Chechnya: Country Profile

The Chechen Republic or Chechnya is one of 21 ethnic republics in the Russian federation, which has 83 subjects altogether. According to the 2010 Census, the population of the republic was 1,268,989, up from 1,103,686 recorded in the 2002 Census. As of the 2010 Census, Chechens at 1,206,551 made up 95.3% of the republic's population. Other groups include Russians (24,382, or 1.9%), Kumyks (12,221, or 1%), Ingush (1,296 or 0.1%) and a host of smaller groups, each accounting for less than 0.5% of the total population.

At the end of the Soviet era, ethnic Russians (including Cossacks) comprised about 23% of the population (269,000 in 1989). So most Russians have left during the period since 1991.

The Chechens have fought against foreign rule continually since the 15th century. The Chechens converted to Sunni Islam, as Islam was associated with resistance to Russian encroachment. The Chechen hero Imam Shamil fought against the Russians from 1834 until 1859. In 1859, he was captured by the Russians. On December 21, 1917, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Dagestan declared independence from Russia and formed a single state: "United Mountain Dwellers of the North Caucasus" (also known as Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus) which was recognized by major world powers. In 1921 the Russians attacked and occupied the country and forcefully absorbed it into the Soviet state.

Soviet rule

During the Soviet rule, Chechnya and neighbouring Ingushetia were combined together to form Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1944 the Chechens and Ingush were falsely accused of collaborating as a people with the Nazi invaders, and in August 1944 the entire Chechen population was loaded onto cattle trucks and deported to Central Asia. Over 60% of Chechen and Ingush populations perished. The Chechens and Ingush were allowed to return home only after 1956 during de-Stalinization under Nikita Khrushchev when the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was restored.

Chechen wars

The First Chechen War took place over a two-year period that lasted from 1994 to 1996, when Russian forces attempted to regain control over Chechnya, which had declared independence in November 1991. Despite overwhelming numerical superiority in men, weaponry, and air support, the Russian forces were unable to establish effective permanent control. For three months, Russia lost more tanks (over 1,997 tanks) in Grozny than during the Battle of Berlin in 1945. Chechnya won.

From 1997 to 1999 Chechnya, as the Republic of Ichkeria, was de facto independent from the Russia.

In October 1999 the newly-appointed President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, announced that he would “smash the Chechens in the outside toilet”, and initiated the Second Chechen War, during which the city of Grozny was razed to the ground.

Human Rights

Russia joined the Council of Europe in 1996, despite the First Chechen war, and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998. In 2005 the applicants in the first six Chechen cases against Russia won at the Strasbourg court, represented by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) founded in 2003 by Haldane International secretary, Bill Bowring. Since then Chechens represented by EHRAC have won many cases concerning killing, torture, and forced disappearance.

Since 2007 Ramzan Kadyrov has been President, effectively dictator, of Chechnya. The armed group called “Kadyrovtsy” were formed during the First Chechen war when Ramzan’s father Akhmad Kadyrov launched a jihad against Russia. The Kadyrov clan defected to the Russian side at the beginning of the Second Chechen War in 1999. The Kadyrovs have ruled Chechnya with an increasingly repressive regime. In 2009 Natasha Estemirova, who worked with EHRAC and its partner the Russian “Memorial” Society was abducted and murdered in Grozny following threats from Kadyrov, who has also been implicated in murders in Chechnya and in Western Europe.