On the night of December 31, 1995, Russian Federation forces launched a massive tank and infantry assault on the city of Grozny. The attack and subsequent defeat of Federal forces by lightly armed Chechen irregulars, propelled a little-known Caucasian people and city onto the TV screens and newspaper headlines of the Western world. The purpose of this article is to provide readers with the context for the present conflict in Chechnya, to describe some early efforts at peace making in the region, and to offer a preliminary analysis of the consequences of the conflict. This overview comes from the vantage point of field work in the former Soviet Union, with little access to what has been written about the Caucasus in the last few years. The overview summarizes conversations and meetings in which the author was an active participant.



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