The experience of the former Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Chechnya over the past decade constitutes what is perhaps the largest-scale and longest-running humanitarian tragedy to have emerged from the collapse of the Soviet and Soviet-satellite regimes, as the ongoing military engagement and massive civilian suffering in Chechnya has now far outlasted that of the former Yugoslavia. The Chechen odyssey in the post-Soviet era can be divided into three periods of attempted state building: two led by secessionist Chechens and aimed at establishing an independent Chechen state (autumn 1991-December 1994 and August 1996-September 1999) and the current period led by Russian Federation officials in Chechnya and aimed at re-integrating Chechnya into the Russian state ( June 2000-present). These intervals of mostly unsuccessful state-building have been punctuated by two wars between the pro-independence Chechen forces and the combined forces of the Defence and Interior Ministries of the Russian Federation (December 1994-August 1996 and September 1999-present).
At the time of writing (November 2002), the legal and political status of Chechnya remains highly fluid and ambiguous, while the situation on the ground in Chechnya continues to be extremely chaotic, violent and dangerous. The Russian Federation claims that Chechnya has been successfully re-integrated into the legal and political space of Russia and that 'normal life' is returning to the republic. 1 However, pro-independence Chechen forces, led by General Aslan Maskhadov, who was elected to the post of president by the Chechen people in January 1997, remain in hiding in the mountains of southern Chechnya and continue to mount almost-daily guerrilla attacks against both Russian military forces and the pro-Moscow administration in Chechnya. Maintaining their stated goal of creating an independent Chechen state that is a 'subject of international law', the Chechen forces in hiding have vowed to drive Russian forces from the republic. 2
The sad events in Chechnya over the past decade have determined that both short- and long-term prospects for any type of lasting peace and stability in Chechnya, whether as an independent state, a de facto state, or as an 'integral part' of the Russian Federation, are not heartening. Unfortunately, the events of