Society

What is the violence which destroys the monopoly of legitimate violence in a state of law?

Article published on Dec. 9, 2002
Article published on Dec. 9, 2002
The French soldier likes his French wine? And the Russian? Does he like Russian wine? What if the Russian State has effectively legitimised the rebellion of some of its citizens which is enacted in name of the right to life?

Scenario 1.

The Russian soldier is shabbily dressed, undernourished, fights in the mountains and is numb with fear. His two means of communicating with his fellow homo-sapiens consist of weapons and vodka. Chechens tend to prefer the weapons, but let's say a few words about the vodka. Connaisseurs spend hours arguing over the virtues of a Jirinovski, a Yeltsin and a Moskovskaia. But lead the debate into the mountains and their 'own brands' and the connaisseurs will soon find agreement: Who would dare to dispute the quality of a Georgian wine or of Armenian or Azerian cognac? Take a hard look at the dreamy expressions they are wearing and evoke that unique "Appelation d'origine controlee" known as the INDIVIDUAL ORIGINATING FROM THE CAUCASUS, registered by the Russian authorities and depended on so often in the field of action.... and remark how their faces fall. Recommend to them the newest variety, the Chechen terrorist, a slightly bitter blend to be savoured slowly, so as to wetten the palate and prime yourself for quick recognition; and you have identified a favoured tipple that is the taste of the enemy, and you are at war.

Scenario 2

Has the hostage-taking in Moscow brought the war to the heart of Russia? In reality, the question should be put another way: where has it been brought from? from a region on the edges of the Russian State, from a foreign country, from a part of the Russian State in which State control is a mere fiction, from the world at large, or from an international terrorist organisation of no fixed address which migrates according to its battles in defence of the Islamic cause? Are we talking about an internal or international matter? What law governs the region and whose law should decide which laws apply there?

Scenario 3

Thesis: Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation; the war in Chechnya is an internal conflict; the operation which began in 1999 is an antiterrorist operation against Chechen rebels and Aslan Maskhadov is the leader of these rebels. Akhmad Kadirov, democratically appointed by the Russian authorities, is the legitimate head of the Chechen administration; Chechen refugees should return to Chechnya before the end of the year, given that the situation in the region has been ''normalised''. The Russian State is inaugurating a number of exceptional measures in order to counter international terrorism which has taken root in Chechnya and which is threatening the Russian civilian population.

Question: If the Chechens are Russian citizens, why do they not have the right to move freely around their state's territories?

Antithesis: Since 1999 Chechnya has renewed its war of independence against the colonial Russian forces. Aslan Maskhadov is the Chechen president, democratically elected. Aslan Maskhadov did not order the taking of hostages in Moscow, nor was the Moscow hostage-taking led by international islamic terror networks. If the war against Russia continues, Chechen fighters will become more radical and will plan more terrorist actions. The Chechen government is proposing immediate talks with the Russian authorities with a view to finding a political solution to the conflict.

Synthesis: The withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya has been suspended pending the conclusion of antiterrorist operations: Russian soldiers have surrounded Chechen refugee camps in order to protect them; spot checks of Chechens are being stepped up inside Russian territory and instances of ethnic-cleansing continue in Chechnya.

Question: If Chechen terrorists are stripped of their Russian citizenship what of the other Chechens?

Scenario 4

The gaps in the discourse of the Russian Authorities are neither to be found in their declaration, as yet unquestioned, that the operation to free the hostages was a success, nor in the contradictory statements concerning the precise nature of the gas used and the reasons for the deaths of the victims; neither in the attempts to take control of press coverage of events nor even in the almost total cover-up surrounding the details of the negotiations with members of the comando unit during the seige. The Russian authorities have sided with the emerging position of Western States which have declared themselves potential victims of terrorist cells and which, in the name of safeguarding their civilian population, have assumed the right to dictate ''exception measures''.

The Russian State has gone so far as t o confer upon itself the right to dispose of the bodies of terrorists in the name of the same said ''security". No more needs to be said to demonstrate the limits to which the State will go to protect its people. The Russian State redefines, as is its wont, the demarcation lines of this 'people' and even if the 'individual originating from the Caucusus' theoretically forms a part of this defintion, Yakhar Nieserkoyeva, a 42-year old Chechen woman who was a hostage in the Dubrovka theatre spent a week in provisional detention in Moscow.

Can a Chechen be Russian? Can a Russian be Chechen? What does ''being Russian mean''? Are we talking about a race, a nationality, citizenship? Do Chechens have a Russian passport? Are Chechens considered by the Russian State as Russian citizens?

Scenario 5

The Russian people support the activities of the authorities in their fight against terrorism. The use of violence in freeing the Moscow theatre hostages is, as such, legitimate. Thus, if the Russian State holds a monopoly of legitimate violence over its territory, how can we perceive this State when it releases common law criminals, previously condemned by its laws, and pays them to fight in a region of the same State; when it tolerates the sale of arms by its generals, in full knowledge of the fact that those very arms are used to kill its own soldiers; and when it authorises its soldiers to carry out ethnic-cleansing against the civilian population of this self-same state, in an area within that State? The Russian State imposes on its citizens the duty of obeying and respecting the law, except for those of its citizens who find themselves up against a Chechen. The Russian State neither grants the Chechen the identity of a foreigner, nor that of a citizen. The Chechen is defined by his geographical origin, the Caucasus, recognised by his dark physical appearance, noted for his sharp taste for rebellion and feared for his brews, the abuse of which can seriously damage your health. This reputation is upheld with a vengance by the Russian authorities, who allow themselves great liberties in the concoction of this exquisite vintage.

Tr. Note: The French expression is known and widely used in English for signifying that grapes used in wines are pure and unmixed. An English equivalent could be 'grapes chosen from a traceable origin which is known as a vintage'.