The Chechen Conflict

Peace, Justice and Long Term Implications

Term Paper, 2009

9 Pages, Grade: 1,3


In the opening part of this paper I will firstly discuss the concepts of peace and justice and the tension between them, theoretically through referring to the relevant literature. Secondly I will reflect on the role of interests from actors and their different definitions of peace. Thirdly I will explain what kind of implications this inherits for long-term peacebuilding. In the fourth part I will enrich the discussion through highlighting one example on the basis of my case study of the Chechen conflict.

The concepts of peace and justice are inseparably connected with each other in modern long-term peacebuilding. But why is this so?I will try to explain this through referring to the development of the concept of peace within the field of conflict resolution. Everythingstarted with a very simple, though obvious and evident definition of peace. Fernando labels this the „traditional view which argued that peace is the absence of war.“ (Fernando 2000: 1). One terminological criticism is that the word „war“ as a extreme and specific type of violence does not take other forms of violence, like for example structural violence, into account. Although, as research shows, the victims of structural violence at least quantitatively are a lot higher, than those who suffer from direct violence as for example war. Therefore Galtung already in the late 1960s introduced the concept of a broader understanding of peace as the absence not only of war but „the terms 'peace' and 'violence' be linked to each other such that 'peace' can be regarded as 'absence of violence'“ (Galtung 1969: 168). Another terminological critique comes from the theoretical string of constructivist thinking within social science. Scholars from those traditions of theoretical thinking refer to peace „...also as a social construction“ (Richmond 2005: 200). This kind of criticism can be linked to a criticism more content and less theoretically orientated that developed into an important criticism towards the traditional and narrow definition of peace. The critique concentrates on the point that all actions aimed to make peace under this pre-assumption are only concentrated on the surface but do not tackle the deeper roots of conflicts. Despite the fact that empirical data shows that this in most cases can not hinder the conflict from re-erupting in the future. As displayed above “An extended concept of violence leads to an extended concept of peace.“ (Galtung 1969: 183). The scholarly discussion about what conflict resolution should research on and on what measures one should concentrate then led to a differentiation of the concept of peace. That is why commonly scholars came to the conclusion that not only „...war, the symptom, but also injustice, the underlying causes.“ (Fernando 2000: 2) should be taken into account. „According to this view, conflict resolution means solving the problems that led to the conflict, and transformation means changing the relationships between the parties to a conflict; conflict settlement refers to suppressing the conflict itself, without dealing with deeper causes and relations.“ (Kriesberg 2001: 64) peace is understood as a broader, often referred to as a ,holistic‘ or ,positive‘ peace concept. To put it in a nutshell: „Peace means not only the absence of war and violence but also the absence of causes of war and violence“ (Fernando 2000: 2). As a result justice must be included in such a perspective on peace. But what is just and what is not? The answer to this question for conflict resolution is not as easy as it might seem at first glance. I will try to display this by giving examples in the following.

There has been cases in which members of an elite within an authoritarian regime have been held responsible for their war crimes, but because of their important role for or in society this led to newer eruptions of violence. This means that intensive or mass persecutions can even be „...counterproductive in terms of reconciliation and peace if too many wounds are reopened on both or all sides.“ (Pankhurst 1999: 241). In this case one will ask oneself: what is more important? justice in terms of holding the person responsible - or the stability in terms of a traditional understanding of peace?Another example for a widely disputed tension between peace and justice could be found in the discussion on external intervention. Is it justifiable for external actors to militarily attack a sovereign state if the purposes are to protect for example a threatened minority? With Freedman's words does the „urge for humanitarian intervention involve a reversal of the old norm of non-interference in internal affairs“? (Freedman 2007: 251).] Is it possible to justify a military attack with „what an important report called the responsibility to protect.“? (Freedman 2007: 251). On the one hand legally, in terms of international manifested law, based on „the principle of national sovereignty as the cornerstone of the post-Westphalian world order“ (Hoffmann 2001: 277) such an act is never justifiable. On the other hand, when it is normatively argued, one can just not watch a genocide happen if one has the power and the possibility to intervene. But where is the boarder? When is an intervention necessary? And since economic, regional and security interests always have a stake in the actions of the intervening parties: how altruistic are such interventions? What happens after the defeating of an authoritarian regime? In sum how far should the concept of justice be included in such a new, wider „holistic“ concept of peace? Especially considering the critical cases displayed above. This is exactly what the main discourse within the scholarly literature on conceptualising peace and justice is about. The contradiction between peace and justice within conflict resolution can only be assessed through wider concepts of violence, peace and justice and most importantly through understanding the interrelations and interdependency between them. At least this it what counts for the scholarly attempts to conflict resolution. But what about the actors themselves? What kind of concept of peace and justice are established? Which actor has what idea of peace and why?

The United Nations, maybe the most accountable and appropriate institution on the international level, when it comes to conflict resolution, because of its unique legitimacy, understands peace merely from a narrow and pragmatic perspective not taking structural violence into account. This is due to the working procedures of the institution itself. It highlights the importance of high-level negotiations and approaches them only by pragmatic means (for comparison: Fernando 2000: 3). An example for a different understanding of peace by other actors could be that in internal conflicts, such as separatists struggle for independence, „In most internal conflicts the keyactors are governments and rebel groups...“(Brown 2001: 212), there will be fundamentally diverging understandings of peace and justice in place. Most of these conflicts are asymmetrical conflicts, with the state having access to a developed army and the state budget and the rebels not having access to comparable resources. Anyhow the perspectives and understandings of peace and justice by different actors and the interests behind that are what is interesting for us now. In cases as described above the state is mainly concerned about ending the violence, mostly through superior violence, and not letting the separatist movement succeed in their gain for independence but securing the territorial integrity of itself. In terms of the state peace this means ending the direct violence through defeating the aggressor - most often through violent means by themselves - and restoring the state control and monopoly of violence in the critical region. End of unjustified aggression against the legitimate and established state is therefore regarded as just. For the rebels peace is also but not primarily linked to an end direct violence in terms of fighting but moreover their idea of peace is driven by the right to self determination through establishing an independent state. These ideas of peace from separatist movements are often „...characterised by the protagonists in politically convenient ethnic or ideological terms.“ (Brown 2001: 212). The understanding of peace and justice for these actors is bound to the idea of independence and even if they are militarily defeated, as long as they are suppressed they are likely to switch to guerilla tactics and go on to fight for their understanding of justice and peace. With these brief examples I wanted to illustrate how the definitions and ideas of peace can differ extremely between various actors. Even though one could probably find a lot of more examples I will leave it to these for now as I will go into depth on my case study later on in this paper. But what can we draw from this observation? I want to emphasise that the interests of the relevant actors always play a major role in defining their understanding and concept of peace in general as well as in each particular case. In other terms the understanding of what peace and justice is largely builds on the interest that are at stake for the particular actors. Through defining peace and justice in the way it suits the pursuit of their goals best the conflict and the matters to its solution are consequently influenced. After having dealt with the contradictions between different concepts of peace and justice as well as referring to the role of interests for forming understandings of peace regarding the relevant actors I will now turn to the implications that the observations described above have for long-term peacebuilding. What is obvious from the above is, that when thinking about long-term peacebuilding it is not enough to just look at the surface of the conflict in terms of direct violence Even more importantly the deeper and underlying issues and causes of the conflict will have to be addressed to make a sustainable attempt to solve any conflict. How can one methodologically approach long term-peacebuilding bearing the above in mind? Since seriously gaining at long-term peacebuilding leads to quite complex strategies I will try to emphasise a few aspects that I found remarkably important for developing successful strategies towards a long-term conflict resolution. With this a broader perspective on peace including justice one has to consider that different meanings and ideas are given to those concepts by the various actors. Even though all relevant actors might agree on aiming at peace, due to their non-conform concepts of what peace and justice means finding a solution can be extremely problematic. There is not only a tension between peace and justice as academic and methodological concepts but also between the different understandings and contents by the protagonists within every conflict. When having this in mind one has to try to work out the possibilities of a solution that all relevant parties could agree on. Even though in most cases one will be confronted with a „reluctance ... to revise its goal and to accept something less then the original, final objective.“ (Uyangoda 2000: 6). Particularly concerning internal armed conflicts or struggles for independence this attitude towards a peaceful solution of the conflict will be present. Consequently this means for peace-workers that „the ambitious goal of a problem- solving dialogue between parties to protracted conflicts can only be achieved within a framework of a long-term process of work and learning.“ (Ropers 2004: 10). Ergo a lot of patience will be needed.

In the next part I want to give an empirical inside perspective on the so far theoretically discussed issue. I will present my case study the chechen conflict and ask for the concepts of peace and justice that the keyactors have after that I will highlight the differences and tensions between them. For the russian government, as well as the pro-moscow government of chechen President Kadyrov, there is peace in Chechnya. Since the official end of the second chechen war in 2002 both state actors regarded chechnya as a settled conflict and therefore they proclaimed peace. As this is an exceptional good example for the formerly introduced narrow ,traditional‘ definition of peace as the absence of war. After the war the Russians understood their military presence and operations in Chechnya as part of a counter-terrorism operation. This operation officially ended in April 2009, although there are still estimated between 500 and 2000 rebel fighters hiding in the caucasian mountains and ongoing attacks targeting chechen and russian security forces and officials. Meanwhile Russia seeks a restoration of state control and establishment of normality in the controlled parts of Chechnya. For the state actors in this case their understanding of peace is mainly bound to the end of direct violence in terms of fighting with the rebel groups. Besides that they do see the need for a restoration of the state monopoly on violence as well as the re-establishment of the rule of law.

The separatist movements however do have a totally different understanding of peace and justice. They see themselves and the chechen people as being suppressed and discriminated against by a superior power which denies them their right to self-determination through an independent state with military and forceful means. Therefore their understanding of peace - and this counts for all rebel groups in Chechnya despite their fragmented situation - is very much bound to a separation from the Russian Federation and the recognition of Chechnya as an independent state. Since their understanding of peace is far from being reached at the moment, in contrast to the state actors, they do not understand the current situation as peace nor as just. This explains their ongoing and violent struggle for independence. They feel they are victims of Russia`s imperialist politics.


Excerpt out of 9 pages


The Chechen Conflict
Peace, Justice and Long Term Implications
Göteborg University  (School of Global Studdies)
Special Course in Conflict Resolution
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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450 KB
International relations, Internationale Beziehungen, Conflict Resoultion, Peace Studdies, Peace Research, Conflict Studdies, Friedensforschung, Politikwissenschaften, Politik, Tschetschenien, Chechnya, Russia, Russland, Chechen-Russian Conflict, Tschetschenien Konflikt
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Ilyas Saliba (Author), 2009, The Chechen Conflict, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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