Chechenya &Caucasus











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This is an area of very mixed population and great linguistic diversity, showing a long period of settlement. There are numerous small ethnic groups, as well as the Armenians and Georgians: Adygai, Karachai, Ossetians, Ingush, Chechen, Avars, Lak. These straddle the border between Russia and Georgia.

Georgia was one of the first to declare independence of the Soviet Union and did not join the CIS until late in 1993. However, despite agitating for their own independence they refuse the right to other ethnic groups within their borders. These include the Ossetians in South Ossetia (whom the Georgians claim should be expelled to North Ossetia, still in Russia). Another group is the Avkhasians who are also at war with Georgia. A civil war broke out in Georgia among the majority population over the President Zviad Gamzakhurdia who was accused of behaving in a dictatorial fashion. When Shevardnadze became leader it broke out again. He had to agree to join the CIS and accept Russian troops.

Armenia is another area of war.

All the ethnic disputes have resulted in guerrilla activity and in some cases major war with armored weapons.

Attempted independence by Chechnya led to Russian attempted reconquest, December 1994. This grew into a vicious war as bad as any since the end of the Cold War.

The Russians do not seem likely to be able to win militarily, because as in Afghanistan the guerrillas are on their own territory and have the support of the population.

The war resumed in 1999 following explosions in Moskva, attributed to Chechen terrorists. At the end of 1999 it was the most violent war occurring anywhere on the planet and continues to be in 2004. The war threatens to spread it neighboring republics, such as North Ossetia where a terrorist incident at a school in Beslan killed hundreds of children and adults.

Russians claim that Muslim extremists are operating in Chechnya and that the war was originally about militant Islam. However, in reality it was originally Nationalist. But as it goes on it is attracting support from many Muslims, and is being used as an excuse for terrorism in western countries, as well as in Russia itself as in Beslan (North Ossetia). Chechens claim they are returning to the Russians the indiscriminate brutality they are receiving from the Russian military.

A new dispute is emerging in Georgia. Since the election of a pro-western president, Russia seems to be trying to bring Georgia back under its control. Putin has been threatening Georgia in several ways. In Winter 2005 the main gas supply from Russia was cut off (by unexplained explosions). It seems that Russia is using the fact that Russia supplies the main energy supplies as a weapon, similarly to policy with regard to Ukraine.

October 2006 it has been reported (BBC) that the war in Chechnya is now spreading into neighboring Dagestan.

August 2008
Russian troops are reported as bombing towns in Georgia in support of the South Ossetians and sending in tanks to South Ossetia, after Georgian troops tried to occupy the capital of North Ossetia. Prime Minister Putin presumably wants them controlled by Russia, like the Avkhasians (who have been granted Russian passports and use the Russian Rouble). Probably too he wants to rein in the Georgians as a satellite of Russia and to prevent it from joining NATO and the EU (neither very likely).

Russian troops seem to be in control of South Ossetia and Avkhasia and then occupied parts of Georgia proper.

We should note that the total population of South Ossetia was about 70,000, which included a minority of Georgians. This is an example of how borders that in Soviet times were unimportant local government boundaries have become serious causes of dispute. The same is true of former Yugoslavia.

Interesting reading

Tony Wood - Chechnya the case for independence

Guardian Review by Nicolas Rea

Last revised 12/08/08


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