(Un)civil Society in the North Caucasus

Sarah Mendelson

A dark storm is brewing yet again in Russia’s North Caucasus.


For the most part, the world pays little attention to this violent little backwater. That is, unless something truly catastrophic happens — such as the time, 7 years ago, when masked gunmen from Chechnya held hundreds hostage in a downtown Moscow theater. That standoff ended with 129 of the hostages dead, asphyxiated by gas released in a rescue attempt. Or, five years ago this September, when hundreds of children were held captive in Beslan, North Ossetia, by guerillas strapped with guns, grenades, and — ultimately – dripping in blood. Three excruciating days later, hundreds died in a botched rescue operation.


The murders of journalists, lawyers, and human rights and humanitarian activists rate even less attention. Three years ago, when investigative journalist Anna Politkovaskaya was murdered in her apartment building in Moscow one Saturday afternoon, shock and outrage emanated from Washington and capitals across Europe. Everyone thinks she was killed for her investigative journalism on the North Caucasus. But a long period of ambivalence, indifference, and silence followed that brief spasm of anger.


Excerpt reproduced with permission from Foreign Policy, www.foreignpolicy.com. Copyright 2009 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive LLC. Read the full article at  [http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/08/12/



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