Friday, January 24, 2014

Chechnya. Why Violence. Why Not. Explore Chronology, and Origins of Violence.

Origins and Uses of Brutality, Betrayal, the Violence of Injustice.
Which comes first.

A study of Chechnya and its violent reactions to attempts to subjugate its people through the centuries, leads to some odd tentative conclusions.  Violence and betrayal and injustice seem to be part of us all since "Creation".  Does that make it immutable? Must it generalize beyond the immediate perceived oppressor, to any who fit broadly the mold, or seem to ally with the oppressor.  Is violence just part of how the world works, like corruption in political deal-making.  Or do we as humans have choices despite our makeup, despite the pleasure many of us take in inflicting violence on others, and who shall decide what recourse each shall have. Whose goals are worthy: the stronger, or the ethically sound. 

In summary, Chechnya R US. What produces or sustains individual, or group, or cultural/ religious/ economic, brutality, domination. What brings it down.  

When refusal to be subjugated extends over centuries, as with any oppressed group that has not been forced to capitulate, yet, what are the choices, and whose purpose prevails. Collision of force and ethics. When does the authoritarian fall.

Chechnya, in the Caucasus, is roiling with the effects of a history of exploitation, subjugation, influences from outside on an already diverse population. Yet in the Caucasus, the "outside" has been forcing its way in at least since the 12th Century.  Why has there been no lasting resolution of conflicting interests. Is it because the outside just keeps coming, perpetuating the resentments of displacement.


I.  First, Chronologies, to anchor the discussion in a history.  Explore the history of Chechnya.

II. Second, Narratives.

Explore the experience of individuals, anchor the events in human terms. Responsible fiction, novels, have a role in broadening awareness of issue, but move on to biographies or ancient writings, including institutionalization of "The Book" - clearly influential in history.

III, Third, explore the origins of violence.

Examine biological, and cultural, roots, myth. If violence is in "creation", is it therefore immutable. Who says. Education before conclusion.
  • As one of the final steps, investigate chemical (evolutionary chemical development?) influences on ethics and morality.  Will propensity to use force reduce to who seeds the water supplies first. See neurological underpinnings of morality, views of Patricia S. Churchland at

I.  Chechnya.  A Selected Chronology, Timeline

A.  Starting points: See  See also an overview of Chechnya and violence relevant to reporters after the Boston bombings, at Chechnya's History of Violence at

B. Early history as migration crossroads, home of many cultures:

  • Caucasus, and Chechnya in particular, has a rich culture in religion, worldview, forms of architecture, see Chechen Religious Culture at site by Lechya Ilyasov at  Symbols and concepts include pre-Christian meanings of petroglyphs (rock markings) including solar signs such as the cross, swastika, circle, spiral, labyrinth, tilling signs such as the rosette; standing stone sacred areas, dedication to hospitality, facilitating travel, reverence for hearth, trees, animals, evolved worship of a one God, commonalities with Greek myth, shifts to Islam, see
1200's - Mongols invade. Scroll down to History at

1400's in East Caucasus, Persian Empire dominated.  In West Caucasus, Ottoman Empire dominated.

1559 - Ivan the Terrible annexed Astrakhan, see; and married Maria Temryukovna in 1561, a daughter of a Prince of the Caucasus, who converted to Christian Orthodoxy, see The marriage eased ideas of assimilation into the otherwise defiant political relationship.  Towns were Russianized, etc. See site.

Tribal systems led to endless feuds in the Caucasus, see
Russia occupies Caucasus, Russians including Christians in Georgia

1722 - Peter the Great invades Dagestan for economic purposes, see Peter I at  1783 - Peter the Great establishes Georgia as its Christian protectorate. See the Bug Pit at; and

1784 - Imam Sheik Mansur calls for Holy War to drive out Russia

1797-1871 - Imam Sharmil, from Dagestan, led Caucasian Muslims toward national liberation, his Muradism uniting Dagestanis and Chechens, and revered as their inspired religious leader, favoring Sharia law over tribal systems. The Eagle of the Mountains. The Turkish sultan supported him as well.  Sharmil's troops raided Georgia, took hostages, kidnapped, in order to gain leverage over Russian domination, and also attain liberation of his son held by the Russians also as hostage since 1839. The son was raised among the elite in St. Petersburg, and was a Christian. Ultimately Imam Sharmil surrendered to the Russians, his son was returned as an adult but was a cultural Russian, finding the mountains unbearable, and died.  Heritage of Imam Sharmil: according to the Russians, a destroyer of Chechen folklore and culture, see  Only bits of the old folklore remain. Caucasus occupation, however, did not begin with Imam Sharmil.


WWII - Caucasus still refuses assimilation.  Stalin suspects Chechen Muslims of having colluded with Nazis, and now resisting his policies to collectivize the area

1943 - Stalin forcibly and brutally deports 350-450,000 Chechens, mostly Muslims, to Siberia, Kyrgyzstan and other areas in Central Asia;  the Chechen Diaspora, see World Time and Constellation of Vital Phenomena, review of  novel by Anthony Marra, 2013.

Post WWII --Stalin colonizes the population-depleted region with ethnic Russians

1953  Stalin dies.  Chechens filter back to Chechnya, "tens of thousands".  Chechnya stays part of Russian Federation

1991 - Soviet Union dissolves. Chechen rebel leader emerges, Dzhokhar Dudayev, and declares Chechen independence

1994-1996 - Russians and Chechens engage in bloody warfare. A hundred thousand die, including Dzhokar Dudayev.

Vladimir Putin is KGB chief in Russia. If not chief, what position, role? See

1996 - Chechen rebels are victorious, the guerrillas set up de facto independence
Chechens then a) implemented "deadly bombings" in Russia, and b) made incursion into neighboring Dagestan, another Russian republic, see World Time

1996 - explosion in train, Volgograd, see PolicyMic: Black Widows (see site for background on women as suicide attackers, why, regional influences)

1999 - Second Chechen War. De facto independence end.  Losses among militants: catastrophic, PolicyMic: Chechens bomb three apartment buildings.  

2000 Vladimir Putin elected new Premier in Russia (until 2008), time out, then again Premier. Chechen Capital, Grozny, bombarded, Russian planes; thousands died, hundreds displaced, see World Time

2001 - Shamil Basayev founds militant group of suicide attackers, the Riyadus Saliheen  
Akhmad Kadyrov, of a broad rebel clan, a moderate Sufi, swears allegiance to Kremlin in exchange for power, reconstruction resources. See

2002 - Chechen guerrillas seize a theater in Moscow, the Dubrovka; hundreds of hostages; then Russian commandos attacked, resulting in 120 dead.

2004 - Chechen (?) and Inghush (Inghusetia) fighters take over a school in Beslan, North Ossetia (back to your map). Some 400 people were killed, some children. Akhnab Kadyriv is assassinated  Son and and warlord Ramzan became president. Chechen status remains unclear. Jihadist guerrillas continue attacks.  Read of economic disasters ongoing, promises of Kremlin, spending projects for the Russian largesse, Jaaadyrov the "gangster ally" of the Kremlin at Bloomberg site. 

2010 - Two Chechen female suicide bombers blew up the Moscow subway

President: Kadyrov, the "loyal satrap", see World Time, and other agents of Russia, are they strings of the same held crossbar?  Engagements in ongoing human rights violations in Chechnya:  Disappearances, killings outside any judicial proceeding, torture, abductions, murder. Subsidies from Russia continue. Kadyrov depends on them, would face big revolt of the unemployed if tap off

2011 - Anti-Chechen rally in Moscow, opposing ongoing expenditures
Alexey Navalney, opposition leader in Chechnya, against Kadyrov, put on trial for corruption (faabricated?) has many Russian sympathizers eager to get rid of Chechnya -- let it go

2013 - Women suicide bombers (catch-phrase, see PolicyMic: Black Widows detonate at Volgograd bus stop; other murders at Sochi, not necessarily connected, perhaps organized crime, see

  • Lest the human rights violations seem meh by now, read Constellation of Vital Phenomena, above.

  • The article at World Time continues to point to the "brutality of the Russian campaigns" in turning what had been secular battles, into a "pan-Islamic cause."  Fighters arrived from Arab lands, see also Constellation. Chechen warlords turned to contacts with al-Queda. Some Chechens went to Afghanistan and joined the Taliban, others went to Kashmir, or Syria.  Numbers are elusive, and widely questioned, and the term Chechen often misapplied.

  • Many Muslims who had been moderate Sufis, are turning to extremist Salafism, see World Time and Sunni influence and Sufism at Sunnis may still be plurality?  Meanwhile, elections in Chechnya show majorities favoring Putin and Kadyrov's policies, and many enjoy the view of the Putin Towers.  It is impossible to draw direct connections among all the strands of violent acting out around the world, but pointing out commonalities -- what brutality accomplishes -- is part of human reasoning.

So:  brutality appears to have morphed Chechnya from a place for everyday religious people who are Muslim, to the partisan violent sinkholes of its recent history.

II.  Second, Narratives. 
A.  Start with a novel, move on to religion.  Novel:  Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra 2013, above. Narrative.  View contemporary Chechnya through the lives of Chechens, Muslims, Jews, and ethnic Russians there.  Violence, brutality in the fabric, warp and woof.

B.  Are humans immutably brutal, violent.

1.  Go back to, yes, Genesis. The first violence was by the deity, would you believe. Dear God gives orders, orders man out of the Garden, and to till the soil. Adam doesn't. Adam's son, Cain, does.  Cain the farmer. Adam's other son, Abel, doesn't.  Abel the herdsman.  Bring me your best, says Dear God.  Cain brings fruits of the crops, the ordered activity, expecting approval for having followed orders.  Brother Abel, who herded instead, brings fruits of the herd -- animal bodies, parts.

God flipflops. God inflicts the first violence of unfairness, injustice, domination. Good God demeans Cain and his grain for doing as ordered.  Dear God applauds Abel for going on a frolic of his own and coming up with little lambkins.
Cain can't go against Dear God because Cain is subjugated, so Cain lashes out against Abel and, as we know, smites him and Abel dies. Cain then is punished for acting out with his own violence, against that first violence of injustice and unfair surprise, in a way that resulted, is marked and banished. 
2.  So did violence originate in Creation?

Of course.  Good God flipflopped. Free will is lip service.  God intended to be obeyed. God's subjugation was indeed the first out of the Garden; and Cain, the reactor to its unfair implementation.  God set the stage for unjust subjugation. Can God be unfair, and the rest of us expected to be fair.  Difficult.
3.  Is violence, the disregard of ethics, the seeking of one's own goals at the expense of others, subjugation, unchangeable within us?

Not if neuroscience is correct.  Ethical sensitivity results, say some, from chemicals, peptides, oxytocins; remove or alter those and the moral sense diminishes, the sense of relationship.  See the hype and the hope at, One Molecule for Love, Trust, and Morality?  by Brenda Patoine 2013.  Readers, to your research.

  • Meanwhile, with the polarized brain formats -- some creating broad community sense of responsibility, and others seeking Me, who will be first to seed the water supply. Chechnya, Syria, American history shameful with its treatment of Native Americans and Blacks and others, all around the world, check the water. You may be improved.

4.  Back to The Caucasus:

Long a crossroads for trade, including , migration from the Middle East to Europe and back, destination  sequential ruling groups.  Brutality can be the microcosm of an envy gone amok, as with Cain and Abel and their many cultural equivalents. Or used to accomplish a long-term goal with dispatch. Destroy them and all they have now, so they cannot get up again.  Or has brutality become an ongoing tool of colonization, exploitation, to ease more forceful takings, weaponize ideology to justify what is being done.

Which operates in Chechnya. Ask, as the world's attention turns to security concerns (currently, Sochi Olympic Games and terrorist threats and acts), after seeing violence at earlier Olympics, are there factors that make the Caucasus and Sochi more vulnerable than other places of violence. Or is there a pattern. Other area of the globe foster exploiters and colonizers and invaders who ran rampant and now the people reap the whirlwind of civil war, religious wars.

  • Look more broadly, to causations. What turns a region, with a history of mutual reasonable tolerance, into a partisan-violent perpetual warzone.And note that a fine website, the Latta Foundation, focusing on Chechnyan culture, history, architecture, is based in St. Petersburg, and there is a huge gap in examining the effect of Russia's annexation of part of the Caucasus begining in the 16th Century under Ivan the Terrible. Later events of Russia as colonizer, exploiter of resources, as anywhere there is a stronger power wanting what the lessers have.  Not unique. Consider America's decimation of the native Americans. Escalation of slave concepts until the slave was no longer fully human.Brutality. Bosnia.  Etc. But worth examining.

Conclusions:  The analytical steps hold true.

1. Chronology  When A wants C, and B is in the way, what choices produce the most violence.

 A can 1. Trade -- offer another benefit to B,  2. Seek another goal; or  3. Subjugate B.

Choice 3 offers a range of transactions, whether the time frame is long or short.  The subjugator can  use violence and and injustice, or  provide for dignity and fair play.

It takes reading narratives, personal stories whether in myth, novel, religious text, to see the commonalities out of the abstract.  Even the deity, determined to subjugate creation, could not help but act arbitrarily and unfairly in the great cosmic flipflop.  And so did Lenin, who ended up upended in the Mogosoia Palace kitchen yard, in the back.  But at the basement of the great museum in Bucharest, there is a room with an altar to him.  Nothing in life is clear.  Seed the waterways. Fast..

2.  Humanize a region by watching individuals. Read. The book, Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra 2013.  This novel focuses on the violence of 1994-2004, but the groundwork was laid in WWII and before.  See NYT review at to personal lives may be limited, but a responsible fiction set of characters can assist where the reference backdrop is reliable. Vet.

An engrossing (for me) novel. is A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra 2013.  It documents a history before the 1800's, and even after, where there was mutual acceptance among populations in many valleys and hills.  Then enter domination by another power, violence.  What happens to the former moderate religious-political leaders indigenous to the region. With violence imposed from outside, violence responds from inside -- power, hegemony, politics that uses religion as a weapon.

Chechnya's experience. Progression of purposeful brutality by invaders and colonizers, after a long, long history of its own.  Chechnya, at a migrations and warring crossroads, developed needed traditions for survival; expand concepts beyond terrorism to reasons.

Life.  What is life made of.  In Constellation, the review and the book, see these elements listed with medical objectivity: look for "organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation."

Some lives so defined do survive, showing an ability to engage in organization, responding to irritants, moving, growing, reproducing, adapting.  Others, and who can judge them, still, some cannot, do not, will not, survive mentally or with breath. At the root of each, the nagging question. What? Us worry about Sochi, and who is in charge of hearts and minds and safety there, and what means will be used?  Us worry? What are the chances, if any, of affecting any change in the Caucasus, see the Russian stakes at

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