The Conflict between Russia and Chechnya
Causes of the War
The Situation Today
Russia which was formerly the Soviet Union (USSR) was a constituent of several republics which included Chechnya. Russia has continued to express its interest on controlling Chechnya owing to the control Chechnya has on its rich mineral land that’s famous for oil deposits and other valuable minerals like sulphur and natural gas among others. Russia has been interested in keeping Chechnya under its rule for its interests in accessing the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea as well as the nations bordering it to the south like Georgia. For a long time now, a sour relationship has existed between Chechnya and the larger power Russia.
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The conflict between Russia and Chechnya has existed for centuries now. Dating from as far back as 1783 when Georgia which was Islamist nation joined hands with Moscow and launched an attack on Chechens who were primarily Muslims leading to a war that lasted for 47 years up to1864. The Soviet rule took over the territories and established a combined Chechnya and Ingushetia resulting in formation of Chechen-Ingushetia. The Chechens still continued with their fight for autonomy leading to maintained pressure on Russia. After many years of tension between Russians and Chechens, the residents of Chechnya stood up against the Soviet rule. The Russian leader during World War II, Josef Stalin, forced all the Chechens out of Chechnya into neighboring Kazakhstan and Siberia after claiming deaths of a third of the population for claims that they collaborated with the Nazis in the war. This led to disbanding of the Chechen-Ingushetia and up until 1956 the Chechens lived in exile but were allowed back to their native land and the territory was again known as Chechnya. Russia still continued applying its rule on Chechnya and further proceeded to make Russian language a must learn for every one in Russia.
Dunlop in his book notes that upon settling back years later, they still wanted to be autonomous and this quest was even further fueled by the failing of the USSR and eventually led to the war in the years of 1994 and 1995 which is now referred to as the first Chechen war. In 1991, the Soviet Union officially disintegrated leading to 14 states being declared fully autonomous. Chechnya took this chance to go ahead and claim full independence, an issue that did not go down very well with Boris Yeltsin. Dzhokhar Dudayev led the Chechen National Congress to claim independence from Russia. Boris Yeltsin seemed to beg with this declaration and claimed that Chechnya was still under Soviet rule citing that they still owe allegiance to the Soviet constitution and the fact that Chechnya was rich in oil deposits and therefore cutting itself from Russia was a big blow to the economy. A war therefore ensued when the Russian military was deployed in the mountainous Chechnya to try and stop Chechnya from separating itself fro the Russian states. Despite the many number of troops deployed in the fighting as well the sophisticated weapons used by the Russians, Chechens guerilla war proved too strong for them. The war saw the capital Gonzy brought down to ruins in addition to scores thousands of dead civilians. The Chechens proved too strong for the Russians and President Boris Yeltsin withdrew the troops in year 1996 and agreed to sign a treaty. The devastating effects of the war were felt by both the Russians and Chechens is seen by the number of casualties whish totaled to not less than 50,000 people. After Russia retreated to a ceasefire, Chechnya was not done on considering themselves an independent territory. In a bid to reestablish them, they elected Aslan Maskskhadov as the new leader and then they changed the name of the capital from Grozny to Chechen Djohar. The failure to obey the Russian law continued throughout.
In 1999, some apartments in Russia were bombed as well as bombing in other city states in Russia like Moscow and the invasion of Dagestan. Russia proceeded to launch military attacks on Chechnya laying claims of terrorist attacks on them. This was the famous War in the North Caucasus. Compared to the first Chechen war, the Russian troops were much better organized and hence the attacks enabled them recapture of the Chechnya city state. Even as Russians continued with military attacks, Chechens continued with their guerilla attacks this time taking Russians hostages in a theater. In a rare move, the Russians decided not to engage in negotiating for the release of the hostages but instead set ablaze the building killing around 130 hostages but in the process causing the death of the Chechen terrorists. This war led to a weakened Chechnya and resulted in Russia taking back the control of Chechnya and establishing federal control over the Chechens. However the rebels retracted to the mountains and therefore fighting did not actually fully end. This war saw one of the biggest abuses of extra judicial killings as characterized by the actions of Russian Troops murdering Chechens. This prompted the United Nations to send rapperteurs to investigate cases of human rights abuse. The rebels still continued to make attacks and hence fighting never completely ended until recently.
Causes of the War
The exact sources of the conflict are said to be complex and date to as far back as the 19th century during a period which Russia extended its rule to the Caucasus. The Chechens never at any particular time embraced the Russian rule but instead maintained protests that culminated in various wars although triggered by specific causes.
The main cause of the first Chechnya war of 1994 is linked to the declaration of autonomy of Chechnya led by Dzhokar Dudayev from Russian rule. Following the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991, Dzhokar Dudayev declared that Chechnya was a free republic, a statement that led to attempts to overthrow his government by rebels during the years of civil war in the region. Russia recognized the increasing unrest in the city state of Chechnya following massive corruption, drug smuggling and crime of international nature. It was for this reason that Russia backed the military in attempts to overthrow the then president. The attacks finally happened in December 1994 when Russia started the Chechnya capital of Grozny in an attempt to regain control over Chechnya. Chechnya’s guerilla tricks were enough to resist the Russian rule.
The second Chechnya war of 1999 has attributed to Responding to terrorism attacks by Chechnya on Russian city states. As of the year 1999, several bombings were experienced in various Russian city states including the apartments that were bombed in Moscow. Russia went ahead to link every aspect of these terrorism attacks on the activities of Chechnya. President Putin ordered Russian troops into the separatist Chechnya. This time they were organized and were able to restore Russian federal control.
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Apart from the political explanations for the conflict between Russia and Chechnya, there also exists an elaborate reason that the source could also be as a result of religious roots of the people in the two regions. Among the millions of Muslims who from the population of the Soviet Union, there exist seven million different Muslims who spoke different languages and belong to different ethnical backgrounds. Two of categorizations are Tatars and Chechens. These two sit on lands rich in oil reserves and hence Russians special interest in them. Another cause of Russia’s interest in the two is the fact that after declaration of independence of various city states following the collapse of USSR, only these two were against the application of Russian rule as outlined in the treaty. Russia maintained threats especially on Chechens that eventually boiled up to an invasion in 1994.
There have been explanations to the cause of the conflict that emphasize that it was as a result of “greed” and “grievances”. A look at the events in the history of the two (Russia and Chechnya) it is clear that Russia is specifically motivated to enter a war by greed. It is also true to say that the Chechens are spurred by their quest for honoring of their grievances. From as early as the 18th century, Chechens fought Russians with the aim of protecting their Islamic religion, which they upheld as the guide in their life. Chechens have faced a lot in the hands of the Russians from being exiled to the wars that have left many of them dead and displacing others. Russians on their side have resulted into forcing the Chechens to have a grievance that they advocate for and fight for it every single time. In response to these frustrations, Chechens use techniques such a as bombings, hostage taking in a bid to earn their independence. Greed and grievances argument is a logical way of explaining the motivations of each side of the conflict. Russians economic greed is their major cause for them to want to conquer Chechnya which is rich in oil reserves. On the other hand, Chechens have constantly been at logger heads with Russians as they try to establish their own rule away from the Russian rule.
The Situation Today
There has been continued heavy presence of troops allied to Russia in Chechnya up to today. They however continue to be withdrawn as time passes. Statistics show that about 8,000 pro-Moscow allied individuals still existed in Chechnya by 2007. Very few separatists are said to still be active in the resistance for Russian rule today, with Russian government pointing out that there are only less than one thousand in Chechnya today. Following the fleeing of anti-Russia rule Chechens into the Caucasus Mountains, there are still minimal incidents of fighting around there but these have kept on check by the Russian government as well s pro-Moscow government. According to “BBC News”, the separatist’s movement has today weakened significantly following the death of many of their leaders. Following the terrorism attacks of September 11, 2001 in the US that also changed the way Russia dealt with bombing attacks by Chechens who wanted autonomy branding them terrorists, the war against those calling for independence has been looked at as having links to terrorism and there fore those advocating for it have since kept a low profile. Several incidents of attacks have however been reported, mostly carried out inform of guerilla warfare with the rebels now relocating to neighboring territories. The war has aver the years been said to have come to an end with the Russian government making a statement that the conflict officially ended in the year 2002 in April and the events that have been reported of late are purely peacekeeping. Remaining separatists maintain however that the war is not concluded yet and as a result they cite the fighting that has continually rocked the northern part of Caucasus. Accurate accounts of the Chechnya situation are difficult to state following the Russian government control of the information reaching the media. Many camps today seem to echo the words that the situation in Chechnya is under control. Following meetings between the Russian president and the Director of Federal Security Service, discussions concerning the laws on combating terrorism have been discussed. The result was the abolishing of the counter-terrorism operation which took effect as from April 2009. “Now the Chechen Republic… is a peaceful, developing territory, and canceling the counter-terrorism operation will only promote economic growth in the republic,” (“BBC News” 3)
Concerning the relationship between Chechnya and Russia, the feeling of wanting to run independently from Russia has now faded. Chechnya is today a territory of Russia and is run under the federal government of Russia. The Russian government has today made positive efforts to restore a normal state and progress has been reported concerning establishment of an effective judicial system that is line with the Russian laws.
In conclusion, the Russia and Chechnya conflict reported some of the worst cases of human rights abuse including sexual abuses, killings and torture. Human rights observers say that one step to restoring decades of injustices is to settle these cases of human rights abuse. Although many people and mostly the leaders claim the situation has calm down, there still military attacks though at a very low level. The change in the world’s political sphere has also shaped the situation mostly on the war on terrorism.
“BBC News” Russia Ends Chechnya Operation. 2009.
Dunlop, John, B. Russia Confronts Chechnya: Roots of a Separatist Conflict. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Melloni, Nicola. The Russia’s Chechen War: The Political Causes of Russia’s War in Chechnya. 2007.