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(en) US, California, The dawn* #4 - Chechnya: Its War, Oil, and People by Rocco Katary

From <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(Erik egh-A-the-dawn.org)
Date Thu, 14 Oct 2004 09:38:10 +0200 (CEST)

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Chechnya, located in the south of Russia and to the north
of the Republic of Georgia, has been at war for five long
years. We are told very few facts about the country by the
mainstream press, other than the Chechens are fighting
for their freedom from Russian rule. Unfortunately,
civilians on both sides are being killed. The Chechen
Mujahideen estimates that around 60,000 people have
already been died as a result of the fighting, and that
figure is climbing. They state that for every Chechen or
Ingushetian child killed, a Russian will die. This tiny
civil war has extended not only to Russia, but also to
Northern Georgia, and continues to spread throughout the
whole Caucus region. As it grows, more people die.

This war, like all wars, is devastating. This is a war
where no one is innocent, just as Israel and Palestine are
both guilty of human rights abuses (Is there a war where
one side is innocent of human rights abuses?). Russian
military and anti-Russian Chechens have been accused
of various abuses by several human rights organizations
such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the
Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture,
and the Memorial Human Rights Center. These abuse charges
include kidnaping, torture, rape, and execution. The need
for humanitarian aid is crucial in Chechnya, as well as
Ingushetia and Northern Georgia. Russian authorities,
however, have shut down several humanitarian groups in
the area. The Danish Refugee Council was recently told to
close down its operations in both Chechnya and Russia. All
of the aforementioned organizations are calling for an
international resolution for Russia to deal directly with
the problem at hand and allow such groups to work freely
in Chechnya.

The international community has been slow to reacting to
the problems of the country, problems that are worsening
every day. The United States government, like others,
has simply stated that there should be peace in the
region. Well of course! But how are they going to help? The
international community must persuade Russia to pull out
its troops and negotiate politically with Chechnya. But
none of this has gone on. While many resolutions have been
proposed, they have all been ignored. While Russians and
Chechens are dying, while millions of people in Eastern
Europe and Central Asia oppose this war, they are all
being ignored.

* A Brief History of Chechnya

The Chechens call themselves Nokchi. The word "Chechen"
came from the Russian language, an ethnonym named after
a village in the region. Chechens are the largest of the
Northern Caucus groups, and second largest of all Caucus
groups together, just behind the Georgians. Each Caucus
group has their own language, but all are very similar. In
fact, most Ingushetians and Chechens can easily learn
both languages.

The Chechens have been living in the Caucus Mountains for
about 6,000 years, possibly longer. From the middle ages
up until the 19th century, the Chechens prospered and their
population grew rapidly, as did other Caucus groups. During
the 19th century, Russia repeatedly invaded Chechnya,
in an attempt to drive Chechens and other Caucus people
out of their homelands and replace them with Russians and
Cossacks. Every single Russian government, Czarist and
Soviet, has been guilty of this.

The Chechen Mujahideen has always fought a holy war against
Russian invaders. However, struggles against the Russians
in the region were repeatedly hijacked by people who only
wanted power of their own. For instance, the Chechens have
in their past been indoctrinated in Islam and the Georgians
have their own orthodox religion, Georgian Orthodox. The
actual religions have nothing to do with war and violence,
but religious fundamentalists on both sides were able take
over the countries for themselves and even fight amongst
each other. This continued until after the Bolshevik
Revolution when the Soviets successfully invaded Chechnya.

During WWII, Stalin believed that the Chechens would
revolt and turn to some kind of nationalism related to
Nazism. Stalin decided that the best solution would be to
get rid of the mosques and Islamic religious leaders in
Chechnya, institute genocide against the Chechen people,
and organize mass deportations of Chechens to Siberia and
Central Asia. This fueled the Mujahideen's holy war waged
against Russia and also created strong nationalism within
Chechnya, leading many to support fundamentalist tactics
to driving Russia out. Many of the Mujahideen claimed peace
for Chechens, but only for them. Often times, Russians who
were forced to leave their country by Soviet leaders were
murdered in Chechnya.

Today, most Russian Orthodox and Sunni Moslems live side
by side peacefully, and many Chechens have stated that if
the war would only stop, a solution could be found where
all sides were in agreement. Of course, the Russian and
Chechen people are the majority, but are rarely heard by
their petty leaders.

* Russia's Current Invasion

It is strange to see that Chechnya is so widely talked
of in the American press, when the Republic of Georgia
was hardly even mentioned in the American media during
their so-called "Velvet Revolution." The best place
to get information was through the BBC or news networks
throughout Europe, but in America it was merely a footnote
in newspapers and almost nothing was said of it on TV. Why
is the U.S. currently not interested in Georgia and yet
very interested in Chechnya? Why would the U.S. not be
equally interested in Sudan or Northern Ireland? It is
strange to see that Chechnya is in the spotlight in the
U.S., not just as another war that is going on in the
world, but a problem of great interest.

To understand the reasons for Russia's interest in
Chechnya, is to understand the United State's interest in
the small country. Russia's invasion of Chechnya is mainly
for economic reasons. They want the oil from the land. The
U.S. wants Russia out. When Chechnya was a part of the
U.S.S.R., the nation produced around 4 million tons of oil
a year. Although these figures have now dropped, there are
always talks of pipelines running through Chechnya. No
matter where a pipeline may start or finish, it always
seems to reach Chechnya. Over the years Chechen oil
production has fallen, but in 1992 oil production raised
to about 50 percent. Since Chechnya declared independence,
and the revolt has gone on, oil production has dropped. The
oil fields are at times sitting untouched. Workers that
know the pipelines well have fled either to Western Europe
or to the Middle East. Therefore, the work that needs to be
done probably won't happen for a long time to come. Russia
is trying to hold onto one of very few things that brings
in any kind of economic growth to their country, however
fast the oil drops in the Caucuses.

Pipelines are regularly blown up in Chechnya. The
Mujahideen believes that Russia wants to control their oil
fields, and therefore they destroy them. But just as fast
as they destroy them, pipelines are rebuilt. Whether or not
Chechnya gains independence, there will always be foreign
corporations trying to get in and claim their stake,
as new business prospects in the area are to be had. Not
only that, it is often said that this puts Russia against
the United States, just as it was during the Cold War.

In Georgia, we find a similar situation concerning
oil. Last year, when the country ousted President
Eduard Shevardnadze, the United States took a great
interest at the moment. The American media called it a
"Velvet Revolution" (and that was all that was really
said of it). Before Shevardnadze was elected president,
U.S. businesses owned much of the Georgian oil. During
Shevardnadze's term, a Russian natural gas monopoly,
Gazprom, owned about 75 % of the oil business, thus
pushing out a majority of U.S. business. In response,
the U.S. government cut aid to Georgia by millions. It
wasn't until Shevardnadze resigned that the U.S. started
to give what they used to give. From 1992 to 2000
Georgia had received $778 million dollars of aid. This
is much more than neighboring Azerbaijan was able to
receive.. Deals between Russia and Georgia are now over,
and deals with the U.S. are back "on-track." Pipelines
are being built throughout Georgia, and the next target
is Chechnya. Ingushetia, Georgia, Chechnya. Just as there
is a war in Chechnya, there is a war in Ingushetia and
Northern Georgia as well.

When researching this article, I realized that this issue
wasn't as black and white as it first appeared. The
war going on down there is much more complicated,
much more racial, political, and religious that I
originally thought it could possibly be. All three
countries, including Russia, are connected in intimate
ways. When first reading about Chechnya and Ingushetia,
it seemed that foreign countries were more interested
in economic prospects. Whereas Chechens and Ingushetians
are in the middle of what seem to be ethnic conflicts, a
situation that could mirror the Balkans if escalated. In
Ingushetia anti-Chechen sentiment is growing. Amongst
Chechen refugees in the country there are fundamentalists
hiding out. Ingushetians are, to be blunt, pissed off
about it. In Ingushetia there have been bombings against
pro-Russian Ingushetians, just the same as what is going
on in Chechnya. Chechens killing Chechens.[1]Ingushetian
authorities have said that amongst the bombers and
terrorists are Ingushetians themselves, not just
Chechens. But still, Ingushetians believe that it is
mainly Chechens doing such things, and that because of
such terrorism there hasn't been any peace.

There are worries from human rights groups about the
situation of Chechens in Ingushetia. For not all Chechens
are guilty, most of them really are refugees. If the
republic doesn't deal with this quickly, then ethnic
problems between the two could possibly flame up and turn
into something terrible. Genocide would probably be the
worst to come of it. The same concerns have been brought
up in Georgia. Fundamentalists feel that the Georgian
government is supporting Russia in their aggression
against Chechens. Since before the start of the war,
Georgian troops had patrolled the border, trying to keep
out fleeing terrorists. But just like in Ingushetia,
terrorists often hide themselves amongst the refugees.

* Anarchists & the Caucuses

In the end, it all comes down to control, whether the
fighters be Russian or Mujahideen. Power is what drives
such wars. Power of the oil pipelines, power over women,
over workers. The ones that suffer, the ones whose voices
aren't heard are the Chechen people, the Ingushetian
people, the Russian people, the Georgian people, the
people of the Caucuses. For all of them want peace, not
only with each other, but within their own lands. For
centuries these people, just as all people in the world,
have suffered the scorns of power and silly politics that
do useless things for them. This is just another example
of a war that was started for political and economic gain
for the few, while the many wail in their own blood.

During the war there have been many protest rallies
organized by anarchists, mainly in Eastern European since
it effects their region. In 2000, Polish anarchists staged
a protest against the Russian government in front of the
Russian consulate, tearing down the Russian tri-color,
treading on it, and spray painting swastikas on the
building. This later resulted in the firebombing of the
Polish Embassy in Moscow by the National Bolshevik Party
(a fascist group, at best, from Russia). The two countries
asked for apologies, at which time the Polish anarchists
stated that no country could ever apologize for them. There
also have been several demonstrations in Russia by Russian
anarchists opposing the war in Chechnya. Our Russian
friends are fighting in the anti-war movement just as
we are.

It is hard to find any information on Chechen anarchists
or other anarchists from the Caucuses. Amongst the
activist groups in the Caucuses is the feminist group
Women Aid International <http://www.womenaid.org>. They
have a strong presence in the whole region - Armenia,
Azerbaijan, Georgia, Chechnya, and other tiny republics
and regions regardless of war. They distribute information
concerning HIV/AIDS, women's rights, famine, shortage
of water supplies, etc. As for anarchist groups,
the best I could find were articles on infoshop.org
<http://www.infoshop.org/news4/chech2.html>about Polish
anarchists, and a statement by one that said he saw
ANARCHAOS spray painted on a building while in Grozny. If
any of you out there have any information of anarchist
organizations in the Caucuses, let the anarchist community
know so that we may support them.


1. Caucasian Knot <http://eng.kavkaz.memo.ru/news/>
>From The Dawn, October 2004

* [Ed. note: The Dawn is an anarcho-communist journal]

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