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Contested Sovereignty: The Tragedy of Chechnya
Journal Article

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International Security, Vol. 23, page(s): 5-49

Summer 1998

Gail Lapidus of Stanford University assesses the factors leading to Moscow's decision in December 1994 to use military force to crush Chechnya's resistance to the authority of the Russian leadership. Exhaustively researched and documented, Lapidus's study traces the evolution of the secessionist struggle through six stages. At the heart of the conflict, she says, was the Chechens' growing desire for sovereignty and territorial integrity sparked by Mikhail Gorbachev's political liberalization initiatives and further fueled by the establishment of a number of new states after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Lapidus also considers the role of Western governments and international institutions first in preventing the outbreak of hostilities and then in mitigating and, finally, terminating the conflict. She concludes that when the behavior of a major power is at issue, the potential for outside intervention is limited, which in turn raises a host of troubling questions about the prospects for future internal conflict resolution.

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