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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December 2004, 19:42 GMT
Chechnya viewpoints: Lyoma Turpalov
The conflict that has raged in Chechnya for the past decade has triggered sharply contrasting views.

To mark the 10th anniversary of Russia's massive military assault on the breakaway republic, BBCrussian.com asked 10 prominent politicians, human rights activists, researchers and journalists to comment.

The panel were asked to answer two classic questions that have troubled Russian thinkers for centuries: "Who is to blame?" and "What can be done?"

Alu Alkhanov
Alu Alkhanov:
Chechen president

Irina Khakamada
Irina Hakamada:
liberal politician

Diederik Lohman
Diederik Lohman:
HRW researcher

Konstantin Kosachev
Konstantin Kosachev:
Russian MP

Sultan Yashurkayev
Sultan Yashurkayev:
Chechen writer
Tom de Waal
Tom de Waal:
Caucasus expert

Valentina Melnikova
Valentina Melnikova:
Soldiers' mothers

Mikhail Margelov
Mikhail Margelov:
Russian MP

Lyoma Turpalov
Lyoma Turpalov:
Chechen journalist

Akhmed Zakayev
Akhmed Zakayev:
rebel envoy

LYOMA TURPALOV, head of the Russian Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee


If it was just one specific individual or reason, it would not be difficult to untie the Chechen knot.

Still it is possible to identify the main causes. One can trace them back to the times of the Soviet and Russian empire.

Of all the ethnic groups in these empires the Chechens suffered most. Not only were they massacred in the 19th and 20th centuries, but they were also subjected to several mass deportations.

Lyoma Turpalov
To resolve the Chechen crisis we must talk not about those who should be involved, but about those who shouldn't
Lyoma Turpalov
In Soviet times Chechnya was one of the most backward Russian regions. It had the lowest rate of higher education and the highest rate of unemployment in the Soviet Union.

In the late 1980s these socially active citizens were deprived of their last sources of income. They blamed the authorities, primarily those in Moscow. This led to the spread of separatist ideas.

They were largely supported by political forces vying for power in Moscow. As a result in 1991 power was seized by a group, which used Soviet general Dzhokhar Dudayev as their figurehead.

Moscow failed to devise a reasonable strategy for establishing relations with Grozny. Those in positions of power underestimated the stamina of the Chechens, just as they did in Afghanistan.

Aslan Maskhadov and his entourage, who received Chechnya as a gift from fate, failed to use this gift properly. Instead of assisting international organisations, they pushed them out, sometimes using physical extermination. Instead of establishing order at home, they launched the incursion into Dagestan.

This only suited Russian generals, who already thought they had lost the opportunity to get rich by killing soldiers and civilians.

High-ranking officers benefited from this war through fast promotions, higher salaries, awards, the chance to steal and sell arms, fame and a ticket to a political career.

Little-known politicians quickly rose to power, and local criminals who learnt how to be on good terms with federal officials used the opportunities presented by the breakdown of order.

Money transferred to Chechnya is being embezzled. Most of it never reaches Chechnya. The same happens with oil.


To resolve the Chechen crisis we must talk not about those who should be involved, but about those who shouldn't. First of all, the power should be entirely in one pair of hands - federal or local, it does not matter.

Russian soldier in Grozny

Secondly, it is necessary to remove both federal and local officials who have compromised themselves. All arrests and investigations should be carried out lawfully.

Police checkpoints should be removed, as they have proven useless. We should take steps to launching an inter-Chechen dialogue mediated by a few respected figures, such as the writer Abuzar Aydamirov. This dialogue should result in general parliamentary elections under international auspices.

The Kremlin should not fear an elected parliament. Polls conducted by the Sociological Centre of the Chechen State University in the last three years show that not more than 20-24% of residents support Chechen independence.

This legitimate parliament should define how to proceed with the settlement process. But the election should not involve just one pro-Moscow party.


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