Breakaway part of the former Russian autonomous republic of Checheno-Ingush, on the northern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains; official name Noxcijn Republika Ickeriy from 1994; area 17,300 sq km/6,680 sq mi; population (2002) 1,103,700; (2010 est) 1,267,700. The capital is Grozny. Chief industries are oil extraction (at one of the largest Russian oilfields), engineering, chemicals, building materials, and timber. Most of the inhabitants are Sunni Muslim.
Government Under its 2003 constitution , Chechnya is a republic within the Russian Federation with a degree of autonomy. It has a popularly elected prersident and a two-chamber legislature, comprising a 38-member lower chamber, the People's Assembly, and a 20-member upper chamber, the Council of the Republic.
History After decades of resistance, the region was conquered by Russia in 1859. It was an autonomous region of the USSR 1922–36 when it was joined to Ingushetia as the Autonomous Republic of Checheno-Ingush. Many Chechens were deported to Central Asia by Stalin in 1944 for alleged collaboration with the German occupation forces. Over 230,000 Chechens and Ingushes were returned to their homes 1957–58, after the Autonomous Republic was reconstituted. Since 1994, Chechnya has been in a state of war following its secession from the Russian Federation. The territory's declaration of independence did not receive international recognition.
Separatism and conflict In November 1991, following the seizure of power by the Chechen rebel leader General Dzhokhar Dudayev, the region declared its independence as the Chechen Republic (Chechnya). After a brief, unsuccessful attempt to quell the rebellion and the Ingush desire to separate from Chechnya, Moscow entered into negotiations over the republic's future, and in 1992 Chechnya became an autonomous republic in its own right. Later the same year fighting broke out between separatist rebels loyal to Dudayev and anti-separatist opposition forces, backed by Russia. In December 1992, Chechnya and Ingushetia formally separated.
Civil war developed during 1994 and in December Russian forces entered Chechnya and bombed Grozny. On 19 January 1995, Russian forces captured the presidential palace. By March 1995 an estimated 40,000 civilians had been killed and 250,000 had been made refugees. By June 1995 Russian forces had overrun most of the republic's urban centres, and the Chechen rebels resorted to guerrilla warfare tactics; that month around 2,000 people were taken hostage by rebels led by Shamil Basayev, in the town of Budennovsk. Following negotiations between Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Basayev for the hostages' release, peace talks began in Grozny and a ceasefire agreement was signed on 30 July 1995.
Breakdown of ceasefire agreement Fighting broke out again in December 1995 as rebels attempted to disrupt local elections, and in January 1996 a further hostage crisis occurred in southern Russia. As at Budennovsk, the Chechen rebels appeared to have won safe passage home until ambushed by Russian troops at the border town of Pervomayskoye, where they were subjected to massive artillery and rocket bombardment. Many of the rebels and their hostages escaped under cover of darkness. General Dudayev was killed in a Russian rocket attack in April 1996. In August 1996, in an assault designed to undermine Boris Yeltsin's inauguration as president of the Russian Federation, the rebels stormed Grozny. On 30 August 1996, a further ceasefire peace deal was negotiated by the Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov with Russia. Under this it was agreed that a decision on Chechnya's status would be postponed until 2001, and in November 1996 Russia's President Yeltsin decreed the withdrawal of all Russian troops from the region to end what became known as the First Chechen War (1994–96).
Presidential elections In January 1997 Maskhadov claimed an outright victory in Chechnya's presidential elections, with 63% of the vote, and made it clear that he wanted Chechen independence recognized by the rest of the world as well as by Russia. In March 1998, the capital Grozny was renamed Dzhokhar, after the Chenchen rebels' first leader.
In July 1998, Maskhadov, who was struggling to suppress armed Islamist factions, narrowly survived a car bomb assassination attempt. A month earlier, a state of emergency and curfew had been imposed in an effort to establish some order. The continuation of hostage-taking in the republic and clan-based conflicts spread instability to the neighbouring Islamic regions of Dagestan and Ingushetia.
Russian control reasserted after Second Chechen War Fighting broke out in Chechnya again from September 1999, with Russian forces attacking rebel strongholds. In January 2000, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with the acting president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, but failed to bring about a peaceful end to the conflict. By February 2000, despite stiff resistance and heavy losses, Russian forces had secured control over much of Grozny, including the city centre. There were over 5,000 Russian troop casualties and an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 civilian casualties, while more than 200,000 civilians had fled Chechnya, mainly to Ingushetia.
In June 2000, Putin, who had been elected Russia's president in March 2000, imposed direct presidential rule over Chechnya, but violence continued in the region. In August 2000, the leader of the Chechen defence of Grozny until February 2000, Lechi Islamov, was arrested by Russian forces.
In response to increasing international criticism of mass arrests, torture, and killing by the Russian army in Chechnya, Moscow ordered an official investigation into possible war crimes, which was put into place in April 2000. Permission was also given for the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, Alvaro Gil-Robles, to go to the region and investigate the allegations. The UN Human Rights Commission also criticized Russia for using disproportionate force and for attacking civilians during the war, and requested that UN investigators be permitted to investigate the area.
In October 2000, the human rights group Human Rights Watch released a report stating that arbitrary detention, torture, and extortion were common in Chechnya.
In July 2001, Russia's chief military officer in Chechnya, General Vladimir Moltenskoi, admitted that Russian troops had committed widespread crimes in searching two villages, beating and torturing some 1,500 inhabitants. This was the first time such a degree of official contrition had been shown by army commanders for the behaviour of Russian forces during the Chechen war.
Violent backlash Although the Russian government claimed victory in the Chechen war, major terrorist attacks against Russian targets by Chechen separatists continued. In August 2002 a Russian military transport helicopter was shot down outside Grozny, killing 115 soldiers. In October 2002, Chechen rebels took 800 people hostage in a Moscow theatre for three days before troops stormed the building in a gas attack which killed not only the terrorists but also over 100 of the hostages. In December 2002, 100 people were killed when suicide bombers crashed dynamite-laden trucks into the Chechen government headquarters in Grozny. Suicide bomb attacks in May and August 2003 claimed another 130 lives. In September 2004, during a three-day siege at a school in Beslan in the Russian region of North Ossetia, 330 people died, many of them children.
New constitution and presidential elections On 23 March 2003, Chechen voters in a referendum approved a new constitution to keep the republic within the Russian Federation, but with greater autonomy under a new president and parliament. The presidential election, held under martial law on 5 October 2003, was won by Akhmad Kadyrov, the Moscow-appointed head of the Chechen administration for the previous three years, though it was widely believed by observers and human rights groups that the elections were rigged.
On 9 May 2004, Kadyrov was assassinated in a bomb blast in Grozny in May 2004, apparently by Chechen separatists. He was succeeded by another pro-Moscow candidate, Alu Alkhanov, who won presidential elections in August 2004 (though these too were seen as rigged). Parliamentary elections followed in November 2005.
A self-proclaimed separatist government headed by former president Aslam Maskhadov, also claimed legitimacy. But Maskhadov was killed in a confrontation with Russian forces on 8 March 2005. His successor, Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, was also killed by Russian troops, on 17 June 2006. A month later, Shamil Basayev, the military leader of Chechen rebels, was killed by an explosion which may have been accidental or the work of rival insurgents.
Relative stability In April 2007, Ramzan Kadyrov, the 30-year-old son of the former president, replaced Alkhanov as president. As prime minister from December 2005, he had already been the republic's de facto leader and had been a pro-Moscow militia leader. As president, he brought firm rule, stability, and relative peace, which enabled the economy to begin to recover. Despite the republic's secular constitution, President Kadyrov, a believer in traditional Islam, introduced laws which were more consistent with Chechnya's Islamic heritage, such as banning alcohol and gambling and requiring women to use headscarves.
In April 2009, Russia announced that it had pulled out most of its troops from Chechnya and was ending its counter-terrorism operation, with the rebel movement much diminished. In August 2009, Akhmed Zakayev, the head of the separatist government, declared an end to armed resistance to the Chechen police. Despite this, there remained suicide bombing attacks in Chechnya, and in adjoining Ingushetia.
Crisis in the Caucasus: Russia's Conflict in Chechnya and Dagestan
Related Credo Articles
A constituent republic of Russia in the N Caucasus. Chechenia has an oilfield and deposits of natural gas and minerals. Its main...
Republic of the Russian Federation, in the N Caucasus; the capital is Grozny . The region's chief rivers are the Terek and Sunzha, whose...
The Chechen wars (1994–6 and 1999) have been the most disastrous, destructive and cruel wars on the territory of the former Soviet Union. While...