Cultural Revolutions

It's Big Push

The Russian Army began its big push to take the Chechen capital, Grozny, on the day after Christmas, directing artillery and air power at concentrations of Chechen fighters near the center of "Dzhokhar." (The rebels have renamed the city in honor of the first president of independent "Ichkeriya," Dzhokhar Dudayev.) Thousands of civilians remain, cowering in the dank cellars of Dzhokhar/Grozny, either frightened by reports that the Russians are strafing refugee columns along the "secure corridor" leading south or intimidated by the Islamist warlords, who may calculate, as the Great Teacher of the Peoples himself did during the horrific siege of Stalingrad, that the troops will defend a live city better than a dead one.

By mid-January, however, Moscow could no longer pretend that all was going according to plan (assuming there is one). Army General Mikhail Malofeyev, deputy commander of the Russian forces in northern Grozny, was shot through the head by a Chechen sniper, his forward HQ contingent all but wiped out by Chechen rocket-propelled grenades during a firefight in his sector. Following Malofeyev's embarrassing death, Moscow began a shake-up of the military command structure, and official sources, after claiming fantastically low casualty rates for months, admitted losses of around 1,200 men in the North Caucasus since last fall. (Those figures are probably still low.) Moscow now appears to be...

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