This chapter examines how violent conflict has reshaped the Chechen identity. The Chechens profess a self-image centered on a rigid set of cultural characteristics, and war affects such images comprehensively. In part, war encourages the emergence of uncritical self-perceptions, self-proclamations, external borrowings, and fantasies reflecting the absurdity of violence and the impasse confronting efforts to explain it with rational arguments. These fantasies around group identity constitute a message to the outside world about a suffering human collective. It is only since the late 1980s that the local ideologues have been fundamentally emending the historical myth of the Chechens and, in the process, current Chechen identity. In this construction of new Chechen identity, two rival trends can be observed. One includes as many historic communities as possible in the Chechen entity in order to widen its geographic span and deepen its cultural legacy. The other, born out of competition for resources and power, focuses on narrower group boundaries based on locality and clan ties.
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