YETT  Young Experts’ Think Tank


Cameron Walter



Blood of the People, Blood of The Earth:
An Examination Of The Role Of State-Sponsored Terrorism In The Oil-Producing Regions Of The Ex-Soviet Union





            Undeniably, the utter collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 gave rise to many new political situations that brought Russia and the other new Republics into the realm of Western politics. Such is exemplified with the introductions of democracy and relatively free elections, friendlier international relations, and a system of market economics. However, the collapse of the Soviet empire also brought forth one of the most controversial issues of modern Russian politics: the issue of state terrorism.


            The years 1991 to 1994 were witness to the inherent consequences of the dissolution of an empire, wherein formerly subjugated areas seek some sense of self-sovereignty over foreign and domestic politics, economics, and social issues. In the former USSR this was particularly evident in the Caucasus, an area composed of historically free nation states, which hold huge oil reserves and are lined with Russian oil pipelines. It has been stated, “Russia does not want to be forced out of the Caucasus as it was from the Baltic.”[1] This essay will show beyond a doubt that this statement is true, however, it is Russia’s methods in trying to remain influential in the region that should be questioned. In investigating the region of the Caucasus, it can be shown that Russia’s action and supportive actions can be labeled as no better than ‘state-sponsored terrorism.’ Through supporting terror-like activities, and utilizing horrendous tactics of their own in areas such as Abkhazia (Georgia), Chechnya, and Armenia, that the Russian state has maintained some semblance of control over the oil producing region by inflicting terror not only on the governments of the Caucasus region, but also on the civilian populations.


            Before an investigation of Russia’s tactics and policies in the Caucasus can begin, the broader reasons for Russian involvement in the region should be noted.

Overall, “the flawed structure of the Russian state is at the root of the difficult economic and political relationship between the center and the regions.”[2]

In other words, the key to this entire conflict lies within the poor structure of the Russian government and economics. This problem has forced Russia to try to maintain harsh levels of control over the region for a few reasons.

First and foremost is the fact that Russia does not want to give up their oil production capabilities and monopoly in the region. This is due, in part, to the fact that “access to and rapid development of the oil fields of the Caucasus…allowed the accompanying industrial revolution and superpower status achieved by the Soviet Union.”[3] In giving such capabilities up, Russia would be giving up its key to maintaining some sort of superpower status. In addition to this, it would severely hurt one of Russia’s only moneymaking industries, as not only would business throughout the Russian federation be lost, (or at least made far more expensive) but also, oil produced in Russia proper would be cut off directly from its Middle East destinations.*

Secondly, the government of modern Russia does not want an independent Caucasus for the reason of international relations and development. In this there are a few aspects. First, an economically and politically strong Caucasus would become a new bridge between Europe and the East, completely eliminating the need to ship goods through Russia, thereby reducing shipping costs. Second, Russia is not happy with Georgia and Azerbaijan considering eventual NATO involvement or EU membership, as it sees this as a sort of alienation, and “sees the hand of America as grasping and penetrating.”[4] In other words, Russia fears being dominated by Western interests if it allows an economically and politically strong Caucasus to exist. Third, and finally, many aspect of the Russian government, including Vladimir Putin, want to return Russia to greatness, which means maintaining empire and economic power.

Overall, these general fears have lead Russian policy down the road of terror-influenced intervention, and have helped devastate what should be a very strong economic region within the world economic community.



            The first major conflict in the Caucasus region occurred in the newly sovereign Georgian Republic, in the ethnically diverse province of Abkhazia.  Following the dissolution of the Soviet Empire, Georgia sought to build up its economy by planning to construct new pipeline systems that would provide a “route out”[5] for Caucasus/Middle East Oil. Overall, this would “ensure the supply of Azeri oil by pipeline through Georgia and then by tanker along Black Sea Ports-”[6] an action that obviously infuriated the Russian government as it would mean a complete evasion of Russia, thereby eliminating Russia’s relevance in world economics. In response, the Russian government began campaigns to instigate ethnic disputes in Georgia, which would thereby weaken the country. In doing so, the Russians proved that they supported the actions of terror as opposed to diplomacy as a way to settle the animosities. They exemplified this in a few ways.

First, the Russians actively promoted the idea of a free Abkhazia, and in doing so, promoted the idea of Muslim liberation from ethnic Christian Georgians. This idea was obviously taken up by the Muslim and other non-Christian populations of the Province, as a number of “acts of armed aggression and attacks” occurred in early 1992, which “caused serious economic damage to the country.”[7] In response, Georgia moved troops into the Province to keep peace- a move that Abkhazian rebels saw as an act of war.

Secondly, after war broke out, many Russian government officials, government ministries and political parties continued to support the rebels with “political, military, economical, financial and moral aid,”[8] and in keeping with old Soviet doctrine, provided “direct support…through the maintenance of training facilities.”[9]  With this, the Abkhazian separatist rebels proceeded with “radical ethnic cleansing of its multi-ethnic population and the destruction of its cities.”[10] In the end, the majority of Abkhazia’s population (mostly Georgian Christians) had left, or were dead. In doing so, the Russian government undeniably allowed for, and supported the use of terrorism as a tactic to reach its own political and economic goals.

Third, and rather importantly, the Russian government promoted the conflict amongst Muslim populations elsewhere in the region-such as Chechnya.[11] Through this the Russian military trained and armed Chechen rebels who then fought against Georgian Christians in Abkhazia. This is significant for two reasons: first, it is active outright support for known terrorists; and second, such terrorist rebels were the ones who would later call for Chechen independence from Russia.

Overall, the Russian quest for economic oil interests in Georgia resulted in the eventual breakaway of the province of Abkhazia, and the Georgian acceptance “of Russian Domination as the price for political pace and stability.”[12] As shown, Russian involvement in the conflict, although not officially direct (Russian troops were only dispatched as ‘peacekeepers’), undoubtedly resulted in state-sponsored terrorism, as the government permitted and encouraged brutal attacks on the Georgian civilian (and military) populations and installations of Abkhazia.



            The second major conflict in the Post-Soviet Caucasus occurred in the Russian region of Chechnya. As with other regions following the USSR’s dissolution, Chechnya declared its independence. Russia, not wanting to give Chechnya up due to the existence of large oil reserves and a major Russian pipeline through the region (actually passing through the capital Grozny itself), launched an invasion against Chechen separatists from 1994 to 1996, and from 1999 to present. In this, despite claiming to be fighting terrorists in Chechnya (whom the Russians had partially armed in the Abkhazian war), the Russian military also employed terrorist tactics as a way to hold on to the oil-rich region.

First, despite the undeniable prevalence of terrorist groups within Chechnya, the Russian military often resorted to “indiscriminate force.”[13] In this, the Russian military turned the Chechen city of Grozny into a pile of rubble, and forced its inhabitants to go elsewhere. Such action came under intense criticism, as organizations like the EU claimed that “the fight against terrorism cannot, under any circumstances, warrant the destruction of cities, nor that they be emptied of their inhabitants, nor that a whole population be considered as terrorist.”[14] Furthermore, there are continuous claims by Chechen civilians that the Russian military engages in “extortion, looting and rape,”[15] actions which can undoubtedly be labeled as terror influenced. By destroying the cities and hurting the civilians of Chechnya, particularly Grozny, the Russians were acting against Article 51 of the Geneva Convention that states: “Civilians shall enjoy general and specific protection from military operations and indiscriminate attacks,”[16] and therefore, were engaging in terrorist-like activity.

Secondly, 1999 was witness to a number of low-income apartment bombings in Moscow, which authorities claim were carried out by Chechen rebels.

However, Chechen rebels have no particular grudge against poor exploited Russian civilians, as they are in a similar subordinate position as the rebels themselves. It has been claimed instead, that the bombings were carried out by Russian intelligence services and blamed on Chechen rebels as an excuse to continue military operations in Chechnya. If this is indeed true, then the act of committing atrocities against its own population ultimately proves the lengths to which the Russian government will go to maintain control over the oil region of Chechnya, and undoubtedly proves that Russia fully supports terrorist-like actions in such campaigns.

Overall, the Chechen conflict has proven to be one of the most brutal and destructive conflicts of the post-soviet era, as due to indiscriminate attacks by the Russian military, the civilian population has been devastated, and the entire region of Chechnya has literally been bombed to rubble.




            Without a doubt, with economics and power in mind, the Russian governments have acted in the Caucasus not as diplomats or peacekeepers, but instead as terrorists. Despite the inherent loss of life and infrastructure that occurs with such terrorist action, Russian policies in the Caucasus have created disastrous consequences for other aspects of Russian politics.

First, the government’s attempts at strengthening Russia and making it “a state for Russians…would validate the Chechens'...fear that Russia is not their country.”[17] In essence, the actions of the Russian government and military have completely alienated the subjugated populations of Chechnya and the now-independent populations of Georgia who are no longer willing to consider concessions to the Russian government.

Secondly, Russian brutality in the region has created conflict with Western Europe, particularly the European Union, which staunchly opposes Russian tactics in the Caucasus. In this, the EU has even threatened to decline and cut trade with Russia, claiming that: “Russia must live up to its obligations if the strategic partnership is to be developed. The European Union does not want Russia to isolate herself from Europe.”[18] In essence, Russian tactics, designed originally to boost economics, have indeed hurt the economic situation in a country that needs trading partners.

Overall, Russian policy in the Caucasus has virtually destroyed the economies of the region (with the exception of Azerbaijan). Through the targeting of civilian and military installations, the infrastructures of the respective Caucasian countries were left in shambles. This has completely de-stabilized the region, and although Russian policy makers seem to think that this will help Russia, it has in fact created more animosity, and created a virtual breeding ground for anti-Russian terrorists.



            It has been said that “Russia has more natural resources…than Brazil, the Republic of South Africa, China, and India combined.”[19] Given this, Russia’s actions in the Caucasus in the immediate post-Soviet era must be questioned. If Russia has such wealth in natural resources, why did it need Caucasian oil? Why did tens of thousands of people die needlessly for a pipeline? Why are military actions continuing to this day?

The answer is complicated and there are no definite answers, but certain symbolic precedents can indeed be seen. It was Caucasian oil that launched the Soviet Union into the position of superpower, and it was this region that provided the link between Asia and Europe. Furthermore, in keeping the Caucasus Russia could regain some of the military reputation lost in the loss of the Baltic States, and maintain a strong economic pipeline in a country with little to no economic might.

In any case, whatever the logic of the Russian government and military, the actions that were carried out in the Caucasus in the immediate post-Soviet era were undoubtedly state-sponsored terrorism, and in the end, hurt the Russian Republic to such a degree that the damage is nearly irreversible.





            On University of Victoria Webboard October 2001 <

            (4 April 2003).


Francis, Samuel T. The Soviet Strategy Of Terror. Washington DC: The Heritage Foundation, 1981.


Golan, Galia. Gorbachev’s “New Thinking” On Terrorism. New York, Praeger Publishers, 1990.


McCauley, Martin. Bandits, Gangsters And The Mafia: Russia, The Baltic States And The CIS. Harlow,

            England: Pearson Education Ltd., 2001.


Politkovskaya, Anna.  Chechnya: New Russian Atrocities Exposed.” Chechen Republic Online 28 March

            2002 <> (4 April 2003).


Reinsch, Anthony E., Igor Lavronsky, and Jennifer I. Considine. Oil In The Former Soviet Union:

            Historical Perspectives, Long Term Outlook. Calgary: Canadian Energy Research Institute, 1992.


Remington, Thomas F. Politics In Russia: Second Edition. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational

            Publishers Inc., 2002.


Rogov, Sergei. “Five Challenges For Russia.” Peace Magazine 28 June 1997

            <> (4 April 2003).


Finnish EU Presidency, “EU Declaration on Chechnya.” Chechen Republic Online 10 December 1999

            < >(4 April 2003).


United Nations, “Rights Of Victims Of Armed Conflicts” United Nations 2002-2003

<> (4 April 2003).


N.p. “Genocide In Abkhazia.” Separatism and Terrorism In Georgia n.d. (4 April 2003)










[1] Martin McCauley, Bandits, Gangsters And The Mafia: Russia, the Baltic States and the CIS, (Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited, 2001), 388.

[2] Galia Golan, Gorbachev’s ‘New Thinking’ On Terrorism (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1990), 11.

[3] Anthony E. Reinsch et al., Oil In The Former Soviet Union: Historical Perspectives, Long-Term Outlook (Calgary: Canadian Energy Research Institute, 1992), xvii.

* Russian oil needs to be sent to the Middle East to be refined as there are virtually no refineries in Russia itself, and Russian oil is generally of poorer quality.

[4] McCauley, Bandits, Gangsters And The Mafia, 388.

[5] McCauley, Bandits, Gangsters And The Mafia, 386.

[6] McCauley, Bandits, Gangsters And The Mafia, 354.

[7] N.p. “Genocide In Abkhazia.” Separatism and Terrorism In Georgia n.d. (4 April 2003).

[8] N.p. “Genocide In Abkhazia.” Separatism and Terrorism In Georgia n.d. (4 April 2003).

[9] Samuel T. Francis, The Soviet Strategy Of Terror (Washington DC: The Heritage Foundation, 1981), 27.

[10] N.p. “Genocide In Abkhazia.” Separatism and Terrorism In Georgia n.d. (4 April 2003).

[11] Andrew Andersen, “RUSSIA VERSUS GEORGIA: ONE UNDECLARED WAR IN THE CAUCASUS” University of Victoria Webboard October 2001 (4 April 2003).

[12] Thomas F. Remington, Politics In Russia: Second Edition (New York: Addison Wesley Educational Publishers Inc., 2002), 17.

[13] Remington, Politics In Russia, 69.

[14] Finnish EU Presidency, “EU Declaration on Chechnya.” Chechen Republic Online 10 December 1999 (4 April 2003).

[15] Anna Politkovskaya, “Chechnya: New Russian Atrocities Exposed.” Chechen Republic Online 28 March 2002 (4 April 2003)

[17] Sergei Rogov, “Five Challenges For Russia.” Peace Magazine 28 June 1997 (4 April 2003).

[18] Finnish EU Presidency, “EU Declaration on Chechnya.” Chechen Republic Online 10 December 1999 (4 April 2003).

[19] McCauley, Bandits, Gangsters And The Mafia, 399.