The Russian republic of Chechnya suffered two conflicts in the recent past: 1994–1996 and 1999–2000. Fighting, however, continued long after the Russians officially declared the war over in 2000, and civilians bore the brunt of Russian actions after this period. The Museum's concern in Chechnya stemmed from:
Past persecution of Chechens as a people;
The demonization of Chechens as a group within Russian society;
The level of violence directed against Chechen civilians by Russian forces.
A massive Russian military force entered Chechnya on September 30, 1999, supported by air and artillery. Russian officials claimed the "anti-terrorist operation" responded to an incursion by Chechen militias into the neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan and to apartment bombings in Moscow and elsewhere that they blamed on Chechens. In the ensuing months, Chechnya was devastated, including the almost complete destruction of Grozny, the Chechen capital. Russian artillery and air indiscriminately pounded populated areas. Human rights organizations also documented several massacres of civilians by Russian units.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed Chechnya pacified by Spring 2000. But peace remained elusive for Chechen civilians, victims of a continuing war of attrition. They were plagued by abuses committed by Russian forces—arbitrary arrest, extortion, torture, murder. For years, there were no sustained efforts to rebuild basic social services, such as utilities or education. Chechen fighters also committed abuses against civilians, launching deadly terrorist attacks on Russian sites, but neither on the same systematic basis nor with the same intensity as Russian forces.
Slowly, rebuilding began in Chechnya in 2007 under the pro-Moscow administration of Ramzan Kadyrov, who used strong-arm tactics to control and silence any opponents.