Attitudes in transition : Chechen refugees and the politics of violence
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What drives refugees displaced by war to hold attitudes supporting violence to achieve political ends? The conventional wisdom suggests that refugee communities are breeding grounds for the emergence of political violence, terrorism, and radicalism. Yet, the literature on refugees and political violence offers little empirical evidence of such a connection or systematic investigation of the root causes of attitudes toward political violence among refugees. My research addresses the following questions: 1) What are the sources of politically violent attitudes? 2) Can these sources be traced to specific aspects of the refugee communities themselves? 3) Can they be traced to certain experiential events or demographic factors? 4) Are attitudes towards political violence related to actors’ political goals? This analysis is based on nearly three years of fieldwork in Chechen refugee communities in The Republic of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Poland, and Belgium. Methodologically, this inductive study employed a mixed-methods approach, utilizing qualitative and ethnographic methods, such as direct participant-observer, to conduct 310 structured-interviews with a range of Chechen refugees. For independent variables I asked a battery of questions related to demographic profiles, grievances, political goals and preferences, and preferences for regime type. The dependent variable, attitudes towards political violence, was gleaned from structured-interviews which called on subjects to offer general assessments of their position on the acceptability of political violence as well as express their views on the legitimacy of four concrete events related to the conflict in Chechnya: the 2002 attack on Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater; the 2004 attack on School #1 in Beslan, North Ossetia; the 2004 attack on military and police personnel in Nazran, Ingushetia; and the 2005 attack on military and police personnel in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria.