The sheer scale and brutality of the hostilities between Russia
and Chechnya stand out as an exception in the mostly peaceful
breakup of the Soviet Union. Chechnya: From Nationalism to
Jihad provides a fascinating analysis of the transformation of
secular nationalist resistance in a nominally Islamic society into
a struggle that is its antithesis, jihad. Hughes locates Chechen
nationalism within the wider movement for national
self-determination that followed the collapse of the Soviet empire.
When negotiations failed in the early 1990s, political violence was
instrumentalized to consolidate opposing nationalist visions of
state-building in Russia and Chechnya. The resistance in Chechnya
also occurred in a regional context where Russian hegemony over the
Caucasus, especially the resources of the Caspian basin, was in
retreat, and in an international context of rising Islamic
radicalism. Alongside Bosnia, Kashmir, and other conflicts,
Chechnya became embedded in Osama Bin Laden's repertoire of
jihadist rhetoric against the "West." It was not simply Russia's
destruction of a nationalist option for Chechnya, or "Wahabbist"
infiltration from without, that created the political space for
Islamism. Rather, we must look also at how the conflict was fought.
The lack of proportionality and discrimination in the use of
violence, particularly by Russia, accelerated and intensified the
Islamic radicalization and thereby transformed the nature of the
This nuanced and balanced study provides a much-needed antidote to
the mythologizing of Chechen resistance before, and its
demonization after, 9/11. The conflict in Chechnya involves one of
the most contentious issues in contemporary international
politics-how do we differentiate between the legitimate use of
violence to resist imperialism, occupation, and misgovernment, and
the use of terrorism against legitimate rule? This book sets out
indispensable lessons for understanding conflicts involving the
volatile combination of nationalist insurgency, jihad, and
terrorism, most notably for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Subjects: Political Science
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