In Praise of Rage
Date: December 2001
Kaliningrad: It's Not Just for Headless Corpses Anymore
Most of my trip, people were no more passionate about the second war in Chechnya. They considered it, those I talked to, they support it. But it was still no greater than the concern to find food or work or a way out of the country. Me, as an Afghan veteran, I think it's stupid. Russian military is now bombing but troops are still the only way to hold ground. When troops do go, it will be quiet, then the guerrillas will start attacking again, only this time they will have no traitors to deal with like last time. Who would collaborate with a power which has destroyed your country twice in five years? And no one can hold the Chechen south; it's all mountains and hasn't been in the control of Moscow for hundreds of years, Soviet years included. Everyone talks about what Tolstoy and Solzhenitsyn had to say about Chechens, but no one talks about why they had such admiration and disgust of these people. They are a people who would rather live in rubble than live in slavery. They are the traditional leaders of the Caucasus, the biggest nation of the North Caucasus who have never been united except when killing Russians. Last time they let Boris Yeltsin come and proclaim victory. They were content to wait. Then, when we least expected it, they fought back and beat the Russian army in five days. Stalin deported them to a man, and they came back - that's what home means to them.
Russia is fighting an enemy that can't be beaten because defeat to them has always been equal to extermination. It is true that we have never treated them fairly or as men. They on the other hand don't want anything to do with us - not just the leaders but the Chechens to a man. Their reason to exist for 200 years has been to drive us from Chechnya, and that won't be crushed in a week, a year, or another 200.
And we, who are humiliated on a daily pattern, can find nothing better to do than kill those who refuse to suppress their inner scream like we do. Their "glory days" were not in the life of Khrushchev, or Stalin, but hundreds of years ago. This scream has lived, carried on from father to son, fed by memory of a free homeland. Ours, without a single foreign soldier on Russian soil, is still locked up tight, maybe even forgotten.
That's why I call this voice "the Chechen Inside". How fitting that a nation which cannot find its dignity should be so joyful in killing those who do. I should change my thoughts at the beginning of this article: we are not Tolstoy, but a character from Dostoeyevsky, finding lightness in our suffering because we can make others suffer more.