VITAL SIGNSrnWARrnRussia’s ChechenrnCrisisrnby Wayne AUensworthrnRussia’s ill-fated decision to intervenernin the Chechen civil war hasrnprecipitated a political crisis at least asrnheated, and far more bloody, than thern1993 presidential-parliamentary showdown.rnConsider the following; all thernmajor “democratic” parties, includingrnformer prime minister and Yeltsin backerrnYegor Gaidar’s “Russia’s Choice,”rnhave denounced the intervention andrncalled for a halt to militarv operations,rnleaving only ‘ladimir Zhirinovsky and arnfew other ultranationalists backing thernaction; Grigory Yavlinsky, a leading proradicalrnreform parliament deputy, hasrncalled for President Boris Yeltsin’s resignation;rnYeltsin’s own human rights commissioner,rnSergei Kovalvov, who spentrnthree weeks in the besieged Chechenrncapital of Grozny, has bitterly denouncedrnthe intervention, citing thern”huge number of civilian casualties—rnhelpless invalids, elderly people, womenrn—most of them ethnic Russians whornhad no place to go,” thus underminingrnofficial claims of concern over civilianrndeaths as well as concern about the region’srnRussian population; a number ofrnRussian general staff officers have denouncedrnthe intervention, and Russianrnnews media accounts indicate growingrndissension in the ranks of the ragged andrninfrequently paid army (a group of enlistedrnmen bitterly told a Russian reporterrnof having had their first decentrnmeal in some time while being held prisonerrnby the Chechens); the State Duma’srncommunist faction is agitating forrneady presidential elections (previouslyrnscheduled for 1996), as deputies preparernfor an extended emergency session; asrnof eady January, 40,000 Russian troopsrnhave been committed to the assault onrnGrozny, and the high-spirited Chechenrnirregulars are fighting on, promptingrncomparisons with the disastrous Sovietrninvasion of Afghanistan.rnThe Russian government felt it hadrnsufficient grounds for intervention, andrnreason to expect popular support. Afterrnall, Chechen strongman Dzhokhar Dudayev,rna former Soviet air force general,rnhad seized power in Grozny by coup inrn1991, taking advantage of the chaos followingrnthe failure of the August anti-rnGorbachev putsch. I le then had himselfrnelected President in a disputed election;rnhis popular support has steadily declinedrnever since. lie was in dire straits lastrnNovember, with insurgent anti-Dudayevrnforces already closing the ring aroundrnthe capital. Dudayev is widely believedrnto be connected to (if not the godfatherrnof) the notorious Chechen mafia, gangstersrnwho are feared throughout the formerrnSoviet Union, and has threatenedrnMoscow on many occasions with a wavernof terrorist attacks if the Russian authoritiesrnattempted to interfere. ThernChechen coup set a dangerous examplernin the eyes of the Russians, with thernspecter of wadordism threatening thernstability of the Russian federation.rnChechnya is still, at least technically,rnRussian territory, and the civil war therernthreatens to spill over into volatile adjacentrnterritories. The possibility of arnwider war in the Russian Caucasus isrnreal enough.rnThe story of what went wrong isrntwofold. First, the Russian public mightrnhave supported a quick application ofrnmassive force followed by an early withdrawal,rnbut the ill-conceived and tentativernintervention (which Russian officialsrninitially denied) quickly bogged downrnas casualties, both military and civilian,rnmounted. The specter of another futile,rndrawn-out conflict, a la Afghanistan, hasrnweighed heavily on the minds of thernRussian public. Second, the presence ofrnRussian troops in Chechnya, as well asrnthe clumsy and brutal application ofrnRussian air power, has rallied Chechensrnto the defense of their homeland.rnThe Chechens are one of the manyrnmountain peoples of the Caucasus whornwere conquered by the czar’s armies inrna series of bloody 19th-century campaigns.rnMuslims whose native languagernis Turkic in origin, they earned a reputationrnfor tenacity, ferocity, and stubbornrncourage in their hard-fought war againstrnRussian domination. I’he Chechens’rntraditional way of life is clan-based, andrnthe bold feud was long a feature of theirrnhard-scrabble lives. The threat of thernoutlander was the cement that boundrnthe Chechen clans into a nation, andrnStalin’s deportation of that tiny nationrnof less than a million souls in the 1940’srn(about a third of their number died)rnburned distrust of Moscow into thernnational consciousness. In spite of (orrnmaybe because of) the old imperial policyrnof Russification (many Chechensrnspeak Russian as their first languagerntoday) and Stalin’s deportation of thernentire nation (the survivors were allowedrnto return following the tyrant’s death),rnas well as the Soviet policy of religiousrnrepression, the Chechen identity assertedrnitself with a vengeance once the fightrnwith the foreign invaders began.rnChechens who may have had no sympathyrnfor Dudayev are now rushingrnto the defense of Grozny and nationalrnautonomy. People who may have neverrnopenly practiced their religion are nowrnshouting “Allah akbarl” (“God isrngreat!”) in the rubble of the Chechenrncapital. Even the leaders of the anti-rnDudayev coalition that had led the fightrnagainst him eadicr (and had acceptedrnMoscow’s aid, hoping, apparently, forrnautonomy within the Russian federationrnfollowing Dudayev’s ouster), warned thernRussians not to intervene directly in thernconflict. Theirs was a fight betweenrnkinsmen and fellow Muslims, and thernChechen people, anti-Dudayev or not,rnso the Russians were told, would notrnwelcome the direct interference of outsidersrnin their clan feuds. The warningsrnwent unheeded.rnWhat may come as a result of thernKremlin’s miscalculation is anybody’srnguess. What does seem clear, though, isrnthat the Chechen crisis should instructrnour own denationalized American elites,rnwho preach the gospel of the New WoridrnOrder, open borders, and multiculturalism,rnon the power and resilience ofrnparticularist identities. We may call itrnnationalism, tribalism, clannishness, orrnwhat have you, but it is an essential andrnnatural ingredient of human community.rnMoreover, if the Russians and Sovietsrnwere unable forcibly to assimilate thernAPRIL 1995/45rnrnrn