In Terror in Chechnya, Gilligan challenges Russian claims that civilian casualties in Chechnya were an unavoidable consequence of civil war. She argues that racism and nationalism were substantial factors in Russia's second war against the Chechens and the resulting refugee crisis. She does not ignore the war crimes committed by Chechen separatists and pro-Moscow forces. Gilligan traces the radicalization of Chechen fighters and sheds light on the Dubrovka and Beslan hostage crises, demonstrating how they undermined the separatist movement and in turn contributed to racial hatred against Chechens in Moscow.
A haunting testament of modern-day crimes against humanity, Terror in Chechnya also looks at the international response to the conflict, focusing on Europe's humanitarian and human rights efforts inside Chechnya.