The historical origins of the Chechen revolt

Important dates in
Russian-Chechen relations

by Joseph Green
(from Communist Voice #23, February 4, 2000)

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Subheads:
Some historical dates
Exile--the mass deportation of the Chechens and Ingush: 1944-1957
After the return to Chechnya
The period leading to the first Chechen war: late 1980s to 1994
The first Chechen war: November 1994 to November 1996
From the first Chechen war to the second: December 1996 to the present

Full text:

Some historical dates:

.

Several thousand years ago:

. The ancestors of the Chechens arrive in the North Caucasus.

1550s to 1604:

. The Russian state begins serious attempts to enter the North Caucasus, which however had to be given up until 1722

1722:

. There is the first major battle between Chechens and the encroaching Russian state. Russian cavalry sent by Tsar Peter the Great to occupy a village in eastern Chechnya is defeated. Peter the Great dies in 1725, and tsarist expansionism in the region slows until the latter part of the century.

1783:

. The treaty of Georgievsk puts mainly Christian Georgia under Russian protection: the Georgian monarchy had appealed to Russia as protection against Persia, the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic peoples in the Caucasus. However, Russia was for some time incapable of providing military help to Georgia.

1785-1791:

. Chechens, and also Dagestanis and some other Caucasian groups, fight Russian expansionism. They were led by a Chechen Imam, Sheikh Mansur, who also sought to impose a much stricter allegiance to Islam among the Chechens then they had previously practiced. The Russian empire emerged victorious.

1801:

. Georgia is annexed by Russia, and the monarchy is deposed. There are several revolts against Russian rule later in the century.

1816-27:

. Russian General Alexei Yermolov is given command over tsarist troops in the Caucasus. He undertakes a savage policy of massacres, leveling of villages, destruction of crops, and forcible removal of Chechens from the fertile Chechen lowlands (thus blocking the previous migration of Chechens from the mountains to the lowlands). His policies provoke new resistance, and to this day his name is still an object of hatred among Chechens. Sometime after the mass deportation of the Chechens from Chechnya in 1944, the Soviet state-capitalists under Stalin honored this tsarist criminal with a statue in Grozny, which the Chechens attempted to blow up in 1969 and finally tore down in 1991.

1817-64:

. These are the years of the fierce series of rebellions and conflicts called the Caucasian War, in which the Chechens play a major role. Ultimately Russia subjugates the Caucasus through devastating many of its peoples. A substantial part of the Chechen population are killed, while many Chechens and other Caucasian mountaineers are deported from their regions to elsewhere in the Caucasus, or forced to leave the Caucasus entirely and settle in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). The tsarist forces could not achieve victory over the Chechens so long as the forests provided cover for ambushes and guerrilla tactics, so the Russian army systematically cuts down the main Chechen forests. The Chechen landscape is permanently altered.

. Some of the classic Russian authors of this time picture the brutality of this war. The most fervent example is Leo Tolstoy's novel Hadji Murat, which is a fictionalized account of one of the most daring commanders of the Caucasian rebels. Its spirit is illustrated by the following passage from a preliminary draft:

"Russian military commanders, seeking to win distinction for themselves and appropriate the spoils of war, invaded peaceful lands, ravaged villages, killed hundreds of people, raped women, rustled thousands of cattle and then blamed the tribesmen for their attacks on Russian possessions." (Cited in Susan Layton, Russian Literature and Empire: Conquest of the Caucasus from Pushkin to Tolstoy, p. 285)

. The most successful leader of the Chechen and Dagestani forces is the legendary Imam Shamil. He is an Avar, which is one of the peoples in Dagestan; indeed, the three main leaders of the Caucasian revolt are all Avars from Dagestan (and so is Hadji Murat). He also seeks to impose a strict Islamic law, with less success among the Chechens than in Dagestan. One historical account of the Caucasian war points out that: "the religious revival in Daghestan coincided with the Russian conquest; the infidel neighbour became the foreign oppressor, and to the desire for spiritual reformation was added the yet stronger desire for temporal liberty. " (John F. Baddeley, The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus, p.237)

. Shamil also seeks to build up state or governmental institutions among the Chechens, something which the Chechen tribes had not previously had. Contrary to romanticized pictures of such revolts, he doesn't shrink from harsh, dictatorial measures to enforce his decrees and preserve unity against the Russians.

1877-8:

. On the occasion of a war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, there is a new anti-Russian uprising in the North Caucasus, led by Haji Mohammed in Chechnya and Ali-Bek Haji in Dagestan.

1890s:

. Oil is discovered in Grozny, Chechnya's main city, which by 1900 becomes second only to Baku (presently the capital of Azerbaijan) as an oil city in the tsarist empire. Later, Chechnya will be important both for oil extraction and refining in the Soviet Union. Still later, oil extraction will decline quite far by 1980, being less than half the output of 1911, but Chechnya will retain its significance for the Soviet Union as a producer of special aviation oils, as a major refining center, and as part of a major network of oil pipelines.

1917:

. The Bolshevik revolution overthrows the tsarist empire. The Chechens fight such counter-revolutionary forces as the white armies of General Denikin. But the different social forces among the Chechens take different attitudes to the new regime; there are stormy relations between Chechnya and the Soviet Union; and certain sections of the population revolt at certain times. As well, the revolutionary forces themselves are feeling their way to new policies; there are different views about the relation of the national question to socialism; and this too complicates matters. Two major trends stand out. On one hand, based on Lenin's theories about the importance of the right to national self-determination, not just under capitalism but in a countries that have overthrown the old capitalist regime, for the first time the rights of the Chechen nationality and the Chechen common people receive serious attention from Russia. But on the other hand, as the revolution dies away, and the Soviet Union degenerates into a Stalinist, state-capitalist regime, anti-Chechen chauvinism is revived, and by 1944 Stalin condemns the entire nationality.

1920s:

. An alphabet is devised for the Chechen language: previously documents were written in Arabic, and less than 2% of Chechens could read or write. A number of books and magazines appear in the Chechen language, and there is a dramatic spread of literacy. There is a policy of bringing Chechens into the local administration. At the same time, the degeneration of the Russian revolution, which that leads to its death and the establishment of a state-capitalist regime, affects the North Caucasus as elsewhere in the Soviet Union.

1930s:

. Stalin's forced collectivization makes a mockery of the Leninist plan of voluntary collectivization. As well, no account was made of the particular social and class conditions in Chechnya. As a result, there was serious unrest in 1929-1930, and army troops are sent in to suppress it. After that, there is some readjustment of Soviet policy, but tension and repression remain, sometimes dying down and sometimes flaring up. The Stalinist purges of the 1930s are reflected in mass arrests of Chechens.

. At the same time, the rapid economic development in the Soviet Union presumably draws numbers of Chechens into modern economic life.

1936:

. The Ingush and Chechen autonomous regions are merged into a single Autonomous Republic of Chechnya and Ingushetia. The USSR was officially the "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics", with each of the "union republics" supposed to have the right to self-determination. But the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic was not a "union republic" of the Soviet Union, but an autonomous republic inside the Russian "union republic", and thus without the right of self-determination with respect to either the USSR or Russia. This is the legal pretext for Russia's present denial of the right to self-determination to Chechnya, and this pretext is also upheld today by the U.S. government and the European Union. This is somewhat analogous to Kosovo.Kosovo was not one of the six constituent republics of now-dissolved Titoist Yugoslavia, each of which was supposed to have the right to self-determination, but only an autonomous region within the Serbian republic. This is the basis on which the UN to this day refuses to grant the right to self-determination to Kosovo.

1937:

. The major Soviet purges of this year eliminate many of the Chechens who work in administrative or leading conditions. This and other purges, by undermining the secular Chechen leadership that was developing, may well have helped pave the way for the later religious revival.

Exile -- the mass deportation of the Chechens and Ingush:
1944-1957

.

February 1944 (in the latter part of World War II):

. Essentially all Chechens and Ingush, then about half a million people, are deported to Soviet Central Asia, mainly to Kazakhstan. This includes not just residents of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic, but Chechens and Ingush no matter where they lived. The autonomous republic is eliminated, and all traces of the Chechen and Ingush peoples are removed from the area. This is a reactionary, criminal act of ethnic cleansing, done on the basis of a secret decree. It is carried out in a savage way, and accompanied with several massacres of Chechens.

. The Chechens are arbitrarily resettled into different villages and localities; they are denied freedom of movement among these localities; they are subject to police supervision; and they are basically restricted to laboring jobs. In the first years, they suffer particularly badly from lack of sufficient food and shelter, resulting in the death of many deportees.

. Aside from the Chechens and Ingush, there are other mass deportations between October 1943 and June 1944, such as the Karachays, the Balkars, the Kalmyks, and the Crimean Tatars. The Volga Germans had met this fate in August 1941.

June 25, 1946:

. A public decree of the Stalinist regime finally mentions the deportation of the Chechens and Ingush, attempting to justify it as punishment for fighting on the side of the Nazis. Such an attempt to eliminate a nationality altogether as collective punishment is fascistic in any case, but the rationale given is actually a mere pretext. The Nazis had tried to woo various of the peoples in the Caucasus, particularly the Islamic peoples, but they hadn't achieved too much in this regard, especially when considered in light of the considerable unrest in the Caucasus prior to the war. For that matter, the Nazis had also sought to woo the other Soviet nationalities, including the Russians. The Soviet army did have a problem with Chechen desertions, but mainly because it put Chechens into Russian-speaking units where they couldn't understand the language and where they were forced to eat pork. On the other hand, there were 30,000 Chechen and Ingush soldiers in the Soviet army; many had won Soviet decorations for their valor in World War II, and a few had become "Heroes of the Soviet Union"; and Chechen soldiers took part in the famous defense of the Citadel at Brest-Litovsk where a small Soviet unit, surrounded in the German blitzkrieg of the early days of the war, held out for over a month against overwhelming odds. Far from the deportations helping the war against the Nazis, they were a major crime that undermined the moral legitimacy of the Soviet regime, which was why they were originally kept secret. Indeed, such was the savage logic of the deportations that Chechen soldiers had been stripped from the Soviet Army during the war in order to send them as deportees to Central Asia.Meanwhile there had been problems maintaining oil production in the Grozny area because Chechen workers had been deported.

1953:

. In the years following Stalin's death in 1953, travel restrictions and police supervision on the Chechens gradually ease, and other conditions of the exile improve. There is eventually a Chechen weekly newspaper, a Chechen-Ingush Art Theater, books published again in the Chechen language, etc. Meanwhile, by 1955, and especially after the 20th CPSU Party Congress in 1956 where Khrushchev denounced Stalin, tens of thousands of Chechens illegally return to Chechnya and demand the return of their old dwellings.

. At the same time, the regime tries to have Chechens sign statements that they would not seek "the return of property confiscated at the time of their deportation and that they would not return to those places from which they had been deported."

1957:

. A decree removes the charge of fascist collaboration from the Chechens and Ingush and allows their return. (The Balkars, Karachia and Kalmyks also were able to return to their homelands. On the other hand, while the collective condemnation of the Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks is rescinded, they are not allowed to return to their former areas.) The Chechen return is supposed to take place gradually over four years until 1960, but the Chechens and Ingush rush back to their homelands. A Chechen-Ingush republic is re-established, although Russian-speakers are for some time a majority in this area and dominate the republic. There is friction over the status and conditions for the returnees, the attitude of the republic towards them, etc.

. The exile undoubtedly left strong marks on the Chechen people, providing a strong long-term reinforcement for nationalist and religious feelings. It also spread them throughout Kazakhstan and other areas of the Soviet Union (not all of them returned). It affected the class structure of the Chechen population, no doubt considerably proletarianizing them. This, and their additional contacts around the Soviet Union, no doubt facilitated the later large-scale development of Chechen migrant labor: large numbers of Chechen young men, facing unemployment, became seasonal workers who sought summer work outside Chechnya and returned to their families in winter.

After the return to Chechnya

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1960s-80s:

. Chechens and Ingush gain greatly in number by comparison to Russians and other ethnic groups in the Chechen-Ingush republic, eventually becoming a majority again, and gradually gain more influence. But their economic situation deteriorates, leading large numbers of Chechen youth to become seasonal workers, searching for work elsewhere in the Soviet Union during the summer.

1982:

. The Soviet regime in the Chechen-Ingush republic organizes a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the supposedly voluntary union of Chechnya and Russia. This is a travesty of history, and it is an example of how the state-capitalist regime appealed to tsarist oppression of the subject peoples to justify its own denial of national rights to these peoples.

The period leading to the first Chechen war:
late 1980s to 1994

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Late 1980s:

. There are protests in Chechnya with regard to cultural, religious and language issues and, on environmental grounds, against the plan to build a biochemical plant in the Chechen city of Gudermes. A Popular Front is formed, dominated by old-line party officials who want, however, to replace the Russian First Secretary of the local CP with a Chechen.

June 1989:

. Doku Zavgayev becomes the first Chechen since the exile to become First Secretary of the "Communist" (actually, state-capitalist) Party of the Chechen-Ingush Republic. Zavgayev wants to maintain the old state-capitalist system, albeit with top posts staffed with more Chechens, and his supporters sweep the seats from Chechnya in elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR that year, except for the election of a Chechen, Ruslan Khasbulatov, who is then a supporter of Boris Yeltsin.

1990:

. Protests sweep Chechnya; many ethnic Russians and other unpopular officials resign.

1990-1:

. In the bitter fight between Russian leader Yeltsin and Soviet leader Gorbachev, both sides appeal to the various regions in Russia, or even to Russia as a whole, with the promise of more national rights. On April 26, 1990 a Soviet decree from the Gorbachev government declares that all the autonomous republics inside Russia were "subjects of the USSR" (as opposed to simply being "subjects of Russia"), thus bypassing Russia's control. For his part, Yeltsin declares the "sovereignty" of the Russian Federation on June 12, 1990. Moreover, Yeltsin tours various regions of Russia in 1990-91 declaring "take as much sovereignty as you can swallow". And in April 1991 the Russian Federation decrees "The Law on the Rehabilitation of All Repressed Peoples". Meanwhile a draft treaty redefining the basis of the Soviet Union is circulated by the Soviet leadership in November 1990, and it places the autonomous republics in Russia more on a par with the union republics of the Soviet Union. Later, in 1991, Gorbachev would invite such figures as the Chechen Doku Zavgayev to take part in the negotiation of a new treaty defining the basis of the Soviet Union.

November 23-25, 1990:

. The National Congress of the Chechen People is formed at a meeting in Grozny with over 1,000 delegates. Only Chechens, not Ingush, are invited. Various political forces are involved, both supporters of Zavgayev and more nationalistic elements. Jokhar Dudayev, the first Chechen general in the Soviet armed forces since the exile and the commander of an air force division of long-range nuclear bombers, is elected the chairman of the Executive Committee set up by the Congress. This may well be due to the desire to find a figurehead leader who is above the factions; after all, Major-General Dudayev is stationed in Estonia, quite far from Chechnya, and hence might be expected to play little role in Chechen politics. But Dudayev leaves the Soviet air force in March 1991 and assumes an active role as head of the Executive Committee in Grozny.He becomes the head of the independence movement in Chechnya until his death in 1996.

November 1990 - July 1991:

. The day after the Chechen Congress closes, the official government body, the local Supreme Soviet, imitating the sovereignty declaration of the Russian Federation, declares the Chechen-Ingush Republic a "sovereign state". The declaration doesn't mean that the Soviet is actually seeking to leave Russia or the Soviet Union, but it is trying to coopt the nationalist mass movement. Meanwhile, in 1991, after Dudayev moves to Grozny, he reshapes the Chechen National Congress into a militant independence movement. In June it declares the formation of an Chechen state independent of Russia or the Soviet Union, and a number of the founders of the Chechen National Congress abandon it. The Executive Committee of the Chechen National Congress calls for dissolving the local Supreme Soviet, while the official party and state leadership seek to suppress public opposition from the independence movement.

August 1991:

. The old-guard in the CP leadership stages a coup against Gorbachev, seeking to seize power throughout the Soviet Union. This reactionary attempt to restore the old regime by force accelerates secessionist tendencies everywhere in the USSR and sparks "the Chechen revolution". The official party and state officials in Chechnya are irrevocably discredited by their actions. Although some denounce the coup, others support it and try to suppress opposition with military force, while key leaders like Zavgayev wait to see which way the wind is blowing before taking a public stand. Dudayev and the Chechen National Congress denounce the coup immediately, organize demonstrations and a general strike against it, and call again for the dissolution of the official government apparatus, exposed by its stand towards the coup. More and more areas in Chechnya back the Chechen National Congress and send people to Grozny to overthrow the old apparatus.

. Yeltsin holds back the armed forces loyal to it from restraining the Chechens. He now opposes Zavgayev due to his stand on the coup, and temporarily backs the Chechen militants, who have been supporting him. Khasbulatov as well, at this point allied closely to Yeltsin, welcomes the pressure on Zavgayev. Later Zavgayev will be back in favor with Yeltsin, and even a Yeltsin advisor, as a Chechen who backs Russian measures against Chechnya.

September 1991:

. The struggle between the Chechen National Congress and the official apparatus intensifies and results in the successful storming of the parliament in Grozny. Eventually there is the forced dissolution of the Supreme Soviet, all this to the applause of Khasbulatov, who visits Chechnya and chairs the last meeting of its Supreme Soviet, when it hands over power to a Provisional Supreme Council. But later in September and October, when it appears that Dudayev is pressing for full independence, going beyond what Yeltsin and Khasbulatov want, refusing to recognize the Provisional Supreme Council, and setting up an apparatus independent of Moscow, Moscow begins to turn against Dudayev and the Chechen movement. At the same time, Dudayev always claims--right up to his death--that Chechnya should be independent of Russia, but associated. He holds that Russia and Chechnya should be equal as separate republics inside the Soviet Union, or later, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

September 15, 1991:

. An Ingush Congress declares that Ingushetia is separate from Chechnya, and is its own autonomous republic within the Russian Federation.

October 1991:

. The Chechen independence movement consolidates its power, despite hostile resolutions of the Russian Duma and harsh threats from Russian President Yeltsin, Vice-president Rutskoi, and Khasbulatov, the latter two later being prominent leaders of the parliamentary opposition to Yeltsin. (Rutskoi, notably, is particularly virulent in his demands for simply suppressing the Chechens by force.) Despite this, parliamentary and presidential elections are held on October 27 in Chechnya, with Dudayev elected as president.

October 19, 1991:

. Yeltsin denounces and threatens the Chechen movement in his first televised statement on Chechnya.

November 2, 1991:

. Khasbulatov is confirmed as speaker of the Russian Duma and sponsors a resolution denouncing the Chechen elections. This is the formal resolution accompanying the beginning of protracted Russian efforts to forcibly resubjugate Chechnya.

November 7, 1991:

. Yeltsin declares a state of emergency in Chechnya, orders Dudayev's arrest, and prepares to subdue Chechnya by force.

November 9, 1991:

. Russian troops from the Interior Ministry fly into Khankala Airport outside Grozny. They are immediately blockaded by a new Chechen national guard, while a huge mass meeting in Freedom Square in Grozny rallies around the Dudayev government. Meanwhile, with the rivalry between Yeltsin and Gorbachev still proceeding, Gorbachev issues orders that Russian and Soviet troops should stay neutral. By evening, the Russian troops surrender their weapons to the Chechens and are bused out of the airport and back to Russian positions. Thus ends the first Russian attempt to retake Grozny.

. Russian military base are, however, still all over Chechnya. Over the coming months, Chechens surround them, seeking to force the troops out but have them leave their weapons behind. Russia in fact loses most of these weapons, and all Russian troops are forced out by Chechnya by June 8, 1992.

December 1991:

. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) dissolves. Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus join together in a loose Commonwealth of Independent States, which quickly grows to include a number of other republics of the former USSR.

January 1992:

. The bourgeois nationalist Zviad Gamsakhurdia becomes president of Georgia in May 1991.Russia provides strong backing for a coup, which finally overthrows him seven months later, at the beginning of 1992. The result is several years of warfare. As a result of the unstable situation arising from this coup, and from a Russian-backed insurgency in Abhazia, Georgian president Shevardnadze has to welcome Russian troop presence. Also notable is that both Gamsakhurdia and then, for a time, Shevardnadze had rejected Georgian membership in the Commonwealth of Independent States, but as part of the price for Russian assistance Shevardnadze takes Georgia into the CIS in December 1993.

. The overthrow of Gamsakhurdia helps Russia isolate Chechnya, while Gamsakhurdia is given refuge in 1992-3 by Chechen President Dudayev.

March 31, 1992:

. Chechen opposition forces, backed and armed by Russia, attempt an armed coup in Grozny, but are driven out by the evening.

June 1992:

. The former Soviet republic of Moldova, located between Ukraine and Romania, isn't part of the Caucasus, but is closer to the Balkans. However, the events here illustrate Russia's manipulation of national conflicts outside its borders in order to preserve its influence. The Russian 14th Army, still present despite Moldovan independence in 1991, helps arm a separatist movement in the small Transdniester region of Moldova, a movement particularly worried by the prospect that Moldova might join Romania. Then, under a new commander, General Alexander Lebed, the 14th Army intervenes in June 1992 to prevent Moldova from defeating the secessionists, but without removing Transdniester from Moldova, and Lebed also stops further Russian arming of the secessionists. (It can be noted that the secessionists are mainly led by old-guard forces from the old CP, friendly to the opposition to Yeltsin, and besides, union with Russia is unlikely as Transdniester doesn't border Russia, and ethnic Russians in Transdniester are outnumbered both by ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Moldovans.) Since then, the dispute has calmed down, in part because nationalists committed to uniting Moldova to Romania have lost much ground and also because Moldova grants Transdniestria a certain autonomy. But Russian military forces remain, acting for the time being somewhat like UN peacekeeping forces in the former Yugoslavia, and Moldova's fate is tied with the policy of the Russian commander.

. Such Russian influence, combined with the pressure of a Russian agricultural tariff imposed to punish Moldova for its parliament refusing to ratify Moldova's membership in the CIS, results in ratification of CIS membership in April 1994.

1992:

. This year marks the beginning of the secessionist revolt of Abkhazia against Georgia. Many fighters come from other Islamic mountaineer peoples of the Caucasus to join the fight against mainly Christian Georgia. The Abkhaz nationality suffers greatly from Georgian chauvinism, and perhaps so does some of the non-Abkhaz nationalities in the area. At the same time, large numbers of ethnic non-Abkhaz people, who are a substantial majority in the area, eventually flee Abkhazia. Russia provides strong military backing for the revolt, with the ironic result that it helps supply the war in which many Chechen militants, such as Shamil Basayev, get their military training. Russia's interest is in destabilizing Georgia enough that it will turn to Russia for troops and support, as Georgian President Shevardnadze in fact does.

September 6-7, 1992:

. Russian special forces and other armed units enter a Dagestan village bordering Chechnya, preparing to enter Chechnya. They are blocked by the local population, and are forced to retreat.

November 1992:

. There is a bloody clash between the Ingush Republic and Ossetia over the Prigorodny district, which had originally belonged to the Chechen-Ingush autonomous republic but had been handed over by the Stalin government of the Soviet Union to North Ossetia after the mass deportations of 1944. Russia basically sides with Ossetia, but the Ingush Republic continues to cherish hopes that Yeltsin may make good on his promises and that Russia may aid it in getting the region back. This is one of the reasons that Ingushetia did not join Chechnya in demanding full independence from Russia.

. In connection with these events, Russian troops in Ingushetia move toward a still unsettled border with Chechnya, and Russian and Chechen armored forces confront each other. But an agreement is reached between Russia and Chechnya to end the crisis.

December 1992:

. The Yeltsin administration decides to step up its support of forces in Chechnya opposed to the Dudayev government.

April 17, 1993:

. Dudayev's one-time friendly relations with the Chechen parliament have vanished. He declares presidential rule and the dissolution of the Chechen parliament and the Town Council of Grozny. On April 18 Parliament, defying Dudayev's order of dissolution, begins impeachment proceedings against Dudayev, and on the 19th the Constitutional Court invalidates the dissolution of Parliament. Grozny becomes the scene of two daily streams of demonstrations, those for and against Dudayev. Dudayev dissolves the Constitutional Court on June 3.

June 4, 1993:

. Dudayev suppresses the opposition with armed force, thus consolidating control in Grozny (but not all over Chechnya) and fending off an opposition-organized referendum scheduled for June 5.

June 1993:

. The bourgeois nationalist Azerbaijani president Abulfaz Elchibey is overthrown by an armed coup with substantial Russian help. This too helps isolate Chechnya. It also clears the way for Azerbaijan to rejoin the CIS (it had joined in 1991 but left after the Azerbaijani parliament wouldn't ratify CIS membership).

October 1993:

. The sad results of the free-market reforms in Russia had led to increasingly conflict between Yeltsin and the Russian parliament ("Duma") led by Khasbulatov. This reaches a climax, and President Yeltsin, backed by the armed forces, defeats the rebellion of the Russian parliament and has the parliament building shelled and occupied. He replaces the Russian constitution by a new one which gives the president sweeping powers (this is later ratified in a referendum). There is an eerie parallel between the struggles between the President and Parliament in Russia and Chechnya.

May 27, 1994:

. There is an attempt to assassinate Dudayev with a remote-controlled car bomb. The second car in a procession of official cars--the spot usually used by Dudayev--is blown up, murdering two high Chechen officials, but this time Dudayev was in the third car. The high-tech nature of the attack leads to the belief that it was organized by the Russian secret services.

Summer 1994:

. Russia puts more emphasis on the "half-force" option (something like American "low-intensity conflict", which gained notoriety in Central America) to overthrow the Chechen government. This means overthrowing Dudayev through a covert operation with Chechen front-men and Russian personnel disguised as Chechens. The Yeltsin government steps up the military and financial support to the Russian-backed "Provisional Council of the Chechen Republic" which had been founded in December 1993.

August 1, 1994:

. The Russian-backed "Provisional Council" declares that it has taken power in Chechnya. This indicates its intention, not the reality, and serves as a request for more Russian aid. On August 25, a secret resolution of the Yeltsin government recognizes the "Provisional Council". On August 30, fighting intensifies between the Russian-backed forced "Provisional Council" and the Dudayev-government of Chechnya.

October 15, 1994:

. Armed forces under the command of some elements of the Russian-backed opposition stage a surprise attack on Grozny and, without much fighting, occupy some administrative buildings.They leave Grozny on the same day, apparently due in large part to contradictions among the different factions of the opposition and between the Yeltsin government and Khasbulatov. Khasbulatov, the former leader of the Russian parliament who was a Chechen, had been jailed after Yeltsin's suppression of the parliamentary revolt in 1993. He is released from jail in 1994 and goes to Chechnya, where he has some popularity (no doubt enhanced by his imprisonment by Yeltsin), and intrigues to replace the Dudayev government with his own rule of a Chechnya restored to Russia. The Yeltsin government may well fear that any success on October 15 would rebound of the advantage of their current bitter rival, Khasbulatov, and prefer to overthrow Dudayev on their own. In any case, the fiasco on October 15 shows that the "half-force" option isn't working.

November 24, 1994:

. The Russian-backed "Provisional Council" of Chechnya creates a Government of National Rebirth.

November 26, 1994:

. A substantial Russian armored force, in the guise of Chechen oppositionists, attempts to install a "Government of National Rebirth" in Grozny. Russian television announces that the Dudayev government has fled the Presidential Palace, but the attack is, in fact, another fiasco. It is not only beaten back, but 21 Russian soldiers are taken prisoner, exposing the real force behind the attack.So much for the "half-force" option.

The first Chechen war:
November 1994 - November 1996

.

December 11, 1994:

. A large Russian force, vastly outnumbering the forces at the disposal of the Dudayev government, invades Chechnya from three directions.

December 31, 1994:

. The Russian forces bombard Grozny, and push into the city with a strong armored force. The city suffers massive destruction, but the invading forces suffer a bloody defeat. Large numbers of Russian armored vehicles are destroyed; some units face virtual annihilation; and the Russian forces are pushed out of the city center. In the following days, the Russian army begins a systematic destruction of Grozny and resumes a more systematic attack on the city.

March 7, 1995:

. Russian forces finally occupy all of Grozny.

April 21, 1996:

. Chechen President Dudayev is killed by a Russian rocket, which homes in on the signal from a satellite telephone that Dudayev is using while seeking to arrange negotiations with Russia. In March, Yeltsin had ordered his assassination. Vice-president Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev becomes president.

May 28, 1996:

. Yeltsin visits Chechnya and declares that Russia had destroyed all the "bandit groups" and won the war.

August 6, 1996:

. The Chechens begin their successful attempt to retake Grozny from the Russian armed forces.

August 12, 1996:

. On behalf of the Yeltsin government, General Lebed begins serious negotiations with the Chechens at the border town of Khasavyurt in Dagestan.

August 31, 1996:

. All Russian troops have left Grozny, and an agreement is signed by Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Maskhadov at Khasavyurt. A final settlement concerning the political independence of Chechnya, however, is left for future determination in five years, by December 31, 2001. A joint Russian-Chechen commission is to run the economy of Chechnya, but in practice it does little and quickly meets its demise. Chechnya continues to insist it is independent, but Russia continues to make economic difficulties for it.

October 17, 1996:

. Lebed is fired from the Yeltsin government.

November 23, 1996:

. Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and Maskhadov reach agreement on the withdrawal of Russian troops prior to Chechen presidential elections at the end of January 1997. In fact, the troops leave in six weeks. The first Chechen war is over.

From the first Chechen war to the second:
December 1996 to the present

.

1997-1999:

. Chechnya, in desperate straits before the war, is left devastated by the war. Cities and villages were ravaged; there are few resources for rebuilding; there is little employment; and there is no stable state authority. As well, Russia continues to harass Chechnya economically. The Chechen government and economy is in a state of disarray. A large number of kidnappings of foreigners, including aid workers, engineers and others, eventually contributes to isolating Chechnya

January 27, 1997:

. One of the two main military leaders of the fight against Russia, Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, is elected president of Chechnya, his main opponent being the other key military leader, Shamil Basayev. Maskhadov is supposed to be the guy who Russia is able to make deals with.

Autumn 1998:

. President Maskhadov had brought Basayev into his government, but Basayev eventually leaves, takes part in oppositional groupings, and demands the removal of Maskhadov. There are several other commanders from the Chechen war in the same grouping as Basayev, the most prominent being Salman Raduyev, who was a rival to Basayev during the war, and "Khattab", a Jordanian who had been with the Mujahedin in Afghanistan. The opposition presses Maskhadov to abolish the secular state established by the Chechen constitution and instead establish Islamic law in Chechnya, which Maskhadov concedes to in early 1999.

December 1998:

. Four telecom engineers from Britain and New Zealand are kidnapped. This is just one of many kidnappings taking place. In this case, Maskhadov's government tries and fails to free them, and they are beheaded. This is alleged to be the act of the Islamic extremist "Wahabi" group. Such groups are spreading in Chechnya and Dagestan.

July-August 1999:

. Chechen rebels associated with Shamil Basayev are the main force in raids by Islamic militants on Russian forces in Dagestan in the name of Dagestani independence and creating a greater Islamic state in the North Caucasus. Dagestan is a North Caucasian region which is still part of the Russian federation. There are many different nationalities in Dagestan, and it seems that the Islamic fundamentalist and independence forces do not have much support in Dagestan at this time.

September 1999:

. The struggle in Dagestan heats up further. Russian forces retaliate against the rebels, who suffer defeat in Dagestan, but Russian forces go on to stage attacks on Chechnya in the name of attacking rebel bases. By now, there are tens of thousands of Dagestani refugees. Several mysterious terrorist bomb attacks occur in Moscow, killing and injuring hundreds of ordinary Russians. It is not clear who set these bombs; no one takes any credit for them; and the fact that they are politically advantageous to the Yeltsin government does not go without notice. Without any evidence, the Yeltsin government blames them on Chechens, and steps up its attacks on Chechnya. There is also hysteria organized against Chechens and other darker-skinner peoples living in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia.

October 2, 1999:

. After over a week of bombing Chechnya, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin withdraws recognition of the Chechen government and declares that a puppet Chechen parliament set up under Russian occupation of Chechnya in 1996 is the real government (this parliament is now based in Moscow). The Russian government has thus renounced the Khasavyurt accords that ended the first Chechen war.

October 1999 to January 2000:

. Russia invades Chechnya with large forces, taking the plains, but suffering repeated setbacks and heavy casualties in its attempt to take Grozny, and also facing heavy fighting in the Chechen highlands. More than 200,000 Chechen refugees flee to neighboring Ingushetia. Russia demands that all civilians leave Grozny, so that it can bomb the city to hell, which it is doing anyway. Meanwhile, in order to resist Russia, the Chechen government led by Aslan Maskhadov and the Islamic rebels led by Shamil Basayev join together.

December 1999:

. Russian looting throughout Chechnya is so bad that even Malik Saidullayev, a businessmen who is head of a pro-Russian puppet committee, the so-called "State Council of Chechnya", denounces the Russian looting of his home village, Alkan-Yurt, and the murder of 41 civilians there. He produces videotape to back his claim. Meanwhile Russian forces suffer repeated setbacks in their attempt to take Grozny.

December 19, 1999:

. The Yeltsin government rides a wave of chauvinism over the Chechen war into Russian parliamentary elections. The newly-formed political bloc "Unity", backed by Russian Prime Minister Putin, does extremely well, finishing just behind the largest party, Zyuganov's so-called "Communist Party of the Russian Federation (which is actually a state-capitalist and Stalinist party), which falls to merely a fifth of the parliament. This cuts down the parliamentary opposition to the Yeltsin government, an opposition which had plagued it for years.

January 1, 2000:

. Boris Yeltsin having resigned, Vladimir Putin becomes the acting president of Russia, and Russian presidential elections have to be pushed forward to March 26, 2000. Putin is associated with the hard-line policy of military suppression of the Chechens. Yeltsin's hope is that Putin may win the next election for the Russian presidency on the basis of a wave of chauvinism over fighting Chechnya.

Early January, 2000:

. Chechen forces attack behind Russian lines, and temporarily occupy several cities and villages supposedly securely under Russian control. The Russian army announces that it will not regard any fleeing Chechen male between 10 and 60 as a refugee, but will intern all of them in "filtration camps" to see if they are rebels. The savagery of the "filtration camps" became known in the first Chechen war. Under criticism, the Russian army claims to modify this order, perhaps by exempting males under the age of 15.

January 18, 2000:

. A massive new Russian offensive in Grozny begins. There is heavy Chechen resistance, and over the next days the Russians end up fighting repeatedly over territory they say they have already captured. Originally the Russian command claims that Grozny will fall in three of four days, but at the end of that time, fighting still continues. There are heavy casualties on both sides. Major General Mikhail Malofeyev, deputy commander of the Northern Group of Russian forces in Chechnya and a key commander of the Russian assault on Grozny, is killed on the first day of the new offensive. Meanwhile, while officially only about 800 Russian soldiers have died in the second Chechen war, a Russian group, the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers, claims the real figure is about 3,000. This would mean that the Russian military is well on the way to losing as many soldiers as in the first Chechen war. And the devastation of Chechnya is also just as heavy this time as last time.

March 26, 2000:

. Russian presidential elections are scheduled for this day. Acting President Putin wants to ensure that Chechnya is subjugated by then, in order to ensure his election as President.


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