Tuesday, September 13, 2005


The mess that is the Russian Republic.
As the war in neighboring Chechnya grinds into its seventh year with no resolution in sight, conflicts are metastasizing around the troubled north Caucasus, which has been a zone of tension since it was conquered by Russia in the 19th century. The region is a patchwork quilt of warring ethnic groups and rival religions that makes Europe's other tangled knot, the Balkans, look tame by comparison.

Many experts say the Kremlin's grip, iron-hard in Soviet times, has slipped disastrously in recent years. "The Chechen conflict is spilling into neighboring republics, escalating the process of destabilization," says Alexei Malashenko, an analyst with the Carnegie Center in Moscow.

Zhairakhsky, a sparsely populated district amid the high, snow-capped mountains of southern Ingushetia, has remained relatively untouched by conflict. But, says local administrator Yakhya Mamilov, "if you stand on a mountaintop here and look around, you'll see wars flaring or brewing in every direction. It's impossible to build for the future with any confidence while these conditions last."


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