Chechnya and Russian Conflict

Chechnya and Russian Conflict

Photo by Ignat Kushanrev on Unsplash

In November 1920, the Bolsheviks formed the Chechen Legitimacy Region. In 1934, it unified with the Ingush autonomous oblast to establish the Chechen-Ingush autonomous zone, which became a republic two years later. During WWII (1939–45), Soviet leader Joseph Stalin accused the Chechens and Ingush of continuing to cooperate with the Germans. As a consequence, both ethnicities were subjected to mass deportations to Central Asia and the Checheno-Ingushetia republic was disbanded. The exiles were ultimately allowed to return to their homeland and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev re-established democracy in 1957.

As the Soviet Union’s fall continued in 1991, secessionist sentiments grew and in August 1991, Dzhokhar Dudayev, a Chechen legislator and former Soviet air force officer, seized power against the local communist authority. Dudayev was elected Chechen president in October and unilaterally declared Chechnya’s independence from the Russian Federation in November (subsequently Russia). Checheno-Ingushetia was broken into 2 republics in 1992: Chechnya and Ingushetia. Dudayev pursued fiercely nationalistic, anti-Russian policies, and in 1994, armed Chechen opposition groups assisted by Russian military forces tried but failed to remove Dudayev.

Russian soldiers invaded Chechnya on December 11, 1994. In March 1995, Russian forces overcame stiff resistance to take Grozny (Dzhokhar), the capital city. However, Chechen guerrilla resistance continued, and a series of cease-fires were negotiated and disobeyed. When Dudayev was killed by Russian shelling in 1996, veteran rebel commander Aslan Maskhadov was elected president the following year. In May 1997, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Chechen President Ramzan Maskhadov signed a provisional peace treaty that left the matter of Chechnya’s future status undetermined. During the 1990s, it was claimed that up to 100,000 people died in Chechnya more than 400,000 were forced to flee their homes.

Following a joint Chechen-Dagestani, Salafi-jihadist incursion into adjacent Dagestan, a Russian-controlled autonomous republic, Moscow resumed military operations in Chechnya in the autumn months of 1999. Salafi-jihadists expected a massive anti-Russian revolt in that republic, the biggest in the North Caucasus and situated east of Chechnya. The Dagestanis, backed by locally stationed Russian forces, battled together to dislodge the invaders, whose worldview was alien to the majority of Dagestanis. As a result, the Russian Army, which was now much better equipped for war, swept over much of Chechnya by early 2000, pushing the insurgents out of Grozny in February-March of that year.

In the early 2000s, a paramilitary-like group called after its commander, the kadyrovtsy, was established, composed mostly of former rebels with intimate knowledge of their former comrades-in-arms, mountain hideouts, and support networks. By the mid-2000s, as part of Moscow’s Chechenization of the struggle, the kadyrovtsy had replaced the Russian military as the country’s primary counterinsurgency force. The local insurgency, which had grown more Salafi-jihadist, was gradually weakened as a result.The world, which had initially thought Chechnya principally as the place of the most important armed struggle in postwar Europe, was now seeing a tremendous conversion of what had been principally an ethno-separatist movement into a largely Salafi-jihadist insurgency. As a response, most of Chechen fiction has focused on the various features of political violence that have defined this post-Soviet country.

Russian soldiers, who had left Chechnya after the mid-1990s settlements, returned in late 1999 when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blamed Chechen separatists for explosions that killed many people across Russia. (There has been no evidence that Chechens were responsible in the bombings.) The heavy combat has resumed. As Russian forces gained control of the republic, Chechen militants were pushed into the highlands and hills, where they continued to use terrorist tactics. In October 2002, a group of Chechen terrorists took over a Moscow theatre and kidnapped almost 700 spectators and performers. Some 130 hostages were killed during the eventual rescue attempt, mostly as a result of breathing a narcotic gas used by security forces to incapacitate the Chechens. Russia intensified military operations in Chechnya in the context of the incident.

Chechen voters approved a new constitution in 2003 that offered the Chechen government more powers while maintaining the republic in the federation. The following year, Akhmad Kadyrov, the Russian-backed Chechen ruler, was killed in a bomb attack allegedly carried out by Chechen militants. In exchange, Russian soldiers murdered many leading separatist leaders in 2005 and 2006. Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of Akhmad Kadyrov, was elected President of Chechnya in 2007 with Putin’s endorsement. Denying human rights groups’ charges that he used kidnapping, torture, and murder to silence dissent, Kadyrov retained Russia’s backing, and in early 2009 he declared that the insurgency had been suppressed. In April of that year, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proclaimed the end of Russia’s counterinsurgency operations in the republic. Despite this, periodic outbursts of violence remained.

Impossible negotiations between Chechnya and Russia

The escalation of violent incidents in a vicious circle of terrorist attacks and retaliatory violence operations have deteriorated relations between the two parties, making discussions impossible to advance even on a procedural basis. Furthermore, those in support of negotiations, both among Chechen rebels and, more significantly, within the Russian hierarchy, have become so sidelined that it is exceedingly improbable that they will be able to play an interlocutory role in resolving the war that it correspond to a UN-sponsored process of gradual disarmament and democracy of Chechnya competent of having an efficient political role for local authorities inside the framework of a regime of genuine autonomy.

Conclusion and Prospects

Regardless of its ruler’s foreign-policy goals, Chechnya and the rest of the North Caucasus are seen as an internal matter for the Russian Federation. Unlike the South Caucasus, which has three sovereign governments and unresolved territorial problems, Russia’s Caucasian area remains closed to international politics. Chechnya’s economic and political ties with Arab Gulf states are an exception. Europe’s and international organizations’ impact on the peace process has been visibly restricted, particularly during the Second Chechen War.

Regardless of its ruler’s foreign-policy goals, Chechnya and the rest of the North Caucasus are seen as an internal matter for the Russian Federation. Unlike the South Caucasus, which has three sovereign governments and unresolved territorial problems, Russia’s Caucasian area remains closed to international politics. Chechnya’s economic and political ties with Arab Gulf states are an exception. Europe’s and international organizations’ impact on the peace process has been visibly restricted, particularly during the Second Chechen War.

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