Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

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Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Нохчийн Пачхьалкх Ичкери (Chechen)
Nóxçiyn Paçẋalq Içkeri
Чеченская Республика Ичкерия (Russian)
Chechénskaya Respúblika Ichkériya
1991–2000
{{{coat_alt}}}
Coat of arms
Anthem: Joƶalla ya marşo
Death or Freedom
Location of the Chechen Republic in the Caucasus region.
Location of the Chechen Republic in the Caucasus region.
Status Government-in-exile from 2000–2007
Capital Grozny (renamed Ƶovxar-Ġala in 1996)
Common languages Chechen · Russian (both official)[1]
Religion Secularism[1]
Sunni Islam (during Islamic Republic)
Government Republic (1991–1996)
Islamic republic (1996–2000)[2]
President  
• 1991–1996
Dzhokhar Dudayev 
• 1996–1997
Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev 
• 1997–2005
Aslan Maskhadov 
• 2005–2006
Abdul Halim Sadulayev 
• 2006–2007
Dokka Umarov  
Legislature Parliament
History  
1 November 1991
26 December 1991
11 December 1994
12 May 1997
26 August 2000
Area
2002 15,300 km2 (5,900 sq mi)
Population
• 2002
1,103,686
Currency Russian ruble
Chechen nahar (planned in 1994)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic
Chechen Republic
Caucasus Emirate
Today part of  Russia

The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (/ɪˈkɛriə/; Chechen: Nóxçiyn Paçẋalq Içkeri [noχtʃʰiːn pʰɑtʃʜɑlq nɔχtʃɪtʃʰy̯ø], Cyrillic: Нохчийн Пачхьалкх Ичкери; Russian: Чеченская Республика Ичкерия; abbreviated as "ChRI" or "CRI") was an unrecognized secessionist government of the Chechen Republic.

The First Chechen War (December 1994 - August 1996) resulted in the victory of the separatist forces.[3] After achieving de facto independence from Russia in 1996, the Chechen government failed to establish order.[4] The region became plagued by kidnappings and violence between different Chechen clans.[4] In 1997 the Chechen Republic adopted sharia and carried out public executions.[5][6] In November 1997 Chechnya was proclaimed an Islamic republic.[7]

A Second Chechen War began in July 1999 and ended in May 2000, with Chechen rebels continuing attacks as an insurgency.[8]

History[edit]

Declaration of Independence[edit]

In November 1990, Dzhokhar Dudayev was elected head of the Executive Committee of the unofficial opposition All-National Congress of the Chechen People (NCChP), which advocated sovereignty for Chechnya as a separate republic within the Soviet Union.

The Soviet coup d'état attempt on 19 August 1991 became the spark for the so-called Chechen revolution.[9] On 21 August the NCChP called for the overthrow of the Supreme Soviet of the Chechen-Ingush Republic.[9] In September 1991, NCChP squads seized the local KGB headquarters, and took over the building of the Supreme Soviet.[10] The NCChP declared itself the only legitimate authority in the region.[10] In October 1991, Dudayev was elected president of the Chechen-Ingush Republic.[11] Dudayev, in his new position as president, issued a unilateral declaration of independence on 2 November 1991.[12] Initially, his stated objective was for Checheno-Ingushetia to become a union republic within Russia.[13]

The separatist Interior Minister promised amnesty to any prison inmates who would join pro-independence rallies.[14] Among the prisoners was Ruslan Labazanov, who was serving a sentence for armed robbery and murder in Grozny and later headed a pro-Dudayev militia.[15] As crowds of armed separatists gathered in Grozny, President Yeltsin sought to declare a state of emergency in the region, but his efforts were thwarted by the Russian parliament.[13] An early attempt by Russian authorities to confront the pro-independence forces in November 1991 ended after just three days.[16][17]

In early 1992 Dudayev signed a decree outlawing the extradition of criminals to any country which did not recognize Chechnya.[18] After being informed that the Russian government would not recognize Chechnya's independence, he declared that he would not recognize Russia.[12] Grozny became an organized crime haven, as the government proved unable or unwilling to curb criminal activities.[12]

Dudayev's government created the constitution of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which was introduced on March 1992.[19] In the same month, armed clashes occurred between pro and anti-Dudayev factions, leading Dudayev to declare a state of emergency.[20] Chechnya and Ingushetia separated on 4 June 1992.[21] Relationship between Dudayev and the parliament deteriorated, and in June 1992 he dissolved the parliament, establishing direct presidential rule.[20]

In late October 1992, federal forces were dispatched to end the Ossetian-Ingush conflict. As Russian troops sealed the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia to prevent arms shipments, Dudayev threatened to take action unless the Russians withdrew.[22] Russian and Chechen forces mutually agreed to a withdrawal, and the incident ended peacefully.[23]

Clashes between supporters and opponents of Dudayev occurred in April 1993. The President fired Interior Minister Sharpudin Larsanov after he refused to disperse the protesters.[24] The opposition planned a no-confidence referendum against Dudayev for 5 June 1993.[25] The government deployed army and riot police to prevent the vote from taking place, leading to bloodshed.[25]

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.

First war[edit]

The general feeling of lawlessness in Chechnya increased during the first seven months in 1994, when four hijacking accidents occurred, involving people trying to flee the country.[26] In May 1994 Labazanov changed sides, establishing the anti-Dudayev Niyso Movement.[15] In July 1994, 41 passengers aboard a bus near Mineralniye Vody were held by kidnappers demanding $15 million and helicopters.[27] After this incident, the Russian government started to openly support opposition forces in Chechnya.[28]

In August 1994 Umar Avturkhanov, leader of the pro-Russian Provisional Council, launched an attack against pro-Dudayev forces.[29] Dudayev ordered the mobilization of the Chechen military, threatening a jihad against Russia as a response to Russian support for his political opponents.[30]

In November 1994 Avturkanov's forces attempted to storm the city of Grozny, but they were defeated by Dudayev's forces.[31] Dudayev declared his intention to turn Chechnya into an Islamic state, stating that the recognition of sharia was a way to fight Russian 'aggression'.[32] He also vowed to punish the captured Chechen rebels under Islamic law, and threatened to execute Russian prisoners.[33]

The First Chechen War began in December 1994, when Russian troops were sent to Chechnya to fight the separatist forces.[34] During the Battle of Grozny (1994–95), the city's population dropped from 400,000 to 140,000.[35] Most of the civilians stranded in the city were elderly ethnic Russians, as many Chechens had support networks of relatives living in villages who took them in.[35]

Salambek Khadzhiyev was appointed leader of the officially recognized Chechen government in early 1995.[36] The conflict ended after the Russian defeat in the Battle of Grozny of August 1996.[34]

Interwar period (1996–1999)[edit]

After the Russian withdrawal crime became rampant, with kidnappings and murders multiplying as rival rebel factions fought for territory.[37] In December 1996 six Red Cross workers were killed, leading most foreign aid workers to leave the country.[37]

Parliamentary and presidential elections took place in January 1997 in Chechnya and brought to power Aslan Maskhadov. The elections were deemed free and fair, but no government recognized Chechnya's independence, except for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.[38] Ethnic Russian refugees were prevented from returning to vote by threats and intimidation, and Chechen authorities refused to set up polling booths outside the republic.[39]

Maskhadov sought to maintain Chechen sovereignty while pressing Moscow to help rebuild the republic, whose formal economy and infrastructure were virtually destroyed.[40]

In May 1997 the Russia–Chechen Peace Treaty was signed by Maskhadov and Yeltsin.[41] 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 corrupt Chechen authorities and divided between themselves and favoured warlords.[42] Nearly half a million people (40% of Chechnya's prewar population) have been internally displaced and lived in refugee camps or overcrowded villages.[43] The economy was destroyed. Two Russian brigades were stationed in Chechnya and did not leave.[43] Maskhadov made efforts to rebuild the country and its devastated capital Grozny by trading oil in countries such as the United Kingdom.[44]

Chechnya had been badly damaged by the war and the economy was in shambles.[45] Aslan Maskhadov tried to concentrate power in his hands to establish authority, but had trouble creating an effective state or a functioning economy. As part of the peace negotiations, Maskhadov demanded $260 billion in reparations from Russia, an amount equivalent to 60% of the Russian GDP.[46]

The war ravages and lack of economic opportunities left numbers of armed former guerrillas with no occupation but further violence. Machine guns and grenades were sold openly and legally in Grozny's central bazaar.[47] The years of independence had some political violence as well. On 10 December Mansur Tagirov, Chechnya's top prosecutor, disappeared while returning to Grozny. On 21 June the Chechen security chief and a guerrilla commander fatally shot each other in an argument. The internal violence in Chechnya peaked on 16 July 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.[48]

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, which he blamed on foreign intelligence services.[49] The attacks were seen as more likely to originate from within Chechnya, as the Kremlin deemed Maskhadov an acceptable negotiating partner for the Chechen conflict.[49]

In December 1998, the supreme Islamic court of Chechnya suspended the Chechen Parliament, asserting that it did not conform to the standards of sharia.[50] After the Chechen Vice-President Vakha Arsanov defected to the opposition, Maskhadov abolished his post, leading to a power struggle.[51] In February 1999 President Maskhadov removed legislative powers from the parliament and convened an Islamic State Council.[52] At the same time several prominent former warlords established the Mehk-Shura, a rival Islamic government.[52] The Shura advocated the creation of an Islamic confederation in the North Caucasus, including the Chechen, Dagestani and Ingush peoples.[53]

On 9 August 1999, Islamist fighters from Chechnya infiltrated Russia's Dagestan region, declaring it an independent state and calling for a jihad until "all unbelievers had been driven out".[54] This event prompted Russian intervention, and the beginning of the Second Chechen War. As more people escaped the war zones of Chechnya, President Maskhadov threatened to impose sharia punishment on all civil servants who moved their families out of the republic.[55]

Second war and postwar period[edit]

Since the fall of Grozny in 2000 some of the Ichkerian government was based in exile, including in Poland and the United Kingdom. On 23 January 2000 a diplomatic representation of Ichkeria was based in Kabul during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In June 2000 Akhmed Kadyrov was appointed as head of the official administration of Chechnya.[56]

On 31 October 2007, the separatist news agency Chechenpress reported that Dokka Umarov had announced the Caucasus Emirate and declared himself its Emir.[citation needed] He integrated the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as Vilayat Nokhchicho. This change of status was 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.

Military[edit]

Cadets of the Ichkeria Chechen National Guard in 1999

Dudayev spent the years from 1991 to 1994 preparing for war, mobilizing men aged 15-55 and seizing Russian weapons depots. The Chechen National Guard counted 10,000 troops in December 1994, rising to 40,000 insurgents by early 1996.[57]

Major weapons systems were seized from the Russian military in 1992, and on the eve of the First Chechen War they included 23 air defense guns, 108 APC/tanks, 24 artillery pieces, 5 MiG-17/15, 2 Mi-8 helicopters, 24 multiple rocket launchers, 17 surface to air missile launchers, 94 L-29 trainer aircraft, 52 L-39 trainer aircraft, 6 An-22 transport aircraft, 5 Tu-134 transport aircraft.[57]

Politics[edit]

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.

In late 2007, the President of Ichkeria, Dokka Umarov, declared that he had renamed the republic to Noxçiyc̈ó and converted it into a province of the much larger Caucasus Emirate, with himself as Emir. This change was rejected by some members of the former Chechen government-in-exile.

Foreign relations[edit]

Ichkeria was a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. Former president of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, deposed in a military coup of 1991 and a leading participant in the Georgian Civil War, recognised the independence of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in 1993.[58]

Diplomatic relations with Ichkeria were also established by the partially recognized Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan under the Taliban government on 16 January 2000. This recognition ceased with the fall of the Taliban in 2001.[59] However, despite Taliban recognition, there were no friendly relations between the Taliban and Ichkeria—Maskhadov rejected their recognition, stating that the Taliban were illegitimate.[60] In June 2000, the Russian government claimed that Maskhadov had met with Osama bin Laden, and that the Taliban supported the Chechens with arms and troops.[61] In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration called on Maskhadov to cut all links with the Taliban.[62]

Ichkeria also received vocal support from the Baltic countries, a group of Ukrainian nationalists and Poland; Estonia once voted to recognize, but the act never was consummated due to pressure applied by both Russia and the pro-Russian elements within the EU.[60][63][64] Dudayev also had contacts with Islamist movements and guerrillas in Jordan, Lebanon and Iran.[65]

Human rights[edit]

Kidnappings[edit]

Kidnappings, robberies, and killings of fellow Chechens and outsiders weakened the possibilities of outside investment and Maskhadov's efforts to gain international recognition of its independence effort. The Chechen government claimed that the Russian secret services were behind the kidnappings.[66]

Kidnappings became common in Chechnya, procuring over $200 million during the three year independence of the chaotic fledgling state,[67] but victims were rarely killed.[68] Kidnappers would at times mutilate their captives and send video recordings to their families, to encourage the payment of ransoms.[69]

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.[42][70][71][72] 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.[73][74]

In 1998, four western engineers working for Granger Telecom were abducted and beheaded after a failed rescue attempt.[75] Gennady Shpigun, the Interior Ministry liaison to Chechen officials, was kidnapped in March 1999 as he was leaving Grozny Airport; his remains were found in Chechnya in March 2000.[76]

President Maskhadov started a major campaign against hostage-takers, and on 25 October 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.[77] 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.[78]

Sharia[edit]

After the First Chechen War, the country won de facto independence from Russia, and Islamic courts were established.[79] In September 1996 a Sharia-based criminal code was adopted, which included provisions for banning alcohol and punishing adultery with death by stoning.[80] Sharia was supposed to apply to Muslims only, but in fact it was also applied to ethnic Russians who violated Sharia provisions.[80] In one of the first rulings under sharia law, in January 1997 an Islamic court ordered the payment of blood money to the family of a man who was killed in a traffic accident.[79] In November 1997 the Islamic dress code was imposed on all female students and civil servants in the country.[81] In December 1997, the Supreme Sharia Court banned New Year celebrations, considering them "an act of apostasy and falsity".[82]

Conceding to an armed and vocal minority movement in the opposition led by Movladi Udugov, in February 1999, Maskhadov declared The Islamic Republic of Ichkeria, and the Sharia system of justice was introduced. Maskhadov hoped that this would discredit the opposition, putting stability before his own ideological affinities. However, according to former Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov, the public primarily supported Maskhadov, his Independence Party, and their secularism. This was exemplified by the much greater numbers in political rallies supporting the government than those supporting the Islamist opposition.[83] Akhmadov notes that the parliament, which was dominated by Maskhadov's own Independence Party, issued a public stating that President Maskhadov didn't have the constitutional authority to proclaim sharia law, and also condemning the opposition for "undermining the foundations of the state".[84]

Minorities[edit]

Ethnic Russians made up 29% of the Chechen population before the war,[85] and they generally opposed independence.[14] Due to the mounting anti-Russian sentiment following the declaration of independence, by 1994 over 200,000 ethnic Russians had become refugees.[86][87] Already in 1991-1992, about 90,000 ethnic Russians had been forced to leave.[88] Initially this was accomplished through intimidation, later escalating into more direct methods of removal, including anti-Russian public disorder and targeting by armed gangs.[88]

Ethnic Russians left behind faced constant harassment and violence.[89] The separatist government acknowledged the violence, but did nothing to address it, blaming it on Russian provocateurs.[89] Russians became soft target for criminals, as they knew the Chechen police would not intervene in their defense.[89] The start of the First Chechen War in 1994 created a second wave of ethnic Russian refugees. By the end of the conflict in 1996, the Russian community had nearly vanished.[89]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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