Analysis of the 1st Chechen-Russian War Trough Constructivist Theory

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More than twenty years Caucasus experienced the war, which has been perceived as one of the most brutal and incomprehensible. However, at the beginning authorities did not perceive it as a war, sometimes even sending soliders and brigades which were complitely unprepared for warfare. In 1994, when the Russian army was already moving towards Grozny, no one believe that there could be a war: neithher the Chechens nor the Russians. At that time, Russians and Chechens were still Soviet people in terms of life and mentality. No one could imagine that a Soviet man could kill anothher Soviet man. And the Russian army knew it: they did not think about war, they were just about to show their power.

The theme of the Chechen wars does not lose its topicality over time, because the acts of terrorism are linked to the deaths of innocent people, which in turn chharacterizes the power of the state as innefective and unable to solve issues without violence. Before the army arrived in Chechnya, the population of the Chechhnya republic was devided according to the following criteria:

  • Regional disparities which consisted of three groups, namely, Nadterechny district, Chechnya Small and Greater. In the Rhhechen Republic, the struggle between regional groups became a dominant factor in political life after the onset of perestroika.
  • Tape – a tribal teritorial community of people who belong to the “one mountain”.

The main causes of the conflict were not only the interests about oil by economical and political elites (although oil played an important role), but also Chechnia’s desire for independence. Another reason was the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Chechnya had an opportunity to form its own army.

The Reasons Both for Russia and Chhechnya

Chechens believed that there is no such power in the history that could stop them. Therefore, after the war began, national ideals and interests became the unifying beginning for all Chechens. These are the reasons why Russia invaded into Chhechnya:

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  • Economical interests, particularly, oil;
  • Political interests which are related to desire to increase the authority of the central government;
  • Legal issues, for instance, restore orderi n Chhechnya;
  • Incentives to strengthening the state sovereignty and integrity of Russia.

What were the reasons why Chhechnya responded to Russia? First one is the desire to protect independence; the next one is the establishment of Islamic state. The conflict between Russia and Chechnia is often referred as the “ethnical conflict”, because of the widespread perception of the Chechens as a separated ethnic group with a common future aspiration in the Russian Federation. Regardless of the theoretical value of this categorization, a general reference to the ethnic dimension of the conflict should be explained through the academics, people and mass media work, discussin these approaches below.

In general, theories about conflicts, which are often classified as “ethics”, can be divided into three main categories: primordialism, instrumentalism and constructivism. This distinction is obviously a simplification, but it is a useful tool for understanding the logic of a more complex set of argument in both popular and academical literature. From the perspective of academics, primordialism could be described as attractive in its simplicity. In situations where brutal violence based on ethnicity seems fanatical and difficult from the outside, the simplest solution could be to write it down to 'ancient hatreds'.[footnoteRef:3] In contrast, constructivist approach regards ethnicity as a social construction. The strength of social constructivism is that it allows to understand that ethnic group exists only in relation to other, bigger groups. The main idea in this theory is the contribution of anthropology in terms of ethnicity and nationalism, which will be discussed in this article. Instrumentalists, on the other hand, are criticized for ignoring the important question of why so – called “ethnopolitics” are so attractive. The instrumentalist approach also recognizes the changing nature of identities, but the most focus goes to the leaders of the particular group.

According to the book “The International Dimension of International Conflict” by Michael Brown, the most part of the literature on international conflicts prefers “mass – level explanations”, but less about the role of elites and leaders regarding to instigating violence. This perspective supports the possibility that leaders sometimes choose not to use all possible peaceful means before resorting to violence. According to Braun theory, we can see that neither Yeltsin nor Dudayev were sufficiently interested in the peaceful resolution of the conflict between Russia and Chechnya. Braun argues that many seemingly “ethnic” conflicts are not caused at all by ethnic issues, but by “power struggles, ideological crusades and criminal intent”. In fact, Brown emphasizes that, the reason of war is the incentives to strengthen central power, not weakening or collapse. If we try to apply Braun theory to the conflict between Russia and Chechnya, we can consider that Russian campaign in Chechnya can be seen as further struggle for increased control and centralization, not as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is important to admit that there are leaders who express only the collective will of the people they represent. From the viewpoint of Western scholars spending time with anti – war activists in Chechnya and Russia in 1995, Jacob Rigi believes that first war was the result of a clash between Chechen independence efforts and the Russian Empire power. Rigi argues that the conflict between Russians and the Chechens was nationalized simply because because the militants committed violations against the civilian population on both sides, not because the war efforts of their leaders were massively supported. Rigi argues that the conflict between the Russians and the Chechens was nationalized simply because the militants committed violations against the civilian population on both sides, not because the war efforts of their leaders were massively supported. Indeed, Chechnya challenges the general constructivist views of mass hatred, because ethnic wars only take place when the elite and the masses attitudes are mutually hostile.

The article highlights the need for a theoretical distinction between conflict and violence or war. Denying the mass support for the leader’s war efforts does not mean denying the conflict over Chechnya’s status after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, the way in which the conflict was managed needs to be analyzed separately. For example, explaining the violence must take into account the fact that political actors often seek to promote authoritarian and militarized conflicts for their own reasons and interests.

From the perspective of constructivism, usually it is stated that historical events are not explanation for actions in the current context, because they must become in political character first. It must be admitted that a formal description of past experience influences how people feel about it in the present.

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