The Chechen Republic (Russian: Чеченская Республика; Chechen: Нохчийн Республика/Noxçiyn Respublika), also known as Chechnya (Russian: Чечня, Chechen: Нохчичьо/Noxçiyçö), 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. During the collapse of the Soviet Union, a group of Chechen leaders declared themselves to be the lawful government, announced a new parliament, and declared independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. As of 2004, their independence is not recognized by any relevant state. This declaration has led to armed conflicts in which rival Chechen groups and the Russian Federal army were involved.
Reportedly, the pro-Moscow officials admit (see external links) that since 1994 over 200,000 insurgents and civilians have been killed, and in the same period over 20,000 children have been killed in Chechnya and tens of thousands more became orphans.
Main article: History of Chechnya
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 Chechians were converted to Islam and tensions began to die down with the Turks. The current resistance to Russian overlordship began during the late 18th century (1785-1791) under Mansur Ushurma -- a Chechen Naqshbandi (Sufi) Sheikh -- with the support of many ethnicities throughout the Northern Caucasus. 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 the Chechens themselves (who had only recently been converted to Islam). Its banner was again picked up by Imam Shamil, who fought the Russians from 1834 until 1859. He was ultimately defeated after fighting the Russians on a large battlefield, which stretched across both Chechnya and Dagestan.
The Chechens continued to rise up whenever the Russians faced a period of internal uncertainty. Rebellions occurred during the Russo-Turkish War (See Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78), 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; however, this seems unlikely as the German front never made it as far and the removal of the Chechens only began after the German offensive had been repelled. They were only allowed to return to their homeland after 1956 during the de-Stalinization which occurred under Nikita Khrushchev.
The Chechens continued to face discrimination, as did all other ethnic minorities in the Soviet Union. Russification continued, with Russian required in most aspects of life and for advancement in the Soviet system. Unlike other ethnic groups, however, the Chechens were barred from many top positions, with official policy requiring that the Chechen-Ingush First Party secretary, head of KGB, policy chief, and oil administrators be ethnic Russians. The Chechens, despite this, publicly remained loyal 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.
Dzhokhar Dudayev, the Republic of Chechnya's nationalist president, declared Chechnya's independence from Russia in 1991. He, however, failed to maintain control over the entire republic and saw his rule descend into chaos. This anarchy appeared to have the approval of certain factions in Moscow, and was allowed to continue. In 1994, though, 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 Yeltin's approval ratings hovered in the single digits.
Russia was quickly submerged in a quagmire like that of the Soviets in Afghanistan. Chechen insurgents inflicted humiliating losses on Russia's demoralized and ill-equipped troops. Russian troops had not secured the Chechen capital of Grozny by year's end. They finally managed to gain control of it in February 1995 after heavy fighting. This was overturned again, with Chechen forces led by Shamil Basayev retaking the city in 1996. In addition to difficulties in the battlefield, heavy public opposition developed inside Russia itself, with critical media coverage pointing to the lack of training for Russian soldiers, their poor equipment, and the devastation within Chechnya itself. In August 1996 Yeltsin ultimately agreed to a ceasefire with Chechen leaders, and the Khasavyurt agreement declared that Chechnya's ultimate fate would be decided by the end of 2001. It was determined that between 80,000 and 100,000 (Russians and Chechens) died as a result of the invasion.
The Chechens elected Aslan Maskhadov as their president in 1997, but, due to the power of clans, militias, and criminal organizations within the republic, he was unable to assert complete control. Inside Russia itself, politics remained unstable, with a number of different individuals being appointed prime minister. As Yeltsin’s second term approached its end, the topic of Chechnya began to reappear. Under Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, in power from May until August 1999, plans were prepared to reinvade. As the previous war had ultimately been brought to an end because of public opposition, it was determined an atmosphere conducive to another invasion had to be created. This was done through television propaganda, which placed the blame for nearly every incident in Russia itself upon people of Caucasian descent - even when others were clearly to blame. On August 7th, a small invasion of Chechen forces – which were not affiliated with the Chechen government of Maskhadov – moved into Dagestan under the command of Basayev and other Islamists. Stepashin was soon dismissed and replaced by Vladimir Putin, who was maneuvered into the position by the Oligarch Boris Berezovsky, on August 9th. Putin promptly ordered Russian forces to Dagestan on August 12th.
This incursion by non-affiliated Chechen forces did not spark an invasion, but did result in Russian troops being placed along the border of the republic; instead, it was the ‘terrorist’ attacks of September that ultimately did. Bombs were set off at apartment blocks at Buinaksk in Dagestan, Moscow, and Volgodonsk in Southern Russia. The Russian government immediately blamed Chechen terrorists. These bombs, however, were determined to be hexogen based – a substance which is difficult to produce and under extreme security in Russia. At the same time, another bombing attempt was foiled in the city of Ryazan as government FSB agents were found planting devices. This makes their Chechen origin suspect; however, it was more than enough to justify the invasion in the eyes of the Russian public -- especially after the anti-Caucasian media campaign of the previous months. 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 (See September 11th, 2001 attacks). These attacks have ranged from mass hostage-takings to rail, subway, and suicide bombings. The most memorable occurred in Beslan in September 2004, 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. 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 Russian soldiers) have been killed within Chechnya as a result of the second invasion. The Russians and their Chechen allies have been accused of human rights abuses by international observers, such as the Russian group Memorial (See Memorial (society)) 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.
It is also important to note that Chechen separatists have become increasingly radicalized and fractured, with Shamil Basayev adopting Islamist positions and inviting support from Arab Islamist organizations. This was opposed by the now deceased moderate, 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 ultimately differed greatly in both vision and ideology. Will the conflict ever end? No one knows.
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.
Since 1990, the Chechen Republic has had legal, military, and civil conflicts involving the separatist movements. However, the current government of the Chechen Republic meets most laws of Checheno-Ingushkaya ASSR, the Chechen Republic, and the Russian Federation. This compromise is considered by some to be pro-federal government. Despite popular belief, most Chechen citizens see the Chechen Republic as being within the Russian Federation (more than 70% by independent and even anti-Russian polls).
The former separatist warlord, Akhmad Kadyrov, looked upon as a traitor by separatists, was elected president with 83% of the vote in an internationally monitored election on October 5, 2003. There were claims, however, of ballot stuffing and voter intimidation by Russian soldiers and the exclusion of separatist parties from the polls made by the OSCE. Rudnik Dudayev is head of the Chechen Security Council and Anatoly Popov is the Prime Minister. On May 9, 2004, Kadyrov was assassinated in a Grozny 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 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 recognized by any state (although members have been given political asylum in European and Arab countries, as well as the United States.) 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 said to be barred, and Maskhadov facing accusations of "terrorist offences" in Russia for his involvement in separatist wars. Maskhadov left Grozny and moved to the separatist-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 Britain. 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 separatist Chechen community.
Chechnya Republic consists of the following districts (Russian: районы):
- Naursky (Наурский)
- Shelkovskoy (Шелковской)
- Nadterechny (Надтеречный)
- Groznensky (Грозненский)
- Gudermessky (Гудермесский)
- Sunzhensky (Сунженский)
- Achkhoy-Martanovsky (Ачхой-Мартановский)
- Urus-Martanovsky (Урус-Мартановский)
- Shalinsky (Шалинский)
- Kurchaloyevsky (Курчалоевский)
- Itum-Kalinsky (Итум-Калинский)
- Shatoysky (Шатойский)
- Vedensky (Веденский)
- Nozhay-Yurtovsky (Ножай-Юртовский)
- Sharoysky (Шаройский)
- Population: 1.3 million
- Area: 19,300 km²
Chechnya is located in the Moscow Time Zone (MSK/MSD). UTC offset is +0300 (MSK)/+0400 (MSD).
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 in 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. The separatists planned to put into circulation a new currency, the Nahar, but the Federal army prevented them.
As an effect of the war approximately 80% of 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 76%. Despite economic improvements, smuggling and bartering are still occupations of a significant part of the population. 
According to the federal government in Moscow 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.
Most Chechens are Sunni Muslim, the country having converted to that faith between the 16th and the 18th century. At the end of the Soviet era, ethnic Russians were about 23 percent of the population (269,000 in 1989); however, war and social conflict led most Russians to flee Chechnya during the 1990s. At the close of the 1990s, about 60,000 remained.
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)
- 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(according to a Danish human rights group): Just under 800,000.
- In Grozny (the capital of Chechen Republic): 80,000.
- Chechens predominate, with 98% of the population. (About 10,000 Russians remain.)