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Chechen Invasion of Dagestan


On 2 August 1999 the Chechen armed detachments invaded Dagestan hoping to destabilize the situation in the neighboring republic by drawing on the support of the large Chechen minority there. Substantial Russian forces were immediately deployed in Dagestan to repel the Chechen armed units. The leaders of Dagestan demanded that Maskhadov dissociate himself from the Chechen warlords who led their units into Dagestan and condemn the invasion. Maskhadov, however, refused to do so. 

Apartment block bombings in Moscow

In September the Chechen separatists were blamed for the terrorist acts unheard of in Russian history: four residential blocks were razed to the ground by bomb explosions, one in Dagestan, two in Moscow, and one in southern Russia, causing hundreds of casualties. The Dagestan affair and the horrendous explosions across Russia sealed the fate of Chechen independence. The Russian leadership mounted a large-scale antiterrorist operation involving army units and the police and succeeded in routing organized armed detachments of the separatists.

If in 1995 nearly two-thirds of the Russian population were against the military solution of the Chechen problem, in 1999 an equal share of the population supported the preservation of Russias territorial integrity by force of arms. The reasons for this turnabout in the popular mood in relation to the Chechnya problem are not hard to figure. Russian society became completely disaffected with the results of the Chechen revolution, as the so-called fighters for national self-determination revealed their true colors as cutthroats and terrorists, blowing up residential blocks.

Tired of economic and political instability and military reverses, Russian society yearned for victory. The news of the military successes of the federal troops in repelling the attacks of Chechen armed bands in Dagestan gave people hope that the Chechen problem could be resolved by military means after all and that the governments strong-armed tactics could work in stabilizing Russias situation as a whole. These hopes were associated, first of all, with the rising political star of Vladimir Putin, who was appointed prime minister several days after the start of the Chechen invasion of Dagestan.

In addition, NATOs military operation in Kosovo in the spring of 1999 had provided a demonstration to Russian political and military elites of the viability of the military solution. If the West is allowed to pursue its political objectives by bombing civilian targets in a foreign country, then surely nothing can stop us doing the same in our own country, was the sentiment shared by many among the Russian military.

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The Chechen Problem

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