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History As It Happens

Jun 1, 2023

The images of Bakhmut, the latest Ukrainian city to be left in ruins after months of Russian shelling, evoke memories of the Second World War. Every building reduced to piles of pulverized concrete or a flimsy facade with windows blasted out, streets clogged by rubble and wrecked vehicles. But you don’t have to peer back into the 1940s for parallels to what’s happening in Ukraine today. In the mid-1990s and early 2000s, Russia destroyed Grozny, the largest city in Chechnya, twice. Tens of thousands of civilians died. It was in the Second Chechen War when newly empowered Vladimir Putin, then 47, crushed Chechen independence on his way to reestablishing Russian state power after the enervating turmoil of the prior decade. As in Grozny a decade ago, Russian military commanders are showing no qualms about using massive violence against urban areas, an unsettling indication of where the current war is headed. In this episode, historian Mark Galeotti, the author of more than 25 books on Russia, discusses the parallels between the first major war of the post-Soviet era (prosecuted by Boris Yeltsin against Chechnya) and Putin’s destructive bid to subjugate Ukraine.