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The ‘Chechen Problem’: Handling an Awkward Legacy, 1918–1958


The study of the ‘Chechen problem’ from the civil war period to the aftermath of the 20th Congress of the CPSU highlights a major topic in recent historiography of the Soviet period: the resistance to the regime. The various ways in which the Chechens resisted sovietisation over several decades provide a fine illustration of the highly complex notion of ‘social resistance’ in the Soviet Union. In the Chechen case, the manifestation and expression of resistance were rooted either in deeply ingrained social identities, community and tradition or in national and universal strategies of popular collective action. But the ‘Chechen problem’ also provides a good example of the different reactions and policies of the Soviet state when faced with this kind of ‘multi-dimensional’ resistance. These policies changed and evolved over the years: armed operations aimed at the ‘eradication of Chechen banditry’ in the 1920s and 1930s, total deportation in 1944 and, after 1956, the removal of most of the limitations imposed on the ‘punished’ national group.

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Nicolas Werth is Director of Research at the Institut d'Histoire du Temps Présent, Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris. He has taught at the universities of Minsk and Moscow, and is a former cultural attaché at the French embassy in Moscow. He has published extensively, and his most recent books are L'Ile aux cannibales. 1933: une déportation – abandon en Sibérie (2006) and Les Années Staline (forthcoming, 2006).
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Contemporary European History
  • ISSN: 0960-7773
  • EISSN: 1469-2171
  • URL: /core/journals/contemporary-european-history
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