Either Fight or Destruction

Date: January 25, 2000
Source: Helsingin Sanomat
By Kaija Virta


The Chechen Writer Doesn't Believe In Forced Peace

Although the Chechen population is exhausted by the war, it is not ready to yield into a peace on any expense, assures the Chechen writer Islam Elsanov.

"It could be different, if the results of the war wouldn't have been what they are", says Elsanov, who is on a visit in Finland. "If the Russian troops that came to Chechenia would have taken a loyal attitude at the local population. But they started to destroy it."

According to Elsanov, the Chechen people have no alternative. "Either they are destroyed, or they fight."

Elsanov came to Helsinki on weekend as a guest of the Pen Club from Moscow, where he moved from Grozny last September. The rest of the family spent a couple of months in Grozny, in a cellar of a house ruined by bombs, but now they live in North Chechenia in refuge from the fighting.

Elsanov, who has made a book on Imam Shamil, the hero of the Chechens in te 1800s, explains with numerous historical examples, what kind of repeating bitter experience has created the deep mistrust of the Chechens towards Russia.

One permanent feature are Russia's repeating attempts to deport the Chechens away from their homeland. When Stalin, in 1944, deported all the Chechens by force to Central Asia, from where the deportees could return only ten years later, it was already the fourth large forced deportation of Chechens that Russia had organised in the past centuries.

Same kind of plans have been prepared also after Stalin, in the nineties, tells Elsanov.

The old-fashioned communist group that tried to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991 had, according to Elsanov, a prepared programme to deport a part of the Chechen population, the "disloyal" people, to somewhere else.

The coup was vanquished and Chechenia declared independence. In early December 1994, just before the earlier Russian campaign against Chechenia, Viktor Chernomyrdin's government gave order to "evacuate" the civil population of the republic to the southern provinces of Russia, Elsanov says. "Earlier, in 1944, they used the term "deportation", but now they invented the word "evacuation" for the international community and democrats."

According to Elsanov, Russia prepared to make the circumstances of life for the civilians in the war so unbearable, that they would be forced to yield to leave the country. However, the people decided to stay, even the elderly. "The plan failed in psychological level."

Another decision of Russia at that time ordered that Grozny would have been made a great gathering centre to collect all the refugees from the whole CIS area, explains Elsanov. "That's great cynicism. In other words, the Chechens would be 'evacuated', and from the CIS area to Russia, mainly Russians moved away, for example from Central Asia and Ukraine. That would have been ethnic cleansing of Chechenia."

"At the end, the Chechen nation will defeat Russia", Elsanov believes. "Because we have fought against Russia already for 400 years. And for example my children's attitude at Russia and Russians is more negative than mine."

Kaija Virta

Translation from Finnish by Jaan Sepp


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