For those outside of Russia, little is known about Chechnya other than an awareness of an on-going Russia-Chechnya conflict. But how did this all originate and what is the history of Chechnya itself?
Where is Chechnya?
Chechnya is a republic of Russia and it is located at the very south western tip of the country. It is one of the smaller countries from the former Soviet Union with a population of around one and a quarter million, most of whom reside in the capital Grozny.
While the recent Russian conflicts can be traced back to the fall of the former Soviet Union, it seems that this tiny republic has been at odds with Russia, the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire for centuries.
If you’re interested in pre-history, there were cave settlements in Chechnya that have been traced right back to 12,500 BC. Subsequently, archaeologists have maintained that there has been continuous settlement here for over 8,000 years.
While there is come contradictory information as to the earliest part of the Chechen / Russia conflict, it’s believed that the country has been battling against foreign invaders since the 15th century and it’s claimed that Chechnya converted to Islam in order to receive assistance from the Ottoman Empire against Russia.
The 18th century
Hostility towards Russia increased in the latter part of the 18th century when the Russian forces began to spread through countries that had previously been under Turkish or Persian rule.
The current conflict between the two countries can in fact be traced right back to this period.
It has been claimed that Chechnya is at its most hostile towards Russia when the latter’s affairs are in a state of considerable unrest – perhaps because this is also a time of great opportunity for weak states on the periphery of a larger country or empire.
The early twentieth century was particularly volatile and the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917 saw many rebellions rise up in Chechnya. Finally, when the Soviet Union was formed, Chechnya was combined with neighbouring Ingushetia to form the republic of Chechen-Ingushetia in the late 1930’s.
World War II
The new republic was unpopular with its people and when the Second World War began, the Chechens sided with the Germans against Russia. The result was a widespread period of deportation that only served to increase the hostile relations between the two countries.
The Post-Soviet Era
Tensions between Russia and Chechnya exploded with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. This period saw the formation of the Chechen National Congress which demanded that Chechnya be recognised as an independent nation.
Boris Yeltsin’s newly formed government refused to give way for fear of setting a precedent with other republics and because of concerns at losing rights to Chechen oil.
Since this time, we have seen the two Chechen wars and a host of atrocities over the last few years including high profile tragedies such as the Budyonnovsk Hospital Crisis and the Beslan school tragedy.
Today, Chechnya seems to be relatively stable, under the leadership of Ramzan Kadyrov. Many argue that this stability has come at huge human cost, however and that Kadyrov’s regime is little more than a brutal dictatorship.