The Second Civil War

Part I: War and heartache in Zelenorussia

Members of the Lvovsk Volunteers near a village in central Malodinetsk oblast, 19 July 2002.

The second Zelenorussian civil war is a conflict that has come to define much about contemporary society in Zelenorus. It was a conflict that put the final stake of separation into the politics of an already divided nation. In many ways it is a conflict that continues in some forms to this day.

For reference, this online map of Zelenorus may be useful.

Background to the fighting

The first civil war, a conflict largely fought between entities within the Zelenorussian communist party, had brought about the election of a reformist faction, which promised industrial rebirth and national unity.

But in spite of the populist rhetoric, a strong pro-Soviet sentiment remained, especially in the country’s east. Many felt that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a significant loss to the country. Some ethnic minorities, the Russians in particular, believed that the country’s new government would not represent their interests.

A woman holds a portrait of Joseph Stalin during a pro-Soviet demonstration in Zelenograd, c. 1990.

Following falling oil prices in 1997, the national government initiated a public works program that would mandate the construction of a number of oil and natural gas refineries throughout the country. This way, theorised the government, Zelenorus would no longer be forced to sell its raw resources to other countries, then buy them back at a loss in their refined form. In addition to this, the program would employ thousands of people and help to combat the economic unpredictability that followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

While at first the plan had success, its aims ran counter to those of the Russian Federation, which clandestinely encouraged acts of agitation and resistance among separatist groups. Minor terrorist attacks coincided with a sharp rise in international oil prices in 1999, which derailed the plan and caused significant financial losses which could only be salved by selling off more crude oil and natural gas. The program was put on hold for more than a year until the attacks were suppressed.

A year later the price of oil began to fall once again and the government resolved to resume its plan. Thousands of construction workers were employed and work began on eight different sites throughout the country: three for natural gas, four for crude oil and one for iron ore. In April a ninth refinery for natural gas was planned in Malodinetsk oblast.

On 2 May 2001, a crew of sixty construction workers, mostly western Zelenys, arrived to begin setting the foundations for the refinery.

Three days later a group of Alansk Cossacks, who were later found to have been extraordinarily drunk on overproof vodka, stormed the site on horseback wearing their full tribal regalia and wielding automatic rifles. They began to slaughter the workers indiscriminately, and of the sixty men sent to the site, only eight survived.

Zelenorussian soldiers secure a street in rural Malodinetsk oblast, 20 May 2001.

The reactions to this atrocity were sudden and brutal. Several of the more extreme separatist groups took responsibility for the killings, calling them a necessary show of force to the western oppressors. Loyalist militias in the east vowed revenge for the killing of innocent Zelenys. The government responded with a total military occupation of the everything east of the Azyatzsky. Thus began the second civil war.

Occupation and terror

The Zelenorussian army’s occupation of eastern Zelenorus was executed at lightning pace. Military reserves and internal troops (People’s Militia, ZNO) were activated in major cities and towns. Under emergency procedures, the police were obliged to assist the military as well. The refinery sites were especially well guarded.

There was no concrete plan for stopping terrorist threats; in some ways the occupation was a show of force. Either way, the presence of the army in towns and villages across eastern Zelenorus only increased tensions between Zelenys and Russians. These tensions would soon precipitate into violent action.

On 11 May a bomb was detonated inside a Lvovsk office owned by an organisation called the Union of Russians in Zelenorus (SRZ). A pro-Zeleny group calling itself the Lvovsk Volunteers claimed responsibility. A Serbian bomb maker named Dragan Radić was later arrested and hanged. His coconspirators were investigated but never found.

On 21 May another pro-Zeleny group, the Alansky Underground, bombed a streetcar in the capital of Alansky oblast, the easternmost region with the highest concentration of ethnic Russians in the country. Thirty-one people were killed but no perpetrator was found by the police. Accusations of indifference or even passive support from the mostly Zeleny police force began to surface.

Separatist attacks begin to occur in retaliation. Three major groups emerged: the West Balkaria Volunteer Army (Zabad), the Eastern Freedom Corps (Vokosvo) and the Russian Front (Partisans).

Members of Slava Battalion stand guard near a community centre in eastern Leninsk, 27 July 2001.

On 25 July a band of separatist rebels, led by Sergei Bereznikov and members of Zabad’s notorious Slava Battalion, stormed several government buildings in Leninsk-Alansky. Piecemeal skirmishes between rebels and the army began inside the city. Slava Battalion members began to execute military-aged Zeleny men and the Alansky Underground took up the practice on Russian men in response.

Finally, on 2 August the three major rebel groups united to proclaim the Republic of West Balkaria, which laid claim to all Zelenorussian land east of the Azyatzsky River and applied immediately for admission to the Russian Federation as a constituent republic. Bereznikov, who would become a legend in separatist eyes, was nominated as president by the rebel central committee.

On 6 August a failed bombing attempt on the Russian embassy in the capital city gave the Russian government a window to enter the Zelenorussian conflict in defence of their regional interests.

The war proper

Russian intervention elevated the conflict even further.

On 15 August the Russians mobilised the 58th Army, dispatching the 34th Brigade to capture the Alansky region’s oilfields and the city of Leninsk-Alansky itself. The 205th Brigade was deployed in the more mountainous southern part of Alansky to push west and disrupt Zelenorussian lines of supply.

Within a week, Russian forces had secured the North Alansky oil-producing region and were closing on the city of Leninsk and its outskirts. Skirmishes broke out in the towns of Arkhangelsk and Popalnoye, and around the Lenin Regional Airport.

Members of the Eastern Freedom Corps on show in central Leninsk, 2 September 2001.

Two weeks after Russian intervention, rebel forces pushed further into Leninsk and began to contest the army for control of the city centre. With the help of Russian special forces the rebels eventually drove the Zelenorussians across the Alansk River. A brief lull in the fighting occurred as the army fortified its positions around Fort St Andrew. There was an artillery ceasefire, meant to spare civilian deaths, but further escalation was still to come.

To be continued in Part II.

This piece is part of a series on Zelenorus.
You can read an introduction to the country and its history here.

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