Making a Martyr


BUNKER BUST: Russian forces discovered Maskhadov in a basement hideout in the Chechen town of Tolstoy Yurt

In life, warriors are judged by their prowess on the battlefield; in death, by the manner of their dying. When Russian special forces cornered Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov in a basement in the village of Tolstoy Yurt, Chechnya, last week, they offered him the chance to surrender. When he refused, the Russians say, they blasted the concrete bunker in which he was hiding, killing him in the process.

That final gesture of defiance has transformed Maskhadov's reputation. For years, many former comrades disdained him as a weak political leader who, after a victorious war of secession against...

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