How War Becomes Acceptable: Russian re-phrasing of Chechnya

Academic monograph

This dissertation investigates how violence against a given territory or group of people becomes acceptable to leaders and their publics. Some wars are launched only reluctantly, and support dwindles once the high human costs are revealed. Others, however, are undertaken with a sense of urgency and righteousness. The brute violence employed appears not only acceptable, but even necessary. The second post-soviet war which was launched against Chechnya in 1999 was such a war.
In this dissertation I explore the re-definition of "Chechnya" from 1996 to 2001. The official narrative that portrayed Chechnya as a potential partner in the interwar years was replaced by one that represented Chechnya as an existential terrorist threat from 1999 onward. This securitization of the Chechen issue comprised a re-drawing of the boundaries between "Chechnya" and "Russia" in Russian discourse that served to legitimize the increasingly violent practices against Chechnya and Chechens.
The thesis employs and develops a post-structuralist version of securitization theory. This approach emphasises securitization as an intersubjective and ongoing process of legitimation, not as an instance or a moment. The social construction of Chechnya and Chechens as "terrorist" is conceptualized as a collective endeavour. Not only statements by the Russian leadership, but also historical representations as well as those of the wider political elite, journalists and experts contributed to this rough categorization. In the final chapter the thesis investigates how this linguistic categorization materialized in the brutal practices employed during the Second Chechen War.

  • Publisher: University of Oslo
  • Page count: 389
  • Language: English