Project Summary

The second Chechen conflict left thousands of war victims who are now seeking moral compensation in a hostile legal and political environment. Against overwhelming odds, legal practitioners won civil cases for “pain and suffering” in regional courts beginning in 2010. Since the conflict began in 1999, the Russian authorities have done everything to curtail liability for human rights violations and obstruct the criminal prosecution of their Armed Forces. Civil courts provided a less adversarial environment, but became an important vehicle for the government’s admission of wrongdoing. This response by the state authorities was not always consistent, nor was it made without internal or external pressure. Yet it raises intriguing questions about exactly how these local legal strategies developed and why they received a positive hearing from the Chechen judiciary. Indeed, the ultimate importance of my Kennan project is to not only clarify what historical circumstances made moral compensation viable in 2010 in Chechnya, but to place the Chechen experiment into a broader analytical framework, thus furnishing a concrete example to inform US policy.