on the very shores of our Europe.”

Russia's first attempt to subjugate Chechnya in the post-Soviet era began with the destruction of Grozny, a city of half a million civilians during the winter of 1994– 95. As Russian tank columns maneuvered through the Caucasus, massive artillery and aerial bombardment indiscriminately . . .

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