Why Chechnya First?

Russia’s defining characteristic is its indefensibility. Unlike the core of most states that are relatively defensible, core Russia is limited to the region of the medieval Grand Principality of Muscovy. It counts no rivers, oceans, swamps or mountains marking its borders — it relies solely on the relatively inhospitable climate and its forests for defense. Russian history is a chronicle of the agony of surviving invasion after invasion.

Traditionally these invasions have come from two directions. The first is from the steppes — wide open grasslands that connect Russia to Central Asia and beyond — the path that the Mongols used. The second is from the North European Plain, which brought to Russia everything from the Teutonic Knights to the Nazi war machine. -George Friedman, Stratfor

I was talking with a friend about the Second Chechen War. This is a personal issue for me. I asked my friend, why Chechnya? Why was that his first priority?

Firstly, it's growing rapidly and the demographic bulge pushes against Eastern European Russia at the Urals.

Secondly, the energy in the region is rich and important (the Caspian, Azerbaijan and the pipelines to the Black Sea).

He has a point. Checnya is on the wrong side of the Caucasus Mountains. Russia could hardly expect to project power outside it's borders without stability and control inside them. And control of the regions energy resources has certainly proved to be useful. Brrr. SIM.


Sometimes Metternich said...

The Stratfor Map skipped the Crimean War. Theoretically part of a reversal of the threat from the European plain, the war's first battle came from the Siege of Sevastopol:


This buttresses the topology argument - that Chechnya's violence and destabilization would spill across an entire plain reaching as far west as Odessa and as far east as Astrakhan.

Sim Karnavalov said...

And once again, a threat to Sevastopol.

What direction do you think the next thrust will come?

Sometimes Metternich said...

I don't think any regional power is a threat to Russia, but we could look ultramontane. South of the Caucasus would be the Iranians. Perhaps over Azerbaijan and, ergo, the Caspian?

Sim Karnavalov said...

We will save that discussion for a more relevant post. The Rodina [РОДИНА] will be a frequent topic here.

Let us resolve my question. Can we say that they chose Chechnya first because it was the most troublesome area inside the Russian Federation's borders?

Sometimes Metternich said...

Well, we'd need an ethnographic map of Russia.

My data there is 20 years old:

You ask why not go after Kazakhstan or Georgia. That's a great question as Solzhenitsyn wanted an ethnic Russia which occupied Belarus, half the Ukraine and the northern chunk of Kazakhstan.

Because Russia could exercise so many claims, this discouraged neighbors from stirring centrifugal tendencies.

That leaves only Poland (Kalingrad), Finland, China and Japan (Maritimes).

Within that, China couldn't sustain, in the late 1990s, an effort to destabilize Siberia along ethnic lines and Japan doesn't (yet) have an appetite for Sakhalin, despite it would do a lot to alleviate Japan's oil needs. . .

Brian said...

An even better, but older map: