The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria ɪʧˈkɛriə (Chechen Latin: Noxçiyn Respublika Noxçiyçö, Chechen Cyrillic: Нохчийн Республика Нохчийчоь; Чеченская Республика Ичкерия; Short: ChRI or CRI) is the unrecognized secessionist government of Chechnya. Chechnya is located in the Northern Caucasus mountains and 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. The republic was proclaimed in late 1991 by Dzokhar Dudayev, and fought two devastating wars between separatists and the Russian Federation which denounced secession. In late 2007, the President of Ichkeria Dokka Umarov declared that he renamed the republic to Noxçiyçö and converted it into a province of the much larger Caucasus Emirate, with himself as Emir. This change of status has been rejected by some members of the former Chechen government in exile and armed groups who assert the continued existence of the republic.
In November 1990, Dzhokhar Dudaev was elected head of the Executive Committee of the unofficial opposition All-National Congress of the Chechen People, which advocated sovereignty for Chechnya as a separate republic within the Soviet Union. In October 1991, he won the presidential election.
Dudayev, in his new position as president of Ichkeria, unilaterally declared the republic's sovereignty and its secession from the Soviet Union and Russia. Not recognized by any government except Georgia under Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the country has maintained an unstable existence, due in part to constant threats of invasions from the Russian Federation.
The rule of Dudayev in early 1990s was marked by crime and kidnappings happening throughout de-facto independent Chechnya and an internal conflict of factions both sympathetic and opposed to Dudayev (mostly Russians) who fought for power, sometimes in pitched battles with the use of heavy weapons. There was discrimination towards ethnic minorities which resulted in thousands of the republic's non-Chechen residents (mainly, but not limited to, citizens of Slavic origin) fleeing to mainland Russia or Russia's North Ossetia region.
Dudayev's government had created the constitution of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which was introduced on March 1992. In the same month, the Russian opposition attempted a coup d'état, but their attempt was crushed by force. A month later, Dudayev introduced direct presidential rule, and in June 1993, dissolved the parliament. Federal forces dispatched to the Ossetian-Ingush conflict were ordered to move to the Chechen border in late October 1992, and Dudayev, who perceived this as "an act of aggression against the Chechen Republic," declared a state of emergency and threatened general mobilization if the Russian troops did not withdraw from the Chechen border. After staging another coup attempt in December 1993, the opposition organized a Provisional Council as a potential alternative government for Chechnya, calling on Moscow for assistance.
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 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 He took effort to rebuild the country and its devastated capital Grozny by trading oil in countries such as the United Kingdom
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. The population was still fleeing the republic. There was a real threat of ecological and epidemiological catastrophe. The cities and destroyed villages were not rebuilt, and thousands inhabited dilapidated housing with no sewerage, no water and often no electricity. There was no medical provision to speak of. People were dying of epidemics and starvation, with the death rate among children particularly high, and practically all the population were in need of some sort of psychotherapy.
The war ravages and lack of economic opportunities left numbers of armed former guerillas 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. The Islamic Republic of Ichkeria was proclaimed in 1998 and the Sharia system 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.
In Maskhadov's Chechnya the majority of the population endured destitution and degradation accompanied by the continuing enrichment of the leaders of the new regime, 'the new Chechens', and the ringleaders of the armed bands with 'grabbed' the national wealth. There were 157 armed groups active in the republic, who divided among themselves income and spheres of influence. Owing to its organized criminality, Chechnya became the biggest producer, consumer and dealer in narcotics and weapons in South Russia.
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 his allies in Moscow. In 1998 and 1999 Maskhadov survived several assassination attempts, blamed on the Russian intelligence services.
Since the declaration of independence in 1991, there has been an ongoing battle between secessionist officials and federally appointed officials. Both claim authority over the same territory.
On October 31, 2007, the separatist news agency Chechenpress reported that Dokka Umarov had proclaimed the Caucasus Emirate and declared himself its Emir. He integrated the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as a Vilayat (Province). Within the Caucasus Emirate, Chechnya became known as the Vilayat Noxçiyçö (Ichkeria) of the Caucasus Emirate. This change of status has been rejected by some Chechen politicians and military leaders who continue to support the existence of the republic. Since November 2007, Akhmed Zakayev says he is now the Prime Minister of Ichkeria's government in exile.
In Chechnya during the republic's de facto independence, there were human rights violations on a mass scale. Murder, arrests, kidnapping and trade in human beings became commonplace. On average, in Chechnya there were 60-70 crimes per week, including 8 to 10 murders. The authorities and power structures of the regime were directly involved in the crimes. A slave market operated openly in the center of Grozny, with hundreds of people (mainly Chechens) held captive as hostages and subjected to violence. Kidnapping people for exchange aquired endemic proportions, with more than 3,500 Chechens ransomed between 1996 and 1999. Bandits and terrorists killed thousands of Chechens, many of whom had fought against separatists and mercenaries. Chechnya became an international criminal cesspool of the CIS and became a base for international terrorism. Terrorists from many different countries became active on its territory, with their activities financed by foreign extremist centers.
In a May 2000 report on human rights in Chechnya Oleg Orlov of human rights group Memorial wrote the following: