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The Contemporary World

1945 to the present

After World War II, a new world order came into being in which two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, played the leading roles. Their ideological differences led to the arms race of the Cold War and fears of a global nuclear conflict. The rest of the world was also drawn into the bipolar bloc system, and very few nations were able to remain truly non-aligned. The East-West conflict came to an end in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent downfall of the Eastern Bloc. Since that time, the world has been driven by the globalization of worldwide economic and political systems. The world has, however, remained divided: The rich nations of Europe, North America, and East Asia stand in contrast to the developing nations of the Third World.

The first moon landing made science-fiction dreams reality in the year 1969.
Space technology has made considerable progress as the search for new
possibilities of using space continues.



The Soviet Union and its Successor

SINCE 1945


see also: United Nations member states -
Russian Federation,
Ukraine,Belarus, Moldova,
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan


After the Second World War, all of Eastern Europe came under the influence of Stalin's totalitarian system, which led the Soviet Union into the Cold War. The system was relaxed to a degree under his successors, who were increasingly bound to a "collective leadership." The party's claim to autocratic rule was not seriously questioned until Gorbachev. In the turbulent years of 1989-1991, the structure of the Eastern bloc crumbled, and then the Soviet Union itself collapsed, disintegrating into a federation of autonomous states. While the Central European countries sought bonds with Western Europe, autocratic presidential regimes established themselves in most of the former Soviet republics.


Russia under Yeltsin

In 1991, the Soviet empire broke down into a federation of former Soviet Socialist Republics. Sweeping reforms were carried out under Yeltsin, but the war in Chechnya also began.


The Moscow coup on August 19, 1991, failed due to the resistance of the people and uncertainty in the army.


The 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt
(August 19 - August 21, 1991), also known as the August Putsch or August Coup, was an attempt by a group of members of the Soviet Union's government to take control of the country from Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. The coup leaders were hard-line members of the Communist Party (CPSU) who felt that Gorbachev's reform program had gone too far and that a new union treaty that he had negotiated dispersed too much of the central government's power to the republics. Although the coup collapsed in only three days and Gorbachev returned to government, the event destabilised the Soviet Union and is widely considered to have helped in bringing about both the demise of the Communist Party and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Boris Yeltsin (holding papers), the first Russian President, surrounded
by defenders of the Russian government headquarters during the failed
hard-line Communist coup attempt on August 19, 1991.


When Mikhail Gorbachev returned, he found he had been 1 deprived of virtually all power.

The new leader as president of 4 Russia was Gorbachev's former rival, Moscow mayor 2 Boris Yeltsin.

1 Boris Yeltsin (right) humiliates Gorbachev in the Russian Duma, August 23, 1991

4 Soldiers of a Russian honor guard. June 12, 1999, during a parade for the Independence Day

2 The most powerful man in Russia from
1991 on: Boris Yeltsin, 1990

In September, Yeltsin recognized the independence of the Baltic States, and in November he disbanded the Communist party of the Soviet Union. The USSR was officially dissolved on December 21,1991, when eleven former Soviet republics—Armenia. Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan. Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan—withdrew and, together with Russia, formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

In the next few years, President Yeltsin leaned heavily on the support of the West, particularly for economic assistance. He also advanced the disarmament process. Yeltsin imposed a new constitution on the parliament in 1993, strengthening the presidency and thwarting an attempted coup by conservatives. Russia joined NATO's Partnership for Peace program in June 1994 and signed a security agreement with NATO in May 1997.

5 Russian troops invaded Chechnya in 1994 following separatist moves, and the heavy handed military campaign proved unpopular with the Russian people.

5 Russian soldiers patrolling the region
around the Chechen capital of Grozny,
where Chechen rebels continued their
attacks, July 1986

A second Chechen war began in 1999 in the wake of assassinations and bomb attacks by Chechen rebels. The Russian military offensive soon became bogged down in a brutal occupation which attracted criticism from the international community.

Following a rapid devaluation of the ruble, the Russian government was forced to default on its foreign debts in 1998. Many Russians lost their savings as inflation
soared and Yeltsin became increasingly unpopular. Beset by health problems, he stepped down in favor of the former chairman of the security services,
Vladimir Putin, at the end of 1999.

3 Putin soon established himself as a popular and strong leader, announcing his intention to reduce corruption.

However, critics inside and outside Russia have been alarmed by his curtailment of press and media freedom and his increasingly authoritarian leadership style. Putin has sought to restore Russia's international standing. After September 11, 2001, he offered support to the United States, particularly in the global fight against terrorism, and in 2002, Russia signed the Kyoto protocol on climate change. During the invasion of Iraq in 2003 he aligned himself with France and Germany to oppose the attack. After the head of Yukos, oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested on tax evasion charges in 2003, Putin was reelected president with 71 percent of the vote in March 2004.

3 Vladimir Putin, June 7, 2000

Khodorkovsky with then President of Russia Vladimir Putin on 20 December 2002;
Moscow, Russia, August 12 2004: Yukos' former CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky,
handcuffed to a guard, leaves the court building


 Mikhail Khodorkovsky, 2004

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky (Russian: Ìèõàè́ë Áîðè́ñîâè÷ Õîäîðêî́âñêèé; born June 26, 1963 in Moscow)
is a Russian former Komsomol (Soviet youth) activist who became one of Russia's oligarchs. In 2004, Khodorkovsky was the wealthiest man in Russia, and was the 16th wealthiest man in the world, although much of his wealth evaporated because of the collapse in the value of his holding in the Russian petroleum company YUKOS.

On October 25, 2003, Khodorkovsky was arrested at Novosibirsk airport by the Russian prosecutor general's office on charges of fraud. Shortly thereafter, on October 31, the government under Vladimir Putin froze shares of Yukos because of tax charges. The Russian Government took further actions against Yukos, leading to a collapse in the share price. It purported to sell a major asset of Yukos in December 2004.

On May 31, 2005, Khodorkovsky was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to nine years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to 8 years. In 2003, prior to his arrest, Khodorkovsky funded several Russian parties, including Yabloko, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and even, allegedly, the pro-Kremlin United Russia.

In October 2005 he was moved into prison camp number 13 in the city of Krasnokamensk, Zabaykalsky Krai.




Boris Yeltsin

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin;
Yeltsin and Bill Clinton share a laugh in October 1995.

president of Russia
in full Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin

born February 1, 1931, Sverdlovsk [now Yekaterinburg], Russia, U.S.S.R.
died April 23, 2007, Moscow, Russia

Russian politician, who became president of Russia in 1990. In 1991 he became the first popularly elected leader in the country’s history, guiding Russia through a stormy decade of political and economic retrenching until his resignation on the eve of 2000.

Yeltsin attended the Urals Polytechnic Institute and worked at various construction projects in the Sverdlovsk oblast from 1955 to 1968, joining the Communist Party in 1961. In 1968 he began full-time work in the party and in 1976 became first secretary of the Sverdlovsk oblast party committee. Thereafter he came to know Mikhail Gorbachev, then his counterpart in the city of Stavropol. After Gorbachev came to power, he chose Yeltsin in 1985 to clean out the corruption in the Moscow party organization and elevated him to the Politburo (as a nonvoting member) in 1986. As the mayor of Moscow (i.e., first secretary of Moscow’s Communist Party committee), Yeltsin proved an able and determined reformer, but he estranged Gorbachev when he began criticizing the slow pace of reform at party meetings, challenging party conservatives, and even criticizing Gorbachev himself. Yeltsin was forced to resign in disgrace from the Moscow party leadership in 1987 and from the Politburo in 1988.

Yeltsin was demoted to a deputy minister for construction but then staged the most remarkable comeback in Soviet history. His popularity with Soviet voters as an advocate of democracy and economic reform had survived his fall, and he took advantage of Gorbachev’s introduction of competitive elections to the U.S.S.R. Congress of People’s Deputies (i.e., the new Soviet parliament) to win a seat in that body in March 1989 with a landslide vote from a Moscow constituency. A year later, on May 29, 1990, the parliament of the Russian S.F.S.R. elected him president of the Russian republic against Gorbachev’s wishes. In his new role, Yeltsin publicly supported the right of Soviet republics to greater autonomy within the Soviet Union, took steps to give the Russian republic more autonomy, and declared himself in favour of a market-oriented economy and a multiparty political system.

In July 1990 Yeltsin quit the Communist Party. His victory in the first direct, popular elections for the presidency of the Russian republic (June 1991) was seen as a mandate for economic reform. During the brief coup against Gorbachev by hard-line communists in August 1991, Yeltsin defied the coup leaders and rallied resistance in Moscow while calling for the return of Gorbachev. When the coup crumbled a few days after it had begun, Yeltsin emerged as the country’s most powerful political figure. In December 1991 he and the presidents of Ukraine and Belarus (Belorussia) established a new Commonwealth of Independent States that would replace the foundering U.S.S.R. When the Soviet Union collapsed after Gorbachev’s resignation as Soviet president on December 25, the Russian government under Yeltsin’s leadership then assumed many of the former superpower’s responsibilities for defense, foreign affairs, and finance.

As president of an independent Russia, Yeltsin set about the formidable task of transforming his country’s decaying command economy into one based on free markets and private enterprise. Early in 1992 he ended government price subsidies and controls over food and other consumer goods, while also allowing the unhindered growth of free markets in the cities. At the same time, Russia’s parliament, the Congress of People’s Deputies, had grown increasingly hostile toward his free-market reforms. Yeltsin and the Congress were also deeply divided over the question of the balance of powers in Russia’s proposed new constitution, which was needed to replace the obsolete 1978 Soviet-era Russian Constitution. On September 21, 1993, Yeltsin unconstitutionally dissolved the Congress and called for new parliamentary elections. In response, hard-line legislators attempted a coup in early October but were suppressed by army troops loyal to Yeltsin. Parliamentary elections and a referendum on a draft constitution were held in December. Yeltsin’s draft constitution, which increased the powers of the presidency, was narrowly approved, but the antireform character of Russia’s newly elected parliament, the Federal Assembly, compelled Yeltsin to govern primarily by executive decree in the coming years.

In December 1994 Yeltsin sent Russian army troops into Chechnya, which had unilaterally seceded from Russia in 1991. The army proved unable to completely suppress the rebels, however, and the war further eroded Yeltsin’s declining popularity. The war in Chechnya and the failure of his free-market reforms to spur economic growth dimmed Yeltsin’s prospects for reelection to the Russian presidency. In another spectacular comeback, however, he won reelection over a communist challenger in the second round of elections held in July 1996. He spent the months after his electoral victory recovering from a heart attack he had suffered that June during the rigours of the campaign. The state of Yeltsin’s health was a recurring issue.

Yeltsin on the day of his resignation, together with Putin

Early in his second term, Yeltsin signed a cease-fire agreement with Chechnya and in 1997 negotiated a peace treaty; tensions, however, continued. In August 1999 Islamic rebels from Chechnya invaded Dagestan, and the following month a series of bombings in Russia were blamed on Chechens. Soon after, Yeltsin ordered the return of troops to the republic. In the late 1990s political maneuvering dominated much of the country’s government as Yeltsin dismissed four premiers and in 1998 fired his entire cabinet, though many were later reappointed. The following year the State Duma initiated an impeachment drive against Yeltsin, charging that he had encouraged the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, among other allegations. The Duma, however, was unable to secure the necessary votes to proceed. Ever unpredictable, Yeltsin announced his resignation on December 31, 1999, in favour of what he characterized as a new, energetic leadership. He named Prime Minister Vladimir Putin acting president, and in turn Putin granted Yeltsin immunity from future prosecution.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Funeral of Yeltsin on 25 April 2007.



Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

president of Russia
in full Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

born October 7, 1952, Leningrad, U.S.S.R. [now St. Petersburg, Russia]

Russian intelligence officer and politician who served as president (1999–2008) of Russia; he also was the country’s prime minister in 1999 and again from 2008.

Putin studied law at Leningrad State University, where his tutor was Anatoly Sobchak, later one of the leading reform politicians of the perestroika period. Putin served 15 years as a foreign intelligence officer for the KGB (Committee for State Security), including six years in Dresden, East Germany (now Germany). In 1990 he retired from active KGB service with the rank of lieutenant colonel and returned to Russia to become prorector of Leningrad State University with responsibility for the institution’s external relations. Soon afterward, Putin became an adviser to Sobchak, the first democratically elected mayor of St. Petersburg. He quickly won Sobchak’s confidence and became known for his ability to get things done; by 1994 he had risen to the post of first deputy mayor.

In 1996 Putin moved to Moscow, where he joined the presidential staff as deputy to Pavel Borodin, the Kremlin’s chief administrator. Putin grew close to fellow Leningrader Anatoly Chubais and moved up in administrative positions. In July 1998 President Boris Yeltsin made Putin director of the Federal Security Service (the KGB’s domestic successor), and shortly thereafter he became secretary of the influential Security Council. Yeltsin, who was searching for an heir to assume his mantle, appointed Putin prime minister in 1999.

Although he was virtually unknown, Putin’s public-approval ratings soared when he launched a well-organized military operation against secessionist rebels in Chechnya. Wearied by years of Yeltsin’s erratic behaviour, the Russian public appreciated Putin’s coolness and decisiveness under pressure. Putin’s support for a new electoral bloc, Unity, ensured its success in the December parliamentary elections.

On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin unexpectedly announced his resignation and named Putin acting president. Promising to rebuild a weakened Russia, the austere and reserved Putin easily won the March 2000 elections with about 53 percent of the vote. As president, he sought to end corruption and create a strongly regulated market economy.

Putin quickly reasserted control over Russia’s 89 regions and republics, dividing them into seven new federal districts, each headed by a representative appointed by the president. He also removed the right of regional governors to sit in the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament. Putin moved to reduce the power of Russia’s unpopular financiers and media tycoons—the so-called “oligarchs”—by closing several media outlets and launching criminal proceedings against numerous leading figures. He faced a difficult situation in Chechnya, particularly from rebels who staged terrorist attacks in Moscow and guerilla attacks on Russian troops from the region’s mountains; in 2002 Putin declared the military campaign over, but casualties remained high.

Putin strongly objected to U.S. President George W. Bush’s decision in 2001 to abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In response to the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, he pledged Russia’s assistance and cooperation in the U.S.-led campaign against terrorists and their allies, offering the use of Russia’s airspace for humanitarian deliveries and help in search-and-rescue operations. Nevertheless, Putin joined German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac in 2002–03 to oppose U.S. and British plans to use force to oust Ṣaddām Ḥussein’s government in Iraq.

Overseeing an economy that enjoyed growth after a prolonged recession in the 1990s, Putin was easily reelected in March 2004. In parliamentary elections in December 2007, Putin’s party, United Russia, won an overwhelming majority of seats. Though the fairness of the elections was questioned by international observers and by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the results nonetheless affirmed Putin’s power. With a constitutional provision forcing Putin to step down in 2008, he chose Dmitry Medvedev as his successor. Soon after Medvedev won the March 2008 presidential election by a landslide, Putin announced that he had accepted the position of chairman of the United Russia party. Confirming widespread expectations, Medvedev nominated Putin as the country’s prime minister within hours of taking office on May 7, 2008. Russia’s parliament confirmed the appointment the following day.

Encyclopaedia Britannica



The Chechnya Conflict

The violent conflict began in December 1994 with the occupation of Chechnya by Russian troops in response to the kidnapping of a Russian soldier by separatist a militia. After seizing the capital, Grozny. President Yeltsin declared the war officially over in May 1997.

The elected president of Chechnya, Asian Maskhadov, was not recognized by Russia and went underground. A Second Chechnya War began in 1999 after a series of terrorist attacks against Russian targets by separatists. He was shot dead by Russian troops in Chechnya in 2005.

Chechen woman in front of destroyed
houses in the capital Grozny,
December 30, 1994





Chechen sniper watching the area in front of the presidential palace in Grozny, January 10, 1995

republic, Russia
also spelled Chechnia or Chechenia

republic in southwestern Russia, situated on the northern flank of the Greater Caucasus range. Chechnya is bordered by Russia proper on the north, Dagestan republic on the east and southeast, the country of Georgia on the southwest, and Ingushetiya republic on the west. In the early 21st century, more than a decade of bitter conflict had devastated the republic, forced the mass exodus of refugees, and brought the economy to a standstill. Area 4,750 square miles (12,300 square km). Pop. (2008 est.) 1,209,040.

Chechnya falls into three physical regions from south to north. In the south is the Greater Caucasus, the crest line of which forms the republic’s southern boundary. The highest peak is Mount Tebulosmta (14,741 feet [4,493 metres]), and the area’s chief river is the Argun, a tributary of the Sunzha. The second region is the foreland, consisting of the broad valleys of the Terek and Sunzha rivers, which cross the republic from the west to the east, where they unite. Third, in the north, are the level, rolling plains of the Nogay Steppe.

The great variety of relief is reflected in the soil and vegetation cover. The Nogay Steppe is largely semidesert, with sagebrush vegetation and wide areas of sand dunes. This gives way toward the south and southwest, near the Terek River, to feather-grass steppe on black earth and chestnut soils. Steppe also occupies the Terek and Sunzha valleys. Up to 6,500 feet (2,000 metres) the mountain slopes are densely covered by forests of beech, hornbeam, and oak, above which are coniferous forests, then alpine meadows, and finally bare rock, snow, and ice. The climate varies but is, in general, continental.

Chechnya’s main ethnic group is the Chechens, with minorities of Russians and Ingush. The Chechens and the Ingush are both Muslim and are two of the many Caucasian mountain peoples whose language belongs to the Nakh group. Fiercely independent, the Chechens and other Caucasian tribes mounted a prolonged resistance to Russian conquest from the 1830s through the ’50s under the Muslim leader Shāmil. They remained successful while the Russians were occupied with the Crimean War, but the Russians used larger forces in their later campaigns, and, when Shāmil was captured in 1859, many of his followers migrated to Armenia. The Terek River remained a defensive frontier until the 1860s. The constant skirmishes of Chechens and Russians along the Terek form the background to Leo Tolstoy’s novel The Cossacks.

The backbone of the economy has been petroleum, and drilling was mainly undertaken in the Sunzha River valley between Grozny and Gudermes. Petroleum refining was concentrated in Grozny, and pipelines ran to the Caspian Sea (east) at Makhachkala and to the Black Sea (west) at Tuapse. Natural gas is also found in the area. Agriculture is largely concentrated in the Terek and Sunzha valleys. Transportation is mainly by rail, following the Terek and Sunzha valleys and linking with Astrakhan and Baku on the Caspian Sea and with Tuapse and Rostov on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Motor roads join Grozny to other centres within and outside the republic.

The Chechen autonomous oblast (region) was created by the Bolsheviks in November 1920. In 1934 it was merged with the Ingush autonomous oblast to form a joint Chechen-Ingush autonomous region, which two years later was designated a republic. During World War II (1939–45) the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin accused the Chechens and Ingush of collaboration with the Germans; consequently, both groups were subjected to mass deportations to Central Asia, and the republic of Checheno-Ingushetia was dissolved. The exiles later were allowed to return to their homeland, and the republic was reestablished under the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1957.

Secessionist sentiments emerged in 1991 as the Soviet Union’s decline accelerated, and in August 1991 Dzhokhar Dudayev, a Chechen politician and former Soviet air force general, carried out a coup against the local communist government. Dudayev was elected Chechen president in October, and in November he unilaterally declared Chechnya’s independence from the Russian Federation (subsequently Russia). In 1992 Checheno-Ingushetia divided into two separate republics: Chechnya and Ingushetiya. Dudayev pursued aggressively nationalistic, anti-Russian policies, and during 1994 armed Chechen opposition groups with Russian military backing tried unsuccessfully to depose Dudayev.

On Dec. 11, 1994, Russian troops invaded Chechnya. Overcoming stiff resistance, the Russian forces took the capital city of Grozny (Dzhokhar) in March 1995. Chechen guerrilla resistance continued, however, and a series of cease-fires were negotiated and violated. In 1996 Dudayev was killed during Russian shelling, and the following year former guerrilla leader Aslan Maskhadov was elected president. Russian Pres. Boris Yeltsin and Maskhadov signed a provisional peace treaty in May 1997 but left the question of Chechnya’s eventual status undetermined. It was estimated that up to 100,000 people in Chechnya died and more than 400,000 were forced to flee their homes during the 1990s.

Russian troops, which had withdrawn from Chechnya after the agreements of the mid-1990s, returned in late 1999 after Pres. Vladimir Putin blamed Chechen secessionists for bombings that killed scores of civilians in Russia. (Evidence never proved Chechen involvement in the bombings.) Heavy fighting resumed. As Russian forces gained control of the republic, Chechen fighters, forced into the mountains and hills, continued to employ guerrilla tactics. In October 2002 a group of Chechen militants seized a Moscow theatre and took nearly 700 spectators and performers hostage. In the ensuing rescue operation, some 130 hostages died—mostly as the result of inhaling a narcotic gas released by security forces that was meant to incapacitate the Chechens. Following the incident, Russia stepped up military operations in Chechnya.

In 2003 Chechen voters approved a new constitution that devolved greater powers to the Chechen government but kept the republic in the federation. The following year the Russian-backed Chechen president, Akhmad Kadyrov, was killed in a bomb blast allegedly carried out by Chechen guerrillas. Russian forces, in turn, killed several top separatist leaders in 2005 and 2006. With Putin’s backing, Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of Akhmad Kadyrov, gained the Chechen presidency in 2007. Denying accusations by human rights groups that he employed kidnapping, torture, and murder to quash opposition, Kadyrov maintained the support of Russia, and in early 2009 he claimed that the insurgency had been crushed. That April, Russian Pres. Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russia had ended its counterinsurgency operations in the republic. Nevertheless, sporadic outbreaks of violence continued to occur.

Encyclopaedia Britannica



First Chechen War

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shows the destroyed city of Grozny right after the |
First Chechen War

The First Chechen War, also known as the War in Chechnya, was a conflict between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, fought from December 1994 to August 1996. After the initial campaign of 1994–1995, culminating in the devastating Battle of Grozny, Russian federal forces attempted to seize control of the mountainous area of Chechnya but were set back by Chechen guerrilla warfare and raids on the flatlands in spite of Russia's overwhelming manpower, weaponry, and air support. The resulting widespread demoralization of federal forces, and the almost universal opposition of the Russian public to the conflict, led Boris Yeltsin's government to declare a ceasefire in 1996 and sign a peace treaty a year later. The official figure for Russian military death toll is 5,500, while most estimates put the number between 3,500 and 7,500, or even as high as 14,000. Although there are no accurate figures for the number of Chechen militants killed, various estimates put the number at about 3,000 to over 15,000 deaths. Various figures estimate the number of civilian deaths at between 30,000 and 100,000 killed and possibly over 200,000 injured, while more than 500,000 people were displaced by the conflict, which left cities and villages across the republic in ruins.



Second Chechen War

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A mass grave in Chechnya

The Second Chechen War, in a later phase better known as the War in the North Caucasus began on 2 August, 1999, when Chechen militants launched an armed invasion of Dagestan. Russian federal military forces supported Dagestani units to repel the invasion. On 1 October, following the Russian apartment bombings which Russia blamed on Chechen separatists, Russian troops entered Chechnya. The campaign ended the de-facto independence of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and restored Russian federal control over the territory. Although it is regarded by many as an internal conflict within the Russian Federation, the war attracted a large number of foreign fighters.

During the initial campaign, Russian military and pro-Russian Chechen paramilitary faced Chechen separatists in open combat, and seized the Chechen capital Grozny after a winter siege that lasted from late 1999 to the following February 2000. Russia established direct rule of Chechnya in May 2000 and after the full-scale offensive, Chechen guerrilla resistance throughout the North Caucasus region continued to inflict heavy Russian casualties and challenge Russian political control over Chechnya for several more years. Some Chechen rebels also carried out terrorist attacks against civilians in Russia. These terrorist attacks, as well as widespread human rights violations by Russian and rebel forces, drew international condemnation.

As of 2009, Russia has severely disabled the Chechen rebel movement and large-scale fighting has ceased. Russian army and interior ministry troops no longer occupy the streets. The once leveled city of Grozny has recently undergone massive reconstruction efforts and much of the city and surrounding areas have been rebuilt at a quick pace. However sporadic violence still exists throughout the North Caucasus; Occasional bombings and ambushes targeting federal troops and forces of the regional governments in the area still occur.

On 16 April 2009 the counter-terrorism operation in Chechnya was officially ended. As the main bulk of the army was withdrawn, the burden of dealing with the ongoing low-level insurgency mainly fell on the shoulders of the local police force. Three months later, the exiled leader of the separatist government, Akhmed Zakayev, called for a halt to armed resistance against the Chechen police force starting on August 1, and said he hoped that "starting with this day Chechens will never shoot at each other".

The exact death toll from this conflict is unknown. Unofficial estimates range from 25,000 to 50,000 dead or missing, mostly civilians in Chechnya. Russian casualties are over 5,000 (official Russian casualty figures) and are about 11,000 according to the Committee of Soldier's Mothers.



Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova

While Ukraine and Moldova have developed functioning democratic systems, the political regime in Belarus (formerly Byelorussia) remains authoritarian.


Since the middle of World War II, Ukraine had been making efforts toward autonomy. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army waged bloody battles against Soviet authorities until 1954. With the breakup of the USSR in December 1991, Ukraine became a member of the CIS, and a majority of the Ukrainians voted for continued close cooperation with Russia.

Leonid Kuchma, who ruled with a firm hand as president from 1904 to 2004. began to open up the country to a market economy. Politically he leaned decidedly toward Russia.

Irregularities in the elections for Kuchma's successor in 2004 led to peaceful, long-running popular 10 protests—the "Orange Revolution, " resulting in a runoff election in January 2005.

The election was won by reformist politician and former prime minister 7 Viktor Yushchenko, who declared his intention to bring Ukraine closer to the West.

6 President Leonid Kuchma (left) at a meeting with prominent regional political figures, November 29, 2004

10 Supporters of Viktor Yushchenko demonstrating on the streets of Kiev during the Orange Revolution," October 23, 2004

7 Viktor Yushchenko, November 22,
2004, elected president after a
revote in Ukraine's 2004 election

Byelorussia, which declared its sovereignty as the Republic of Belarus in July 1990 and has been a member of the 11 CIS since 1991, has also been politically close to Russia.

9 Alexander Lukashenko has been president since 1994.

Originally seen as a market economy reformer, he increased his authority through a referendum in 1996 and since then has ruled as "Europe's last dictator." The press and opposition have been massively intimidated and political opposition suppressed. At the end of his term of office in 1999, Lukashenko simply refused to step down. Through widespread political manipulation, he was re-elected in 2001, supposedly with 76 percent of the vote.

In Moldova, a member of the CIS since 1991, former Communist party members have been governing since 1994 in various alliances. There are tensions between the ethnic Moldovans, Russians, and Gagauz over the Dnestr region (Transnistria), which claims autonomy.

The country is also struggling with economic problems, and approximately 80 percent of the population lives below the 8 poverty line.

11 Lukashenko (Belarus), Nasarbajew (Kazakhstan), Putin (Russia), and Kuchma (Ukraine) during a CIS debate about a common free trade area

9 Aleksandr Lukashenko, "Europe's last dictator," March 28, 1997

8 Moldovans on a horse-drawn buggy


see also: United Nations member states -
Russian Federation,
Ukraine,Belarus, Moldova,
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan



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