sheds light on the background to the war in the small,
autonomous republic of Chechnya – a war that has almost
been forgotten by the world’s public but that is still,
apart from a hiatus between 1996 and 1999, ongoing. Its
roots go back almost two centuries, to when Tsarist
Russia thought it necessary to bring “civilisation” to
the North Caucasus with fire and sword.
numerous sources, Emil Souleimanov from Charles
University in Prague illustrates this historical
background, the characteristics of Chechen culture, as
well as the surprisingly complex structure of its
society; though he mainly focuses on events since 1994,
when Russian president Boris Yeltsin believed he could
discipline breakaway Chechnya with military might in no
time at all.
however, was a war with tens of thousands of dead and
human rights violations on a massive scale, especially
on the part of the Russians, which Souleimanov, who is
of Caucasian descent, graphically describes in a
discusses the role of Islam and the radicalisation of
parts of the armed Chechen resistance, as well as its
actions outside Chechnya, which attracted European and
North American attention (especially the taking of
hostages in a Moscow theatre, and in a school in the
North Ossetian town of Beslan in 2004); the ascent of
Ramzan Kadyrov, who now, on behalf of the Kremlin, rules
Chechnya with an iron fist; and the consequences of the
war in Chechnya for Russian society.
structured and objective report can be read as a
counterbalance to the Kremlin’s official description of the
intervention as a “war against terrorism,” a description
which, following 9/11, met with increasing acceptance in the
US and Western Europe.
with literature on Chechnya, however, may question the
validity of the preface by Anatol Lieven, who has spared no
effort to defend and justify Vladimir Putin’s post-1999 war
(see, for example, his articles “Nightmare in the Caucasus”
from the year 2000, “Morality and Reality in Approaches to
War crimes: The Case of Chechnya” from 2001 and “A Spreading
Danger: Time for a New Policy Toward Chechnya”, written
together with Fiona Hill and Thomas de Waal in 2005). Apart
from this reservation, this book can be highly recommended
to readers outside academia as well.
About the author:
is assistant professor at Charles University in Prague,
Institute of Political Studies and at the University of
Public Administration and International Relations (Czech
Republic). He holds his M.A. and Ph.D. in International
Relations from Charles University and LL.M. from the St.
Petersburg State Polytechnical University. He has published
widely on the issues of security and nation as well as
state-building with regional emphasis on Russia and the
Caucasus. He has also provided numerous analyses to the
Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense,
and the NATO.