Russia is frustrated that they still have problems with terrorists in
Chechnya, and their half of the Caucasus in general (the rest is occupied by
Georgia, Armenia and Azerjiaban). But they also realize that outlaw behavior
has been endemic to the region for centuries, especially among the Chechens.
The region is similar to Afghanistan, in that for thousands of years survival
was a matter of hiding (from armies moving between the Middle East and the
great plans of Eurasia) in the mountain valleys, depending on clan
organizations for survival, and doing whatever it took to make a living. Russia
has controlled the region for nearly two centuries now, so the Chechens have
developed new traditions that are based on ripping off the Russians. This always
made the Russians nervous, because the Chechens were quite good at conning the
czar's officials, and their communist successors, and the Russians never came
up with a way to avoid being taken advantage of.
to walk away from Chechnya in the early 1990s, after an uprising there proved
too difficult for Russian troops to put down. But that just enabled Chechnya,
which quickly fell under the rule of a coalition of clan based criminal gangs,
to become gangster central for the region. Chechen gangsters lived large via
smuggling, robbery and kidnapping. The Russians came back in 1999, after the
Chechen crime wave, along with a Chechen Islamic radicals, caused a growing public outcry throughout the
Caucasus and southern Russia. Using their usual overwhelming force, the
Russians regained control of Chechnya. As was their custom, they appointed the
most powerful and reliable clan to run the place, and hoped for the best. But
passing out jobs and other goodies to the most pro-Russian clans didn't stop
the majority of Chechens from trying to make a living the traditional way (from
anyone who didn't belong to their clan, especially non-Chechens). Attacking the
Russians, and the pro-Russian clans, was still a favorite activity.
legitimate jobs hard to come by (the official unemployment rate is over 50
percent), and a long tradition of improvising, and ignoring laws and rules, the
Russians have peace with the Chechens (by local standards) but not much order.
Violence and intimidation are still the most common forms of communication
between the clans. The Russians are reluctant to pull out the non-Chechen
police (Interior Ministry troops) and soldiers, because of the risk of Chechnya
once again becoming gangster central.
media likes to play up "terrorism in Chechnya," the main problem is
that the Chechens have always been difficult to rule, much less control. This
"Chechen Problem" has been on Russia's agenda since the 18th century,
and nothing has really worked. Even Stalin deporting most of the population to
Central Asia during World War II (when it was feared the approaching Nazis
would find welcome allies among the Chechens) didn't fix the problem. This
merely gave Chechens opportunities (usually criminal) throughout Russia. A
decade later, the Chechens were allowed to return to Chechnya, where they did
not get along with the Russians, and others, who replaced them after the
removal. Chechnya is not a new problem, it's an old one that won't go away.