Focus Group Central Asia:
Russian and the Tran caucuses

All throughout the 18th century, Russia has fought with the predominantly Muslim areas to the south of its borders.  Both under the Romanov Czars and the Bolshevik Commissars, Russia has sought to incorporate large sections of Central Asia within its national borders.  Since Catherine the Great, Russia has always sought a warm water port for its navy.  For the past century or so, these areas have been ruled by Russian and Soviet authorities.  They have been subject to the rule of Moscow.  As in Afghanistan in 1979, authorities from the Russian north both recently and long ago have used military force to keep Muslim regions to the south in line. 

    However, with the ebbing of Soviet power in the late 1980s some Muslim republics sought to declare their independence from their traditional Russian overlords.  And when the Soviet Union fell in August of 1991, various new nations declared their independence and became sovereign states of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, while others became republics loosely associated with the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent of States (CIS).  These political changes of the past two decades have unfortunately been accompanied by wide-scale violence as a new political reality has yet to be formed: in Chechnya, it's Russians vs. Chechens; in Georgia, it's Georgians vs. Abkahz; and in Azerbaijan and Armenia, it's Azeris vs. Armenians.  Along with wars and rumors of war, nuclear weapons from the old Soviet Union are present in the afflicted regions; and there oil deposits larger than those in the Persian Gulf have also been discovered in the region. The stakes are very high for the future of Central Asia, and the chaos of today and yesterday needs to be examined carefully so that tomorrow might be better. 

Questions to keep in mind:  How do the hostilities between the Eastern Orthodox north and the Muslim south today resemble the wars during the 19th century?  Why did the Russians invade Afghanistan in 1979?  Why did they invade Chechnya in 1994?  Why are they fighting there again in 1999?  What is the feeling most Russians have towards Chechnyans and other Muslims from the South? Is there freedom of religion in Russia today?  How do the Muslims from those regions view the Russians?  How are the Muslims in the areas controlled by the old Soviet Union different in their religious observances than those in Arabic countries such as Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf?  In what areas are found significant oil fields?  Who stands to profit by them?  Looking at history, what do you predict will happen in the future in Central Asia?  What should the United States do?


Check out Yahoo!'s section on Russia and the Caucuses and all the many links on that page.  Check latest news at Washington Post's former USSR news page.

The Lost American, story of an American killed in Chechnya.  Excellent section at Killing Chechnya.  Also check out the cool and comprehensive Unrest in the Caucuses and Revolt in Dagestan.  Also, read "The Chechen War and Russia's Identity Crisis" by Dmitri Shlapentoky. Read also about how the government is suspected of blowing up their own people

For information on the Soviet-Afghan War, the "Soldiers of God" website is excellent!  Read every link and study this section well.

Check out this link about oil in Central Asia: Political Pipeline.  Also, read an Abridged History of Central Asia by William M. Brinton and pay attention to oil.

Read all the great articles about Chechnya at Britannica.  Cool links!  Check it out!

NPR: Islam in Central Asia, Russia and Religion, Religious Freedom and Russia, Schismatics, Russian Dagestan.

Russians Continue Push on Grozny -- NPR's Anne Garrels reports that residents in the Russian control town of Gudermes are displeased with the Russian presence in their town.  Russian troops now control one third of the Chechen capital, Grozny, and are fighting their way to the center of the city still held by Islamic militants.

Russia - Chechnya -- NPR's Michele Kelemen reports from Moscow that Russian troops have suffered setbacks this week as they try to advance on Grozny, the capital of breakaway Chechnya. One of the generals commanding the offensive has disappeared, and his troops remain locked in fierce combat with Chechen rebels. The Russian media are beginning to take note of mounting casualties among the troops. (3:30)

WAR IN CHECHNYA:  Russia declared victory in Chechnya, but the conflict isn't over. After a background report, two experts examine the conflict over the breakaway republic.

Check out all these Jim Lehr Newshour reports:

January 19, 2000 -  Former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, the first prime minister after the collapse of the Soviet Union reveals his perspective on the political turmoil that Russia has undergone from the Kremlin to Chechnya.

January 3, 2000 -- Russia's New President Analysts Michael McFaul, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom and author of After the Collapse: Russia Seeks Its Place as a Great Power; Leon Aron, a resident scholar at American Enterprise Institute; and Stephen Cohen, professor of Russian studies at New York University and author of Rethinking the Soviet Experience discuss Russia’s change in leadership.

December 17, 1999 -- Bombs and Ballots Correspondent Simon Marks of Feature Story News reports from Moscow on Sunday’s Chechnya-laden elections in Russia.

November 18, 1999 -- The Chechen Conflict Martha Brill Olcott, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Frederick Starr, chairman of the Central Asia Institute at Johns Hopkins University; and Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center, discuss the Clinton-Yeltsin differences over the war in Chechnya.

November 18, 1999 -- The Chechen Conflict Martha Brill Olcott, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Frederick Starr, chairman of the Central Asia Institute at Johns Hopkins University; and Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center, discuss the Clinton-Yeltsin differences over the war in Chechnya.

October 25, 1999 -- The Continuing Chechnya Conflict Gwen Ifill discusses the Russian attack on the breakaway republic with Michael McFaul, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and William Ury, Associate Director of Harvard University's program on negotiation.

August 12, 1999 -- Holy War? Three years after fighting in Chechnya ended, a new revolt has begun in the Russian republic of Dagestan. What will it cost Russia to keep Dagestan from breaking away?

September 29, 1997 -- Religion In Russia A new Russian law limits all religions outside the Orthodox Church.