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Comparing And Contrasting The Wars In Chechnya

2059 words - 9 pages

In 1993, Chechnya declared independence from Russia and has since fought for their independence from Russia (Vendina, Belozerov, and Gustafson, “The Wars in Chechnya nd Their Effects on Neighboring Regions,” p. 180). Many critics cite ethnic separatism or economic independence as the reason for the passionate Chechen secessionist movement, but political pressure from radical supporters of Chechen leaders is probably a more accurate explanation. Yeltsin and Putin had different political reasons for their wars in Chechnya, but the Chechen opposition also changed between the two wars, from the Chechen rebel state to individual Chechen warlords and groups. In particular, Russian leaders were enacting a policy of containment in Chechnya, while Chechen leaders shifted from demanding Chechen independence to being instruments of Russian efforts to contain the conflict to Chechnya. The main difference between the two wars was the catalyst for the war, but the underlying reasons for going to war were very similar.
President Boris Yeltsin decided to invade Chechnya due to a perceived need to demonstrate that the Russian government was strong and capable of suppressing such an uprising. Yeltsin had a political agenda in which the priority was to institute a federal state where local governments took on a larger role compared to the former soviet state (Hughes, “From Federalisation to Recentralisation,” p. 129). Yeltsin was decentralizing power by granting more legislative powers to the regional governments, but Yeltsin still needed political support from the regional governors in order to pass legislation in the upper house of the Duma (Zhuravskaya, “Federalism in Russia,” p. 61). So Yeltsin started granting selective concessions to carefully chosen special interest groups in order to garner political capital (Zhuravskaya, “Federalism in Russia,” p. 61). Regional demands grew increasingly bold, especially among those that had natural resources of great economic value because they had more bargaining power to use against Moscow (Treisman, Lecture 14). Chechnya had oil refineries and a key oil pipeline running through the republic which provided oil across Russia and with that considerable bargaining power (Vendina et al, “The Wars in Chechnya and Their Effects on Neighboring Regions,” p. 186). However, Yeltsin was opposed to Chechen secession and independence. A war in Chechnya was also popular amongst key political and military elites (Treisman, “The Return,” 291-292). Treisman argues that Dudayev was compelled to make such a bold demand in order to appease his revolutionary supporters and stay in power (“The Return”, p. 290). Dudayev’s extreme statement of Chechen independence and Yeltsin’s unwillingness to let Chechnya go led to one of Yeltsin’s most unpopular political maneuvers with only 20% of Russian survey respondents supported the war in Chechnya (Treisman Lecture 15). Yeltsin was also misguided by his vice president, Aleksandr Rutskoy, who assured...

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