Vanity Fair profiles The eXile: "Gutsy...visceral...serious journalism...abusive, defamatory...poignant...paranoid...and right!"
MSNBC: Mark Ames and Yasha Levine
Broke the Koch Brothers' Takeover of America
eXile Classic / The War Nerd / June 28, 2002
By Gary Brecher

What’s a Chechen? It sounds like the start of a joke, but there’s no punchline. I’m supposed to write about the war in Chechnya this issue, but…the war itself is kind of interesting, but something’s missing. Maybe you don’t realize it over in Moscow, but nobody in the US cares about Chechnya. At all. Maybe that’s why I’m having a hard time writing about it.

— No, it’s sort of more complicated than that, because not caring should make it easier to be a war fan. I probably wouldn’t even want to write about wars where people I care about were getting killed, so maybe it’s better not to care.

A boring war.A boring war.

No, that’s crap. In the first place, when I wrote that bit about “people I care about” it hit me, I don’t care about anybody. Not since my dog died. Especially not on weekdays, or when the commute’s bad, or when it’s as hot as it’s been around here lately.

Fuck’em. I’d love to write about the place I live going up in flames. Those fires in Arizona and Colorado — you hear about these fires over there in Russia? That’s when it hit me, sitting there in front of the TV — I was cheering the fires. Go flames! Roast those Arizonans in their shorts and T-shirts! I hope it all burns. It’s not war exactly but it’s kind of close in a way. Lots of smoking ruins anyway, and lots of good godfearing assholes having to wake up for once and get their noses shoved in the fact that the world doesn’t like them.

So why is it so hard to get interested in Chechnya? Maybe it’s because there haven’t been any good pictures out of there in a while. You read about the war there sometimes, but there’s never any interesting combat shots. Just the charity bullshit, with a closeup of some little Muslim kid acting devastated and then this sobby voice going, “Please send money.” But nobody does, or at least I don’t think so. I think it’s because the Christians only go after war orphans they think they can convert, and it’s no use trying to get Muslims. (I had this friend in high school, his parents went all churchy when they got old, and they signed up to be missionaries in Pakistan. I laughed for a week. Pakistan. I haven’t talked to him lately — I haven’t talked to anybody lately — so I don’t know if they lived. But it’s so cool to think about these Bakersfield Okies heading up the driveways in Peshawar holding their little Bibles. I hope they roast the fuckers alive.)

The other problem is the geography. Chechnya’s hard to find. It’s landlocked, and that never helps — landlocked countries are fucked. Ask the Kurds. Ask the Dinka. And the alliances are very complex, too complex for Fresno TV, that’s for sure.

But when I started looking into it, I found the war, just as war, does have some interesting aspects. It’s one of those classic combats between two crippled countries. Russia would never have had a problem with Chechnya if it hadn’t fallen apart; and the Chechens wouldn’t’ve had a problem expelling the severely weakened Russian army if they hadn’t had built-in flaws like a tiny population, lack of ground cover, and a macho war code that kept them from fighting an effective guerrilla campaign.

The first Chechen war started in 1994. but that’s not really the beginning of the war. None of these slow postcolonial wars ever really start or end. That’s one of the things that makes them so depressing and un-fun. Un-cinematic…hey, maybe that’s why the whole thing’s so hard to get interested in: no movies about it! Although actually, I hear there is a Russian film about Chechnya, called Outpost or Blockhouse (or Outhouse) and I saw a clip about another called “War” on CNN, but they’re not subtitled so I never saw them. Any of you Russians know about them? Are they any good? Write me at eXile and I’ll pass the word on to all the other war fans.

But like I said, that wasn’t the start. You have to be a professor of Asian history to find the start. The Russians were expanding south all through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, of course. That’s what led to all the Russo-Turkish wars, and the European entanglements, like the Crimean. But the Chechens were apparently one of the last peoples to accept the Russians. The Chechens, and this does seem to be one consistently clear thing about the war, were the real warriors, the stone crazies, of the region. I’ve come across some amazing stories about them in trying to research this column. The neighbors, the Daghestanis for example, are terrified of them. And the Chechens apparently used to rule the Moscow crime world in the early Yeltsin era even though there were only about a thousand Chechens in Moscow. There’s a great story about the Chechens going to a meeting with the slow old Russian crime bosses. The Russians were eating and drinking, feeling safe, when the Chechens just grabbed the steak knives and started stabbing. Half the Russian bosses were dead before they had time to finish the first course.

Burn, baby, burn.Burn, baby, burn.

They seem like one of those tribes that are either going to rule the world or go extinct but nothing in between. They messed with Stalin. I mean, that’s serious stuff. You look back at the 20th c. now and all that Hitler noise seems like kiddie stuff. It’s Stalin who looks like the really big scary figure now. And the Chechens told Stalin to fuck off. Pretty impressive. So they got themselves officially labeled a “Criminal nationality” and shipped off in cattle cars to somewhere in the steppes. It was like training camp for them. All the old and weak and peaceful types just died. The ones that were left — I read this in a Chechen guy’s account of growing up on in the steppes — the kids that survived used to pass the time by fighting. That’s all they did. All day, every day. One kid would go to another kid’s tent and call his name. The kid would come out swinging and they’d fight till it was time to go in and have their gruel or whatever. Broken bones, damaged organs — all part of the fun. You weren’t even supposed to mention them or you weren’t a real man.

After that, war or crime must’ve seemed easy. So when the Russians finally let the Chechens go home, they were ready for some action. But the Soviet Army was not something to be lightly fucked with, not even in the last days of the Empire. There were a lot of Russians who itched for some action, who were sick of hearing their grandfathers strutting around on their Eastern Front stories and wanted some trophies of their own. So the Chechens let the Russian Federation, the weak successor state, tell them they were still part of Russia. Everybody else got to leave, but not the Chechens: there were pipelines at stake, and states get REAL serious when oil pipelines are involved. Just ask the caribou up in Alaska. Anyway, the Chechens waited till Yeltsin was in power and the Red Army was turning to rust. Then they made their move, declared independence, waited for the pain.

The Russians…it was like the whole state was drunk on whatever Yeltsin was having. They came in like drunken cowboys. I mean literally: the method was to send lightly-armored APCs, BMPs, charging into central Grozny. We’re talking a Soviet-style city, which means endless blocks of 9-story apartments. And these are the Chechens — born killers. OK, so Russian generals, Tsarist or Soviet, are not exactly known for worrying over casualties or coddling their men…but even for them, it was pretty damn stupid. Once again, it was the good old RPG-7 that did the job: Chechens let the huge armored convoy come right into the crowded center of town, sitting up there on the highrise roofs with a perfect view. Then they blasted the first and last vehicles in classic ambush strategy and took their time killing all the ones jammed up in the instant armored traffic jam. By all accounts it was a massacre. Once you’ve seen what happens to an APC when an RPG round hits it, you don’t want to stay inside…but the Russian troops had been trained to stay in there, and they obeyed, as Russian troops do. So they were firing out of the ports, totally uselessly, blasting the windows of the groundfloor shops, while waiting to be targeted by the rooftop RPGs. It must’ve been the easiest mass kill of armored vehicles since our ex-drug czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, decided to get himself another star by ordering the obliteration of a retreating Iraqi armored column at the end of the Gulf War.

The Russian brass watched from a safe distance and took notes on the position of the RPG positions, then blasted the city. Really blasted it, by the accounts I read: 4000 detonations per hour at one point in the bombardment. Nobody ever denied the effectiveness of Russian artillery, not since the Wehrmacht learned it the hard way; and the tubes were glowing by the time they were finished dosing Grozny. ( I hear “Grozny” means something like “Terrible.” I kind of like that. Seems like a good name for the place.) They weren’t doing any of this pinpoint/smartbomb crap; they were going to kill every RPG gunner by the simple method of killing EVERYBODY in town, on the theory that the gunners would be included in the tally…and the rest were probably sympathizers, so too bad for them. The Air Force was in on it too, and Russian air has always seen close air support as its primary mission, so you can bet those Sukhois were screaming in close, lighting up everything that moved.

But one of the things the last century taught us is that it’s real hard to kill everybody in a city. Berlin in ’45 looked unlivable for anything bigger than a rat. The USAF was hosing it down like cropdusters over a tobacco field every day, and the RAF — and those fuckers were the real thing, meaner than the USAF any day — came through every night with their incendiaries, burning whatever the Yanks hadn’t blown up…but there were millions living under the rubble. There were factories going full speed right to the last minute. People are hard to kill, it’s weird. And people were still living in Grozny. I saw some of the interviews they gave, back when the Western press was trying to be interested. It was very much like Berlin, the streetscenes: ghost walls, a few trashpiles still burning, and old ladies appearing from nowhere to moan to the news crews about their missing grandkids and how hard it was to get decent coffee. It was…I don’t know how to say this…it was kind of nostalgic, you know? It was a very 20th c. style of war. I guess you have to admit that the Russian Army is a very 20th c. Army. You can tell it’s not really designed for the new sort of war. So it was kind of nice to get all this footage of them having one last fling.

And the Chechens could take it. Fuck, admit it: they probably enjoy that stuff. Not everybody’s a college-boy Quaker, you know. The Russians and the Chechens fought one of those slow, bloody street-by-street wars for the rest of the winter. The Russians finally “liberated” Grozny a block at a time — only by the time they’d finished, there weren’t any blocks. Just brickpiles. The Chechens did what any idiot could’ve predicted they’d do: they fled to the countryside and started ambushing convoys.

And that’s where I start to lose the thread, to tell you the truth. Weird, weird stuff started happening after that. Like this amazing raid some Chechens made deep into Russia, taking hostages and actually getting big ransom. Supposedly the only reason they didn’t get to Moscow is they didn’t have quite enough cash to pay off any more soldiers; they’d paid off about a hundred Russian checkpoints and gotten deep into Russia before the petty cash ran out. Pretty hilarious, if true! They occupied some provincial hospital and the SpetzNaz killed a bunch of hostages while “rescuing” them, in approved Munich style. Then the Chechens and their surviving hostages just went back to Chechnya: “OK, everybody on the bus! Field trip’s over!”

After that it just gets too weird for me to follow. Like: was this all about Berezovskii? One thing I read said he was in with the Chechen gangsters and the war was a way for Yeltsin to punish him for that — is that true? You guys would know better than me. Somebody blew up those apartment buildings in Moscow — either the Chechens or the FSB trying to get support for Putin. Which was it? You tell me. Then the “Second Chechen War”…which as far as I can tell is a bad sequel, hardly worth watching. Eventually the Russians will run out of troops — they’ve got no birthrate — or the Chechens will run out of people — there are only about half a million of ’em left.

But nobody’s watching any more. Too far off, too inland, too much of the same thing over and over. I mean, I’m sorry, I guess I’m not doing my war-specialist job here…but fuck it, I’d rather watch those assholes in Arizona burn to the ground. That’s a war I can understand.

The eXile Issue #144.

Read more: , , , Gary Brecher, eXile Classic, The War Nerd

Got something to say to us? Then send us a letter.

Want us to stick around? Donate to The eXiled.

Twitter twerps can follow us at


Add your own

  • 1. Minala Damaeva  |  December 6th, 2009 at 2:07 am

    Maybe it’s hard to be interested in the chechen-russian conflict because drunken russians are over 150 milion and chechens are less than 1 milion,it’s like we the chechens are comitting a mass suicide BUT it worth it all,our grandfathers stood up and fought for our native land and we will do the same,we will never show weakness for anyone ,united we stand united we fall,we don’t care if the whole world is not interested in us because we are interested in what the world thinks we are interested in living in dignity without knowing that our country fate is relied on russia’s mercy.

  • 2. DENIS  |  March 3rd, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Chechens was freedom. the world knows that the Chechens mean by freedom. In a free Chechnya, one idiot went. Chechens demanded money – then cut off his head. 3 years before the war, the Chechens killed everyone who was not a Chechen.

  • 3. SERGEY  |  March 4th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    1991 Free Chechnya by agreement with Moscow, leaving her to leave the military weapons for the formation of the Chechen army. Dudaev dissolve the police released the prisoners of which forms the National Guard all prishodit rapidly decrees issued immediately allowed to carry weapons to sell looted army depots everywhere to walk the streets at night, armed men in cars come from the villages of people being evicted at gunpoint Russian, Armenian, Jewish, from apartments wholesale Russian Jews fleeing Armenians on the road posts are prohibited to transfer assets since it was purchased in Chechnya. Dudaev tries to justify himself met with reporters at the Institute of Oil – ask him awkward questions are answered laughingly offers education for girls 2 years for boys, 4 years, laws based on Islam, the expulsion is not the Chechen population, he objected on the same day the hostel rector of the Institute rout killed some teachers disappeared. At home printing set poster (Russian do not go away, we need slaves). Dudaev makes bank fraud with advice received in the Russian banks more than $ 1300000000 in Chechnya has been supplying all (fuel, gas, electricity and pensions), all this disappears in a black hole looted 1,800 rail cars, train drivers refuse to travel on the route to Chechnya, captured Russian apartments, good Chechens helped organize the departure in exchange for an apartment, just kill the bad, the flow of refugees into Russia 200000 people in 2 years there is slavery, kidnapping for ransom were the norm, not working 90% of businesses have left the holdouts, some failed in 1991 po1994 killed in Chechnya on the different data from 25000 to 30000 Russian. Moscow decides to help her dissenting positions are strong among the urban population promises to restore order. In November 1994, dissenting Chechens shoots National Guard. By that time 30% of Chechens have already committed or been complicit in serious crimes. Moscow is afraid of retaliation nationalists in Russia, so the truth is withheld. Formally Chechnya within Russia decided to introduce a voisk all think it will cost a demonstration of force. In Chechnya, under the guise of zhurnamistov passing military positions and fortifications removed interviewed in the population of cities no one wants war in the villages opposite. Dudaev produces agitation in the villages among the youth and finds the men taking foreign mercenary soldiers (avgantsy, Latvians, Ingush, Ukrainians, Arabs) weapons left by the Soviet Union lacks a lot Suomeksi antitank weapons. But Moscow believes in a show of force, we introduce a limited contingent of troops to storm the Groznogo allocated 6500 soldiers being few, a lot of armor, even though all the rules of the attackers was to Fact 4 times more militants. The number of militants in the 12000 Groznom and about 9 thousand on the outskirts of the city. 31/12/1994 voiska part of the city with 4-way town seems empty but 40% of civilians did not leave the city. Troops nothing prevents passing half of the route begins the battle with militants so much that they fired rocket-propelled grenades, not only in armored vehicles but also in individual soldiers. Everyone understands war. On the streets there are people trying to hide from a fight, most fighters dressed in civilian. moves together with groups of civilians, shooting at the soldiers are from homes where there are civilians. In a damaged armored vehicles exploding ammunition, the gunmen to intimidate the troops mutilated the corpses of soldiers is indicative of the wounded. No assistance is all thrown into the battle not only consolidates in one direction. Journalists are in the Presidential Palace and the TV station to cover the warrior position militants but the picture in the frame inexorably suggests otherwise. European journalists could not ignore the constant firing artillery at Chechen area for the presidential palace, and fighters dressed in civilian clothes, and mutilated the corpses of Russian soldiers. The culprit just called Russia no one remembered that preceded the war. It is then the world would know the truth about the militants and horrified, but now those who defended the militants trying to preserve the reputation and find their justification.

  • 4. milana damaeva  |  March 28th, 2010 at 5:29 am

    ” different data from 25000 to 30000 Russian were killed”
    Hmm , Says who? Greedy russian authorities? Listen my friend , The whole thing in chechnya is false starting with the fake news coming out from there ending with the ridiculous promises going into there( Of course I’m reffering to the russian promises , No one cares enough for us to promise us with anything but denial).
    At least let us try to be alittle logical when talking about russians who used to live in chechnya during the war time , There is no official record provided with names ,numbers and locations of the russians who were in chechnya or still in chechnya so assuming that about “2500 – 3000) russians were killed is charges without any realistic reference to be based upon…
    30% of the chechens? Hold on with that for a second , we are less than one million sayin that 30% of us were involved in crimes means that 30 people out of each 100 chechen in a criminal , don’t you think you’re exaggerating in your analysis of the whole situation? you’re as a russian should know better than any one else in the world (including my self) what the concept “chechenization” mean , wasn’t that the only for russia to get out of the chechen tragedy with some kind of dignity? didn’t your country evoke hatred between chechens ? who payed these criminals you talk about to torture , kill and kidnap civiliens n chechnya in order to get informations from them?? It was done by chechens( traitors of our grandfathers land) but it was done to the russian benifits not for us…Didn’t aslan maskkadyv ask russia in more than one occasion to arrest sulim yamadaev who is charged with many crimes in chechnya and left to russia and was working with you against his nation but the russians refused to do it BUT when he beheaded 6 russian soldiers in dagestan suddenly that was our fault , our whole nation was blamed for it , although he was unappreciated in chechnya and was a russian puppet when he started to break the russian rules he became a role model of every chechen in the world , unfair ,unjustice but this is war when yo’re strong you can do whatever you feeel like doing and even if you make insane lies you will be believed , and the chechens?who are the chechens we are just less than one million , the world would live with r without us, I got used to this stupidness , I can live with ridiculous lies about us most the days but at least russians should make their lies more realistic.
    Dudaev , what about him?I can only imagine the hate he had for russia , how can he nt hate russia? his mother and littile brother were burn alive in the waibax village in 1944 together with the rest of the village when evil stalin exiled our nation to siberia , he lived everyday wondering what he done wrong to be treated like an animal and see the beloved ones die in a foreign country, no one can forgive that he made alot of mistakes , he lost his mind few occasions but he wasn’t a murderer at least not in the russian murdering style, I can ensure you that few and I mean it few russian civiliens were killed by chechens , it was an individual act not by dudaev permission , most the russian you refer to were bombed by your fellow russian soldiers , we lived peacefuly with russians before the war not even one single russian was attacked , this is something that I can’t proof , how can I when russians lie all the time and hide facts condemning them? But I would recommend a book for you it was written by someone who’s been there , who’s met a real people who has real reference to back up my claims , the book name Allah’s mountains by Sebastian smith , I agree dudaev wasn’t a perfect leader byt at least he fought for us and made us remember the road which our grandfathers died for…
    Believe me it’s time for russia to let go of my homeland PEACEFULY, it’s just a tiny country that has been fighting for hundred of years LET GO OF US…This is the only thing we wish for , there is no need for more blood , after all the barbarisim we’ve witnesed what kind of human relationship could be there between us??? we came to a point where both chechens and russians view each other as non-human being , for the sake of our next generations let us stop this hate and give chechens what they need, it’s not what they want it’s about what they need.

  • 5. Albanian  |  May 22nd, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Death to Russia! free CHECHNYA!

  • 6. Morena  |  August 24th, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    The Chechens commited an almost un-ending spree of war crimes and crimes against humanity before they chose to try to breakaway from the Russian Federation and during both wars and even beyond.

    It is hard for Westerners to believe some of the acts that the Chechen Islamists carried out due to their sheer inhuman brutality. They ethnically cleanesed huge numbers of the non-Chechen and non-Muslim population of Chechnya during the breakup of the USSR. Those who were not forcibly removed were either killed or the lives made a living hell.

    During the wars, the Chechens urged Jihadi terrorists from the Muslim world and beyond to descend on Chechnya to kill “infidels” and the Jihadis duly came and slaughtered. Do any sort of research into the fate of captured Russian prisoners of war and the words beheading and torture come up time and time again. This was all long before the world saw Al Qaeda’s beheading videos. None of this was reported by the Western press (who were presumably too busy trying to find instances of collateral damage or whatever by the Russian forces).

    The Chechens mastered the propaganda war and exploited pro -Muslim bias in much of the Western, liberal press to mis-represent the conflict and to demoralise the Russian side. This template of Muslim forces being sympathised with was repeated in Bosnia, Kosovo and other cases of Jihadi terror, where liberal activists and the liberal media by default, side with the Muslim side.

    It took the Jihadi attacks of 9/11 and other terrorist outrages on Western targets before some elements in the West woke up and realised that Russia, China and the West ALL face a common enemy in the shape of the global Jihadi network who are hell bent on exporting their terror to conquer non-Muslims all over the world.

  • 7. New Low News Show  |  April 19th, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Crack open a cold one!

Leave a Comment

(Open to all. Comments can and will be censored at whim and without warning.)


Required, hidden

Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed