Violence by Proxy: State-Sponsored Rebels and Criminals in Chechnya

  • Yelena Biberman
Part of the Staat – Souveränität – Nation book series (SSN)


States often incorporate agents without formal ties to state institutions into their coercive apparatus. Blurring the already tenuous boundary between state and nonstate violence allows states to carry out illicit and covert actions. Accordingly, the existing literature identifies plausible deniability as a leading explanation for why states use armed proxies. However, states sometimes deliberately make public their relationship with violent nonstate actors. This chapter tackles why states outsource violence overtly by addressing an empirical puzzle: Russia’s partnership with rebels and criminals during the Second Chechen War (1999–2002), but not during the first (1994–1996). It shows that the variation in the two wars stems from the disparity in public support and the military competence of the regular forces. When public opinion strongly supported the military campaign and the regular forces were militarily capable, the Russian state outsourced violence overtly. The public confidence in the war’s rightfulness and the military’s aptitude muted the stigma associated with the state’s reliance on “unsavory” characters. However, when public opinion was against the war and the regular forces were incompetent, overt reliance on proxies would have made the state appear even weaker and more desperate, thereby undermining its legitimacy in the eyes of the Russian public.


Russian Government Russian Public Military Campaign Local Proxy Regular Force 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Akhmadov, I., & Lanskoy, M. (2010). The Chechen struggle: Independence won and lost. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alenova, O., & Musa Muradov, M. (1999). The efficiency of Gantamirov’s regiment has been tested in combat. Kommersant Daily, p. 3.Google Scholar
  3. Berres, L. (1999). Russia’s first guerrilla. Defence & Security.Google Scholar
  4. Bowker, M. (2005). Western views of the Chechen conflict. In R. Sakwa (Ed.), Chechnya: From past to future. London: Anthem Press.Google Scholar
  5. Campbell, B. B., & Brenner, A. D. (2002). Death squads in global perspective: Murder with deniability. New York: Pelgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  6. Colton, T. J. (2008). Yeltsin: A life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  7. Eke, S. (2007). Yeltsin’s Chechen nightmare. BBC News. Accessed 28 Oct 2015.
  8. Federals unlikely to storm Grozny, warlords ready to pay anything for escape. (1999). Military News Agency.Google Scholar
  9. Findley, M. G., Piazza, J. A., & Young, J. K. (2012). Games rivals play: Terrorism in international rivalries. Journal of Politics, 74(1), 235–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gakaev, D. (2005). Chechnya in Russia and Russia in Chechnya. In R. Sakwa (Ed.), Chechnya: From past to future. London: Anthem Press.Google Scholar
  11. Galeotti, M. (2015). Could Kadyrov replace Putin? Moscow Times.Google Scholar
  12. Golotyuk, Y. (1994). On the eve: Bad peace before a good quarrel. Current Digest of the Russian Press, 46(31).Google Scholar
  13. Gukasyan, L. (1999). Russia-Chechnya-Voluntee. Itar-Tass Weekly News.Google Scholar
  14. Human Rights Center Memorial. (2006). The Chechen Republic: Consequences of ‘Chechenization’ of the Conflict. Accessed 19 March 2013.
  15. Lieven, A. (1999). Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian power. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Lieven, A. (2008). Gracious Grozny. National interest. Accessed 4 April 2013.
  17. McMahon, C. (1999). Chechen war makes for strange alliance. Chicago Tribune. Accessed 15 April 2015.
  18. Muradov, M. (1999). The Guerrilla fighters are going to withdraw from Grozny. Kommersant Daily, p. 3.Google Scholar
  19. Nemtsova, A. (2013). The Chechen boss. Foreign policy. Accessed March 29 2015.
  20. Oliker, O. (2001). Russia’s Chechen Wars 1994–2000: Lessons from urban combat. Santa Monica: Arroyo Center, RAND.Google Scholar
  21. Ostrovsky, S. (2004). Kadyrov Jr. flexes his muscles in Chechnya. Moscow Times.Google Scholar
  22. Pain, E. (2005). The Chechen War in the context of contemporary Russian politics. In R. Sakwa (Ed.), Chechnya: From past to future. London: Anthem Press..Google Scholar
  23. Politkovskaya, A. (2003). A small corner of hell: Dispatches from Chechnya. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ramazanov, A., & Stepenin, M. (1999). Feds begin to launch assault against Chechen capital. Kommersant Daily, p. 1.Google Scholar
  25. Russia’s No. 1 guerrilla-Yeltsin pardons Beslan Gantemirov-He might be useful. (1999). Current Digest of the Russian Press, 51(45).Google Scholar
  26. Russia-Chechnya. (1999). Itar-Tass Weekly News.Google Scholar
  27. Russia-Chechnya-Grozny. (1999). Itar-Tass Weekly News.Google Scholar
  28. Russia-Chechnya-New-Man. (1999). Itar-Tass Weekly News.Google Scholar
  29. Russia-Press-Review. (1999). Itar-Tass Weekly News.Google Scholar
  30. Sakwa, R. (2005). Introduction: Why Chechnya? In R. Sakwa (Ed.), Chechnya: From past to future. London: Anthem Press.Google Scholar
  31. Saradzhyan, S. (2008). Chechnya vow cast a long shadow. Moscow Times.Google Scholar
  32. Schaefer, R. W., & Doohovskoy, A. (2013). War in the Caucasus: Moving the Russian military into the twenty-first century. In R. B. Ware, The fire from below: How the Caucasus shaped Russia. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  33. Seely, R. (2001). Russo-Chechen conflict, 1800–2000: A deadly embrace. London: Frank Cass.Google Scholar
  34. Shuster, S. (2011). How the war on terrorism did Russia a favor. Time.Google Scholar
  35. Souleimanov, E. (2006). Russian Chechnya policy: “Chechenization” turning into “Kadyrovization”? Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 8(11) 3–5.Google Scholar
  36. Souleimanov, E. (2015). An ethnography of counterinsurgency: Kadyrovtsy and Russia’s policy of Chechenization. Post-Soviet Affairs, 31(2), 91–114..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Thomas, T. L. (1999). The Battle of Grozny: Deadly classroom for urban combat. Parameter, 87–102. Accessed 1 April 2013.
  38. Tishkov, V. (2004). Chechnya: Life in a war-torn society. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Trenin, D. V., & Malashenko, A. V. (2004). Russia’s restless frontier: The Chechnya factor in post-Soviet Russia. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.Google Scholar
  40. VCIOM. (1999–2002). Slide 142: How do you assess the actions of Russian forces in Chechnya? Accessed 14 April 2015.
  41. VCIOM. (1999). Slide 144: How do you assess the actions of Russian forces in Chechnya? Accessed 14 April 2015.
  42. VCIOM. (2000). Slide 229: If the West applies severe economic sanctions against Russia. Accessed 14 April 2015.
  43. VCIOM. (2001). Slide 283: Do you think the “cleansings” which Russian soldiers carry out in various districts of Chechnya are necessary or justified? Accessed 14 April 2015.
  44. Yambao, R. (2003). Putin and Chechnya: A pre-disposition towards a diversionary theory of war. Accessed 12 April 2015.

Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yelena Biberman
    • 1
  1. 1.Government DepartmentSkidmore CollegeSaratoga SpringsUSA

Personalised recommendations