Chechen/ Chechnya people

Chechen people

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Chechens (Chechen: Hохчи Noxçi) constitute the largest native ethnic grouporiginating in the North Caucasus region. They refer to themselves as Noxçi(singular Noxçi or Noxço). The isolated mountain terrain of the Caucasus and the strategic value outsiders have placed on the areas settled by Chechens has contributed much to the Chechen community ethos and helped shape nationalcharacter. Chechen and Ingush peoples are collectively known as the Vainakh
Chechens (Noxçiy)
Total population
1,500,000 worldwide (2009)
Regions with significant populations
 Russia (including Chechnya) 1,360,253
    Chechnya 1,031,647
    Ingushetia 95,403
    Dagestan 87,867
    Rostov Oblast 15,469
    Moscow 14,465
    Stavropol Krai 13,208
    Volgograd Oblast 12,256
    Tyumen Oblast 10,623
    Astrakhan Oblast 10,019
 Europe 100,000 (not includingRussian Federation) [2]
 Turkey 70,000
 Kazakhstan 35,000
 Jordan 10,000
 Azerbaijan 5,000
 Egypt 5,000
 Syria 4,000
 Georgia 10,000 (including 9,000 Kist people)
 Iraq 2,500
 Iran N/A (estimates from 2,000-10,000)
 United States 500
 Canada 100
All data from 2009
Predominantly Sunni Islam (of Shafi`i school)
Related ethnic groups

Origins of the word Chechen

The Ingush (Ingush: ГIалгIай Ghalghai, pronounced [ˈʁalʁaɪ]) are a native ethnic group of theNorth Caucasus, mostly inhabiting the Russian republic of Ingushetia. They refer to themselves as Ghalghai (галгай). The Ingush are predominantly Sunni Muslims and speak theIngush language. Despite popular misconceptions, Ingush is not mutually intelligible[dubious – discuss] with Chechen, though they are closely related. The Ingush and Chechen peoples are collectively known as the Vainakh.

Ingush (Ghalghay)
Ingush people mosaic.png

Total population
Regions with significant populations
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups

The term “Chechen” is ultimately believed to derive from the Iranian name for the Noxçi and it first occurs in Arabic sources from the 8th century. According to popular tradition, the Russian term “Chechen” comes from the name of the village of Chechen-Aul, where the Chechens defeated Russian soldiers in 1732. The word “Chechen”, however, occurs in Russian sources as early as 1692 and the Russiansprobably derived it from the Kabardian “Shashan”.

What other nations call Chechen people by name. KabardinsKumyks and Nogayscall them “Michig”, Russians call them “Chechentsi”, Cossacks call them “Okochane”, Avars call them “Burtiel”, Georgians call them ” Kists,Durdzuks,Tsanars”, Armenians call them “Nokhchmatian”, Arabs call them “Shishani”, but Chechens call themselves “Nokhchiy”.


Total population7,110 (2002 census)Regions with significant populationsKhevsuretiTusheti and Kakheti (Georgia)




Sunni IslamGeorgian Orthodox

Related ethnic groups

ChechensIngushsGeorgians and Bats

The Kist folk ensemble Pankisi at the Art-Gene festival in Tbilisi, 2008.

The Kists (Georgian: ქისტები) are a Nakh-speaking ethnic group in Georgia related to the Chechen and Ingush peoples. They primarily live in the Pankisi Gorge, in the eastern Georgian region of Kakheti, where their total number is approximate to 5,000 people.

Geography and diaspora

The Chechen people are mainly inhabitants of ChechnyaRussian Federation. There are also significant Chechen populations in other subdivisions of Russia (especially in DagestanIngushetia and Moscow). A smaller numbers of Chechens are widely scattered in Siberia and the Russian Far East.

Outside Russia, countries with significant Chechen diaspora populations are Turkey,KazakhstanAzerbaijan, and the Middle East (especially JordanEgyptSyria andIraq). These are mainly descendants of people who had to leave Chechnya during the Caucasian War (which led to the annexation of Chechnya by the Russian Empire around 1850) and the 1944 Stalinist deportation in the case of Kazakhstan.

The Caucasian War
Franz Roubaud‘s A Scene from the Caucasian War
Date 1817–1864
Location The North-Eastern Caucasus, modern day ChecheniaIngushetia & DagestanRepublicsRussian Federation
Result Imam Shamil’s surrender, Russian annexation of the Northeast Caucasus
Chechenia, Ingushetia & Dagestan annexed into Russia.
RussiaRussian Empire Thirdimamateflag.svgCaucasian Imamate Khanates of the North Caucasus
Commanders and leaders
Tsar Nicholas I,
Tsar Alexander I,
Tsar Alexander II,
Aleksey Yermolov,
Mikhail Vorontsov,
Aleksandr Baryatinskiy,
Nikolai Evdokimov
Imam Shamil,
Ghazi Mullah 
No single commanders, every khanate had its khanor khanum
about 250,000 roughly 7,000 unknown, probably around 500-1000
Casualties and losses
roughly 4,000 about 5,000 unknown

More recently, tens of thousands of Chechen refugees settled in the European Union and elsewhere as the result of the First and Second Chechen Wars, especially in the wave of emigration to the West after 2002.


Main articles: History of Chechnya and Nakh peoples

The Chechens are one of the Vainakh peoples, who have lived in the highlands of the North Caucasus region since prehistory (there is archeological evidence of historical continuity dating back since 10,000 B.C.). In the Middle Ages, the lowland of Chechenya was dominated by the Khazars and then the Alans. Local culture was also subject to Byzantine influence and some Chechens converted toEastern Orthodox Christianity. Gradually, Islam prevailed, although the Chechens’own pagan religion was still strong until at least the 19th century. Society was organised along feudal lines. The North Caucasus was devastated by the Mongol invasions of the 13th century and those of Tamerlane in the 14th.

File:Chechense. Match. a wedding match. George Kennan. 1870-1886.jpg

Vainakhs on a wedding 1870-1886.

In the late Middle Ages, the Little Ice Age forced the Chechens down from the hills into the lowlands where they came into conflict with theTerek and Greben Cossacks who had also begun to move into the region. The Caucasus was also the focus for three competing empires:Ottoman TurkeyPersia and Russia.

File:Ингушка в традиционном костюме. Фотограф Д.А. Никитин. 1881 г..jpg

Nakh woman in traditional costume. 1881

As Russia expanded southwards from the 16th century, clashes between Chechens and the Russians became more frequent. In the late 18th century Sheikh Mansur led a major Chechen resistance movement. In the early 19th century, Russia embarked on full-scale conquest of the North Caucasus in order to protect the route to its new territories in Transcaucasia. The campaign was led by General Yermolov who particularly disliked the Chechens, describing them as “a bold and dangerous people”.

File:Krieger in Kettenpanzer.jpg

A Nakh warrior from 19th century.

Angered by Chechen raids, Yermolov resorted to a policy of “scorched earth” and deportations; he also founded the fort of Grozny (now the capital of Chechnya) in 1818. Chechen resistance to Russian rule reached its peak under the leadership of the Dagestani Shamil in the mid-19th century. The Chechens were finally defeated after a long and bloody war. In the aftermath large numbers of muhajir refugees emigrated or were forcibly deported to the Ottoman Empire. Since then there have been various Chechen rebellions against Russian power, as well as nonviolent resistance to Russification and the Soviet Union‘s collectivization and antireligious campaigns.


Nakh watch tower in settlement Chanta / Chante

In 1944 Moscow’s oppression reached its apogee as all Chechens, together with several other peoples of the Caucasus, were ordered byJoseph Stalin to be deported en masse to Kazakhstan and Siberia and at least one-quarter and perhaps half of the entire Chechen nation perished in the process. Though “rehabilitated” in 1956 and allowed to return the next year, the survivors lost economic resourcesand civil rights and, under both Soviet and post-Soviet governments, they have been the objects of (official and unofficial) discrimination and discriminatory public discourse. Chechen attempts to regain independence in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union have led to two devastating wars with the new Russian state since 1994.

Necropolis in Itum Kale(Chechnya), and tower of Tsoi-Pheda protecting the peace of the dead


Main article: Chechen language

The main language of the Chechen people is Chechen. Chechen belongs to the family of Nakh languages (North-Central Caucasian languages). Literary Chechen is based on the central lowland dialect. Other related languages include Ingush, which has speakers in the nearby Ingushetia, and Batsi, which is the language of the people in the adjoining part of Georgia. At various times in their history, Chechens used GeorgianArabic and Latin alphabets; as of 2008, the official one is now the Cyrillic alphabet.

File:Mountain of Ingushetia.jpeg

In 1989, 73.4% spoke Russian,  though this figure has declined due to the wars for a large number of reasons (including the lack of proper education, the refusal to learn the language, and the mass dispersal of the Chechen diaspora due to the war).

Cole Thomas Prometheus Bound 1846-47

Many Chechens also speak, or learn to speak, Turkish. This is due to historical and cultural reasons (Turkish was once the lingua franca of the region), as well as the presence of a large Chechen diaspora in Turkey (and now, within the Turkish sections of German cities).

Most Chechens living in their homeland can understand Ingush with ease. The two languages are not truly mutually intelligible, but it is easy for Chechens to learn how to understand the Ingush language and vice versa over time after hearing it for a while. This situation is often compared to Spanish and Italian (or, by some, Spanish and Portuguese or Catalan), Serbo – Croatian and Slovenian, etc.

A large number of Chechens also are now able to speak English (and, for some, French) due to its status as a global lingua franca and as the language of international interaction.

Chechens in the diaspora often speak the language of the country they live in (Polish, Japanese, Georgian, etc.).

 hoto: Guy Hovey/UMCOR

Origins and Genetics


Chechens are a Nakh people, and discussion of their origins is intertwined with the discussion of the mysterious origins of Nakh peoples as a whole.

Linguistically, Nakh peoples are distantly related to Dagestani peoples (such as Avars, Dargins, Lezghins, Laks, etc.), as they all speak languages in the Nakho-Dagestani, or Northeast Caucasian language family. However, this relationship is not a close one: the Nakho-Dagestani family is of comparable or greater time-depth than Indo-European, meaning Chechens are only as linguistically related to Avars or Dargins as the French are to the Russians or Iranians.

Nakh peoples such as Chechens are thought to either be descended from original settlers of the Caucasus (North and/or South) or supposedly Nakh-speaking ethnic minorities in the Northeastern regions of the ancient state of Urartu (whose people also spoke a language that was possibly related to the Nakh languages).The two theories are not mutually incompatible, and there has been much evidence that seems to link both of the two together (either by dual origins or the “return” theory, in which the Nakh peoples originally lived in the Caucasus and then returned). It should be noted that Chechen genetics show a high level of genetic diversity.

Fragment of the western wall of the church of Tkhaba-Yerdy (11th or 12th century)

Proposed Nakh placenames have been found in numerous areas of the South Caucasus, most prominently in Eastern Georgia, North-Central Georgia/South Ossetia, Nakhichevan, and Eastern Armenia (i.e. the modern Republic of Armenia). There are also a span of Nakh placenames in the North Caucasus outside modern Nakh territory, particularly in North Ossetia and Balkaria (the Balkars are suspected by some to be partial Nakh descendants, later Alanized and then Turkified).

The church of Tkhaba-Yerdy (11th to 12th century

In particular, the Chechens are descended from the Dzurdzuks, a group well-known in the Georgian chronicles (Dourts in the Armenian version). Other groups linked Amjad Jaimoukha traces the name Dzurdzuk to an ancient city north of Lake Urmia, near Nakhichevan (Nakhichevan is thought to be a Nakh placename by some). Other groups attributed to being the ancestors of the Chechens and Ingush include the Kists (in the Georgian chronicles), Gargareans (from the Nakh root gergara; reported by Strabo to have “returned” from the South Caucasus to the North Caucasus, fleeing the wars in the South) and the Nakhchmateans (Armenian chronicles).

A village of residential and fortress towers (15th to 18th century)


Genetic tests on Chechens, though sparse and not sufficiently thorough so far, have shown roots in the Caucasus as well as strong connections to and influences from the Middle East as well as Europe.  As is the case with many other Caucasian peoples, Chechens are more connected with the Middle East on the Y-dna side, but more “European” on the mitochondrial X-chromosome DNA.  However, it was found that Chechens (as well as Caucasians as a whole) placed closer to Kurds and Persians than other European peoples (on the mtDNA), despite being far closer to Europe than the Middle East on the X-chromosome as a whole.

A cluster of towers (16th to 17th century)


The most recent and most reliable study on Chechens, by Balanovsky et al in 2011 sampled a total of 330 Chechens from three sample locations (one in Malgobek, one in Achkoi-Martan, and one from two sites in Dagestan) and found the following frequencies:

N J2 J1 L G2 R1a Q R1b N I
330 56.7% 20.9% 7% 5.5% 3.9% 3% 1.8% 0.6% 0.5%
  • J2– (56.7%) Associated with Mediterranean, South Caucasian and Fertile Crescent populations, with its peaks at 87.4% in Ingushetia and 72% in Georgia’s Kazbegi region (near Mount Kazbek). In the North Caucasus, the largest frequencies are those of Nakh peoples (Chechens (56.7%) and Ingush (88.8%). Other notable values were found among North Caucasian Turkic peoples (Kumyks (25%)and Balkars(24%). It is notable that according to both Nasidze’s study in 2004 and then a later study on Dagestani peoples by Yunusbaev in 2006, J2 suddenly collapses as one enters the territory of non-Nakh Northeast Caucasian peoples, dropping suddenly to very low values among Dagestani peoples.  The overwhelming bulk of Chechen J2 is of the subclade J2a4b*(J2-M67), of which the highest frequencies by far are found among Nakh peoples- Chechens were 55.2% according to the Balanovsky study, while Ingush were 87.4%.
  • J1– (20.9%). In Balanovsky, it was found at 25% in Chechnya, 21% in Malgobek Chechens and 16% in Dagestani Chechens. It was found at much higher levels in Dagestan. As is the case with the whole of the Caucasus, Chechen J1 is almost universally J1*.
  • L– Associated with South Asia, and the Caucasus. In Balanovsky’s study, Chechens were found to be 7.0% L, and this was all L3.
  • Other haplogroups that appeared consistently appeared at lower frequencies included G2 (5.5%), R1a (3.9%), Q (3%) and R1b-M269(1.8%). However, R2, which was not detected in Balanovsky (possibly because it was not tested for), accounted for as much as 16% of Chechen males in a previous study by Ivan Nasidze.

A cluster of castles (17th century)

Overall, tests have shown consistently that Chechens are most closely related to Ingush, Circassians, Georgians, and Iranians (especially Northwestern Iranians), occasionally showing a kinship to other peoples in some tests. Balanovsky’s study showed the Ingush to be the Chechens’ closest relatives by far.


A 2004 study showed Chechens to be extremely diverse on the X-chromosome, with 18 different haplogroups out of only 23 samples. Chechens clustered closest to Azeris, Georgians and Kabardins. They clustered closer to European populations than Middle Eastern populations this time, but were significantly closer to Western European populations (British and Basque) than to Eastern European populations (Russians and other Slavs, as well as Estonians), despite living in the East. They actually clustered about as close to Basques as they did to Ingush (Chechens also cluster closer to many other populations than Ingush, such as Armenians and Abazins), but the Chechens were the closer to the Ingush than any other population, the disbalance probably largely being due to the uniqueness of the Ingush on the X-chromosome among those tested.






Nakh traditional carpet, Istanga

Prior to the adoption of Islam, the Chechens practiced a unique blend of religious traditions and beliefs. They partook in numerous rites andrituals, many of them pertaining to farming; these included rain rites, a celebration that occurred on the first day of plowing, as well as the Day of the Thunderer Sela and the Day of the Goddess Tusholi.

Chechen society is structured around tukhum (unions of clans) and about 130 teip, or clans. The teips are based more on land and one-side lineage than on blood (as exogamy is prevalent and encouraged), and are bonded together to form the Chechen nation. Teips are further subdivided into gar (branches), and gars into nekye (patronymic families). The Chechen social code is called nokhchallah (where Nokhchuostands for “Chechen”) and may be loosely translated as “Chechen character”. The Chechen code of honour implies moral and ethicalbehaviour, generosity and the will to safeguard the honor of women.

In addition to sparse written record from the Middle Ages, Chechens traditionally remember history through the illesh, a collection of epic poems and stories.

Chechens today have a strong sense of nation, which is enforced by the old clan network and nokhchalla- the obligation to clan, tukhum, etc. This is often combined with old values transmuted into a modern sense. They are mythically descended from the epic hero, Turpalo-Nokhchuo (the Chechen Hero). There is a strong theme of representing the nation with its national animal, the wolf.

Due to their strong dependence on the land, its farms and its forests (and indeed, the national equation with the wolf), Chechens have a strong sense of affection for nature. According to Chechen philosopher Apty Bisultanov, ruining an ant-hill or hunting Caucasian goats during their mating season were considered extremely sinful. It is notable that the glasnost era Chechen independence movement, Bart (unity) in fact originated as a simple environmentalist organization in the republic’s capital of Grozny.

Chechen culture puts a strong value on the concept of freedom. This asserts itself in a number of ways. Much like Scots and Albanians, a large majority of the nation’s national heroes fought for independence (or otherwise, like the legendary Zelimkhan, robbed from the nation deemed the oppressor in order to feed Chechen children in a Robin Hood-like fashion). A common greeting in the Chechen language, marsha oylla, is literally translated as “enter in freedom”. The word for freedom also encompasses notions of peace and prosperity.

Chechens are often referred to as the “French of the Caucasus”, for a number of reasons (it is notable that the Circassians are the “English of the Caucasus”, and the Georgians are the “Italians of the Caucasus”). This comparison may refer to etiher political/historical traits, or to personality characteristics.

Compared to their natives, Chechens have, like the French, historically been a comparably liberal people, though this is often obscured in the modern day. Like the French, who overthrew their age-old monarchy in the French revolution, the Chechens hada similar revolution a century or two earlier , and like the French, they bore the distinction (for a period) of being the only egalitarian society in an area full of monarchic states. Like the French, the Chechens preferred swift, revolutionary (and often violent) methods to realize the change they wished to see- unlike the Circassians (called the “English of the Caucasus” both for their political and personality characteristics) who preferred more gradualist methods.  In the more personality/national character sense (generally the more common use), like the French, they have a reputation for being witty and clever.



A Chechen man prays during the battle for Grozny. The flame in the background is coming from a gas pipeline which was hit by shrapnel. (January 1995)

Chechnya is predominantly Muslim. Most of the Chechens belong to the Shafi’i school of thought ofSunni Islam, while a minority belong to the Hanafi. Some adhere to the mystical Sufi tradition ofMuridism, while about half of Chechens belong to Sufi brotherhoods, or tariqah. The two Sufi tariqas that spread in the North Caucasus were the Naqshbandiya and the Qadiriya (the Naqshbandiya is particularly strong in Dagestan and eastern Chechnya, whereas the Qadiriya has most of its adherents in the rest of Chechnya and Ingushetia).

Some of the modern Chechen rebels are Salafis, but these form a small minority of the group and are often viewed suspiciously by non-Salafis who protectively guard their national customs against encroachment (hence, the phrase “Muhammad may have been an Arab, but Allah is surely Chechen”). According to some, the view of the Chechens as being an obsessively pious, intolerant, fundamentalist Muslim group is highly incorrect (and largely encouraged by the Russian media for political purposes).

The History of Chechnya refers to the history of ChechensChechnya, and the land of Ichkeria.

Chechen society has traditionally been organized around many autonomous local clans, called taips. The traditional Chechen saying goes that the members of Chechen society, like its taips, are (ideally) “free and equal like wolves”.

Jaimoukha notes in his book Chechens that sadly, “Vainakh history is perhaps the most poorly studied of the peoples of the North Caucasus. Much research effort was expended upon the Russo-Circassian war, most falsified at that. There was once a library of Chechen history scripts, written in Chechen (and possibly some in Georgian) using Arabic and Georgian script; however, this was destroyed by Stalin and wiped from record (see 1944 Deportation; Aardakh).

Prehistoric and archeological finds

The first known settlement of Chechnya is thought to have occurred around 12500 BCE, in mountain-cave settlements, whose inhabitants used basic tools, fire, and animal hides. Traces of human settlement go back to 40000 BCE with cave paintings and artifacts around Lake Kezanoi.

The ancestors of the Nakh peoples are thought to have populated the Central Caucasus around 10000 BCE- 8000 BCE. This colonization is thought by many (including E. Veidenbaum, who cites similarities with later structures to propose continuity )to represent the whole Eastern Caucasian language family, though this is not universally agreed upon. The proto-language that is thought to be the ancestor of all Eastern Caucasian (“Alarodian”) languages, in fact, has words for concepts such as the wheel (which is first found in the Central Caucasus around 4000 BCE-3000 BCE), so it is thought that the region had intimate links to the Fertile Crescent (many scholars supporting the thesis that the Eastern Caucasians originally came from the Northern Fertile Crescent, and backing this up with linguistic affinities of the Urartianand Hurrian language to the Northeast Caucasus). Johanna Nichols has suggested that the ancestors of Eastern Caucasians had been involved in the birth of civilization in the Fertile Crescent. Definitely, at the time the proto-language split, the people had all these concepts very early on.

Prehistoric and archeological finds

The first known settlement of Chechnya is thought to have occurred around 12500 BCE, in mountain-cave settlements, whose inhabitants used basic tools, fire, and animal hides. Traces of human settlement go back to 40000 BCE with cave paintings and artifacts around Lake Kezanoi.

The ancestors of the Nakh peoples are thought to have populated the Central Caucasus around 10000 BCE- 8000 BCE. This colonization is thought by many (including E. Veidenbaum, who cites similarities with later structures to propose continuity )to represent the whole Eastern Caucasian language family, though this is not universally agreed upon. The proto-language that is thought to be the ancestor of all Eastern Caucasian (“Alarodian”) languages, in fact, has words for concepts such as the wheel (which is first found in the Central Caucasus around 4000 BCE-3000 BCE), so it is thought that the region had intimate links to the Fertile Crescent (many scholars supporting the thesis that the Eastern Caucasians originally came from the Northern Fertile Crescent, and backing this up with linguistic affinities of the Urartianand Hurrian language to the Northeast Caucasus). Johanna Nichols has suggested that the ancestors of Eastern Caucasians had been involved in the birth of civilization in the Fertile Crescent. Definitely, at the time the proto-language split, the people had all these concepts very early on.

Kura-Arax Culture

Main article: Kura-Araxes culture

Towns were discovered in the area that is now Chechnya as early as 8000 BCE. Pottery, too, came around the same time, and so did stone weaponry, stone utensils, stone jewelry items, etc. (as well as clay dishes). This period was known as the Kura-Arax culture. Amjad Jaimoukha notes that there was a large amount cultural diffusion between the later Kura-Arax culture and the Maikop culture. The economy was primarily built around cattle and farming.

Kayakent Culture

The trend of a highly progressive Caucasus continued: as early as 3000 BCE-4000 BCE, evidence of metalworking (including copper) as well as more advanced weaponry (daggers, arrow heads found, as well as armor, knives, etc.). This period is referred to as the Kayakent culture, or Chechnya during the Copper Age. Horseback riding came around 3000 BCE, probably having diffused from contact with Indo-European speaking-tribes to the North.

P. Zakharov’s self-portrait.

Towns found in this period, interestingly, are often not found as ruins, both rather on the outskirts of (or even inside) modern towns in both Chechnya and Ingushetia, suggesting much continuity. There is bone evidence suggesting that raising of small sheep and goats occurred. Clay and stone were used for all building purposes. Agriculture was highly developed, as evidenced by the presence of copper flint blades with wooden or bone handles.

Old silver jewelry,

Kharachoi Culture

The term Kharachoi culture denotes the Early Bronze of Chechnya. Clay jugs and stone grain containers indicate a high level of development of trade and culture. Earlier finds show that extensive hunting was still practiced.

Parts of traditional female attire: silver belts and buttons,

Bronze artifacts (dating back to the 19th century BCE) in modern-day Chechnya largely correspond with those of Hurria at the time, suggesting a cultural affinity. Iron had replaced stone, bronze and copper as the main substance for industry by the 10th century BCE, before most of Europe or even areas of the Middle East.

A wood carving by Ilias Dutayev,

Koban culture

Main article: Koban culture

The Koban culture (the Iron Age) was the most advanced culture in Chechnya before recorded history, and also the most well-known. It first appeared 1100 BCE ~ 1000 BCE. The most well-studied site was on the outskirts of Serzhen-Yurt, which was a major center from around 11th century BCE to around the 7th century BCE.

A drinking vessel (embossed brass)

The remains include dwellings, cobble bridges, altars, iron objects, bones, and clay and stone objects. There were sickles and stone grain grinders. Grains that were grown included wheat, rye and barley. Cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys, pigs and horses were kept. There were shops, where artisans worked on and sold pottery, stone-casting, bone-carving, and stone-carving.

A woman’s belt (silver)

There is evidence of an advanced stage of metallurgy. There was differentiation of professionals organized within clans. Jaimoukha argues that while all these cultures probably were made by people included among the genetic ancestors of the Chechens, it was either the Koban or Kharachoi culture that was the first culture made by the cultural and linguistic ancestors of the Chechens (meaning the Chechens first arrived in their homeland 3000–4000 years ago). However, many others disagree, holding the Chechens to have lived in their present day lands for over 10000 years.

Silver buttons for traditional female garments

Theories on Origins

Migration from the Fertile Crescent c.10000-8000 BCE

Many scholars, such as Johanna Nichols and Bernice Wuethrich  hold that the Dzurdzuks were descended from extremely ancient migrations from the Fertile Crescent to the Caucasus, perhaps due to population or political pressures back in the Fertile Crescent. Others who believe the so-called “Urartian version”, such as George Anchabadze and Amjad Jaimoukha, still hold that those original migrants contributed to both the genetic and cultural traits of the modern Ingush and Chechens, but that the primary ancestors were Nakh-speaking migrants from what became Northeastern Urartu.

Various Interpretations on the Relationship with Urartu and Urartians; Hurrians

It is widely held by various authors that Nakh nations had a close connection of some sort to the Hurrian and Urartian civilizations in modern day Armenia and Kurdistan, largely due to linguistic similarities (Nakh shares the most roots with known Hurrian and Urartian)- either that the Nakhs were descended from Hurrian tribes, that they were Hurrians who fled north, or that they were closely related and possibly included at points in the state.

Although all historians agree they were closely related, there is a wide variety of views on the nature of the relationship.

According to ethnic Circassian Caucasus specialist Amjad Jaimoukha, at least

It is certain that the Nakh constituted an important component of the Hurrian-Urartian tribes in the Trans-Caucasus and played a role in the development of their influential cultures.

Makhmud Esambayev performing an overseas folk dance

It has been noted that at many points, Urartu in fact extended through Kakheti into the North Caucasus. Jaimoukha notes in his book:

Makhmud Esambayev performing an overseas folk dance

The kingdom of Urartu, which was made up of several small states, flourished in the ninth and seventh centuries BCE, and extended into the North Caucasus at the peaks of its power…

Makhmud Esambayev

The Georgian chronicles of Leonti Mroveli state that the Urartians “returned” to their homeland (i.e. Kakheti) in the Trans-Caucasus, which had become by then “Kartlian domain”, after they were defeated.

Apparently, Xenophon visited Urartu in 401 BCE, and rather than finding Urartians, he only found pockets of Urartians, surrounded by Armenians. These Urartians, as modern scholars infer, were undergoing a process of assimilation to Armenian language and culture.

Jaimoukha notes that the first confirmed appearance of a consolidated Vainakh nation in the North Caucasus spanning the range the Zygii would later have (with a few additions later) was after the fall of Urartu, and notes that numerous people think that they were a regathering of Nakh tribes fleeing the crumbling state and the invasion of the Armenians, who ended up assimilating most of those who stayed behind.The Ancient Greek chronicler Strabo mentioned that Gargareans had migrated from eastern Asia Minor (i.e. Urartu) to the North Caucasus. Jaimoukha notes that Gargareans is one of many Nakh roots- gergara, meaning, in fact, “kindred” in proto-Nakh.

19th century arms

Other Nakh roots throughout the Republic of Armenia, Naxcivan, and Turkish Armenia have been found.

Jaimoukha provides a number in his book. Yerevan is thought to be the cite of the similarly named ancient Èribuni (from the Nakh nation-tribe of the Èrs, which lived in the region + bun, the root in Chechen that generated the word “shelter” or “lair”). The Nakh Èr nation also contributed to a number of other roots- for example the Arax valley (Èrashki, from a Hurrian/Nakh hydronym forming suffix). Near the Èrs lived a tribe known as the Nakhchradzor. The Dzurdzuks, a name the Georgians called the early medieval inhabitants of Ichkeria later, had a name derived from the settlement of Durdukka, near Lake Urmia.

In addition to these, there is also the very name of Naxcivan (Nakhichevan, from Nakh+Che+Bun), and Lake Van (similarly, from Bun, although it may instead be from Urartian biani; it is nonetheless the Armenian rendering of the Ersh bun). There may be an increasingly long list of further Nakh placenames in the South Caucasus that are less well-known, or not yet identified. The area of Nakhichevan and the site of Durdzukka on Lake Urmia (which rendered the historical Georgian name for the Chechens, the Dzurdzuks) point to an area which was on the Southeast periphery of what became Urartu. According to that, the flight of people from the area may have taken place as early as the 9th or 8th century BCE (when the area was being fought over by Urartians and Iranian tribes, the Medes), long before the invasion of Cimmerians or the rise of the Armenian kingdom. All of this, however, is based around guesswork and individual interpretation of data, as there are little remaining resources on the details of the flight north of the “Gargareans”.

Vainakh swords and shield

However, the nature of the relationship between the Nakh in the northern and eastern reaches of the Urartian state and the Central Urartians themselves is not known. Their languages were not identical, but seem to possibly have been related (Urartian biani to Ersh buni, to use the house root). Some scholars, such as Amjad Jaimoukha, propose that the Urartians were Nakh, or passed their language on to the Nakh in some way, etc., etc.; or that the Hurrians were a common ancestor to the Nakh peoples and the Urartians. There is much confusion, however, in how large the category of “Nakh” peoples is, whether the Urartians and Hurrians are a branch of Nakh, or conversely, whether the Nakh are a branch of Hurrians. There is also the view that the Urartians and Hurrians formed a separate linguistic branch from the Nakh, equal to it (but maybe or maybe not closer to Nakh than other branches).

Chechen arms from the 13th to 15th centuries

The migration may have occurred much earlier than the fall of Urartu- as Jaimoukha points out, archaeological finds traced to the modern Chechens (at least according to him) date much further back. It is possible that rather than fleeing Urartu’s collapse (or those of its predecessors) they may have instead been fleeing the Urartians themselves (or their predecessors). Although the migration of Hers (a related people) to Hereti occurred later, this does not mean that the Dzurdzuks could not have fled much earlier.

Hilts of Chechen ‘shashka’ swords

Less Mainstream Theories

Khazars and Jews

This theory refers to the belief among some that Chechens are primarily descended from Khazars or Jews (specifically probably Mountain Jews, later supplemented by Russian Jews fleeing the pogroms); or to a much more credible (and moderate) version of the theory, that Chechens are partially descended from Jews, and that the importance of this root of descent is no more than the influence of other peoples the Chechens absorbed throughout history (Georgians, Kypchaks, Scythians, etc.).

Articles of Chechen military equipmen

In the very least, certain historians believe that the Jews influenced Chechen culture considerably (though this is nonetheless controversial). Many common Chechen names usually attributed to Arabic origin, due to their Semitic roots, have been shown to have existed before the Islamization of Chechnya. According to Andrey Zelev, many Chechen place names show Jewish influence. The Georgian historian Leonti Mroveli, who considers the Khazars a people closely related to the Chechens, and Ruslan Khasbulatov, who stated that Chechens are 30% Jewish, also support the idea of Jewish influence. Their theories are controversial, and have not achieved widespread acceptance. The mainstream belief is that while there are a number of Chechens descended from Jews and that there is a cultural influence to a small degree, this is no greater than those Chechens descended form Turkic peoples, Georgians, Scythians, Russians, or any other people the Chechens absorbed through their teip-system.

Medieval towers complex in the mountains. Anciens vaynakh architecture. Средневековый башенный комплекс в горах. Древневайнахская архитектура.

It is notable that there is in fact a Jewish-origin Chechen clan- the Dzugtoi. A clan, Dzugtoi, was formed for Chechen Jews long ago, perhaps during the Middle Ages or earlier. In Chechen culture, there is an assembly of clans (taips). Of the total 90, at least 20 were originally founded by foreigners (a new taip can be founded at any time as long as there is a considerable founding group). In founding the new taip, its members pledged eternal loyalty to the Chechen nation, and hence became part of the nation, being simultaneously Chechens and Jews (there are also Polish, Russian, Armenian, Georgian, Turkish and other clans). Over time they become more and more integrated, due both to assimilation and to the Chechen populace becoming used to their presence. Interclan marriages were common (and encouraged), so eventually they became largely indistinguishable from other Chechens, except for their faith. The original Mountain Jews of Chechnya now speak mostly Chechen. Many of these were exiled to Siberia and Kazakhstan along with the rest of Chechendom, resulting in the presence of Chechen-speaking Mountain Jews there.

Развалины башен в Малхиста.

Migration from Syria

There is also a fringe theory that Chechens come from a group that fled Syria (i.e. rather than the South Caucasus). It is largely based on a Chechen myth about the Vainakhs being descended from a “stranger” who fled Shama (assumed to be Syria) to avoid a blood feud. Anchabadze considers the assumption of “Shama” to be Syria to be erroneous and probably cooked up, but he notes with interest, as does Jaimoukha, the consistency of various Chechen ethnic group origin tales all saying that Nakh peoples originated South of the Caucasus.

Remains of towers complex in the mountain part of Chechnya.Остатки башенного комплекса в горной части Чечни.


Nakh peoples were first confirmedly mentioned as a distinct group in documents going back to the 4th century BCE,[20] as the “Nachos”.

The Zygii

The Zygii (also known as ΖυγοίZygoiZygi or Zygians) has been described by the ancient Greek intellectual Strabo as a nation to the north of Colchis.Mention of peoples who are possibly ancestral to the modern Chechens appear in both Greek and Georgian (later) documents. Nakh peoplesin the North Caucasus included peoples spanning from modern day Kabardino-Balkaria (see the Malkh people) to modern day Chechnya. This was similar to the range of the Zygii in Greek documents (not to be confused with Roman documents, where the name is transferred to mean the Circassians, who the Greeks called a number of different names).

Assa river.Река Асса

He wrote:

And on the sea lies the Asiatic side of the Bosporus, or the Syndic territory. After this latter, one comes to the Achaei and theZygii and the Heniochi, and also the Cercetae and the Macropogones. And above these are situated the narrow passes of the Phtheirophagi (Phthirophagi); and after the Heniochi the Colchian country, which lies at the foot of the Caucasian, or Moschian, Mountains. (Strabo, Geographica 11.2)

William Smith observes that “they were partly nomad shepherds, partly brigands and pirates, for which latter vocation they had ships specially adapted”.] They inhabited the region known as Zyx, which is on the northern slopes of the Caucasus east of Elbrus. To the east were the Avars, and to the west were the Circassians. To the north was Sarmatian territory, and to the south lay the part of Colchis inhabited by the Svans (Soanes of Strabo and Pliny the Elder).

The Zygii built an extensive Central Caucasian federation spanning from Balkaria to eastern Chechnya. They were undone by invaders from the North, who possessed superior military technology – the Cimmerians and Scythians – in the 6th and 7th centuries BCE.

The gorge of the Chanty-Argun river.Ущелье в районе реки Чанты-Аргун.

A German Caucasologist, Heinz Fähnrich, found lexical evidence of Nakh-Svan contact prior to the Iranian invasion, seemingly supporting the theory that the Zygii were indeed Nakh (or a federation of Nakh peoples, perhaps including the Malkh and maybe the Dvals, Khamekits and Sadiks).

Invasion of the Cimmerians

In the 6th and 7th centuries BCE, two waves of invaders – first the Cimmerians who then rode south and crushed Urartu, and then the Scythians who displaced them – greatly destabilized the Nakh state.

Kasim Kurumov from New-Jurt-translator of prince Baryatinskiy.Касим Курумов из Нвого Юрта- переводчик князя Барятинского. Художник Г.Гагавин.

This became a recurring pattern in Chechen history: invasion from the North by highly mobile plains people, met with fierce and determined resistance by the Chechens, who usually started out losing but then reversed the tide. The initial invasion of the Cimmerians in the 7th century BCE was in fact at the advent of known Chechen history, so there may have been more before it (although the Nakh themselves almost certainly came from the South).

Invasion of the Scythians

After the Cimmerians, the Scythians soon invaded, and the Zygii state was no more. The Cimmerians had already pushed the Zygii south somewhat off the plains, and the Scythians forced them into the mountains. Vainakh presence in Chechnya on the Terek almost completely vanished for a while, and Scythians penetrated as far south as the Sunzha. Considering that the Nakh were extremely dependent on the rivers for their very survival, this was a very desperate situation. However, soon, Vainakh settlement reappeared on the Terek in Chechnya.

Mountain-dweller from New-Jurt.Горянка из Нового Юрта. Художник Г.Гагавин

In some areas, the Scythians even penetrated into the mountains themselves. In the 5th century BCE, Herodotus noted that the Scythians were present in the Central North Caucasus.

It is not known whether this was the first dominant presence of the Ossetians in their modern territory or whether the primary population was still Zygii/Nakh and the it was only after the later Sarmatian invasion that Scythian people became dominant. Amjad Jaimoukha, notably, supports the hypothesis that the Ossetians were the product of multiple migrations. Thus, if this is the case, then the Scythians settled roughly North Ossetia, effectively cutting the Zygii nation in half (Herodotus noted that Zygii were still present West of the Scythians in the Caucasus). The Eastern half, then, became the Vainakhs.

It should be noted that there were various periods of good relations between the Scythians and the Nakh, where there was evidence of extensive cultural exchange.

Even after the invasion of the Scythians, the former Zygii managed to revitalize themselves after it receded. However, they were now politically fractured, with multiple kingdoms, and modern Ossetia, consistent with the theory that they were largely displaced and that Scythians had become dominant there. The Nakh nations in the North Caucasus were often inclined to look South and West for support to balance off the Scythians. The Vainakh in the East had an affinity to Georgia, while the Malkh kingdom of the West looked to the new Greek kingdom of Bosporus on the Black Sea coast (though it may have also had relations with Georgia as well). Adermalkh, king of the Malkh state, married the daughter of the Bosporan king in 480 BCE.

Bronz figure of eagle with the cufical inscription that was kept in the Mamilov’s family. VII-VIII cent.r. Erzi.Бронзовая фигура орла с Куфической надписью. Родовая реликвия Мамиловых. V-VII века. Село Эрзи.


Politics and Trade

The egalitarianism one knows the modern Chechens for was not always the case. By the early medieval ages, Vainakh society had become stratified into a feudal order, with a king and vassals. The Vainakh state was variously called Durdzuketia (or Dzurdzuketia) by the Georgians or Simsir by others, though they may not have been exactly similar. The origin of the more modern egalitarianism among the Vainakh is much later, after the end of the conflict with the Mongols, when the Vainakh eventually grew tired of the excesses of their feudal rulers and overthrew them (see Ichkeria section), establishing what Turkic peoples called Ichkeria – “land of the free”.

Mountains utensils.Горская утварь

At various times Vainakh came under the rule of the Sarmatian-speaking Alans to their west and Khazars to their north, in both cases as vassals or as allies depending on time period. In times of complete independence, they nonetheless tried to have strong bonds of friendship with these countries both for trade and military purposes. The Vainakh also forged strong links with Georgia for mutual protection as well as trade, and these were initially in the context of the threat of an Arab invasion (as happened to Caucasian Albania) in the 8th century CE. The contribution of the Vainakh to fending off Arab designs on the Caucasus was critical.

A Night Concealed Surveilance Post.А.Дмитриев- Кавказский. Ночной секрет.

The Vainakhs were also engaged in much trade as per their geographical position with long range trade partners (long range for the time period). Excavations have shown the presence of coins and other currency from Mesopotamia in the Middle East  including an eagle casted in Iraq (found in Ingushetia) and buried treasure containing 200 Arabian silver dirhams from the 9th century in Northern Chechnya.

Battle with Chechens at Akbulat-Yurt. 1849. Бой с чеченцами под Акбулат-Юртом. Литография Поль-Пети по рис. А.Козлова и В.Агена с оригинала Д.Кенига. 1849 год.


Until the 16th century Chechens and Ingushes were mostly pagans, practicing the Vainakh religion.

During the 11th-13th century (i.e. before Mongol conquest), there was a mission of Georgian Orthodox missionaries to the Nakh peoples. Their success was limited, though a couple of highland teips did convert (conversion was largely by teip). However, during the Mongol invasion, these Christianized teips gradually reverted to paganism, perhaps due to the loss of trans-Caucasian contacts as the Georgians fought the Mongols and briefly fell under their dominion.

Scene from the 1859 Russian-Chechen War.Эпизод русско-чеченской войны 1859 года.


Dzurdzuketia and Simsir

During the Middle Ages, two states evolved in Chechnya that were run by Chechens. The first was Dzurdzuketia, which consisted of the highlands of Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Prigorodny (now in South Ossetia) and parts of central Chechnya and Ingushetia (although its borders, especially to the North, fluctuated). It was allied to Georgia, and had heavy Georgian influence, permeating in its writing, in its culture and even in religion. Christianity was introduced from Georgia in the 10th century and became, briefly, the official religion, despite the fact that most of the people remained pagan. Georgian script was also adopted, though this has been mostly lost by now. Dzurdzuketia was destroyed by the Mongol Invasions.

Scene of battle in the Caucasus.Эпизод боя на Кавказе.

Simsir was a Principality, and unlike Dzurdzuketia, it frequently switched around its alliances. Despite common ethnic heritage with Dzurdzuketia, it was not always linked to its brotherly southern neighbor, although it was in certain periods. It was located in Central and Northern Chechnya (but not Ingushetia), on, along and around the Sunzha and Terek rivers. Its borders to the North fluctuated. One should note that Northwest Chechnya and Northern Ingushetia were never part of its dominion, or of Dzurdzuketia’s, but were in fact ruled by the Alans. Nonetheless, its borders to the north underwent heavy fluctuation. It originally also had lands in Southeast Chechnya as well, but over the course of its existence, it became more and more focused on the Sunzha river as the core of its statehood. It managed to barely survive the First Mongol Invasion, and allied to the Golden Horde and adopted Islam afterwards. However, this proved a mistake as the alliance bound it to war with Tamerlane, who invaded and destroyed it.

19-th century chechen’s flihtlock gans and pistols. Чеченское оружие. Сверху- чеченские кремневые ружья XIX века. Снизу- чеченские кремневые пистолеты XIX века.

Alliance with Georgia against the Arabs

After the Fall of Khazaria

Mongol Invasions

During the 13th and 14th centuries, the Mongols and their Turkic vassals launched two long, massive invasions of the territory of modernChechnya (then the Georgian allied Vainakh kingdom of Dzurdzuketia). They caused massive destruction and human death for the Chechens, but also greatly shaped the people they became afterward. The ancestors of the Chechens bear the distinction of being one of the few peoples to successfully resist the Mongols, not once, but twice, but this came at great cost to them, as their state was utterly destroyed.

Kinjals. Second half of the 19-th century-early 20-th century. Кинжалы. Вторая половина XIX-начало XX века.

These invasions are among the most significant occurrences in Chechen history, and have had long-ranging effects on Chechnya and its people.

The determination to resist the Mongols and survive as Vainakh at all costs cost much hardship on the part of ordinary people. There is much folklore on this among the modern Chechen and Ingush. One particular tale recounts how the former inhabitants of Argun, during the First Mongolian Invasion and the surrounding area held a successful defense (waged by men, women and children) of the slopes of Mount Tebulosmta, before returning after that to reconquer their home region.

Shashkas. Second half of the 19-th century-early 20-th century.Шашки. Вторая половина XIX-начало XX  века.

Fierce resistance did not prevent the utter destruction of the state apparatus of Dzurdzuketia however. Pagan sanctuaries as well as the Orthodox Churches in the South were utterly destroyed. Under the conditions of the invasion, Christianity (already originally highly dependent on connections with Georgia) was unable to sustain itself in Chechnya, and as its sanctuaries and priests fell, those who had converted reverted to paganism for spiritual needs. Historical documents were also destroyed in mass amounts. Within a few years of the invasion, Dzurdzuketia was history- but its resistant people were not. Even more disastrously, the Mongols successfully established control over much of the Sunzha river- thus an existential threat to the Chechen people due to their need for the Sunzha’s (as well as the Terek’s) agriculture to support their population. The feudal system of vassals and lords also fell into shambles.

Delegats or the Congress of proclaiming the Chechen autonomous region. The 15-th of January 1923. Делегаты Съезда по провoзглашению Чеченской Автономной области. 15 января 1923 года.

The utter destruction of the Vainakh’s statehood, their lifestyle (and in the South, their religion), and much of their knowledge of history caused them to rebuild their culture in many ways. The population developed various methods of resistance and much of their later lifestyle during the resistance to the Mongols and in between the two wars. The clan system mapped onto battlefield organization. Guerrilla tactics using mountains and forests were perfected. It was during the Mongol invasions that the military defense towers that one associates today with the Vainakh population (see Nakh Architecture) came into being. Many served simultaneously as homes, as sentry posts, and as fortresses from which one could launch spears, arrows, etc. The contribution of men, women and children of all classes paired with the destruction of the feudal system during the war, rich and poor also helped the Vainakh to develop a strong sense of egalitarianism, which was one of the major causes for the revolt against their new lords after the end of the Mongol Invasions.

Participants of the Congress of proclaiming the Chechen autonomous region. 1923.Участники Съезда по провозглашению Чеченской Автономной области. 1923 год.

“Ichkerian” Era

Post-Mongol Era Transition

After defending the highlands, the Vainakh attacked Mongol control of the lowlands (after both Mongol invasions this occurred). Much of this area still had nominal Vainakh owners (as per the clan system which acknowledges the ownership of a piece of land by a certain teip), even after generations upon generations of not living there. Much was retaken, only to be lost again due to the Second Mongol Invasion. After that, the Vainakh managed to take most (but not all) of their former holdings on the Sunzha, but most of the Terek remained in Kypchak hands.

Participants of the Congress of proclaiming the Chechen autonomous region. 1923.Участники торжеств по случаю провозглашения Чеченской Автономной области. 1923 год.

The conflicts did not stop however, as there were clans that had ownership of lands now inhabited by Turkic peoples, meaning that if they did not retake the lands, they would lack their own territory and be forever reliant on the laws of hospitality of other clans (doing great damage to their honor). Conflicts between Vainakh and Turkic peoples originating from the Mongol Invasion when Chechens were driven out of the Terek and Sunzha rivers by Turco-Mongolian invaders continued as late as the 1750s and 1770s. After that, the conflict was with newer arrivals in Northern Chechnya: the Cossacks.

Mountain Chechnya.Горный пейзаж

The largescale return of Vainakh from the mountains to the plains began in the early 15th century (i.e. right after the end of the Second Mongol Invasion), and was completed by the beginning of the 18th century  (by which point the invasion of Chechnya by Cossacks was approaching). The Nogai were driven North, and some those who stayed behind (as well as some Kumyks) may have been voluntarily assimilated by the Chechens, becoming the Chechen clans of Turkic origin.

Mountain Chechnya.Горная Чечня.

Although the Chechens now reoccupied the Northern Chechen Plains, the lords of the Kumyks and Kabardins sought to rule over their lands just as they had attempted to do (with varying success) with the Nogai in the area. The Kabardins established rule over the clans which would become the Ingush, but the Kumyks found the Plains Chechens to be very rebellious subjects, who only grudgingly acknowledged their rule. In the lands of Central and Southern Chechnya, Chechens from around the Sunzha, who had advanced socially, economically and technologically much more than their highland counterparts, established their own feudal rule. The feudal rulers were called byachi, or military chieftains.

The first derrick in Grozniy. 1893. Первая буровая вышка в Грозном. 1893 год.

However, this feudalism, whether by Kumyks, Avars, Kabardins or Chechens was widely resented by the Chechens, and the spread of gunpowder and guns allowed for a massive revolution to occur.


Ichkeria was actually the Turkic name for Chechnya, which originally actually only referred to the Southern part of the territory (i.e. the part where the teips less intermixed with other peoples, i.e. the “pure” ones, lived) but was eventually extended to mean all Chechen lands. These actually included lands farther north, as due to the period of minor global cooling at this time (the “Little Ice Age”) and due to land claims from the past, Chechens moved north, in some cases even farther North than they had been in a long time. Chechen settlements reached as far North as the Aktash river in Northern Dagestan.

The fall of the leaves in Grozniy.Осенний листопад в Грозном.

The illesh, or epic legends, tell of conflicts between the Chechens and their Kumyk and Kabardin overlords. The Chechens apparently overthrew both their own overlords and the foreign ones, using the widespread nature of the guns among the populace to their advantage.As Jaimoukha puts it, “based on the trinity of democracy, liberty and equality” these were overthrown and the “tukhumtaip” legal system put into place, with the laws of adat. Ichkeria was known by other states (somewhat condescendingly) as a “land of its people”. The “tukhumtaip” system (see the section on Nakh peoples) functioned highly similar to that of a Western democracy, except that there was little importance of a centralized judicial branch (instead local courts held precedence), and that teip functioned like provinces, with representatives being elected by teip as well as by region.

The favorite place of the rest for people in Grozniy Park named after S.M.Kirov.Любимое место грозненцев- Парк культуры и отдыха им. С.М.Кирова.

This revolution, making the Chechens the “French of the Caucasus”, had a strong effect on the social and political mores of the Chechens. Jaimoukha notes that to this day, Chechen values are based around democracy, freedom, idealogical pluralism and deference to individuality – contrasting sharply with the typical Russian scorn for individualism.

Russian Empire


File:Karte des Kaukasischen Isthmus - Entworfen und gezeichnet von J-Grassl - 1856.jpg

Karte des Kaukasischen Isthmus. Entworfen und gezeichnet von J. Grassl, 1856.

The onset of Russian expansionism to the south in the direction of Chechnya began with Ivan the Terrible’s conquest of Astrakhan. Russian influence started as early as the 16th century when Ivan the Terrible founded Tarki in 1559 where the first Cossack army was stationed. The Russian Terek Cossack Host was secretly established in lowland Chechnya in 1577 by free Cossacks resettled from Volga River Valley to the Terek River Valley.

Armkhi river.Река Армхи.

Turco-Persian and later Turco-Perso-Russian rivalry in the Caucasus

Beginning in the late 15th and early 16th century, the Ottomon and Safavid Empires fought for influence over the Caucasus. Caucasian peoples grew wary of both sides, and attempted to play one side off against the other. The rivalry was embodied by both the struggle between Sunni and Shia Islam and the regional conflict of the two empires. The only major success for either side was the conversion of the Azerbaijanis by the Persians to Shia Islam. Originally, relations with Russia was seen as a possible balance to the Ottomon and Safavid Empires, and a pro-Russian camp in Chechen politics formed (there were also pro-Ottoman and pro-Persian camps; each viewed their favored empire as the least bad of the three). In reality, the most favored empire from the beginning was the Ottoman Empire, but that did not mean the Chechens were not wary of a potential Ottoman attempt at conquering them. Any hope towards positive relations with Russia ended in the late 18th century and early 19th century when tensions with the Cossacks escalated and Russia began trying to conquer the Caucasus, starting with Georgia. After this point, many Chechens sealed, forever, their preference towards Istanbul against Estafan and Moscow by converting to Islam in an attempt to win the sympathy of the Ottomans. However, they were too late- the Ottoman Empire was already well into its period of decline and collapse, and not only was it no longer willing to assist Muslims (especially newly converted people, who were viewed as “less Muslim” than peoples with a long Islamic heritage), but it was no longer able to even maintain its own state. Hence, the rivalry between Turkey and Persia became more and more abstract and meaningless as the threat of conquest by Russia and being pushed out of their lands or even annihilated by the Cossacks grew and grew.

Arrival of the Cossacks

The Cossacks, however, had settled in the lowlands just a bit off from the Terek river. This area, now around Naurskaya and Kizlyar was an area of dispute between the Mongols’ Turkic vassals and their successors (the Nogais) and the Chechens. The mountainous highlands of Chechnya were economically dependent on the lowlands for food produce, and the lowlands just north of the Terek river were considered part of the Chechen lowlands. The Cossacks were much more assertive than the Nogais (who quickly became vassals to the Tsar), and they soon replaced the Nogais as the regional rival.

This marked the beginning of Russo-Chechen conflict, if the Cossacks are to be considered Russian. The Cossacks and Chechens would periodically raid each others’ villages, and seek to sabotage each others’ crops, though there were also long periods without violence.

Nonetheless, the Chechen versus Cossack conflict has continued to the modern day. It was a minor theme in the works of Leo Tolstoy (who managed to be sympathetic both to the Chechens and to the Cossacks). While the Chechens and Ingush primarily backed the anti-Tsarist forces in the Russian Revolution, because of this, and the threat to the Decossackization policies of the Bolsheviks, the Terek Cossacks almost universally filed into the ranks of Anton Denikin‘s anti-Soviet, highly nationalistic Volunteer Army.

Cossack Mamay playing kobza while riding the horse.

The habit of raids done by the Chechens (and to a lesser extent Ingush) against Cossacks, by the 20th century, had more or less become a cultural tradition. Both hatred of the oppressor (Chechens generally failed to see the distinction between Russian and Cossack, and to this day they may be used as synonyms) and the need to either fill the mouths of hungry children and to regain lost lands played a role. The Chechen raiders, known as abreks were the focal point of this conflict and are almost symbolic of the two different viewpoints.

File:Cossack Mamay 18th c.jpg

The Russian view on the abreks is that they were simple mountain bandits, a typical example of Chechen barbarism (often compared to Russian “civilization”, with general Colonialist racist vocabulary); they were depicted as rapists and murderers by Russian authors. The Chechen view is that they were heroes of valor, much like Robin Hood. As Moshe Gammer points out in his bookLone Wolf and Bear, Soviet ideology fell somewhere in between the two views- and notably, one such abrek, Zelimkhan, was deified.

Cossack Mamay being tempted to drink by the Polish-looking Satan. Ukrainian folk art 1st half of the 19th c. Linen, oil. 67х95cm. National Art Museum of Ukraine

Beginning of the intense period of Russo-Chechen conflict

In 1783 Russia and the eastern Georgian kingdom of Kartl-Kakheti (which had been devastated by Turkish and Persian invasions) signed theTreaty of Georgievsk, according to which Kartli-Kakheti was to receive Russian protection.

The spread of Islam was largely aided by Islam’s association with resistance against Russian encroachment during the 16th to 19th centuries.


Peter the Great officially renamed the Tsardom of Russia the Russian Empire in 1721, and himself its first emperor. He instituted sweeping reforms and oversaw the transformation of Russia into a major European power.

Empress Catherine the Great, who reigned from 1762 to 1796, continued the empire’s expansion and modernization. Considering herself an enlightened absolutist, she played a key role in theRussian Enlightenment.

In order to secure communications with Georgia and other regions of the Transcaucasia, the Russian Empire began spreading her influence into the Caucasus mountains. The Chechens were actually first drawn into conflict with Russia when Russia attacked the Kumyks (and established the fort of Kizlyar), whom the Chechens were allied to. Russia’s Cossacks became imperial extensions and Russia sent its own soldiers to meet the escalating conflict (which was no longer simply between Russian and Kumyk). It soon met with fierce resistance from the mountain peoples. The Russians incorporated a strategy of driving the Chechens into the mountains, out of their lowland (relative) food source, thus forcing them to either starve or surrender. They were willing to do neither. The Chechens moved to retake the lowlands: in 1785, a holy war was declared on the Russians by Sheikh Mansur, who was captured in 1791 and died a few years later. Nonetheless, expansion into the region, usually known at this point as Ichkeria, or occasionally Mishketia (probably coming from Kumyk or Turkish; also rendered Mitzjeghia, etc.), was stalled due to the persistence of Chechen resistance.

File:Sheikh Mansur 140-190 for collage.jpg

Sheikh al-Mansur (“The-Sustained”) (1732–1794) was a Chechen leader who led the resistance against Catherine the Great‘s imperialist expansion into the Caucasus during the late 18th century. He remains a legendarynational hero of the Chechen people.

Following the incorporation of neighbouring Dagestan into the empire in 1803–1813, Imperial Russian forces under Aleksey Yermolov began moving into highland Chechnya in 1830 to secure Russia’s borders with the Ottoman Empire. In the course of the prolonged Caucasian War, the Chechens, along with many peoples of the Eastern Caucasus, united into the Caucasian Imamate and resisted fiercely, led by theDagestani commanders Ghazi MohammedGamzat-bek and Imam Shamil.

Imam Shamil

While their program of united resistance to Russian conquest was popular, uniting Ichkeria/Mishketia with Dagestan was not necessarily (see Shamil’s page), especially as some Chechens still practiced the indigenous religion, most Chechen Muslims belonged to heterodox Sufi Muslim teachings (divided between Qadiri and Naqshbandiya, with a strong Qadiri majority), rather than the more orthodox Sunni Islam of Dagestan; and finally, the rule of Ichkeria by a foreign ruler not only spurred distrust, but also threatened the existence of Ichkeria’s indigenous “taip-conference” government structure. Thus, Shamil was regarded by many Chechens as simply being the lesser evil. Shamil was an Avar who practiced a form of Islam that was largely foreign to Chechnya, and in the end, he ended up happy in Russian custody, demonstrating furthermore his lack of compatibility with the leadership of the cause.

Shamil's Surrender in 1859

Shamil’s Surrender in 1859

Worse still, he presented his cause not as a fight for freedom, but also as a fight to purify Islam, and aimed many of his criticisms at fellow Avars as well as Chechen leaders and non-Avar Dagestani leaders. The Chechens, as well as many Dagestanis, fought on even after his defeat, undaunted. In addition to failing to win the sincere support of not only the Chechens, but also the Ingush, and many Dagestani peoples, Shamil also was thwarted in his goal of uniting East Caucasian and West Caucasian resistance (Circassians, Abkhaz, etc.), especially given the conditions of the Crimean War.

Gunib, Dagestan

Gunib, Dagestán circa 1910

A major reason for this failure was Russia’s success in convincing theOssetes to take their side in the conflict, who followed the same religion (Orthodox Christianity) as them. The Ossetes, living right in between The Ingush and the Circassian federation, blocked all contacts between the two theaters of war.

Chechnya was finally absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1859 after Shamil’s capture. Imam Shamil, among modern Chechens, is alternately glorified and demonized: his memory is evoked as someone who successfully held off Russian conquest, but on the other hand, he ruled Ichkeria heavy-handedly, and was an Avar and worked mainly for the interest of his own people. Nonetheless, the name Shamil is popular largely due to his legacy.

The Russian generals hated all Caucasians, but they (especially Aleksei Yermolov, the “Yaarmul” of Chechen lore) had a special hatred of Chechens, the most bold and stubborn nation with the most aggravating (for the Russians) guerrilla battlefield tactics. Ermolov stated once that he would “”never rest until [only] one Chechen is left alive”. In 1949, Soviet authorities erected a statue of 19th century Russian general Aleksey Yermolov in Grozny. The inscription read, “There is no people under the sun more vile and deceitful than this one.”. As Caucasian historian Charles King points, the methods used by the Russians would today be called genocidal warfare. An example of these tactics (in fact recorded in this case by a Russian officer) by the Russian army and the Cossacks went like this:

At this moment, General Krukovskii, with saber drawn, sent the Cossacks forward to the enemies’ houses. Many, but not all, managed to save themselves by running away; the Cossacks and the militia seized those who remained and the slaughter began, with the Chechens, like anyone with no hope of survival, fought to their last drop of blood. Making a quick work of the butchery, the ataman [Cossack commander] gave out a cry and galloped on to the gorge, toward the remaining villages where the majority of the population was concentrated.

The long and brutal war caused a prolonged wave of emigration until the end of the 19th century, of hundreds of thousands of Chechens. According to such estimates (Jaimoukha cites the earlier historian A. Rogov), there were as many as 1.5 million Chechens in the North Caucasus in 1847 (and probably many more before that, as there had already been much fighting and destruction by that point), but by 1861 there were only 140000 remaining in the Caucasus. By 1867, after the wave of expulsions, there were only 116000 Chechens. Hence, in those 20 years, the number of Chechens decreased by 1384000, or 92.3%.

In the 1860s, Russia commenced with forced emigration as well to ethnically cleanse the region. Although Circassians were the main (and most notorious) victims, the expulsions also gravely affected other peoples in the region. It was estimated that 80% of the Ingush left Ingushetia for the Middle East in 1865. Lowland Chechens as well were evicted in large numbers, and while many came back, the former Chechen Lowlands lacked their historical Chechen populations for a long period until Chechens were settled in the region during their return from their 1944-1957 deportation to Siberia. The Arshtins, at that time a (debatably) separate people, were completely wiped out as a distinct group: according to official documents, 1366 Arshtin families disappeared (i.e. either fled or were killed) and only 75 families remained.These 75 families, realizing the impossibility of existing as a nation of only hundreds of people, joined (or rejoined) the Chechen nation as the Erstkhoi tukhum.


As Chechens initially fled to, and then were deported to Turkey, Terek Cossacks and Armenians settled in Chechnya. The presence of Cossacks in particular was resented deeply by the Chechens. During the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78 the Chechens rose against Russia in unison with neighboring peoples in Western Dagestan (particularaly Avars and Didos) and the Ingush once more. However, yet again they were defeated again. Georgian scholar George Anchabadze noted that this coincided with a major Abkhazian revolt, and is comparable to various earlier mass revolts in the South Caucasus by Georgians, Abkhaz, Transcaucasian Avars, Azeris, Talysh and Lezghins. All these revolts drew their force from the mass opposition of the population to the brutality and exploitation of Russian colonialist rule (even among peoples like Georgians, Azeris and Talysh who had originally been incorporated relatively easily), and used similar guerrilla tactics.

By the end of the 19th century, major oil deposits were discovered around Grozny (1893) which along with the arrival of the railroad (early 1890s), brought economic prosperity to the region (then administered as part of the Terek Oblast) for the oil-mining Russian colonists. The immigration of colonists from Russia brought about a three-way distinction between Chechens and Ingush on one hand, Cossacks on a second, and “other-towners” (inogorodtsy), namely Russians and Ukrainians, who came to work as laborers. A debatable fourth group, including Armenian bankers and richer Russians, and even some rich Chechens (such as Chermoev), arose later.

Emergence of European-styled nationalism

During the late 1860s and 1870s (just 10 years after the incorporation of Chechenia into the Tsarist Empire), the Chechens underwent a national reawakening in the European sense of the term. The conflict with Russia and its final incorporation into the empire, however, brought about the formation of a modern, European, nationalist identity of Chechens, though it ironically solidified their separation, mainly over politics, from the Ingush. The nation was held to be all-important, trumping religion, political belief, or any other such distinction. In 1870, Chakh Akhiev wrote a compilation of Chechen and Ingush fairy tales (called “Chechen fairytales”). In 1872, Umalat Laudaev, an early Chechen nationalist, recorded the contemporary customs of the Chechens. Following in his footsteps, Chakh Akhiev did the same for their “brothers”, the Ingush, the following year.

Other notable early Chechen nationalists included Akhmetkhan, Ibraghim Sarakayev, Ismail Mutushev. Later imperial Chechen nationalists include the five Sheripov brothers, among others. Among these, Sarakayev, Mutushev. Akhmetkhan and Danilbek Sheripov were notably democratic-minded writers, while Danilbek’s younger brother, Aslanbek, would adopt communism.

Chechens and Ingush

Today, the Ingush view themselves as a separate nation, but this, as before, is mainly due to political differences. Akhiev’s various use of ethnonyms in his “Chechen fairytales” (published 1870, it was actually a collection of Chechen and Ingush fairytales, primarily told with the Ingush versions) illustrates the Ingush’s confusion over their identities (Akhiev himself was in fact Ingush)- throughout both of his works, he alternatively refers to the Ingush as a distinct nation at some parts, but as a Chechen subdivision at others.Chechens are often disappointed at the Ingush’s “abandonment of us”. Nonetheless, both Ingush and Chechens frequently assert that they are brothers, and will often take an insult to the others nation personally even if they do not view it to be their own. This sort of relationship is comparable to that of the Czechs and the Slovaks, with the Chechens playing the role of the Czechs and the Ingush that of the Slovaks. It is notable that the separation of the Ingush from the rest of Chechendom was a gradual process, beginning around Timurlane’s invasion, when the Ingush were conquered and surrendered but the Chechens did not. In the 16th century, the Ingush, formerly a collection of Chechen clans known as the Angusht, broke off formally.

The Ingush as well as a Chechen tukhum called the Arshtin later fell under Circassian rule, while the Chechens remained independent until the Kumyks briefly established control. The Chechens had a revolution in the 17th century (against both their own collaborating overlords and the foreign Kumyk rulers) where guns allowed them to overthrow their feudal rulers and formally reestablish their egalitarian, practically democratic type conference/Mexk-Kham government system. This development did not occur with the Ingush, who saw their autonomy increasingly stripped by foreign rule, and never developed the fierce idealism that the Chechens attained. Because of these factors, the Ingush, despite sharing the hatred the Chechens felt toward Moscow, were less hopeful about the “heroism” the Chechens admired.

However, the main cause in modern days of the critical choice the Ingush made in 1991 was acquired during Russian imperial rule- thePrigorodny conflict, where the Ossetes were encouraged, with Russian assistance, to dispossess the Ingush of roughly a little over half their land, kick them out, and massacre those that tried to stay. The conflict over the land, which the Ingush view as necessary to any Ingush political unit, continues today, and the Ingush considered it more important than unity with their brothers (much to the Chechens’ dismay). This meant that when Checheno-Ingushetia declared independence from Russia in November 1991, the Ingush would decide to withdraw, not because they did not want independence, but because a state boundary splitting them from Prigorodny would put it out of their reach. For awhile, this caused a short period of discord between the two brotherly peoples, but the First Chechen War ended this with a renewed period of reconciliation and understanding. However, while some resent it, the split is acknowledged as a fact.

World War I

Soviet Union

Post World War I chaos

Initially, the Chechens, like many other Caucasians, looked very positively upon communism. The indigenous Chechen systems and culture led them to place a high value on equality, and communists promised an end to imperialism (and especially Tsarist rule), making them even more attractive. Furthermore, the majority of Chechens lived in poverty. As was also the case for many Georgians, the cultural tolerance and anti-imperialist rhetoric of communism was what made it so appealing to Chechens (and so terrifying for Cossacks). Many Sufi priests, despite communism’s contempt for religion, filed into the ranks of the communists as they felt that preserving the morals of their religion (including equality, which the communists stood for) was more important than its practice.During the Russian Civil War the Northern Caucasus switched hands several times between Denikin‘s Volunteer Army, the Bolshevik Red Army and the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus, which eventually allied with the Bolsheviks as they promised them greater autonomy and self-rule.

However, like other peoples, divisions arose among the Chechens. The differentiation between classes had by now arisen (or re-arisen) and notably, alliances between the Russians (and other “inogorodtsy”) were also splintered. This combined with the ethnic division of Chechnya- between the natives as well as other non-Christian minorities, the “old colonists” (i.e. Cossacks) and the “recent colonists” (non-Cossack Russians), combined with the political divisions among each group, led to a complicated conflict pitting many different forces against each other. At only one year into the conflict, five distinct forces with separate interests had formed with influence in Chechnya: the Terek Cossacks, the “Bourgeois” Chechens following Tapa Chermoev, the Qadiri Communist-Islamists under Ali Mitayev, the urban Russian Bolsheviks in Groznyi, and lastly the relatively insignificant Naqshbandis with loyalties to Islamists in Dagestan.

In response to the February Revolution, the Bolsheviks seized power in the city of Grozny, their stronghold in Chechnya. Meanwhile, a “Civil Executive Committee” was formed in the Terek rayon by a group of native “bourgeoisie”. It notably included the Chechen oil-magnate Tapa Chermoev in its structures. The Civil Executive Committee was a multi-national organ and included people from many of the ethnic groups of the Caucasus. It nominally accepted the authority of the Provisional Government in Moscow, but explicitly stated its goal of securing autonomy. A third force, the Terek Cossacks, began organizing to resist the Bolsheviks who had taken control of Grozny (as well as some other cities in the Caucasus). To make matters even more confusing, a group of Naqshbandi Islamists in Dagestan organized under the shiekh and livestock breeder Najmuddin of Hotso, and declared an Muftiate of the North Caucasus in the summer of 1917, supposedly a successor state to Shamil’s Caucasus Imamate. The Chechen Qadiri shiekh, Ali Mitayev, a “Communist-Islamist” who believed that Communism was compatible with Qadiri-Sunni Islam, set up a Chechen National Soviet. Mitayev shared the communist ideals of the Russian Bolsheviks in Groznyi, but insisted on Chechen national autonomy as well.

As the scenario progressed, Chermoev and the rest of the Civil Executive Committee would temporarily set aside their disdain for the Naqshbandi Islamists and persuade Najmuddin to serve in their government, which evolved from the Civil Executive Committee into a Mountain Republic.

At this point, the clash was between the Whites and the indigenous peoples who opposed them. The Ossetes and Cossacks sided with the Whites, whereas everyone else fought them. This therefore made Bolshevism become the lesser evil or even a strong ally against the Whites. The originally reluctant support of the Bolsheviks soon became firm after the Whites massacred village after village in a seemingly neverending rampage against the Caucasian populace.

Tapa Chermoev became the ruler of the Chechen constituent to the “Mountain republic”. Chermoev ironically allied himself with the Cossacks (and the Armenians, who being bankers were opposed to communism) against the inogorodsty, who seized power briefly in early 1917. Chermoev and the other major figures among the Mountain Republic sought to incorporate the Cossacks(establishing what would have been essentially the first friendly relations between Chechens and Cossacks- unsurprisingly, the uneasy alliance soon gave way). A Chechen National Soviet was set up under Ali Mitayev (who had previously been a Qadiri Sheik). Dagestani Islamists tried to establish an emirate and incorporate the Chechens, the latter wanted nothing to do with them-one of the few things all Chechens, even the Chechen Islamists agreed on (most Chechens were Qadiri, meaning the viewed the Naqshbandi with contempt).

The alliance between the Caucasians and the Cossacks soon disintegrated as the threat posed by the inogorodcy receded. Chechens and Ingush demanded a return of the lands they had been robbed of in the previous century, and the Chermoev government, increasingly revealed as without any control over its land, despite opposing this (and in doing so, losing the support of its main constituents), was powerless to stop them. Chechens stormed North to reclaim the northern parts of their homeland, and land-hungry, impoverished Chechens revived the practice of attacking the Cossack stanitsas in order to feed their children. As the Chermoev government collapsed, Chechens allied, at least vocally, with the Mensheviks in Georgia, while the Cossacks tried to ally with the Bolsheviks, who, appealing to the Cossacks, referred to the Chechen’s actions as being symptoms (unfathomably) of “racist bourgeois nationalism” (using bourgeois to refer to a practically impoverished people). However, the Cossacks did not have an affinity to the Bolsheviks, and when the Denikin‘s Whites appeared on the scene, their appeal to Cossacks as Russian patriots, and their contempt for non-Russians resonated strongly with the Cossacks.

The civil war dragged on, and Chechen hopes in the Mensheviks soon were dashed as the Mensheviks became increasingly weakened and lost control of the Northern regions of their own country. The Whites, with their Cossack and Ossetian allies, massacred village after village of Caucasians (it was then that the Georgians of North Ossetia, previously 1-2% of the population, were forced to flee and the rest completely massacred, by the Ossete Whites and Cossacks). The Bolsheviks appealed to the Caucasians (except the Georgians, who remained loyal to the Mensheviks, who they viewed as slowly becoming Georgian patriots), arguing that they now realized that the Cossacks who they had appealed to previously were merely imperial tools, and that, knowing this, they would back Caucasian demands all the way. The Chechens were desperate for any sort of help against the Cossacks, and wanted to reverse the cause of their perennial poverty- the loss of Northern Chechenia to the Cossacks- so they joined the Reds by the thousand.

Originally, the advancing Bolsheviks (who were also mainly ethnically Russian, like the Whites they defeated) were viewed as liberators. However, less than half a year after their arrival, rebellion on the part of the Chechens against the Bolsheviks flared up again, because it was discovered by the Chechens that “the Russian Bolsheviks were just a new kind of imperialist, in Communist disguise”.

Following the end of the conflict in 1921, the Chechnya-Ingushetia had been first made part of the Soviet Mountain Republic, and until it was disbanded in 1924 received the official status of an autonomous republic within the Soviet Union in 1936.

Early inter-war period: the Spring of the 1920

1929: the Beginning of Stalinist Repression

Renewed Chechen nationalism (Hassan Israilov)

Observing Finland’s fight against Russia caused the Chechens to begin to believe that it was then the time to achieve their long-desired liberation from the Russian yoke

World War II

By February 1940, Hasan Israilov(Xhasan Israel-khant) and his brother Xussein had established a guerrilla base in the mountains of south-eastern Chechnya, where they worked to organize a unified guerrilla movement to prepare an armed insurrection against the Soviets. In February 1940 Israilov’s rebel army took large areas of South and Central Checheno-Ingushetia. The rebel government was established in Galanchozh.

Israilov described his position on why they were fighting numerous times:

“I have decided to become the leader of a war of liberation of my own people. I understand all too well that not only inChecheno-Ingushetia, but in all nations of the Caucasus it will be difficult to win freedom from the heavy yoke of Redimperialism. But our fervent belief in justice and our faith in the support of the freedom-loving peoples of the Caucasus and of the entire world inspire me toward this deed, in your eyes impertinent and pointless, but in my conviction, the sole correct historical step. The valiant Finns are now proving that the Great Enslaver Empire is powerless against a small but freedom-loving people. In the Caucasus you will find your second Finland, and after us will follow other oppressed peoples.

“For twenty years now, the Soviet authorities have been fighting my people, aiming to destroy them group by group: first thekulaks, then the mullahs and the ‘bandits’, then the bourgeois-nationalists. I am sure now that the real object of this war is the annihilation of our nation as a whole. That is why I have decided to assume the leadership of my people in their struggle for liberation.”

After the German invasion in the USSR in June 1941, the brothers organized large meetings in areas not yet taken to gather supporters.

In some areas, up to 80% of men were involved in the insurrection. It is known that the Soviet Union used bombers against the rebels, causing losses primarily to the civilian population.

In February 1942 Mairbek Sheripov organized rebellion in ShatoiKhimokhk and tried to take Itum-Kale. His forces unified with Israilov’s soon after, and they began taking control of areas of Western Dagestan.

The insurrection caused many Chechen and Ingush soldiers of the Red Army to desert. Some sources claim that total number of deserted mountaineer soldiers reached 62,750, exceeding the number of mountaineer fighters in the Red Army.

The Germans made concerted efforts to coordinate with Israilov. Germany sent saboteurs and aided the rebels at times with Abwehr‘sNordkaukasische Sonderkommando Schamil, which was sent on the premise of saving the oil refinery in Grozny from destruction by the Red Army (which it accomplished). However Israilov’s refusal to cede control of his revolutionary movement to the Germans, and his continued insistence on German recognition of Chechen independence, led many Germans to consider Khasan Israilov as unreliable, and his plans unrealistic. Although the Germans were able to undertake covert operations in Chechnya — such as the sabotage of Grozny oil fields — attempts at a German-Chechen alliance floundered.

That the Chechens actually were allied to the Germans is highly questionable and usually dismissed as false. They did have contact with the Germans. However, there were profound ideological differences between the Chechens and the Nazis (self-determination versus imperialism), neither trusted the other; there was an influential Jewish clan among the Chechens (who were not “Aryan” to begin with according to Hitlerian theory); the German courting of the Cossacks was not pleasing at all to the Chechens (their traditional enemies which with they still had numerous land disputes and other conflicts); and Khasan Israilov certainly had a strong dislike for Hitler. Mairbek Sheripov reportedly gave the Ostministerium a sharp warning that “if the liberation of the Caucasus meant only the exchange of one colonizer for another, the Caucasians would consider this [a theoretical fight pitting Chechens and other Caucasians against Germans] only a new stage in the national liberation war.”

Operation Lentil/Aardakh

Template:See also:Operation Lentil It was initiated on October 13, 1943 when about 120,000 men were moved into the Republic of Checheno-Ingushetia, supposedly for mending bridges. On February 23, 1944 (on Red Army day), the entire population was summoned to local party buildings where they were told they were going to be deported as punishment for their alleged collaboration with the Germans.

Some 40% to 50% of the deportees were children. Unheated and uninsulated freight cars were used. The inhabitants rounded up and imprisoned in Studebaker trucks and sent to Siberia. Many times, resistance was met with slaughter, and in one such instance, in the aul of Haibach, about live 700 people were locked in a barn and burned to death by NKVD general Gveshiani, who was praised for this and promised a medal by Beria. Many people from remote villages were executed per Beria’s verbal order that any Chechen or Ingush deemed ‘untransportable should be liquidated’ on the spot.

By the next summer, Checheno-Ingushetia was dissolved; a number of Chechen and Ingush placenames were replaced with Russian ones; mosques and graveyards were destroyed, and a massive campaign of burning numerous historical Chechen texts was near complete (leaving the world depleted of what was more or less the only source of central Caucasian literature and historical texts except for sparse texts about the Chechens, Ingush, etc., not written by themselves, but by Georgians)  Throughout the North Caucasus, about 700.000 (according to Dalkhat Ediev, 72.4297, of which the majority, 479.478, were Chechens, along with 96.327 Ingush, 104.146 Kalmyks, 39.407 Balkars and 71.869 Karachais). Many died along the trip, and the extremely harsh environment of Siberia (especially considering the amount of exposure) killed many more..

The NKVD, supplying the Russian perspective, gives the statistic of 144.704 people killed in 1944-1948 alone (death rate of 23.5% per all groups), though this is dismissed by many authors such as Tony Wood, John Dunlop, Moshe Gammer and others as a far understatement. Estimates for deaths of the Chechens alone (excluding the NKVD statistic), range from about 170.000 to 200.000, thus ranging from over a third of the total Chechen population to nearly half being killed in those 4 years alone (rates for other groups for those four years hover around 20%). Although the Council of Europe has recognized it as a “genocidal act”, no country except the self-declared, unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria officially recognizes the act as a genocide.

During the repression period(1944–1957), deported nations were not allowed to change places without special permit taken from local authority. Names of repressed nations were totally erased from all books and encyclopedias. Chechen-language libraries were destroyed, many Chechen books and manuscripts were burned. Many families were divided and not allowed to travel to each other even if they found out where their relatives were.

Chechnya after the deportation

The Checheno-Ingush ASSR was transformed into Grozny Oblast, which included also the Kizlyar District and Naursky raion from Stavropol Kray, and parts of it were given to North Ossetia (part of Prigorodny District), Georgian SSR and Dagestan ASSR. Much of the empty housing was given to refugees from war-raged Western Soviet Union. Abandoned houses were settled by newcomers, only Jews andMeskhetian Turks refused to settle in foreign houses, both of which groups had previously lived in the area, are treated with respect for the grief repression that saved them from the wrath of the owners returning. There are still settlements produced to representatives of these peoples. In 1949 Soviet authorities erected a statue of 19th century Russian general Aleksey Yermolov in Grozny. The inscription read, “There is no people under the sun more vile and deceitful than this one.

Some of Chechen settlements were totally deleted from, maps and encyclopedia. This was how the aul of Haibach was rediscovered, through archaeological finds in the Ukraine. Archaeologists have found the bodies of Caucasian scouts who died doing the job in the rear of the Nazis. In his pockets were found letters inscribing the name of the aul Haibach. When the scientists decided to inform the families of heroes that have found their relatives, they learned that such a settlement in Chechnya no longer exists. Continuing their investigation, they discovered the bitter truth about what, when soldiers from Chechnya, died on the front, the relatives of theirs were burned alive in their homes by Soviet soldiers.

Many gravestones were destroyed (along with pretty much the whole library of Chechen medieval writing (in Arabic and Georgian script) about the land of Chechnya, its people, etc., leaving the modern Chechens and modern historians with a destroyed and no longer existent historical treasury of writings in places that were renamed to be given Russian names. Tombstones of Chechens with a history of hundreds of years have been used by soviets for the construction of pedestrian footpasses, foundations of houses, pig pens, etc. In 1991, Dzhokkar Dudayev made political capital by, in a symbolic move, sending out officials to gather these lost gravestones, many of which had lost their original inscriptions, and construct out of them a wall. This wall was made to symbolize both Chechen remorse for the past as well as the desire to, in the name of the dead ancestors, fashion the best possible Chechen Republic out of their land and work hard towards the future. It bears an engravement, reading: “We will not break, we will not weep; we will never forget”; tablets bore pictures of the sites of massacres, such as Xaibach. It has now been moved by the Kadyrov government, sparking mass controversy.

Recognition of genocide

Forced deportation constitutes an act of genocide according to the IV Hague Convention of 1907 and the Convention on the prevention and repression of the crime of genocide of the UN General Assembly (adopted in 1948) and in this case this was acknowledged by the European Parliament as an act of genocide in 2004.

The return

In 1957, four years after Stalin’s death in 1953, the Soviet of Ministers, passed a decree allowing repressed nations to freely travel in the Soviet Union. Many exiled Chechens took this opportunity to return to their ancestral land. This caused talk of restoration of a Chechen autonomy in the Northern Caucasus, the first secretary of the Grozny Oblast CPSU committee, Alexander Yakovlev, supported this idea, but pushed for a temporary autonomy in Kazakhstan, citing the insufficient resources in the province to house the re-patriated peoples (most of the former Chechen houses were settled by refugees from western USSR).

Chechens and Ingush had already been returning to their homeland in relatively small (i.e. tens of thousands, if one considers that small) for a couple years before the announcement; after Khruschev’s denunciation of Stalin the rate of return increased exponentially. By 1959, almost all the Chechens and Ingush had returned, eager to see their beloved homeland once again.

In 1958 officially the Chechen-Ingush ASSR was restored by a decree direct from Moscow, but in previous 1936 borders. For example South Ossetia kept the Prigorodny District, instead the republic was “compensated” with ethnic Russian territory on the left-bank Terek, Naursky district and Shelkovsky Districts. Shelkovsky (Moxne in Chechen) in fact had a Chechen heritage before the invasion of the Cossacks, and Naursky (called Hovran in Chechen) also had Chechens in its Eastern regions before the Russian invasion, though the bulk of Naursky may have been instead Kabardins. Nonetheless, the Russian populace (especially the Cossacks) had come, over the years, to view the lands as being theirs, as they had not been dominantly Chechen (or anything besides Cossack) for well over a century at the time of the return of the Chechens.

In the 20th century, several territories of Chechnya changed their owners several times. After the Russian Civil War, lands populated by Terek Cossacks and Russian colonists were granted to Chechens and Ingush as a reward for their support of the Bolsheviks against the White movement. However, these were not lands foreign to Chechens and Ingush. Namely, they were the Chechen lowlands and East Prigorodny (or “West Ingushetia”, depending on point of view). The Chechen river lowlands were an integral and indeed, necessary from an economic perspective, part of the historical Chechen nation’s land- to the point that even while Cossack settlers had forced the native inhabitants out, the clans retained nominal ownership per the Chechen clan system, which they regained de facto after the revolution. Likewise, with East Prigorodny, it had simply had been transferred to Ossete rule (during the Caucasian War as a reward for the Ossete’s treachery of their neighbors) but was still populated mainly by Ingush, though in some areas the Ossetes had indeed forced the original population out or otherwise eradicated it. The return of these two regions angered the Ossetes and the Cossacks, despite the fact that their “ownership” of the regions was disputed not only by the clan land-ownership system of the Vainakh populace, but also by the fact that they had only lived there for barely half a century, as opposed to the multiple millennia of Vainakh habitation of the two regions. Ossete presence in East Prigorodny dated back only to the 19th century, when Ossete expansion was encouraged (and aided) by the Russian state at the expense of the Ingush (see Ossetian-Ingush conflict). Even the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz (in Prigorodny) was actually built on the site of the Ingush town of Zaur.Likewise, as noted on this page, Vainakh presence in the Terek region is ancient in origin (despite a mass of conflicts with Turkic settlers originating with the Mongol Invasians , compared to Cossack presence which could only date back a few centuries, and even greater compared to the recent arrival of urban Russians. Later these lands were partially returned to the Russians or Ossetians, triggering wrath among the Vainakh populace (which was, in any case, being submitted to Aardakh and mass massacre by Stalin at that point). In addition, the Easternmost region of Chechenia, Akkia, the land of the Akki Chechens, was taken from Chechnya, and given to Dagestan. Just as had happened in East Prigorodny, the Chechens were sent to Siberia, and their homes were filled (literally) with Laks and Avars, with whom they still dispute the lands of Akkia.

Ethnic tensions

When the Chechens and Ingush returned to their homeland, they found other peoples living, quite literally, in their houses, and on their land. Unsurprisingly, the returnees viewed the other ethnicities -Ossetes, Russians, Laks, Kumyks and Avars- that had been moved onto the lands that had been theirs before with hostility. In the case of the conflict between Ossetes and Ingush in Prigorodny, and between the Russians/Cossacks and Chechens in Northern Chechnya, the conflicts simmered and threatened to boil over into violence many times (and actually did more than once). In the case of Akkia, there was more understanding between the Chechens on one side and the Laks, Kumyks and Avars on the other, not because of their historical contacts and shared religion, but rather because the Chechens knew that the Dagestanis had not moved onto their land by choice, but rather were forced to. However, the conflict over Akkia to this day is not resolved, despite efforts by both sides to find a middle ground.

Many returning Chechens were settled in the lowland steppe regions, and in Grozny itself rather than the historical mountainous districts. The goal of this (and, indeed, adding Shelkovskaya and Naursky to Checheno-Ingushetia) was to try to forcefully assimilate the Chechens by keeping them away from the mountains and reminders of “their ancient struggles”, and to keep them mixed in with supposedly more loyal Russians so they could not rebel without a counter-force present. Ultimately, the attempt to make Checheno-Ingushetia more multi-ethnic in order to weaken the potential for national awakening and uprising failed, however, due to the Vainakh’s much higher birthrate. It did however succeed in deepening and renewing ethnic conflict between Chechens and Russians. The Russians, angered by issues over land ownership (they had come to view the lands they had settled as “theirs”) and job competition, rioted as early as 1958. In the 1958 Grozny riots, the Russians seized the central government buildings and demanded either a restoring of Grozny Oblast, or a creation of a non-titular autonomy, re-deportation of the Chechens and Ingush, establishment of “Russian power”, mass search and disarming of Vainakh, before Soviet law-enforcement despersed the rioters. On the 27th, Major General Stepanov of the Military Aviation School issued an ultimatum to the local Soviet that the Chechens must be sent back to Siberia or otherwise his Russians would “tear (them) to pieces”.Although the riot was dispersed and it was denounced as “chauvinistic”, afterward, the republican government made special efforts to please the Russian populace, and mass discrimination against the Chechens aimed at preserving the privileged position of the Russians commenced (see below).

Chechens were greatly disadvantaged in their homeland even after being allowed to return. There were no Chechen-language schools in their own homeland until 1990, leading to the crippling effect of lack of education of the populace (which did not universally understand Russian). According to sociologist Georgi Derluguyan, the Checheno-Ingush Republic’s economy was divided into two spheres -much like French settler-ruled Algeria- and the Russian sphere had all the jobs with higher salaries., and non-Russians were systematically kept out of all government positions. Russians (as well as Ukrainians and Armenians) worked in education, health, oil, machinery, and social services. Non-Russians (excluding Ukrainians and Armenians) worked in agriculture, construction, a long host of undesirable jobs, as well as the so-called “informal sector” (i.e., illegal, due to the mass discrimination in the legal sector). Due to rapid population growth among the non-Russians, combined with unfavorable economic conditions, the non-Russian population frequently engaged in the practice known is Russian as “shabashka”, the unofficial migration of republic minorities for economic reasons. This diaspora often later engaged in organized crime partly due to poverty and job discrimination, and the justification that they were only regaining the money that was stolen from them by the Russian elite in their homeland by its institutionalized discrimination. Derluguyan (see citation above) describes this further as one of the main causes of the rebirth of the concept of Chechen nationalism in a much more unity-oriented form (that is, unity between Chechens, and Ingush if they want to be part of it).

Perestroika and Post-Soviet Chechnya

The Gorbachev Era Nationalist Revival

The experience (in addition to previous memories of conflicts with the Russian state) of the starvation in the 1930s, of Aardakh in 1944 and of the ethnic conflict with the Russian populace after the return from exodus had, according to Derluguyan, Wood and others, allowed for the unification of loyalties. Bridges were made between taip, vird, and the like, and relationships were forged with prisonmates, partners in crime, among members of Chechen mafias in Russia, among members of labour teams, while the importance of taip and vird diminished due to the pressures of modernization. The Chechen narrative increasingly took the stance of a united Chechen struggle to escape once and for all the perceived oppression by the Russian state and to escape future hardships. In 1985, Mikheil Gorbachev came to power as the leader in the Soviet Union, and pursued a policy of openness and non-censorship of controversial issues. This allowed all of these issues to come to the forefront, as Chechen organizations became less and less reserved in their rhetoric and began saying what they had thought the whole time: that Chechens were persecuted time and time again, and continued to be, and that the Russian state was at fault. And the “Question” was asked: how can the Chechen people once and for all escape future persecution?

The answer to this “Question” came as independence in the perestroika period when the first Caucasian nationalist movement (in fact, predating all other formalized movements in all parts of the USSR except the Baltic states and Georgia), named Kavkaz was established in 1987. Explicitly Chechen national movements were established a year later, notably including the Vainakh Democratic Party (VDP, though its goal of a unified Vainakh state ended in 1993 with Ingushetia’s secession), and its trade union, named (of all things) Bart (unity in Chechen), established in 1989  The first target for Chechen historians was the Russian-fabricated myth of Chechens and Ingush voluntarily joining Russia.

Much of the ideology came directly from the Baltic (especially Estonia), where Chechens observed with increasing admiration the success of nationalist revival movements. The spark for the forming of Kavkaz, however, was not nationalist, but rather environmentalist concerns: there were plans to build a nuclear power plant in the vicinity. Chechen culture had always revered nature, and political environmentalism blossomed in this period, but became a component of Chechen nationalism. Kavkaz soon became a nationalist movement, with saving nature only as a side goal, to be pursued once the Chechen nation had achieved an independent state.

Prelude to the 1991 Revolution

In 1989, for the very first time, a non-Russian, a Chechen, was appointed to be the ruler of Checheno-Ingushetia – Doku Zavgayev. While this was first embraced by Chechen nationalist movements, Zavgayev turned out to be hostile to reform and extremely corrupt. The Chechen nationalist movements began to act against Zavgayev; in 1990, the highly nationalistic former Soviet aviator Dzhokkar Dudayev was elected head of the All-National Congress of the Chechen People which became the mouthpiece of the Chechen opposition.

There was also some signs from Moscow that the Chechens – as well as others – read as a green light. One of the most significant of these was on April 26, 1990, when the Supreme Soviet declared that the ASSRs within Russia “the full plenitude of state power”, and put them on the same levels as Union Republics, which had the (at least nominal) right to secession.

In August 1990, while campaigning for presidency of the RSFSR, Yeltsin famously told ASSRepublics to “take as much sovereignty as [they] could stomach” back from Russia.

On November 25, 1990, the first Chechen National Congress declared the “rightful sovereignty” of the “Chechen Republic of Noxçi-ço”. Two days later, on November 27, the Supreme Soviet declared its agreement with this by declaring Checheno-Ingushetia’s sovereignty and adding that it would negotiate with Russia on equal footing, raising Chechnya to the level of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia – that is, a Union Republic. At this point, the Chechen Communists had begun supporting “full sovereignty at a minimum”, meaning utterly every major party in Chechnya that included Chechens – the VDP, the Greens, the Communists, the Islamic Path Party, and the secularist Popular Front of Checheno-Ingushetia (modeled off that of Azerbaijan) – supported sovereignty, if not full independence.

The decisive move came on August 22, 1991, three days after the beginning of the August Coup. Government buildings were stormed by political groups representing the broad swathe of Chechen politics with the sole exception of Zavgayev: the Greens, the Islamists, the Nationalists, the Liberals, and even some of the Communists. Only one person died, a government official who jumped, fell, or was pushed out a window. Zavgayev was forced to resign.Dissolution of the Soviet Union and Afterwards

After the demise of the Soviet Union, the situation in Chechnya became unclear. Below is the chronology of that time:

  • On September 2, 1991, the Russian installed Islamic board of the Caucasus, claiming that the Executive Committee was not legitimate and that actions of the Committee would inevitably lead to bloodshed.
  • On September 6, 1991, the building of the Supreme Soviet was occupied by Dzhokhar Dudayev’s guards, who removed the puppet Zavgaev.
  • On September 15, 1991, a last session of the Supreme Soviet of the Chechen-Ingush Republic took place, and it decided to dissolve itself (under the request of Dudayev’s guards).
  • On October 1, 1991, some of the ex-deputies decided to divide the republic into the Chechen Republic and the Ingush Republic. This move was eventually supported by a majority (90%) of Ingush voters, and Dudayev opted to allow the peaceful division of Checheno-Ingushetia into Chechnya and Ingushetia
  • On October 27, 1991, a referendum on independence was held, with a large majority (72%) of the populace voting and a majority approval (over 90% of voters, meaning at least about 64% of the populace approved independence). Khasbulatov contested the results, claiming that the elections were un-democratic (despite the fact that he organized them, apparently ).
  • On November 1, 1991, Dudayev issued a decree of Chechen independence (Указ об “Об объявлении суверенитета Чеченской Республики с 1 ноября 1991 г.”) The International Committee on Human Rights did not report any violations, though Dunlop stated that though there probably were some flaws in the election, he cites the observer, anthropologist Arutyunov (who stated that roughly 60-70% of the population of Chechnya supported independence at the time) it could nonetheless “be regarded as an expression of Chechen popular will.”
  • On November 2, 1991, the 5th Assembly of People’s Deputies of RSFSR (the Russian parliament of that time) took place. A resolution was issued stating that the Chechen Supreme Soviet and President were not legitimate.

From 1991 to 1994 tens of thousands of people of non-Chechen ethnicity left the republic amidst fears and in some cases reports of violence and discrimination against the non-Chechen population, made up of mostly Russians, Ukrainians and Armenians (the situation was exacerbated by their lack of incorporation into the Chechen clan system, which protects its members to a degree from crime, as well).

However, regarding this exodus, there are opposing views. The mass depopulation of Russians in ethnic republics occurred throughout virtually the whole Soviet Union, and is not distinct for Chechnya/Ichkeria in any way. According to Russian economists Boris Lvin and Andrei Illarionov, the rate during 1991-1994 was relatively lower than Tuva, Kalmykia and Sakha-Yakutia at the time (despite the adverse economic conditions), supposedly indicating the more hospitable environment in Chechnya than others.

The independence years of 1991-94 for the “Chechen Republic of Ichkeria” were marked by growing tension with Russia, a declining economy (due both to a Russian economic blockade and due to Dudayev’s poor economic policies- described as such even by his own economic minister , and an increasingly unstable and divided internal political scene, with parts of the opposition being armed by Russia (see below) while the government in Groznyi resorting to more and more drastic measures. 90,000 people (mainly Russians and Ukrainians) fled Chechnya during 1991-93 due to fears of, and possibly actual manifestation of ethnic tension (the situation was exacerbated by their lack of incorporation into the Chechen clan system, which protects its members to a degree from crime, as well).

Dudayev was criticized by much of the Chechen political spectrum (particularly in urban Groznyi) for his economic policies, a number of eccentric and embarrassing statements (such as insisting that “Nokhchi” meant descendent of Noah and that Russia was trying to destabilize the Caucasus with earthquakes), and his connections to former criminals (some of which, such as Beslan Gantemirov defected to the Russian side and served under Russian-backed regional governments). However, this opposition did not oppose Chechnya’s independence from Russia; it simply opposed Dudayev. In 1995 (during the war), one of the major opposition figures of the independence era, Khalid Delmayev, stated that he believed that Chechen statehood could be postponed, but could not be avoided.

The Russian federal government refused to recognize Chechen independence and made several attempts to take full control of the territory of the Chechen Republic. Russia actively funded the Chechen opposition to Dudayev’s government, but nonetheless, even members the opposition stated that there was no debate on whether Chechnya should be separate from Russia; there was one option: secession, as reported in 1992 by an observer for Moscow News. The federal government supported a failed coup designed to overthrow Dudayev in1994.

The covert Russian attempts of overthrowing Dudayev by a means of an armed Chechen opposition forces resulted in repeated failed assaults on the city. Originally, Moscow had been backing the political opposition of Umar Avturkhanov “peacefully” (i.e. not arming them and encouraging them to wage an attempted coup). However, this switched in 1994, after the coups in neighboring in Georgia and Azerbaijan(both of which Moscow was involved with), and Russia encouraged armed opposition and occasionally assisted. In August 1994 Avturkhanov attacked Grozny, but was repelled first by Chechen citizens who were then joined by Grozny government troops and Russian helicopters covered his retreat. On September 28, one of these interfering helicopters was indeed shot down and its Russian pilot was held as aprisoner-of-war by the Chechen government.The last one on 26 November 1994 ended with capture of 21 Russian Army tank crew members, secretly hired as mercenaries by the FSK (former KGB, soon renamed FSB); their capture was sometimes cited as one of the reasons of Boris Yeltsin‘s decision to launch the open intervention. In the meantime, Grozny airport and other targets were bombed by unmarked Russian aircraft. Russia then decided to invade Chechnya to reestablish control by the federal government in Moscow.

First Chechen War (1994-1996)

Main article: First Chechen War

Russian federal forces overran Grozny in November, 1994. Although the forces achieved some initial successes, the federal military made a number of critical strategic blunders during the Chechnya campaign and was widely perceived as incompetent. Led by Aslan Maskhadov,separatists conducted successful guerrilla operations from the mountainous terrain. By March 1995Aslan Maskhadov became leader of the Chechen resistance.

Russia first appointed in early 1995 a government with Khadzhiev as ruler and Avturxanov as deputy. Gantemirov was also restored to his position as mayor of Grozny. However, later in the fall of that year, Khadzhiev was replaced with Doku Zavgaev, the former head of the republic who had fled after the Dudayev-led revolution in 1990-1991. He was extremely unpopular not only among the Chechens, but also among even the Russian diaspora, who nicknamed him “Doku Aeroportovich” because he rarely ever left the Russian-run airbase in Khankala By statistics given by the Russian government itself’s Audit Committee, he was allocated 12.3 trillion rubles in the first two months alone in a republic now impoverished by war and bloodshed.

Although at first, the Russians had the upper hand despite determined homegrown Chechen civilian resistance (see Lieven’s remarks on this as a Chechen cultural phenomemon traceable even as far back as the invasion by the Mongols, as well as Woods in Chechnya: the Case for Independence), half way through the war, the separatist Chechen government released a statement calling for help. They received it both from the Islamic world (with numbers of Arabs streaming in), but more prominently from former Soviet states and satellites, with Baltic peoples, Estonians, Romanians, Azeris, Dagestanis, Circassians, Abkhaz, Georgians, Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Hungarians, and even a few Russians streaming in to aid the so-called “cause of freedom” that the Chechen government professed. Diaspora Chechens also returned, as parallel to the Karabakh war, to aid their “daymokhk”(fatherland). With the new troops also came new weaponry, and from this point forward, the tables were turned, with the Russian army becoming more and more mutinous and lacking of morale, while the anti-Russian side was growing stronger and more confident (see also: First Chechen War, on this phenomenon).

Seizure of the helicopter

In June, 1995, Chechen guerrillas occupied a hospital in the southern Russian town ofBudyonnovsk (in Stavropol Krai), taking over 1,000 hostages. Federal forces attempted to storm the hospital twice and failed; the guerrillas were allowed to leave after freeing their hostages. This incident, televised accounts of war crimes and mass destruction, and the resulting widespread demoralization of the federal army, led to a federal withdrawal and the beginning of negotiations on March 21, 1996.

Separatist President Dudayev was killed in a Russian rocket attack on April 21, 1996 and theVice-president Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev became president. Negotiations on Chechen independence were repeatedly finally tabled in August 1996, leading to the end of the war and withdrawal of federal forces.

In the later stages of the First Chechen War, a large exodus of non-Vainakhs occurred.In the case of the originally 200,000 strong Russian minority, this is usually cited as a result of growing anti-ethnic-Russian sentiment among the Vainakh populace, which had been suppressed during the rule of Dudayev (who, despite appealing to Chechen nationalism and secession, was a native speaker of Russian, and most importantly was married to a Russian), who in some cases supported Russia.

Interwar period: 1996-1999

In 1997, Aslan Maskhadov comfortably won the election, campaigning as a moderate who would unite the various factions within Chechen society, but establish Chechnya as an independent and secular state, aligning itself with the West more than with the Middle East, as well as keeping Ichkeria safe from Russia by remaining on relatively positive relations. Yandarbiev’s platform was an explicitly Islamic state with some implementation of sharia law, and a largely Islamophilic foreign policy. Basaev, finally, insisted on focusing less on gaining foreign support and recognition and more on rebuilding Ichkeria’s own military. Basaev, despite criticizing Yandarbiev’s policy towards radical Islamic groups, stated that attacks on Russian territory outside Chechnya should be executed if it is necessary to remind Russia that Ichkeria was not a pushover.


At the point of 1997, as evidenced from the election, Maskhadov’s policy of relative moderation and looking West for help was most popular, though he gained considerable following because of his status as a war hero. The results of the election were a 79.4% turnout, with 59.3% voting for Maskhadov, 23.5% voting for Basaev and 10.1% voting for Yandarviev.


Aslan Maskhadov became President in 1997, but was unable to consolidate control as the wartorn republic devolved into regional bickering among local teip leaders and factions. One major source of his unpopularity was the perception of him being “weak” in dealing with Russia, which was exploited by the more militaristic opposition.


Maskhadov sought to maintain Chechen sovereignty while pressing Moscow to help rebuild the republic, whose formal economy and infrastructure were virtually destroyed. Russia continued to send money for the rehabilitation of the republic; it also provided pensions and funds for schools and hospitals. However, much of this did not arrive, its disappearance being attributed to embezzlement by either Russian or Chechen officials/warlords (or both). Nearly half a million people (40% of Chechya’s prewar population) have been internally displaced and lived in refugee camps or overcrowded villages. The economy was destroyed. Two Russian brigades were stationed in Chechnya and did not leave.


Chechnya had been badly damaged by the war and the economy was in a shambles. Aslan Maskhadov tried to concentrate power in his hands to establish authority, but had trouble creating an effective state or a functioning economy. He attempted to attract foreign investment in Chechnya’s oil industry and reconstruction of Grozny.


The war ravages and lack of economic opportunities left numbers of armed former guerrillas with no occupation but further violence.Kidnappings, robberies, and killings of fellow Chechens and outsiders, most notably the killings of four employees of British Granger Telecom in 1998, weakened the possibilities of outside investment and Maskhadov’s efforts to gain international recognition of its independence effort. Kidnappings became common in Chechnya, procuring over $200 million during the three year independence of the chaotic fledgling state,but victims were rarely killed.


In 1998, 176 people had been kidnapped, and 90 of them had been released during the same year according to official accounts. There were several public executions of criminals. Caving to intense pressure from his Islamist foes in his desire to find a national consensus, Maskhadov allowed the proclamation of the Islamic Republic of Ichkeria in 1998 and the Shariasystem of justice was introduced.


President Maskhadov started a major campaign against hostage-takers, and on October 25, 1998, Shadid Bargishev, Chechnya’s top anti-kidnapping official, was killed in a remote controlled car bombing. Bargishev’s colleagues then insisted they would not be intimidated by the attack and would go ahead with their offensive.


Other anti-kidnapping officials blamed the attack on Bargishev’s recent success in securing the release of several hostages, including 24 Russian soldiers and an English couple. Maskhadov blamed the rash of abductions in Chechnya on unidentified “outside forces” and their Chechen henchmen, allegedly those who joined Pro-Moscow forces during the second war.


Some of the kidnapped (most of whom were non-Chechens) were sold into indentured servitude to Chechen families. They were openly called slaves and had to endure starvation, beating, and often maiming.


The years of independence had some political violence as well. On December 10 Mansur Tagirov, Chechnya’s top prosecutor, disappeared while returning to Grozny. On June 21 the Chechen security chief and a guerrilla commander fatally shot each other in an argument.


The internal violence in Chechnya peaked on July 16, 1998, when fighting broke out between Maskhadov’s National Guard force led by Sulim Yamadayev (who joined pro-Moscow forces in the second war) and militants in the town of Gudermes; over 50 people were reported killed and the state of emergency was declared in Chechnya.


Maskhadov proved unable to guarantee the security of the oil pipeline running across Chechnya from the Caspian Sea, and illegal oil tapping and acts of sabotage deprived his regime of crucial revenues and agitated Moscow. In 1998 and 1999 Maskhadov survived severalassassination attempts, blamed on the Russian intelligence services.


Terrorist incidents and border clashes

On November 16, 1996, in Kaspiysk (Dagestan) a bomb destroyed an apartment building housing Russian border guards; 68 people died. The cause of the blast was never determined, but many in Russia blamed it on Chechen separatists. Three people died on April 23, 1997, when a bomb exploded in the Russian railway station of Armavir (Krasnodar Krai), and two on May 28, 1997, when another bomb exploded in the Russian railway station of Pyatigorsk (Stavropol Krai).


On December 22, 1997, forces of Dagestani militants and Chechnya-based Arab warlord Ibn al-Khattab raided the base of the 136th Motor Rifle Brigade of the Russian Army in Buynaksk, Dagestan, inflicting severe losses on the men[41] and equipment of the unit. In late May Russia announced that it was closing the Russian-Chechnya border in an attempt to combat terrorist and criminal activity; border guards were ordered to shoot suspects on sight.


On June 18, 1999, seven servicemen were killed when Russian border guard posts were attacked in Dagestan. On July 29, 1999, the Russian Interior Ministry troops destroyed a Chechen border post and captured a 800 meter-section of strategic road. On August 22, 1999, 10 Russian policemen were killed by an anti-tank mine blast inNorth Ossetia, and on August 9, 1999 six servicemen were kidnapped in the Ossetian capital Vladikavkaz.


Second Chechen War and its consequences

Main article: Second Chechen War

In August 1999 renegade Chechen and Arab commanders led a large group of militants intoDagestan. Headed by Shamil Basayev and Amir Khattab (who were opposed vehemently by the government in Grozny, from which they had broken off allegiance), the insurgents fought Russian forces in Dagestan for a week before being driven back into Chechnya proper. On September 9, 1999, Chechens were blamed for the bombing of an apartment complex inMoscow and several other explosions in Russia.


These events were viewed by Russia’s new prime minister Vladimir Putin as a violation of theKhasav-Yurt Accord by the Chechen side. Thus, on October 1, 1999, Russian troops entered Chechenya. However, according to then-interior minister Sergei Stepashin, the invasion of Chechnya would have occurred even if these events had not occurred:

“The decision to invade Chechnya was made in March 1999… I was prepared for an active intervention. We were planning to be on the north side of theTerek River by August–September [of 1999] This [the war] would happen regardless to the bombings in Moscow… Putin did not discover anything new. You can ask him about this. He was the director of FSB at this time and had all information”.


Much better trained and prepared than in the first war, by December all of the northern steppe regions were conquered, and Grozny was encircled, which finally surrendered in early February 2000. By late spring all of the lowland, and most of the mountainous territory was successfully re-claimed by the federal forces.


After several years of military administration, in 2002, a local government was formed by Russian-allied Chechens headed by Akhmad Kadyrov. In 2003, referendum on constitution and presidential election were held. However, it was widely criticized, and in some cases, the vote recorded was not only vastly more than the actual population living there, but the majority of “voters” were Russian soldiers and dead Chechens (who of course were “loyal” pro-Russians, according to the results).


The Chechen separatists initially resisted fiercely, and several high-profile battles resulted in their victories such as the Battle of Hill 776 andZhani-Vedeno ambush. Nonetheless the success in establishing a Russian-allied Chechen militia and the actions of Russian Special Forcesmeant that in 2002 Putin announced that the war was officially over.


However the Insurgency continued, and has spread to neghbouring regions with high profile clashes such as the Battle of Nalchik and theBeslan School siege. After Beslan, there was a 4-5 year drought of major attacks by Chechens outside of Chechnya. According to some, this was due to an element of embarrassment and guilt on the part of the Chechen rebels over the deaths of children in Beslan.


The 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center caused a disaster for the Chechens, as much of the West went from passive sympathy to hostility as Russia was able to brand Chechen separatism as Islamist. As Amjad Jaimoukha puts it,


The al-Qaeda attacks on the US on 11 September 2001 resulted in a major setback to the Chechen cause and robbed the Chechens of the small modicum of sympathy they had had in the West. Russia played its cards right and quickly associated Chechen legitimate struggle for independence with Muslim extremism.


The raid on Beslan had, in fact, more to do with the Ingush involved than the Chechens, but was highly symbolic for both. The Ossetes and Ingush had (and have) a conflict over ownership of the Prigorodny District, which hit high points during the 1944 genocide, and the ethnic cleansing of Ingush by Ossetes (the Ossetes getting assistance from the Russian military) in 1992-3. At the time of the raid, there were still over 40000 Ingush refugees in tent camps in Ingushetia and Chechnya. The Beslan school itself had been used against the Ingush- in 1992 the gym was used as a pen to round up Ingush for expulsion and/or massacre by the Ossetes. For the Chechens, the motive was revenge for the destruction of their homes and, indeed families: Beslan was the site from which missiles were launched at Chechnya.


A large fraction (overwhelming majority) of the people involved in the hostage taking raid also direct victims of Russian abuse, including many who were victimized as children and/or, in the case of Khaula Nazirov, had their children ironically murdered by Russian troops during a raid of a school.


Once, however, it was broadcast that there were large amounts of children killed by a group that included Chechens, the Chechens were struck with a large amount of shame. One spokesman for the Chechen cause stated that “Such a bigger blow could not be dealt upon us… People around the world will think that Chechens are monsters if they could attack children”. He went on to state that the Russians had killed far more children, including in schools during their war in Chechnya, and that this had been deliberately ignored by the rest of the world. Nonetheless, largely for this reason, attacks ceased until 2008.


Both the federal and separatist armies have been widely criticized by human rights groups such as Amnesty International for alleged war crimes committed during the two Chechen wars, including accusations on both sides of rapetorturelooting, and the murder ofcivilians.


The Russian military has been repeatedly reported to have used vacuum bombs and bombed white-flag bearing civilian vessels (see theKatyr-Yurt Massacre) by international charity groups.

Dozens of mass graves (created by the Russian side) containing hundreds of corpses have been uncovered since the beginning of theChechen wars in 1994. As of June 2008, there were 57 registered locations of mass graves in Chechnya. According to Amnesty International, thousands may be buried in unmarked graves including up to 5,000 civilians who disappeared since the beginning of the Second Chechen War in 1999. In 2008, the largest mass grave found to date was uncovered in Grozny, containing some 800 bodies from theFirst Chechen War in 1995. Russia’s general policy to the Chechen mass graves is to not exhume them.


The two wars have left millions of people living in poverty, up to half a million refugees (particularly ethnic Russians), and most of the infrastructure destroyed. Kadyrov claims that since then Northern Chechnya and Grozny have been rebuilt. These claims have been refuted by most other sources (such as Tony Wood), who note that most of the revenue has gone to the construction of Kadyrov’s private mansion for his clan and his expensive birthday celebration. In a CNN interview, Kadyrov once compared the Chechen people to a pet lion cub, stating that “…[they] will either learn to be obedient or it will kill me”.


Recent events have suggested that Russia could come into conflict with even Kadyrov. Recently Ramzan Kadyrov has also made statements seeming to support broad autonomy, criticizing Russian attempts to make a “North Caucasus” district  inviting back separatist leader Akhmad Zakayev, and very warm (and somewhat disturbing for Russia even) support for Abkhaz independence.


Conversely, when Kadyrov started a campaign in October 2010 to crack down on bridenapping, the Russian press responded with criticism claiming that he was trying to use it to seize more autonomy. Furthermore, Putin’s current policy for internal division of the Russian Federation is not at all pleasing for advocates of self-determination (or, for Kadyrov, the retainment of his personal power): it advocates “enlargement of regions of Russia”.


Sergei Mironov stated on March 30, 2002 that “89 federation subjects is too much, but larger regional units are easier to manage” and that the goal was to merge them into 7 federal districts. Gradually, over time, ethnic republics were to be abolished to accomplish this goal of integration.

























































Infinity Symbol Found at Center of Milky Way

Infinity Symbol Found at Center of Milky Way

By Natalie Wolchover, Life’s Little Mysteries Staff Writer
26 July 2011 11:51 AM ET

A twisted ring of gas stretching more than 600 light-years across the heart of the Milky Way galaxy has  been observed in its entirety for the first time. The gaseous ring, which gives birth to new stars, has a kink in the middle, such that it looks like a cosmic infinity symbol.

Parts of the ring have been seen before, but the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Telescope has just made unprecedented observations of the whole structure. The Herschel spacecraft is specially suited to peer into the Milky Way’s center because it detects infrared and sub-millimeter light, which can penetrate through the dust hovering between here and there.

According to a statement from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., astronomers were shocked by what they saw when they aimed the telescope at the galaxy’s inner ring: “[The] ring, which is in the plane of our galaxy, looked more like an infinity symbol with two lobes pointing to the side,” the laboratory said. “In fact, they later determined the ring was torqued in the middle, so it only appears to have two lobes. To picture the structure, imagine holding a stiff, elliptical band and twisting the ends in opposite directions, so that one side comes up a bit.” [Top 3 Questions People Ask Astrophysicists (and Answers)]

Scientists don’t yet understand why the newly observed infinity symbol is twisted and kinked, and little is known about how gas rings, and even rings within larger rings, form in spiral galaxies in the first place. And there’s yet another mystery: The torqued portion of the new ring appears to be slightly offset from the center of the galaxy, wherein lies a massive black hole.

“This is what is so exciting about launching a new space telescope like Herschel,” said Sergio Molinari of the Institute of Space Physics in Rome, lead author of a new paper on the ring in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. “We have a new and exciting mystery on our hands, right at the center of our own galaxy.”

David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman pilot would have been Hollywood’s weirdest take on superheroes yet

By Charlie Jane Anders

David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman pilot would have been Hollywood’s weirdest take on superheroes yet


David E. Kelley's Wonder Woman pilot would have been Hollywood's weirdest take on superheroes yet

If things had turned out differently, one of America’s most famous superheroes could have been racing across our screens this fall. But the gods were againstWonder Woman, NBC’s superhero show. And it’s easy to see why.

We’ve seen the unaired Wonder Woman pilot, and it’s actually kind of worse than we expected. It’s bad in the ways that we were all expecting, but it’s also bad in other, more fundamental, ways.

The funny thing is, you sort of expect this show to have a lot of soppiness and a lot of “working woman juggling career and personal life” trauma — because it’s David E. Kelley, and he’s built in the concept that Wonder Woman has two secret identities. So she has her “corporate bosslady” identity, dealing with meetings, and then her “lonely single woman” identity, whose biggest problem is creating a Facebook profile for herself.

David E. Kelley's Wonder Woman pilot would have been Hollywood's weirdest take on superheroes yet

But the thing you don’t expect from this pilot is how tone-deaf it is about superheroes, and how smug and brutal Wonder Woman is. You get the impression, watching this thing, that nobody has ever really read a good superhero comic, or gotten the slightest idea why superheroes work. There’s a lot of discussion of whether Wonder Woman is an unlawful vigilante — which she clearly is, without a doubt — and we constantly see her torturing, murdering and trampling people, without any concern for the law.

Watching the Wonder Woman pilot makes you appreciate The Cape, NBC’s doomed superhero show from last year, a lot more. Both shows are trying to do similar things, but The Cape at least had some relatable characters and a better sense of humor. Not that the Wonder Woman pilot isn’t screamingly funny in parts — it definitely is.

For example, there’s still the infamous scene where Wonder Woman argues with her marketing team about the ginormous breasts of her action figure, which now ends with her shouting, “We are not marketing my tits!” But then later, she shows off those same breasts to a security guard who’s blocking a room she wants to get into, saying “Do you like my outfit? This outfit opens doors for me.”

There’s also the big confrontation with the evil pharmaceutical company head, Veronica Cale, played by the glamorous Elizabeth Hurley — who looks at Diana and says, in extreme closeup, “The pharmaceutical industry has Congress by the balls, and as you can imagine, their balls come particularly easy to me.” Why their balls are so accessible to her, in particular, is left as an exercise for the audience.

Meanwhile, African American women follow Wonder Woman around, worrying about her feelings and begging for her help in avenging their poor victimized sons. And everybody worries about Wonder Woman’s mental state and whether she’s lonesome and whether she needs a man, all the time — even when she’s facing criminal charges for beating up tons of people without any justification.

And she spends rather a lot of time in her “corporate bosslady” identity, with a huge office overlooking a giant hive of worker bees, all of them apparently toiling away to merchandise her image for profit. All of the profits from her crass self-promotion go to help her beat up more people in her spare time, we’re told.

It’s really very jarring. David E. Kelley boils down superheroes to a shriveled core of violence, arrogance and meanness, like the worst of early 1990s Image Comics heroes. And then to humanize his main character again, he adds a stock set of “lonely career woman” tropes that are lifted directly from all his lawyer shows. We’ve seen some pretty odd takes on the admittedly versatile superhero archetypes from Hollywood over the years — but Wonder Woman might just be the oddest.