The Russian Federation in transition and the causes of the Chechen War (1994-1996)
The Russian invasion of Chechnya in December 1994 represented the culmination of a crisis that was perceived to threaten the very foundations of federal security. The conflict is intrinsic to an understanding of post-communist Russia and this study identifies the issues behind the evolution of Russia's conflict with Chechnya, investigating why a political crisis was permitted to deteriorate into a full-scale war. Existing studies of the causes of the conflict contain little theoretical interpretation regarding the role of Russia's transitional status. Given that Russia has been undergoing democratisation throughout the duration of its contemporary struggle with Chechnya, it is pertinent to investigate the link between the process and the potential for internal conflict. Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder are the most notable advocates of the proposition that the characteristic instability of a transitional period greatly increases the likelihood of both international and intrastate war. They ascribe the increased risk of conflict to domestic political competition between old and new elites, who exploit nationalistic sentiments in order to mobilise popular support for their faction, facilitated by the weak institutionalisation of the democratising state. The lack of any formal regulatory mechanisms encourages abuse of power within state structures, as officials and members of the ruling elite cannot be held fully accountable to the electorate. Thus, in order to assess the impact of the transition process upon the deterioration of Russian-Chechen relations and provide a more rigorous theoretical framework against which to examine the causes of the war, existing models of transition, particularly the democratisation and war thesis, are analysed and applied to the case-study of Russian decision-making with regards to Chechnya. The persistent crisis is investigated within the context of the Federation's transition away from communist rule, focusing on the extent of any potential correlation between the Russian democratisation project and its violent struggle with a constituent part. The study reveals that the conflict is attributable to both the democratisation project and the wider concept of systemic transformation, and conclusions are drawn on the process of post-communist democratic transition.