In Russia’s Securitization of Chechnya: How War Became Acceptable (Routledge, 2017), a study of the transformations of the image of Chechnya in the Russian...

In Russia’s Securitization of Chechnya: How War Became Acceptable (Routledge, 2017), a study of the transformations of the image of Chechnya in the Russian public sphere, Julie Wilhelmsen performs a post-structuralist revision of the Copenhagen schools concept of securitization a process by which state actors transform subjects into matters of security which allows for the application of extraordinary security measures. Looking at the case of the Russian-Chechen wars, Wilhelmsen suggests that securitization theory may explain the shift in the public perception of the First and Second Chechen wars: from viewing it as a case of local separatism to seeing the Second war as a counter-terrorism operation.

Wilhelmsen’s book makes several important contributions to the idea of securitization and the way it applies to the Russia-Chechen wars. She argues that securitization may not be limited to a specific event or change in policy but is rather a broader process, a sum of statements and events, which can gradually change political attitudes. Looking at Russia’s securitization of Chechnya as a complex, multifaceted process allows Wilhelmsen to dispute the idea of Russian politics as authoritarian and focused on a figure of leader. By analyzing the statements of the political elite, journalists, and experts on the war in Chechnya Wilhelmsen demonstrates how the image of Chechnya was gradually constructed as a threatening, terrorist entity foreign and hostile to Russia. An important point Wilhemsen also makes in her book has to do with the possible threat of securitization and phenomena such as the War on Terror present to the human rights: securitization has shown to often lead to legitimizing multiple breaches of human rights as state actors are responding to security threats. Wilhelmsen’s study of social processes, which make wars acceptable will be of interest to scholars of politics, international relations and security studies as well as area studies scholars.


Olga Breininger is a PhD candidate in Slavic and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Her research interests include post-Soviet culture and geopolitics, with a special focus on Islam, nation-building, and energy politics. Olga is the author of the novel There Was No Adderall in the Soviet Union and columnist at Literratura.

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