Special Report

The 20 Wars Russia Has Fought in the Past Century

5. Tajikistan Civil War
> Year(s): 1992-1997

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, an independent Tajikistan came into existence. But soon fighting broke out between ethnic groups that included liberal reformists and Islamists underrepresented in government and the national government led by President Rahmon Nabiyev supported by Russia and Uzbekistan.

The opposition made early gains and at one point captured Nabiyev and forced him to resign at gunpoint. Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov feared the conflict would spill over into his country and ordered his military to step in to restore order in Tajikistan. That added to the chaos. A UN-backed armistice ended the war in 1997 and a tenuous power-sharing agreement was reached. The conflict left up to 100,000 dead.

4. First Chechen War
> Year(s): 1994-1996

As a result of the First Chechen War, Chechnya gained greater autonomy from Russia and formed the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Most Chechens are Muslim, and the conflict took on a religious edge, as the rebels were joined in their fight by Muslims from other countries.

The brutal war was unpopular in Russia, which was repulsed by the Chechens in mountainous regions despite its decided advantage in manpower and weapons. The Russian government declared a ceasefire in 1996 and signed a peace treaty a year later. Civilian deaths were estimated at up to 100,000, and another 500,000 were uprooted by the war.

3. Second Chechen War
> Year(s): 1999-2000

The Second Chechen War between Russia and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in Chechnya and the North Caucasus border. In effect, this conflict was an attempt to reverse the result of the first Chechen War that led to the creation of a separate Chechen state. The war was instigated by Islamist fighters who went into Russia’s Dagestan area and declared it an independent nation and called for holy war.

This time the rebels lacked the support of local people and Russia had more success. The war devolved into a guerrilla conflict, with Chechens conducting terrorist attacks on the Russian homeland. Russia succeeded in establishing a pro-Russian government in Chechnya and brought it into the Russian fold.

2. Russo-Georgian War
> Year(s): 2008

Deteriorating relations between Russia and the small Caucasian nation of Georgia led to an intense shooting war in August of 2008. Tensions were rising because US President George W. Bush had backed Georgia and Ukraine membership in NATO. Both nations border Russia. Pro-Russian separatists took control of the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, about 20% of Georgia.

Fighting broke out on Aug. 1 when separatists started shelling Georgian villages. Georgian troops launched an attack and Russian forces responded, seizing most of the territory in dispute. A ceasefire was declared on Aug. 13. The war resulted in Russian recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia that Russia then occupied.

1. Russo-Ukrainian War
> Year(s): 2014-Present

Russia and Ukraine have always had a complicated history, and in 2014, it got more complicated. Russia annexed Crimea that year – Crimea had been given to Ukraine by the Soviet Union in 1954. Since 2014, Russia has been conducting a low-level war in the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk where many Russians live.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 under the pretext of protecting the Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine. Russian leader Vladimir Putin wants to install a pro-Russian government and keep Ukraine from joining NATO.

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