Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Laura Osterman

Second Advisor

Mark Leiderman

Third Advisor

Thomas Roberts

Abstract

The ideological vacuum left by the absence of a strong state in the post-Soviet structure as well as pre-existing poor conditions in the Russian Army led to significant losses in men, morale, and public trust during the first and second Chechen Wars. The Russian soldiers who fought in these wars were faced with the lack of a framework with which to interpret their service and participation in military action that often perpetuated human rights abuses. The meaninglessness of the conflicts was compounded by the absence of public support for veterans as they returned home. This led to a need to define both their identities as soldiers as well as justify their own actions. I will examine how two veterans, Arkady Babchenko and Aleksandr Karasev, interpreted and defined their experiences in their published narratives about the war, focusing on their own victimhood and ignoring suffering experienced by Chechens, both civilians and soldiers. Using their works, Война (War) and Чеченские рассказы (Chechen Stories), respectively, I compare research on veterans from the American wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan as well as the South African Border Wars, drawing similarities with how combatants formed narratives focused on identities of suffering rather than participation.

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