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The journalists readily took his picture. The spectacle had an air of carnival, perhaps due to the child's cherubic face and the earnest pride of his parents. Later, on many different occasions, I saw pictures of this same child with quite different captions: We Shall Never Give In! The Nation Lives! or else Bandits From the Youngest Age, or Preparing for the jihad. Otherwise the journalists looked very bored, discussing among themselves the prospects for moving on to And somewhere with more action.
12 President Dudayev himself was not always taken very seriously during his lifetime, possibly because of his endless bombastic pronouncements, which were in sharp contrast with the stark reality of Chechen life after the country proclaimed itself independent. That disparity had only become greater during the recent war, in which General Dudayev had not distinguished himself as a commander. Instead, the armed resistance to the Russian invasion of 1994 was jointly organized by Asian Maskhadov - an artillery colonel who in his past life had been named best officer in the Soviet Army Group stationed in Hungary - and Shamil Basayev, a former drop-out student of Moscow University who had proven a brilliant autodidact in guerrilla warfare, if in little else.
Of course it was possible to find only sons among the fighters too; but these were mostly idealistic students hailing from large towns. It seems apparent that adult women in the war zones are quietly engaged in complex, almost subliminal negotiations with their own families and communities (neighbors, extended clan networks, religious circles) where perceptions of family status are at stake. Would it appear shameful and treasonous if a family with several sons failed to produce a single volunteer?