The break up of the USSR in the late eighties was a messy and often confusing affair. As the SSRs broke away to form new states and federations, the much-reduced Russian Republic held desperately onto a dream of territorial integrity. Independence movements quickly broke out in the Caucasus - long-oppressed Muslims sought national self-determination, and so seized the opportunity.
Though their success varied from year to year as the tide of the war flowed back and forth, the Islamic rebels became increasingly radical. Funding and support from extremist regimes in Iran and Turkestan shifted the rebels ever further from the ideals of universal peace. The introduction of NATO troops following several high-profile tourist kidnappings didn't help matters.
Despite the chaos in the Caucasus, Turkic and Islamic minorities further to the east remained surprisingly cordial. Jadidism - a brand of Islam supporting tolerance of other religions - had flourished in the area in the early 20th century. When the USSR's policy on Islam shifted towards intolerance many Jadidist leaders fled to countries where they could be free, not least of all the enlightened and democratic Afghanistan. After the Soviet's fall, these intellectuals and free-thinkers returned to their homelands, once again encouraging their fellows to tolerate other religions and cultures. Unfortunately the Russian government did not share their ideals.
Protests against the Russian treatment of Muslims in the War in the Caucasus went unheeded. Non-violent marches were the subject of police violence. Finally the Turks of the Volga region could stand it no more, and revolt broke out independently in Chuvashia and Tatarstan, with the Tatars later spreading the rebellion to Bashkortostan. After initial clashes it looked like the Russians intended to negotiate a peace, rather than risk another war, but the negotiations were a distraction; a ruse to permit the Russians time to prepare.
Unsuspecting and unprepared, Chuvashia fell within a month. The Tatars and Bashkirs - who had been planning to gain independence together as the United Republic of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan - accepted the fleeing Chuvash militia and government with open arms. The leaders of the three nations spoke at length; they all knew of the abortive attempts at regional independence during the last great chaos of Russian history, and the similarities were undeniable. Despite their differing religions, the Chuvash, the Tatars, and the Bashkirs were able to agree on an equal union of their countries - the Idel-Ural Federation.
The agreement was the easy part; they had yet to win their independence. They fought long and hard - though the Russians were determined to regain the natural resources and industry of the region, the Turkic rebels stalwartly fought back.
Disgusted by the news of human rights abuses coming out of Russia, politically active people from across the world sought to support the freedom fighters in any way they could. They protested. They marched across cities; they chanted slogans; they blocked up streets; they stood off against police; and they called and shouted. Finally, they were heard. The USA and other NATO countries put pressure on Russia to resolve the situation in the Volga region peacefully, lest they withdraw their support in the Caucasus and use trade sanctions to assault Russia's already beleaguered economy. The Russian leadership assured them that they were doing *everything* in their power to resolve the situation, and they'd reached out to the rebels but they're just so *unreasonable* - I mean you know how it is with *Muslims*, am I right? Eh?
The West did not find Russia's response adequate. It was a quiet, almost friendly slap in the face - a dare from their so-called allies. It was Russia's way of saying "You need us too, and don't you forget it". What the Russians failed to realise, however, was that they needed the West more, and that they - not Russia - held all the cards.
A no-fly zone was declared - Turkish, Turkestani, and Afghanistani planes enforced it whilst the US brought its significant air force to bear. Without control of the skies, the Russian advance faltered, and the Idel-Ural armed forces began pushing back.
At long last the Russians got the hint - there was no way they were going to win this, so they might as well cut their loses. A hasty ceasefire was negotiated, with sizable demilitarised zones protecting the Idel-Ural rebels from further Russian depredations. The Glorious 24th of May would go down in history as the day the Chuvash, the Tatars, and the Bashkirs won their independence.
It would be years before the full extent of Russia's human rights abuses in Chuvashia would become known, but if you asked the people of the Idel-Ural Federation if they could go back knowing what they know now, they'd say they wouldn't've done it any other way.
Another map for the Map of the Fortnight contest over on AlternateHistory.com. This fortnight's contest was to make a map of a country that has a government and controls territory, but remains unrecognised. As might be evident from the description, this map takes place in the same world as my previous map of Afghanistan.
Overall I'm quite proud of this, though I'm not sure I'll ever want to present maps as a fake webpage ever again - making that UI was honestly much more frustrating than the map itself!
Edit: Something I forgot earlier; the title comes from the US Declaration of Independence, which I thought was appropriate.
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."