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By Katherine S. Layton

Chechens: tradition and Society is an ethnography that elaborates the lived reports of Chechens, focusing totally on relationships and socio-cultural norms in the context of the present clash within the Chechen Republic.

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Example text

As the disintegration of the Soviet Union accelerated, Dudayev returned to Chechnya in early 1990 to participate in politics there, and declared the independence of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in October 1991. For some Chechens, Dudayev is a person of considerable suspicion, given his record of service, and high rank in the Soviet military. To most Chechens, Soviet (Russian) military and security apparatuses and even the lowest-ranking Russian police are instruments of repression, torture, and corruption, rarely if ever viewed more positively than this.

Dzhokhar Dudayev Dzhokhar Dudayev (1944–1996), is universally referred to by Chechens as the first president (November 1991–April 1996) of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (though not all recognize Ichkeria), who led the Chechen nation to independence following break-up of the Soviet Union. Beyond that universal recognition, however, Dudayev remains a controversial leader in current Chechen narrative. Dudayev, as Chechen narrative maintains, spent most of his life outside of Chechnya. As a child, he lived in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (Kazahkstan), alongside other Chechens who had been deported there under Stalin’s orders.

Therefore, in these times, Mansur and Shamil are highly relevant: they are role models of Chechen courage, strength, and sacrifice— norms that exemplify the best behavior and character of Chechens. They exemplify the portrayal of Chechnya as a small nation, fighting and holding its own against a much larger aggressor, and the bravery and sacrifice of fighters and the Chechen people collectively for the sake of the nation and homeland. Yet, Chechens set the standards and requirements, norms and rules of behavior so high: It is very hard to be a Chechen, so that even legendary leaders are not above scrutiny.

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