Chechnya

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The Chechen Republic (Chechen: Нохчийн Республика/Noxçiyn [Nokhchiyn] Respublika, Russian: Чеченская Республика), informal Chechnya (Chechen: Нохчичьо/Noxçiyçö/Nokhchiycho, Russian: Чечня), sometimes incorrectly refered to as Ichkeria, Chechnia or Chechenia, is a constituent republic of the Russian Federation. Bordering Stavropol Krai to the northwest, the republic of Dagestan to the northeast and east, Georgia to the south, and the republics of Ingushetia and North Ossetia to the west, it is located in the Northern Caucasus mountains, in the Southern Federal District.

Template:Federal subject of Russia During the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the government of the republic declared independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. As of 2005, their independence has not been recognized by any major state. On September 6 1991, militants of National Congress of Chechen People (NCChP), headed by Dzokhar Dudayev, stormed a session of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR parliament, killing the chief of the PCUS of Grozny, Vitali Kutsenko, severely injuring several other parliamentaries, and effectively dissolving the government of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR.

This situation, as well the economic importance of Chechnya due to several oil and gas pipelines on its territory, and the fact that constitutionally Chechnya, unlike Soviet Socialist Republics, did not have the right to secede, has led to armed conflicts between the forces of the self-declared government and the Russian Federal army.

Pro-Moscow Chechen officials claim that by 1994 over 200,000 people have been killed in Chechnya, including more than 20,000 children,[1] and further that ethnic Chechens comprise only one quarter of this number [2]. They do not account for the remainder of those killed.

Rebel sources claim that federal forces have killed more than 250,000 people in Chechnya, including 42,000 children [3].

These figures are not confirmed by independent sources. According to official population census number of Chechens in Russia in 2002 is 1360253 persons (in 1989 - 898999 persons) (source :results of census from Federal Service of the state statistics of Russia)

The official death toll for federal troops is more than 10,000, although rebel sources claim the real figure is closer to 40,000. There is no independent confirmation for any of these figures.

History

Main article: History of Chechnya

File:Chechenya gorge.jpg
A mountain view in Chechenya, from a photograph taken ca. 1912.

Early history

Chechnya is a region in the Northern Caucasus which has constantly fought against foreign rule, beginning with the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. Eventually the Chechens converted to Islam and tensions began to die down with the Turks, however conflicts with their Christian neighbours such as Georgians and Cossacks as well as with the Buddhist Kalmyks intensified. The Terek Kazak army was established in lowland Chechnya in 1577. The current resistance to Russian rule began during the late 18th century (1785-1791) as a result of Russian expansion into territories formerly under the dominion of Persia (see also the Russo-Persian War, 1804-13), under Mansur Ushurma -- a Chechen Naqshbandi (Sufi) Sheikh -- with wavering support from other North Caucasusian tribes (it was not uncommon for tribal khans to change sides in the conflict several times in the same year). Mansur hoped to establish a Transcaucasus Islamic state under shari'a law, but was ultimately unable to do so because of both Russian resistance and opposition from many Chechens (many of whom had not been converted to Islam at the time). Its banner was again picked up by the Avar Imam Shamil, who fought against the Russians from 1834 until 1859..

Soviet rule

Chechen rebellions would characteristically flame up whenever the Russian state faced a period of internal uncertainty. Rebellions occurred during the Russo-Turkish War (See Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878), the Russian Revolution of 1905, the Russian Revolution of 1917, Russian Civil War, and Collectivization. Under Soviet Rule, Chechnya was combined with Ingushetia to form the autonomous republic of Chechen-Ingushetia in the late 1930s. The Chechens, though, again rose up against Soviet rule during the 1940s, resulting in the deportation of the Chechen population to the Kazakh SSR (later Kazakhstan) and Siberia during World War II. Stalin and others argued this was necessary in order to stop the Chechens from providing assistance to the Germans during the Second World War. Although the German front never made it to the border of Chechnya, an active guerrilla movement threatened to undermine the Soviet defenses of the Caucasus (noted writer Valentin Pikul' claims in his historical account Barbarossa that while the city of Grozny was being prepared for a siege in 1942, all of the air bombers stationed on the Caucasian front had to be directed at quelling the Chechen insurrection instead of fighting the German siege of Stalingrad). As well, incidents of covert German airdrops into Chechnya and interceptions of radio exchanges between German and Chechen rebels were frequent. The Chechens were allowed to return to their homeland after 1956 during the de-Stalinization which occurred under Nikita Khrushchev.

The Russification policies towards Chechens continued after 1956, with Russian language proficiency required in many aspects of life and for advancement in the Soviet system. Many ethnic Chechens managed to achieve top positions in the government and military of the USSR (notable among them are Ruslan Khasbulatov (speaker of Soviet Supreme Soviet), Dzhokhar Dudaev (Soviet general), Doku Zavgaev (chairman of Chechen-Ingush ASSR), and Aslambek Aslakhanov (Soviet/Russian lawmaker)). The Chechens remained peaceful and relatively loyal to the state until the introduction of Glasnost under Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s.

With the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, an independence movement, initially known as the Chechen National Congress, formed in 1990. This movement was ultimately opposed by Boris Yeltsin's Russian Federation, which argued: (1) Chechnya had not been an independent entity within the Soviet Union – as the Baltic, Central Asian, and other Caucasian States had – but was a part of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic and hence did not have a right under the Soviet constitution to secede; (2) Other ethnic groups inside Russia, such as the Tatars, would join the Chechens and secede from the Russian Federation if they were granted that right; and (3) Chechnya was at a major chokepoint in the oil-infrastructure of the country and hence would hurt the country's economy and control of oil resources.

First Chechen War

File:Evstafiev-chechnya-palace-gunman.jpg
A Chechen rebel near the Presidential Palace in Grozny, January 1995. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev
File:Evstafiev-chechnya-iternal-praying.jpg
Chechens pray in Grozny just days before Russian troops entered the city. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev
File:Evstafiev-chechnya-handshake.jpg
Chechen rebels in downtown Grozny, 1995. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev
File:Evstafiev-helicopter-shot-down.jpg
The first casualties - a Russian helicopter downed by Chechen fighters near the capital Grozny, December 1994. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev

Dzhokhar Dudayev, the Republic of Chechnya's nationalist president, declared Chechnya's independence from Russia in 1991. Dudayev's cabinet was largely filled with relatives and members of his teip, many of whom were alleged to have been involved in criminal activities, and a few of whom had previous criminal convictions. This, combined with a failure to maintain control over the republic, saw his rule descend into chaos and wide-spread corruption. From 1991 to 1994, as many as 300,000 people of non-Chechen ethnicity (mostly Russians) fled the republic, and an unknown number (some estimate as high as 50,000) were murdered or disappeared. At this time, the slave trade also re-emerged in Chechnya (the earliest known person taken as a Chechen slave, Vladimir Yepishin, was kidnapped in 1989 and released in 2002, and claims to have come in contact with other slaves kidnapped by Chechens in the mid-80s [4]). Chechen sources claim non-Chechens were victims of common criminals and were not singled out. Testimonies from Chechen refugees of the period strongly contradict this conclusion [5][6]. Certainly the fiery, xenophobic rhetoric of Dudayev and other Chechen nationalist played some part in the events of those years. In 1994 Russian President Boris Yeltsin ordered 40,000 troops retake Chechnya (see First Chechen War), after having been told by close advisors that it would be a popular, short, and victorious war. Yeltsin hoped to use the victory to overtake political opponents and win in the 1996 presidential elections, which was extremely uncertain as opponents within the former Communist Party and nationalists under Vladimir Zhirinovsky had gained a large amount of popular support while Yeltsin's approval ratings hovered in the single digits.

The Russian army entered Chechnya on December 10, 1994, with only a few weeks of preparations and almost no prior planning or reconnaisance, with the official mission of restoring constitutional order. Unprepared for and not expecting intense fighting, Russian forces suffered humiliating losses after entering Grozny, which unbeknownst to ground troops had been fortified and filled with the Chechen army and a large number of volunteers in preparation for the invasion (it should be noted that despite knowing they would be fighting for control of Grozny, Dudaev's government did not issue an evacuation notice for the city, something which was responsible for the majority of civilian casualties during the battle for Grozny). Russian troops had not secured the Chechen capital of Grozny by year's end, managing to gain control of the city in February 1995 after heavy fighting. A few months later, the majority of active Chechen resistance was pushed back into the mountains around Ichkeria. In response, Chechen fighters launched a series of deadly terrorist attacks on Russian soil. The most high-profile of these, led by Chechen field commander and later prime minister of Ichkeria, Shamil Basayev, was the Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis in June 1995. Shamil's large band seized the hospital and the 1,600 people inside for a period of several days. In total, 129 people died and 415 were wounded. Although he failed in his demands to stop the war, Basayev and his fighters were able to successfuly retreat back to Chechnya under cover of hostages. The media coverage surrounding the hostage-taking and Basayev's safe retreat propelled the then mostly unknown Basayev into Chechnya's most famed national hero overnight. Seeking to emulate Basayev's "success", Dzhokhar Dudayev's son-in-law, Salman Raduev, led a similar raid on the hospital of Kizlyar in January of 1996. 78 hostages and policemen, and most of Raduyev's 300-strong band, died in the hostage crisis.

Yeltsin's government, weary of negative media coverage of the conflict and wanting a quick end to the fighting, halted the Russian advance and began a long series of fruitless peace talks with the separatists. Most of the Russian army was withdrawn, with the biggest contingent being a 3000-strong force left to secure Grozny. The error in this judgement became immediately apparent as the remaining Russian troops came under small but regular guerrilla-style attacks despite the many cease-fires under effect during negotiations. During a break in the negotiation process in April of 1996, Dudaev was killed in an air raid. The peace process impacted Russian intelligence gathering as well, demonstrated most dramatically when thousands of Chechen irregulars from all over the country poured into Grozny in early August 1996 to retake the city in a plan hashed by Shamil Basayev, catching the Russian forces completely unprepared. With 3000 servicemen beseiged in Grozny with no possibility of timely relief, Yeltsin was forced into negotiations on the Chechen leaders' terms. The first Chechen War formally ended with the signing of the Khasavyurt accords on August 31, 1996. The accords declared that Chechnya's national status would be decided by the end of 2001, but gave the Republic of Ichkeria de-facto independence in the meantime. However, the hostilities did not stop with the agreement. A Chechen field commander took responsibility for a bus explosion in Moscow several months after the accords, and the border between Chechnya and Stavropol Krai saw almost constant fighting between Russian police and border guards and Chechen bandits. It was determined that between 80,000 and 100,000 (Russians and Chechens) died as a result of the war. According to current statstics, the majority of the dead were ethnic Russian civilians [7].

Second Chechen War

The incursion by Chechen forces into Dagestan resulted in Russian troops being placed along the border of the republic; and apartment bombings on September 1999 finally sparked the Russian army return into Chechnya. Bombs determined to be hexogen based were set off at apartment blocks at Buinaksk in Dagestan, Moscow, and Volgodonsk in Southern Russia. The Russian government immediately blamed Chechen terrorists, but failed to provide any substantial evidence to support its claims. It has since been alleged by some that FSB agents, rather than Chechen separatists, were behind the attacks. However, the invasion of Dagestan combined with shocking terrorist acts was enough to justify the military action to the Russian public. With the military extremely popular and associated with Putin, he and his parliamentary party "Unity" emerged victorious in the December 1999 Duma elections. This was a stunning turnaround, for only a number of months earlier a partnership between Moscow’s Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov in their party Fatherland – All Russia had been favored to win.

Today, Chechen separatists still claim an independent Chechnya and have orchestrated terrorist attacks in the republic and within Russia itself, leading President Putin to place the conflict within the guise of the War on Terrorism after the attacks of September 11th. These attacks have ranged from mass hostage-takings to rail, subway, and suicide bombings. The most memorable occurred in Moscow in October 23, 2002 where over 700 hostages were taken during the Moscow theater hostage crisis and in Beslan in September 2004, during the Beslan school hostage crisis where 1,200 were taken hostage at a school and over 330 were killed – half of whom were children. In the end, a decade of war has left most of Chechnya under the control of the Russian military. On 13 October 2005, buildings in Nalchik associated with the Russian security forces were attacked by a large group of armed men. The attackers are thought to be rebels from nearby Chechnya. Fighting between the Russians and Chechen separatists continues, although primarily in the form of terrorist attacks as Chechen resistance in Chechnya itself has been largely defeated. At the same time, upwards of 100,000 (Chechens and Russians) have been killed within Chechnya as a result of the second Chechen war. The Russians and their Chechen allies have been accused of human rights abuses by international observers, such as the Russian group Memorial and the American organization Human Rights Watch. In this atmosphere, attempts to create a pro-Russian government have also been far from successful to date, as became apparent with the assassination of Akhmad Kadyrov in May 2004.

Many Chechen separatist groups have become increasingly radicalized and fractured, with Shamil Basayev adopting a strongly Islamist position and inviting support from Arab Islamist organizations, such as Al-Qaeda. This was opposed by Aslan Maskhadov, who was killed by Russian forces in March of 2005 and still publicly desired a negotiated settlement to the conflict up until his death. While the two may have stood together against what they saw as a Russian occupation, they appeared to differ greatly in both vision and ideology.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Chechnya

Chechnya is considered an independent republic by its separatists, and a federal republic by its federalists. Its regional constitution was entered into effect on April 2, 2003 after an all-Chechen referendum was held on March 23, 2003. Some territories are or were controlled by regional teips, despite the existence of pro- and anti-Russian political structures.

File:Chechnya and Caucasus.png
Chechnya and Caucasus map

Since 1990, the Chechen Republic has had legal, military, and civil conflicts involving separatist movements and pro-Russian authorities.

The motivations of the Russian and Chechens in these conflicts are complicated. Principally, Russia's stake in Chechnya relates to the fear that if Chechnya becomes independent, even more territories will break away from Russia, leading to its disintegration. Another factor are economic interests: Chechnya possesses large oil reserves, and the Russians are concerned that prolonged instability may lead to third parties entering the region in order to seek to control the oil, causing further instability and war. There is also a long standing conflict between Russia and Chechnya that has perpetuated itself due to bad blood on both sides.

There are different groups in Chechnya fighting the Russians and they have different political, economic and/or ideological motivations for doing so. Some of these derive from hatred and a desire for revenge due to past Russian military and political action in the region, demonstrating the cycle of violence and hatred that often fuels regional conflicts of this nature, as well as a military culture that makes much of the population willing to engage in military struggle under the command of one leader. Unemployment and poverty are also factors in the prolonged conflict.

The former separatist warlord, Akhmad Kadyrov, looked upon as a traitor by many separatists, was elected president with 83% of the vote in an internationally monitored election on October 5, 2003. Incidents of ballot stuffing and voter intimidation by Russian soldiers and the exclusion of separatist parties from the polls were subsequently reported by the OSCE monitors. Rudnik Dudayev is head of the Chechen Security Council and Anatoly Popov is the Prime Minister. On May 9, 2004, Kadyrov was assassinated in Grozny football stadium by a landmine explosion that was planted beneath a VIP stage and detonated during a World War II memorial parade. Sergey Abramov was appointed to the position of acting president after the incident.

On August 29, 2004 a new Presidential election took place. According to the Chechen electoral commission, Alu Alkhanov, former Chechen Minister of Interior, received approximately 74% of the vote. Voter turnout was 85.2%. Some observers, such as the U.S. Department of State, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, as well as the opposition, question the election, citing, in part, the disqualification of the major rival Malik Saidullayev on a technicality. Polling conditions were also questioned, but no formal complaints have been made. The election was internationally monitored by the Commonwealth of Independent States and Arab League; western monitors didn't participate in monitoring the election in protest at previous irregularities, despite being invited.

Kadyrov's son, Ramzan Kadyrov, also plays an important – but unelected – role in the government, serving as first deputy prime minister. Many believe that he would have attempted to succeed his father if he had not been barred from doing so by his age – he is currently in his 20s and the constitution requires that the president be 30 years of age or older. Many also allege he is the wealthiest and most powerful man in the republic, with control over a large private militia referred to as the 'Kadyrovski'. The militia – which began as his father's security force – has been accused of killings and kidnappings by human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch.

In addition to the elected government, there is a self-proclaimed separatist government that is not currently recognized by any state (although members have been given political asylum in European and Arab countries, as well as the United States). The separatist government was recognised by the Taliban government of Afghanistan in 1999 and it opened an embassy in Kabul on 16 January 2000. Recognition ceased with the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The president of this government was Aslan Maskhadov, the Foreign Minister is Ilyas Akhmadov, who was the spokeman for Maskhadov. Ilyas Akhmadov is currently living under asylum in the United States. Aslan Maskhadov had been elected in an internationally monitored election in 1997 for 4 years, when the separatists were a major political force. In 2001 he issued a decree prolonging his office for one additional year; he was unable to participate in the 2003 presidential election, since separatist parties were barred by the Russian government, and Maskhadov faced accusations of "terrorist offences" in Russia. Maskhadov left Grozny and moved to the rebel-controlled areas of the south at the onset of the Second Chechen War. President Maskhadov was unable to influence a number of warlords who retain effective control over Chechen territory, and his power was diminished as a result. He came to denounce the attack by rebel forces on Beslan and attempted to distance himself from the Islamist Shamil Basayev, who claimed responsibility for the attack. Russian forces killed him on March 8, 2005.

Akhmed Zakayev, Deputy Prime Minister and a Foreign Minister under Maskhadov, was appointed shortly after the 1997 election and is currently living under asylum in England. He and others chose Abdul Khalim Saidullayev to replace Maskhadov following his death, bypassing Basayev. It has been reported, however, that Basayev turned the position down and has since pledged loyalty to Saidullayev. Saidullayev is a relatively unknown Islamic judge who was previously the host of an Islamic program on Chechen television. His position as a rebel is also unknown, leading the Russians and others to speculate that his selection marks the continued rise of Basayev – with Saidullayev as a figurehead – and the dearth of leadership figures that remain in the Chechen separatist movement.

Administrative Divisions

Districts

Chechnya Republic consists of the following districts (Russian: районы):

  1. Naursky (Наурский)
  2. Shelkovskoy (Шелковской)
  3. Nadterechny (Надтеречный)
  4. Groznensky (Грозненский)
  5. Gudermessky (Гудермесский)
  6. Sunzhensky (Сунженский)
  7. Achkhoy-Martanovsky (Ачхой-Мартановский)
  8. Urus-Martanovsky (Урус-Мартановский)
  9. Shalinsky (Шалинский)
  10. Kurchaloyevsky (Курчалоевский)
  11. Itum-Kalinsky (Итум-Калинский)
  12. Shatoysky (Шатойский)
  13. Vedensky (Веденский)
  14. Nozhay-Yurtovsky (Ножай-Юртовский)
  15. Sharoysky (Шаройский)

Major settlements

  1. Znamenskoye
  2. Naurskaya
  3. Achkhoy-Martan
  4. Urus-Martan
  5. Grozny
  6. Shali
  7. Gudermes
  8. Shelkovskaya
  9. Itum-Shale
  10. Shatoy
  11. Vedeno
  12. Nozhay-Yurt

Geography

Rivers:

Time zone

Chechnya is located in the Moscow Time Zone (MSK/MSD). UTC offset is +0300 (MSK)/+0400 (MSD).

Economy

As of 2003

During the war, the Chechen economy fell apart. Gross domestic product, if reliably calculable, would be only a fraction of the prewar level. Problems with the Chechen economy had an effect on the federal Russian economy - a number of financial crimes during the 1990s were committed using Chechen financial organizations. Chechnya has the highest ratio within Russian Federation of financial operations made in US Dollars to operations in Russian Roubles. There are many counterfeit US Dollars printed there. In 1994, the separatists planned to introduce a new currency, the Nahar, but that did not happen due to Russian troops re-taking Chechnya in the First Chechen War.

As an effect of the war, approximately 80% of the economic potential of Chechnya was destroyed. The only branch of economy that has been rebuilt so far is the petroleum industry. The 2003 oil production was estimated at 1.5 million metric tons annually (or 30 thousand barrels per day), down from a peak of 4 million metric tons annually in the 1980s. The 2003 production constituted approximately 0.6% of the total oil production in Russia. The level of unemployment is high, hovering between 60 and 70 percent. Despite economic improvements, smuggling and bartering still comprise a significant part of Chechnya's economy.[8]

According to the Russian government, over 2 billion dollars were spent on the reconstruction of the Chechen economy since 2000. However, according to the Russian central economic control agency (Schyotnaya Palata), not more than 350 million dollars were spent as intended.

Demographics

Most Chechens are Sunni Muslim, the country having converted to that religion between the 16th and the 19th centuries. At the end of the Soviet era, ethnic Russians comprised about 23 percent of the population (269,000 in 1989). Due to widespread crime and ethnic cleansing carried out by the government of Dzokhar Dudaev most non-Chechens (and many Chechens as well) fled the country during the 1990s. Today there are only several thousand ethnic Russian residents of Chechnya.

The languages used in the Republic are Chechen and Russian. Chechen belongs to the Vaynakh or North-central Caucasian linguistic family, which also includes Ingush and Batsb. Some scholars place it in a wider Iberian-Caucasian super-family.

Chechnya has one of the youngest populations in the generally aging Russian Federation; in the early 1990s, it was among the few regions experiencing natural population growth.

  • Population: 1,103,686 (2002) - numbers are disputed.
    • Urban: 373,177 (33.8%)
    • Rural: 730,509 (66.2%)
    • Male: 532,724 (48.3%)
    • Female: 570,962 (51.7%)
  • Average age: 22.7 years
    • Urban: 22.8 years
    • Rural: 22.7 years
    • Male: 21.6 years
    • Female: 23.9 years
  • Number of households: 195,304 (with 1,069,600 people)
    • Urban: 65,741 (with 365,577 people)
    • Rural: 129,563 (with 704,023 people)
  • 2004 Population in Chechnya: 1,088,816.
    • In Grozny (the capital of Chechen Republic): 80,000.
    • Ethnic Chechens predominate, with 98% of the population.

See also

External links

Further reading

  • Vyacheslav Mironov. Ya bil na etoy voyne. (I was at this war) Biblion - Russkaya Kniga, 2001. Partial translation available online [9]
  • Matthew Evangelista, The Chechen Wars: Will Russia Go the Way of the Soviet Union?. ISBN 0815724993.
  • Roy Conrad. A few days... Available online [10]
  • Olga Oliker, Russia's Chechen Wars 1994 - 2000: Lessons from Urban Combat. ISBN 0833029983. (A strategic and tactical analysis of the Chechen Wars.)
  • Charlotta Gall & Thomas de Waal. Chechnya: A Small Victorious War. ISBN 0330350757
  • Paul J., Ph.D. Murphy. The Wolves of Islam: Russia and the Faces of Chechen Terror. ISBN 1574888307
  • Anatol Lieven. Chechnya : Tombstone of Russian Power ISBN 0300078811
  • John B Dunlop. Russia Confronts Chechnya : Roots of a Separatist Conflict ISBN 0521636191
  • Paul Khlebnikov. Razgovor s varvarom (Interview with a barbarian). ISBN 5-89935-057-1. Available online in full [11]
  • Marie Benningsen Broxup. The North Caucasus Barrier: The Russian Advance Towards the Muslim World. ISBN 1850650691
  • Anna Politkovskaya. A Small Corner of Hell : Dispatches from Chechnya ISBN 0226674320
  • Chris Bird. "To Catch a Tartar: Notes from the Caucasus" [ISBN 0719565065]
  • Carlotta Gall, Thomas de Waal, Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus [ISBN 0814731325]


Template:Russian federal subjects

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