Since 1999 Russia has been at war in Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine and now in Syria. These wars enjoy strong support in the Russian population. How does war become an acceptable undertaking in the Russian polity?

Popular explanations that see Russian war-making as determined and grounded in President Putin alone are too simplistic. Close study of statements and texts of Duma representatives, experts and journalists before and during the war in Chechnya demonstrates how war is made a legitimate undertaking by the efforts of many.

Russian war-fare against Chechnya was particularly violent and caused enormous suffering for the civilian population, much like what we are seing in Syria today. De-humanization of the enemy is a precondition for any violent undertaking. But enemies that are portrayed as particularly different and dangerous, such as ‘terrorists’, can legitimately be subjected to gross violence. The ‘anti-terrorist campaign’ against Chechnya in 1999 and the consequences of this war can provide useful insights in a world trying to grapple with a growing terrorist threat.

The seminar is a book-launch of Wilhelmsen’s book ‘Russia’s Securitization of Chechnya: How war became acceptable’.