AFTER YEARS IN THE shadows, the North Cau-casus has suddenly moved into the international spot-light because of the war rag-ing in Chechnya. First Soviet and then Russian politicians have long recognized the importance and potential volatility of this border region of the Russian Federation, but the press has historically ignored it. Not even the Russian government seems to notice that some of the other North Caucasian republics stand on the verge of falling apart and may erupt if their problems are not solved. Karachaevo-Cherkessia, an autonomous republic a few hundred miles west of Chechnya, illustrates the difficulties facing the entire region.

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