Chechnya’s centuries-long bloody strife goes global

To Tolstoy, fighting Chechen rebels in the 1850s, they were a ‘hardy thistle’ defying suppression. Now, it has seeded itself afar

Special forces outside parliament in 2010 in Chechnya’s rebuilt capital, Grozny. Photograph: Viskhan Magomadov/AFP/Getty Images


Although nothing is yet known about what motivated the two young Chechen men, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, suspected of carrying out the bombing of the Boston Marathon on Monday, one thing is clear: Chechnya is as potent a generator of violence today as it has been for blood-soaked centuries.

This small Russian republic, nestled in the mountainous Caucasus, has produced some of the world’s most implacable fighters and most ruthless terrorists. Other places are also generators of far-flung violence beyond their own borders – Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are obvious examples – but none has as long a history of war, resistance, and terror as Chechnya.

The history of Chechnya is one of imperialism gone terribly wrong. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Chechens were among the few peoples to fend off Mongol conquerors, but at a terrible cost. Turks, Persians, and Russians sought to seize Chechnya, and it was finally absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1859.

Chechens are not ethnically or culturally Russian, and have now been fighting for generations to free themselves from Russian rule. Russian attempts to suppress Chechen separatism have even made a contribution to world literature, in the form of Leo Tolstoy’s masterful novella, Hadji Murad, which the critic Harold Bloom has called “my personal touchstone for the sublime of prose fiction, to me the best story in the world.”

Tolstoy served with a Cossack regiment assigned to fight Chechens in the 1850s – a stark reminder of how long this conflict has festered. A hardy plant, the thistle, is for Tolstoy the perfect symbol of Chechnya and its “desperately brave” rebels.

“What vitality!” a Russian soldier marvels as he contemplates a thistle at the end of the story:

Man has conquered everything and destroyed millions of plants, yet this one won’t submit.

During the second world war, Stalin accused the Chechens of collaborating with the Nazis – a credible charge, since Chechens will ally themselves with anyone who might help them throw off Russian rule. He deported the entire Chechen population to Siberia and Kazakhstan. Tens of thousands died before he permitted their return after the war.

The end of the Soviet Union brought not respite to the long conflict, but a ruinous intensification of it. Today, Russia – driven by the steely will of President Vladimir Putin – is as determined as ever to crush the insurgency without granting Chechens any form of autonomy or self-rule, much less independence.

This has led some Chechens to take the path of terror. They are held responsible for crimes that make the Boston Marathon bombing seem like child’s play – most of them outside Chechnya. Among the attacks attributed to or claimed by Chechen rebels are the 1999 bombing of a Moscow shopping center, in which 64 people were killed; the 2002 siege of a theater, also in Moscow, that resulted in 120 deaths; the 2004 attack on a school in the town of Beslan, in which 380 people, nearly all of them children, were slaughtered; and just three years ago, an attack on the Moscow subway system by two female suicide bombers that killed 39.

Russia has fought this long conflict with their own kind of savagery. Russian forces have killed tens of thousands of Chechens since the 1990s, and leveled Grozny, the Chechen capital, in the 1994-95 phase of the conflict. A separatist leader, Shamil Basayev, allegedly the planner of the Beslan school massacre, was assassinated in 2004, evidently by Russian security forces. That same year, President Putin named a local ally, Ramzan Kadyrov, to run Chechnya for him.

According to many outsiders, including the US State Department, Kadyrov has become one of the world’s most brutal figures, responsible for widespread torture in secret prisons and many murders. He “has been implicated personally”, according to State, in the murder of the crusading journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.

Chechens decided long ago not to confine their struggle to Chechnya. Some have fought against American-backed armies in Afghanistan and Iraq. In return, foreign militants have turned up in the ranks of Chechen rebels. The US State Department has also reported that some funding for the rebels comes from sources linked to al-Qaida.

This conflict is ethnic and political, but it has a religious overlay. Chechens are Muslim, and some share the belief that the west is engaged in a global campaign against Islam. They have decided that their response should also be global. George Bush’s global “war on terror” has found its corollary: a globalised campaign of terror.

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The Assassination of Russia – FSB false flag bombings of 1999

The Assassination of Russia – FSB false flag bombings of 1999

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Blowing Up Russia: Terrorism From Within

Blowing Up Russia: Terrorism From Within

Published on Nov 13, 2012

Documentary film describes the September 1999 Russian apartment bombings as a terrorist act committed by Russian state security services. Written and directed by Yuri Felshtinsky and Alexander Litvinenko. “We just cannot go out and say that the president of Russia is a mass murderer. But it is important that we know it.”

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Window On Eurasia: Existence Of ‘Four [Differeent] Russias’ Complicates Political Struggle, Moscow Analyst Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 2 – Recent public demonstrations have called attention to “the vertical division” between the powers and the people of the Russian Federation, but according to a leading Moscow analyst, an equally important division for both those in power and those who oppose them may be the existence of “four Russias,” each very different from the others.
            In an article in last Friday’s “Vedomosti,” Natalya Zubarevich, the director of regional programs at Moscow’s Independent Institute of Social Policy, describes each of these Russias and argues that relations with and among them will play a critical role in political outcomes in the coming year (
            The “first Russia” is “a country of large cities.” It includes the 12 Russian cities with a million residents or more and two just under that figure, Perm and Krasnoyarsk.  In these 14 live 21 percent of the population – or one in every five. And only in five of them – Ufa, Perm, Omsk, Chelyabinsk, and Volgograd – do Soviet-era industrial enterprises still dominate.
            In the others, “a post-industrial transformation” has occurred, with this trend somewhat more pronounced in Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, and Rostov and somewhat less in the others.  As a result, professionals, entrepreneurs, and white collar employees set the weather in this “first Russia.”
            Moreover, over the last decade, consumption patterns in all of these cities have approached those of Moscow even though incomes still lag in many of them. Consequently, it is now appropriate to speech of the emergence of a middle class and to note that this group forms an ever-growing fraction of the population.
            This group of cities is a magnete for migrants with “up to 80 percent” of all migration consisting of flows to and among them.  And if one adds to this Russia the population of other cities with more than 500,000, then this “Russia” includes 36 percent of the country’s population, some 51 million people.
            It is in this Russia that the 35 million domestic users of the Internet and those who want a more open society are concentrated. But what is most important, Zubarevich argues, is that it is in “the first Russia” that “protest energy arose without being stimulated by a crisis: instead of the reflexes of homo economicus have worked the mechanisms of moral alientation.”
            Thus, she writes, “in the case of a new crisis, the impact on the educated urban stratum will be strong, but mobility and a higher level of competitiveness of the residents of major cities will permit them more quickly to adapt to an unfavorable situation.”
            The “second Russia” consists of the mid-sized industrial cities of from 20,000 to 500,000 or even 700,000 in the case of Tol’yati.  “Far from all mid-sized cities have preserved an industrial specialization in the post-Soviet years,” Zubarevich notes, “but its spirit all the same is strong as is the Soviet way of life of the population.”
            Bllue collar and government employees of relatively low qualification, Zubarevich says, dominate the socio-economic scene. About 25 percent of all Russians live in this Russia, an in its “most unstable part,” the company towns, about 10 percent of the total.  (Official figures on the number of “mono-cities” are exaggerated, she explains.)
            If a new crisis occurs, this “Russia” will experience “the greatest shock,” with industrial production falling faster than other branches while “the mobility and competitiveness of the population [would be relatively] small.” If the federal budget can maintain subsidies, the regime can control the situation, but if not, then there could be a wave of populist protests.
            Many of the factories in this “second Russia” should have been closed long ago, Zubarevich says, because of low productivity, “but this was not done in the [earlier] crisis, and most probably, it will not be done in the case of another shock.  “As 2009 showed, the vlasti recognize the danger of a protest by ‘the second Russia’ and they know how to prevent it.”
            The “third Russia,” in which 38 percent of all Russians live, is “the enormous periphery of the country and consisting of residents of villages, settlements, and small cities.” It is, Zubarevich says, linked to “the land” and remains “outside of politics because the calendar of agricultural work does not depend on a change of the powers that be.”
            Consequently, its “protest potential” is “minimal” even if pensions and pay are delayed, the Moscow expert says.
            Finally, she says, there is a “fourth Russia,” consisting of the republics of the North Caucasus and the south of Siberia (Tyva and Altay).  Amounting to six percent of Russia’s population, this Russia has some cities but “almost no industrial ones.” And “the agricultural population continues to grow and is still young, although young people are moving to the cities.”
            What is important for this Russia as far as Moscow is concerned are stable flows of federal assistance and investment from the federal budget, something Vladimir Putin has pledged to do despite opposition.  But the amount of money involved is much smaller than many believe, Zubarevich says.
            She points out that “the amount of transfer payments [from Moscow] to the republics of the North Caucasus in 2010 consisted of 160 billion rubles, 10.7 percent of all transfers to the regions from the federal budget, and with Tyva and Altay added 12 percent.”  The amount the federal budget gave to Moscow for transportation problems in 2012 was twice as much.
            It is clear, Zubarevich concludes, that “sooner or later, ‘the first Russia’ will overwhelm” the others and determine political outcomes. What is not certain and what she does not say in this article is whether this will happen in 2012 – or whether operating on the others, Vladimir Putin will be able to return to the Kremlin.
Posted by at 4:22 PM
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Sergey Khadjikurbanov Rejects His Role Of Organizing Anna Politkovskaya’s Murder

Oct 27 2011, 22:10

Sergey Khadjikurbanov, ex-militiaman, who was repeatedly charged of murdering Anna Politkovskaya, an observer of the “Novaya Gazeta” newspaper, rejects his guilt and refuses to testify. This was reported by his lawyer Alexei Mikhalchik.

The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that today Sergey Khadjikurbanov was again charged of organizing the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. “Khadjikurbanov is accused of the crime that, after he had been released from prison on September 22, 2006, he headed an organized criminal grouping in the course of preparation and commitment of Politkovskaya’s murder,” stated Vladimir Markin, the official spokesman of the Investigatory Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF).

Alexei Mikhalchik has confirmed that his client faced a newly-worded indictment. However, according to his story, it hardly differs from the previous one, under which Sergey Khadjikurbanov was acquitted by the jury.

“The charge is not specified; and this impedes the work of the defence,” Mr Mikhalchik has and added that it is not clear from the indictment how Lom-Ali Gaitukaev, another figurant in the case, could communicate with Sergey Khadjikurbanov in organizing the murder, since the latter was in custody at that time.

Murad Musaev, Djabrail Makhmudov’s advocate, also said that his client had faced a newly-formulated indictment. “Its content is the same; however, instead of committing the crime jointly with unidentified persons, investigators name the new detainees Gaitukaev and Pavlyuchenkov,” he has emphasized.

According to Darya Trenina, the advocate of the suspected killer Rustam Makhmudov, her client has not faced his indictment yet, the “RAPSI” (Russian Agency of Legal and Judicial Information) reports.

At the same time, relatives and friends of Anna Politkovskaya do not believe that the ex-militiaman Sergey Khadjikurbanov was the main organizer of her murder.

“Basing on the materials of the case, which was brought to the court two years ago, I have no reason to believe that Sergey Khadjikurbanov is the main organizer,” Ilya, Anna Politkovskaya’s son, said today.

According to his story, “the materials of the case say practically nothing in this regard”, the “Interfax” reports.

See earlier reports: “Court leaves Pavlyuchenkov, accused of murdering Politkovskaya, in custody,” “Presentation of indictment to native of Chechnya Gaitukaev on Politkovskaya’s murder case postponed,” “It is five years since the day of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder today,” “Court upholds arrest of supposed Politkovskaya’s killer.”

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NORTHWEST HERALD: New Charges Filed In Killing Of Russian Journalist

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV – The Associated Press

Created: Friday, October 7, 2011 8:12 a.m. CDT

MOSCOW – Russian investigators marked the 5th anniversary of journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s killing today by filing new charges against suspects involved in the slaying, but they have remained silent about who might have ordered her murder.

Politkovskaya, a sharp critic of the Kremlin and its policies in Chechnya, was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on October 7, 2006. The brutal attack drew worldwide attention to violence against journalists in Russia and caused widespread suspicions of government involvement.

Russia’s top investigative body said it’s filing formal charges today against Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, a native of Chechnya accused of organizing the killing. It said it will also bring new accusations against the suspected triggerman, Rustam Makhmudov and several orther suspects.

Makhmudov’s two brothers and another suspect, former Moscow police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, stood trial on charges of helping stage the killing, but a court found them not guilty in 2009. The Russian Supreme Court overruled the acquittal and has sent the case back to prosecutors. Makhmudov and Gaitukayev – uncle of the Makhmudov brothers – have been detained earlier.

The Investigative Committee said that it will bring new charges today against Khadzhikurbanov and the two Makhmudov brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim. Khadzhikurbanov has been in custody, while the two Chechen brothers are free but have been requested not to leave town. The Committee had told the public earlier about the accusations against Gaitukayev and others, and today’s statement was a clear attempt to demonstrate a progress in the case.

The investigators also said that Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, who was a senior police offficer at the time of the killing, is accused of tracking down Politkovskaya’s movements to help stage the killing. Pavlyuchenkov, who served as a witness during the abortive first trial, was arrested in August.

Politkovskaya’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper has welcomed the detention of the suspected shooter and other suspects, but lamented a slow progress on finding a person who ordered the killing and described Friday’s step as a mere formality. Politkovskaya’s son, Ilya, also criticized authorities for failing to track down the mastermind.

“Five years after we only have suspects accused of staging the killing,” he said, according to RIA Novosti news agency. “It could have been done much earlier. A lot of time has been lost.”

Politkovskaya was killed on birthday of Vladimir Putin, who was serving his second presidential term at the time, and that helped fuel speculations about possible involvement of authorities angered by Politkovskaya’s exposure of atrocities in Chechnya.

“She was challenging the dominant power of the government with her lonely efforts,” Novaya Gazeta said on its front-page carrying a photo of Politkovskaya.

Putin made his first public remarks on Politkovskaya’s death a few days after, saying that she had little influence and that her slaying did more harm to Russia than her articles did. Putin, who turned 59 today, is now Russia’s prime minister and is all but certain to reclaim presidency in next March’s elections.

Earlier this week, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed allegations of possible government involvement in Politkovskaya’s killing in remarks broadcast by independent TV station Dozhd (Rain). “People, are you crazy to associate this with Putin?” he said.

Politkovskaya’s colleagues marked the anniversary of her death by opening a Facebook account dedicated to her memory, posting her pictures, books and favorite music.

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NYT: Russia: Officer Charged In 2006 Killing Of A Journalist

Published: September 3, 2011

Investigators have charged a former police officer with providing surveillance information and a murder weapon to the killer of the prominent journalist Anna Politkovskaya, whose shooting death in 2006 brought widespread condemnation of violence against journalists in Russia. But like the earlier arrest of a person suspected of being a gunman, the announcement left unanswered the larger question of who ordered the killing of Ms. Politkovskaya, a crusading reporter who had persisted in writing critical articles about the war in Chechnya. The defendant, Dmitri Pavlyuchenkov, a former lieutenant colonel in a police surveillance unit, has denied the accusation.

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