In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Chechnya declared independence, hoping to enjoy the same new-found freedom that the former Warsaw Pact countries, the Baltic States, the Ukraine and other central Asian republics had won. But unlike those other countries, Moscow responded to Chechnya’s desire for freedom with violence. This resulted in the two Chechen Wars, followed by the brutal occupation of Chechnya in 2000 and the election of Vladimir Putin (thanks to a conveniently timed campaign of apartment house bombings).
It is important to note that Chechnya was not always a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism. In the early 90’s, this ideological poison was virtually unknown there. For instance, the original leader of the Chechnya independence movement, Dzhokhar Dudayev, was a secular nationalist. He was a Soviet Air Force major general who commanded all their nuclear forces in my homeland of Estonia in the 1980’s. He patterned the Chechnyan independence movement from the Estonian independence movement he witnessed firsthand, and if you know anything about the Baltic States, you know that it is about as far away from Islamic fundamentalism as you can get on this planet. Dudayev greatly sympathised with the Estonian anti-Soviet struggle. He learned to speak Estonian while he was stationed there, and when the order came down from Moscow to crush the Estonian independence movement in 1990, he declined to pass the order along.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Dudayev went back home and led the Chechnyan independence movement all the way through the First Chechen War, when he was killed by an anti-radiation missile that homed in on his satellite phone. It is rumoured that this technology was given to Yeltsin’s Russia by the naive Clinton administration.
In any event, by the time Putin had won the Second Chechen War in 2000, all reasonable, Western-leaning Chechens like Dudayev had been exterminated. Into this Kremlin-created vacuum stepped vicious Islamic fundamentalists who have committed all manner of atrocities in the name of Chechnya.
This terrible situation was created by the Putin administration. But now, if Putin wants to crush Chechnya some more (the Chechens don’t give up easily) by committing further human rights violations there, all he has to do to get his get-out-of-jail-free card from the US is to remind Americans of the Boston Marathon bombing.