The Force Awakens in Chechnya

Battle for Grozny

Yeah, I know. The politics-of-Star-Wars articles. You’ve already read them. The Jedi are the bad guys. Luke was radicalised by Obi Wan. The Ewoks are actually the Viet Cong. The Galactic Senate stuff from 2 and 3 makes no sense as well as being quite boring (so, just like real life politics, then). You’ve read all of those articles already, because it’s a contractual obligation that goes with having an internet connection. Seriously. Check your ISP small print.

However, it seems like there’s one point where the Force Awakens scriptwriters were politically absolutely on the button, and which no one has yet remarked upon.

Spoilers ho!

Luke Skywalker has vanished.
In his absence, the sinister
FIRST ORDER has risen
from the ashes of the Empire
and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi,
has been destroyed.

With the support of the REPUBLIC,
General Leia Organa leads a brave RESISTANCE.
She is desperate to find her
brother Luke and gain his
help in restoring peace and
justice to the galaxy.

If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re an extremely smart individual, so you’re no doubt yelling something along the lines of: “THE ACTUAL FUCK, LEIA? YOU FUCKING WON! THE REPUBLIC IS BACK AND IT’S SUPPORTING YOU! HOW THE FUCK CAN YOU EVEN BE A RESISTANCE? WHAT ARE YOU RESISTING? HELLO! YOU’RE WORKING FOR THE GOVERNMENT! THAT’S NOT A RESISTANCE, IT’S A POLICE FORCE!”

And then the guy sitting in the row behind you throws a bottle of coke at your head and tells you to shut up.

And you’re wrong too. Because if history has taught us one thing it’s that violent political groups don’t disband or give up violence merely because they have achieved their aims. Max Abrahms:

The strategic model assumes that because terrorists are motivated by relatively stable policy aims, the violence will cease when the organization’s stated grievances have been lifted.87 A puzzle for the model then is that terrorist organizations resist disbanding when their political rationales have become moot.88 Pape’s research demonstrates that contemporary guerrilla campaigns have coerced major policy concessions from target countries; yet none of the organizations that also use terrorism have disbanded.89 Hezbollah, for example, remains an operational terrorist group, despite the fact that its guerrilla attacks on the Israel Defense Forces achieved the stated goal of liberating southern Lebanon in May 2000. When their political rationale is losing relevance, terrorist organizations commonly invent one. Klaus Wasmund’s case study of the RAF shows, for example, that the German terrorists were “aggravated” when the Vietnam War ended because they suddenly faced a “dilemma of finding a suitable revolutionary subject.” Instead of abandoning the armed struggle, the RAF turned overnight into a militant advocate of the Palestinian cause.90 Similarly, the 9/11 commission explains that upon discovering in April 1988 that the Soviets were planning to withdraw from Afghanistan, the mujahideen made the collective decision to remain intact while they hunted for a new political cause.91 In this way, terrorist organizations contrive a new political raison d’être, belying the assumption that terrorists are motivated by relatively stable policy preferences reflected in their organizations’ political platforms.


This implies that the best real-world parallel isn’t Syria as Vox suggests (Syria is way to complicated to be a parallel for anything), but rather Chechnya.

The first Chechen War was fought by a plucky band of ethnically diverse and quaintly-dressed rebels – a certain proportion of whom subscribed to extremist and outlandish religious views – against the Evil Empire (aka Russia).

Despite overwhelming numerical and technological superiority, the Russians were defeated both in full scale battles and by a long series of insurgency raids on their positions. They lost huge numbers of tanks, grew increasingly demoralised and finally lost the battle for Grozny, which was blown up by means of an unfortunately placed exhaust port leading to the main reactor. (Just kidding. It was white phosphorus and missiles.)

Eventually, depressed and decimated, the Russians gave up, and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria was created (yes, the President was named Aslan, but that’s a different fantasy entirely, we’re doing Star Wars here).

Endor celebration

Apparently it looked much like this

However, things didn’t end there. Religious extremists were unhappy with the settlement, and continued to stir up trouble, despite – apparently – having already got everything they could possibly wish for. This culminated in a series of terrorist attacks against civilians in Russia and a military incursion into Dagestan (we must assume that this is what kept Luke and Leia so busy in the intervening time between episodes 6 and 7, while Han Solo was busy working as a kidnappertransporter“, coincidentally one of the main industries in the Republic of Ichkeria).

As a result, the Russians decided fuck Chechnya in particular, re-invaded, and destroyed pretty much everything. They didn’t actually explode it with a giant sun-laser, but the results were broadly similar:

Second Chechen War

Interestingly, they achieved this at least partly due to the help given by Akhmad Kadyrov, who had previously been on the insurgents’ side but who switched over to supporting Russia halfway through, which presumably makes him Kylo Ren and Snoke Putin*.

Though possibly there’s no interest in stretching a parallel too far.

*I had to google those names. I originally had them down as Darth Emo and That Big Foetus-Looking Hologram Guy.

Ren and Snoke, I mean, not Kadyrov and Putin.


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