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By: Andrew Dennis


The Chechens always despised being ruled by the Russians, likewise, Russia loathed them ranked them among the most ruthless and severe criminals of the former Soviet Union (Roskin 285). Stalin deported the Chechens to Kazakhstan in 1944, claiming they were "German collaborators". When the remaining Muslim Chechens were permitted back into their homeland, they returned feeling bitter and helpless without any available resources on which to survive. Since their repatriation, the people of Chechnya have had a particular bone to pick with Russia (Fielding). Animosity between the Russians and Chechens eventually exploded into a brutal bout of ethnic fighting leaving the present-day status extremely sketchy. The entire issue is complex and volatile. In order to gain a sense of what is currently happening in Chechnya, this paper will explore a number of aspects of the conflict: what caused the war, who was involved and why, and what, if any, developments are being made towards peace. After examining those topics, we will try to decide if there is any hope for the future; will recent events will lead us towards peace or further hostility and warfare. In 1991, immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chechen rebel leader Jokar Dudayev hopped on the bandwagon with other seceding republics, and ceased an opportunity to declare independence from Russia, or "Mother Moscow". "Most Soviet nationalities did not like the Russians, whom they saw as a colonial, or occupying power" (Roskin 284). Contrary to places like Estonia, Armenia, and Ukraine, Chechnya did not fully succeed at seceding and was still legally a member of the Russian Federation (Dyer). In practice, they were as independent as you could get, and they lived quite peacefully for a couple of years, despite the formal connection to Russia. The arrangement might have worked out if it wasn't for Russia's persistent paranoia. They began to fear that these Republics would serve as an example for other areas contemplating secession, and they were experiencing difficulty coming to terms with their shrinking borders. A mere two years after Chechnya made their declaration for independence, President Boris Yeltsin decided he could not let them go. Subsequently, he prescribed a remedy for their suppression which was sending in the troops (Dyer). Apparently Yeltsin made this hasty decision without any consultation with the military, in the absence of parliamentary debate, and with next to no publicity (Roskin 285). These actions would later come back to haunt Yeltsin, as this horrific ethnic war begins to materialize. Yeltsin's plan was to enter Chechnya and erase any notion of independence. He promised this would be a quick and painless victory for Russia, taking only a few days. Some were even audacious enough to boast that the attack would amount to a few hours. Of course, no one had any reason to doubt him; after all, Russia still has one of the world's largest armies, "with more soldiers than Chechnya has people" (Dyer). But, ten weeks following their entry into Chechnya, the utterly humiliated and demoralized Russian troops started to realize just how badly they underestimated belligerent Chechnya. With a stark 5000 combatants, no official government support, and minimal weaponry, the Chechens managed to stave off the massive numbers of Russian fighters in this "pocket gazavat" or Holy War (Gee). The Chechens lacked any real structure. "They're about as coordinated as a demolition derby, but equally as destructive and resourceful" (Fielding). Regardless of their weaknesses, they used their rugged, mountain terrain to their advantage, and fashioned homemade artillery from whatever materials they could get their hands on. Chechnya absolutely hated even being associated with Russia, mainly because their lifestyles were dramatically different. "They were as far from the socialist, there-is-no-God, one-size-fits-all Soviet model as one could be" (Fielding). They figured since Russia initiated this war, and given their history together, they were going to give all they had to avoid defeat. To say that Russia's tactics were pathetic seems to be an understatement. It was only after they had deployed thousands of troops and bombed Chechnya's capital, Grozny to absolute ruin, that they could claim to have somewhat stifled the Chechen clans. "The most feared army in the world turned out to be shivering, underfed, stoned, and mostly prepubescent" (Fielding). Reports describe the soldiers as depraved and crippled by the deplorable fighting conditions. Minus proper food and clothing, and without water or warmth, they were vulnerable to nothing but destruction. Yeltsin's plan for a short, and easy war, failed miserably. Gruesome guerilla-warfare continued throughout Chechnya for twenty-one months, and certain estimates claim the death toll stands in the 18,000 to 100,000 range (fielding). During wartime, Russia and Chechen insiders all defended diametrically opposed viewpoints as to whether events were under control, and who maintained the upper hand (Trickey Aug10th/96). Russia did not want to admit their losses, while Chechnya was likely overestimating their winnings (if you can call it that). In spite of these discrepancies, there were a few issues that both groups of citizens agreed upon; they both hated the war. Most Russians could care a less about Chechnya or if they separated, and all the Chechens were diligently striving for was local autonomy. There was also a division among the Chechens, as there were those who were far more extremist than others. Although there were various opinions on how to accomplish their goals, they somehow became united in their cause; total independence from Russia, and replacing Russian law with Islamic rules. "They are united only in their opposition to domination by Christians" (Fielding). The ironic thing that arises here, is that Muslim Chechens, so adamant about enforcing Islamic law, do not adhere to any of the fundamentalist Islamic rules. Smoking and drinking is commonplace among men, and virtually no women comply with the "covering your head" requirement (Fielding). For a group of people who spend a great deal of energy appealing to their God "Allah", it seems odd that they ignore basic rules of the Muslim religion. Obviously this contradiction did not affect the Chechens, because they still relentlessly persevered to achieve their objectives. (However, this divergence from fundamentalist rules is certainly not isolated to just the Chechens. It is understandable how people's morale becomes clouded when they are expending so much energy fighting for their country in a Holy War.) Chechnya simply wanted the armed forces expelled from their homeland so they could conduct their own elections (Naudet), start to rebuild their ruined republic and get on with being independent. No matter how much Russia persisted, the only viable solution to ending the war was for them to leave. "They started this war. As long as they remain on our territory we will fight them" proclaims one Chechen rebel, demonstrating just how tenaciously they fought, and were willing to continue to fight, in their plight for freedom. (Womack). In 1996, the conflict finally began drawing to a close. Russia's National Security Chief, Alexander Lebed, spearheaded negotiations with rebels in the republic, that led to a peace agreement ultimately ending the conflict, or as some would say, a "prolonged cease-fire" (Specter). Some people criticized Lebed's swift movements towards peace, and cautioned him to take it slow, but, observing the malady in Chechnya, Lebed was anxious to advance at a much faster pace. "We know that all wars, even those that last 100 years, end with talks and peace. So why wait?" Lebed was quoted as saying in the Calgary Herald. (Trickey Aug13th/96 ). Unlike a majority of politicians in ...

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Keywords: chechnya war, chechnya flag, chechnya gdp, chechnya story, chechnya map, chechnya president, chechnya religion, chechnya story summary

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