The mountainous region has important oil deposits, as well as natural gas, limestone, gypsum, sulfur, and other minerals. Its mineral waters have made it a spa center. Agriculture is concentrated in the Terek and Sunzha river valleys. Oil, petrochemicals, oil-field equipment, foods, wines, and fruit are produced. The population, which is concentrated in the foothills, is predominantly Chechen, or Nokhchi. The Chechen, like the neighboring Ingush, are Sunni Muslim, and speak a Caucasian language.
Recognized as a distinct people since the 17th cent., the Chechens were the most active opponents of Russia's conquest (1818-1917) of the Caucasus. They fought bitterly during an unsuccessful 1850s rebellion led by Imam Shamyl. The Bolsheviks seized the region in 1918 but were dislodged in 1919 by counterrevolutionary forces under Gen. A. I. Denikin.
After Soviet rule was reestablished, the area was included in 1921 in the Mountain People's Republic. The Chechen Autonomous Region was created in 1922, and in 1934 it became part of the Chechen-Ingush Region, made a republic in 1936. After Chechen and Ingush units collaborated with the invading Germans during World War II, many residents were deported (1944) to Central Asia. Deportees were repatriated in 1956, and the republic was reestablished in 1957.
In 1991, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, the Chechen-dominated parliament of the republic declared independence as the Republic of Ichkeria, soon better known as Chechnya. In June, 1992, Russia granted Ingush inhabitants their own republic (Ingushetia) in the western fifth of the territory.
Tensions between the Russian government and that of Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev escalated into warfare in late 1994, as Russian troops arrived to crush the separatist movement. Grozny was devastated in the fighting, and tens of thousands died. Russian forces regained control of many areas in 1995, but separatist guerrillas controlled much of the mountainous south and committed spectacular terrorist actions in other parts of Russia. Fighting continued through 1996, when Dudayev was killed and succeeded by Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. The Russians withdrew, essentially admitting defeat, following a cease-fire that left Chechnya with de facto autonomy.
Aslan Maskhadov, chief of staff of the Chechen forces, was elected president early in 1997 but appeared to have little control over the republic. In 1999, Islamic law was established. Terrorism, including a series of bombings in Moscow, erupted again, and after Islamic militants invaded neighboring Dagestan from Chechnya, Russian forces bombed and invaded Chechnya, capturing Grozny and forcing the rebels into mountain strongholds. The rebels continued to mount occasional guerrilla attacks on Russian forces, as well as terror attacks in Moscow and other Russian cities outside Chechnya, but there have been no significant rebel attacks in Chechnya since 2004. Both sides were accused of brutality and terrorizing noncombatants.
In 2003 voters approved a new constitution for Chechnya, and Akhmad Kadyrov was subsequently elected president, but the election was generally regarded as neither free nor fair. Both the constitution and the president were backed by Russian government. Kadyrov was assassinated in 2004; Alu Alkhanov was elected to succeed him. Russian forces killed Maskhadov, who was considered a moderate Chechen rebel leader, in 2005 and Shamil Baseyev, a notorious and significant rebel commander, in 2006.
Alkhanov resigned as president in 2007 after a power struggle with Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, son of the former president, and Kadyrov was then appointed president by Russian president Putin. Kadyrov has been accused of terroristic and sadistic brutality; a number of his rivals and critics have been assassinated, and there also has been an increase in antigovernment terrorist attacks.
Republic, southwestern Russia. Part of the Chechen-Ingush autonomous republic of the former U.S.S.R., it became a republic within Russia in 1992, as did Ingushetia. It is populated mainly by Chechens, a Muslim ethnolinguistic group. Chechnya's demand for independence from Russia in 1992 led to an invasion by Russian troops in 1994. Fighting led to severe devastation of the area, and a series of cease-fires were negotiated and violated. A provisional peace treaty was signed in May 1997, and Russian troops withdrew but returned in 1999; heavy fighting resumed. In 2003 a new constitution was approved that devolved greater powers to the Chechen government but kept the republic in the federation. The capital, Grozny (pop., 2002 est.: 223,000), a major oil centre with pipelines to the Caspian and Black seas, received heavy damage in the fighting.
Learn more about Chechnya with a free trial on Britannica.com.
The Chechen Republic (Чече́нская Респу́блика, Chechenskaya Respublika; Нохчийн Республика, Noxçiyn Respublika), or, informally, Chechnya (/ˈʧɛʧniːə/; Чечня́; Нохчийчоь, Noxçiyçö), sometimes referred to as Ichkeria, Chechnia, Chechenia or Noxçiyn, is a federal subject of Russia. It is located in the Northern Caucasus mountains, in the Southern Federal District. It borders Stavropol Krai to the northwest, the republic of Dagestan to the northeast and east, Georgia to the south, and the republics of Ingushetia and North Ossetia to the west.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Chechen-Ingush ASSR was split into the Republic of Ingushetia and proclaimed the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which sought independence. Following the First Chechen War with Russia, Chechnya gained de facto independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Russian federal control was restored during the Second Chechen War. Since then there has been a systematic reconstruction and rebuilding process, though sporadic fighting continues in the mountains and south of the republic.
See "Chechen people" for etymology of the name. In 2006 the former president, Alu Alkhanov, proposed changing the official name of the republic to Noxçiyn (or Nokhchiin) which is a transcription of the name in the Chechen language.
Situated in the eastern part of the North Caucasus, partially in Eastern Europe, Chechnya is surrounded on nearly all sides by Russian Federal territory. In the west, it borders North Ossetia and Ingushetia, in the north, Stavropol Krai, in the east, Dagestan, and to the south, Georgia. Its capital is Grozny.
In 1783, Russia and the eastern Georgian kingdom of Kartl-Kakheti (which was devastated by Turkish and Persian invasions) signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, according to which Kartl-Kakheti received protection by Russia. In order to secure communications with Georgia and other regions of the Transcaucasia, the Russian Empire began spreading its influence into the Caucasus mountains. The current resistance to Russian rule has its roots in the late 18th century (1785–1791), a period when Russia expanded into territories formerly under the dominion of Turkey and Persia (see also the Russo-Turkish Wars and Russo-Persian War, 1804-13), under Mansur Ushurma—a Chechen Naqshbandi (Sufi) Sheikh—with wavering support from other North Caucasian tribes. Mansur hoped to establish a Transcaucasus Islamic state under shari'a law, but was ultimately unable to do so because of both Russian resistance and opposition from many Chechens (many of whom had not been converted to Islam at the time). Its banner was again picked up by the Avar Imam Shamil, who fought against the Russians from 1834 until 1859.
Chechen rebellion would characteristically flame up whenever the Russian state faced a period of internal uncertainty. Rebellions occurred during the Russo-Turkish War, the Russian Revolution of 1905, the Russian Revolution of 1917, Russian Civil War (see Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus), and Collectivization. Under Soviet rule, Chechnya was combined with Ingushetia to form the autonomous republic of Chechen-Ingushetia in the late 1930s.
The Chechens, though, again rose up against Soviet rule during the 1940s (see 1940-1944 Chechnya insurgency), resulting in the deportation of the entire ethnic Chechen and Ingush populations to the Kazakh SSR (later Kazakhstan) and Siberia in 1944 near the end of the World War II (see Population transfer in the Soviet Union). Stalin and others argued this was punishment to the Chechens for providing assistance to the German forces; although the German front never made it to the border of Chechnya, an active guerrilla movement threatened to undermine the Soviet defenses of the Caucasus (noted writer Valentin Pikul claims that while the city of Grozny was being prepared for a siege in 1942, all of the air bombers stationed on the Caucasian front had to be re-directed towards quelling the Chechen insurrection instead of fighting Germans at the siege of Stalingrad). Chechen-Ingushetia was abolished and the Chechens were allowed to return to their homeland after 1956 during de-Stalinization, which occurred under Nikita Khrushchev.
In the ensuing decade, the territory was locked in an ongoing struggle between various factions, usually fighting unconventionally and forgoing the position held by the several successive Russian governments through the current administration. Various demographic factors including religious ones have continued to keep the area in a near constant state of war.
The First Chechen War occurred in a two year period lasting from 1994 to 1996, when Russian forces attempted to stop Chechnya from seceding. Despite overwhelming manpower, weaponry and air support, the Russian forces were unable to establish effective control over the mountainous area due to many successful Chechen guerrilla raids. The Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis in 1995 shocked the Russian public, and discredited the Russian Government. Widespread demoralization of the Russian forces in the area prompted Russian President Boris Yeltsin to declare a ceasefire in 1996 and sign a peace treaty a year later.
The war was disastrous for both sides. Most estimates give figures of between 3,500 and 7,500 Russian military dead, between 3,000 and 15,000 Chechen militants dead, and no fewer than 35,000 civilian deaths—a minimum total of 41,500 dead. Others have cited figures in the range 80,000 to 100,000.
After the war, parliamentary and presidential elections took place in January 1997 in Chechnya and brought to power Aslan Maskhadov, chief of staff and prime minister in the Chechen coalition government, for a five-year term. 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. Most of these transfers were stolen by Chechen authorities and divided between favoured warlords. Nearly half a million people (40% of Chechnya'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.
In lieu of the devastated economic structure, kidnapping emerged as the principal source of income countrywide, 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. 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. Political violence and religious extremism, blamed on "Wahhabism", was rife as well. In 1998, a state of emergency was declared by the authorities in Grozny. Tensions led to the open clashes such as the July 1998 confrontation in Gudermes between the Chechen National Guard and Islamist militants.
In August 1999, the IIPB began an unsuccessful incursion into the neighbouring Russian republic of Dagestan in favor of the Shura of Dagestan who sought independence from Russia. (see Dagestan War). In September, a series of apartment bombings took place in several Russian cities, including Moscow, which were blamed on the Chechens. In response, after a prolonged air campaign of retaliatory strikes against the Ichkerian regime a ground offensive began in October 1999 effectively starting the Second Chechen War. Much better organised and planned than in the first Chechen War, the military actions by the Russian Federal forces enabled them to re-establish control over most regions. After the re-capture of Grozny in February 2000, the Ichkerian regime fell apart. Russia has severely disabled the Chechen rebel movement, although violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus. Nonetheless Russia was successful in installing a pro-Moscow Chechen regime, and the most prominent separatist leaders died including former President Aslan Maskhadov and radical warlord Shamil Basayev.
The motivations of the Russian and Chechens in these conflicts are complicated. Principally, Russia's stake in Chechnya relates to the fear that if Chechnya becomes independent, even more territories will break away from Russia, leading to its disintegration. Economic interests are another factor, as is a long standing conflict between Russia and Chechnya.
There are different groups within Chechnya fighting the Russians who have different political, economic and/or ideological motivations for doing so. Some of these derive from hatred and a desire for the revenge of past Russian military and political action in the region. Most notably the forced relocation in the 1940s of the entire population to Middle Asia, resulting in the estimated death of a quarter of the population. The combination of motives demonstrates the cycle of violence and hatred that often fuels regional conflicts of this nature, as well as a military culture that makes much of the population willing to engage in military struggle under the command of one leader. Unemployment and poverty are also factors in the prolonged conflict.
Human rights groups criticized the conduct of the 2005 parliamentary elections as unfairly influenced by the central Russian government and military.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre reports that after hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes after inter-ethnic and separatist conflicts in Chechnya in 1994 and 1999, more than 150,000 people still remain displaced in Russia more than a decade after the beginning of armed conflict.
At the end of the Soviet era, ethnic Russians comprised about 23% of the population (269,000 in 1989). Due to widespread lawlessness and ethnic cleansing under the government of Dzhokhar Dudayev most non-Chechens (and many Chechens as well) fled the country during the 1990s or were killed.
The languages used in the Republic are Chechen and Russian. Chechen belongs to the Vaynakh or North-central Caucasian linguistic family, which also includes Ingush and Batsb. Some scholars place it in a wider Iberian-Caucasian super-family.
Chechnya has one of the youngest populations in the generally aging Russian Federation; in the early 1990s, it was among the few regions experiencing natural population growth.
For the first half of 2007, the birth rate was 26.4
|1926 census||1939 census||2002 census|
|Chechens||293,190 (72.0%)||360,598 (64.4%)||1,031,647 (93.5%)|
|Russians||77,274 (19.0%)||157,621 (28.1%)||40,645 (3.7%)|
|Kumyks||2,217 (0.5%)||3,305 (0.6%)||8,883 (0.8%)|
|Ingushes||154 (0.0%)||4,336 (0.8%)||2,914 (0.3%)|
|Others||34,112 (8.4%)||34,088 (6.1%)||19,597 (1.8%)|
Most Chechens are Sunni Muslim, the country having converted to that religion between the 16th and the 19th centuries. Most of the population follows either the Shafi'i, Hanafi, or Maliki schools of jurisprudence. The Shafi'i school of jurisprudence has a long tradition among the Chechens, and thus it remains the most practiced.
The once-strong Russian minority in Chechnya, mostly Terek Cossacks, are predominately Russian Orthodox, although presently only one church exists in Grozny. The Armenian community, which used to number around 20,000 in Grozny alone, has dwindled to a couple of families.