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Chechnya: Conflict and Solution

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Message Abdul-Majid Jaffry

Chechen tribes and other ethnic groups of the region never acquiesced to Czarist, Soviet or Russia's acquisition and rule over their land. From the early days of occupation to today, foreign domination is resented and resisted. After several low-key resistances, full-blown guerrilla war against the Russian occupation started in 1824 that lasted for over 30 years. An Islamic state in Chechnya and Dagestan was established in the aftermath of the guerrilla war; however, it was short lived. The guerrilla war and the subsequent resistances were responded by Russians with fierce brutality that came close to genocide. Joseph Stalin accused Chechen of collaborating with the Germans during the Second World War and dissolved the republic, dispossessed them of all their properties, deported the entire Chechen and Ingush population to Kazakhstan and Siberia, and their land was redistributed among the neighboring peoples, Thousands of deportees died from the cold, hunger and fatigue and thousands disappeared while on route or after arrival. After Stalin's death the republic was reestablished and survivors of exiled camps returned home.

During the Soviet Union period, Chechnya was designated as an autonomous region - a notch below an autonomous republic in the Soviet hierarchy of different regions. Most of the autonomous republics, such as Ukraine and Uzbekistan, were allowed full independence after the Soviet break-up. Autonomous regions were denied independence. However, Chechen President of the time Dzhokhar Dudayev declared Chechnya an independent nation in 1991. In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that Russia would take "harsh measures," including breaking off diplomatic relations, against any country which recognized Chechnya. Indeed, no country, including Muslim countries, with the exception of Afghanistan under Taliban and neighboring Georgia recognized Chechnya's independence, lest it angers the mighty Russia.

Chechnya's declaration of independence put Russian Federation in peril; the Kremlin feared a "domino effect" in which other autonomous republics would copy Chechnya's demands. In Lieven's words, Chechnya was becoming the tombstone of Russian Power. Chechnya's secession not only had political consequences challenge to territorial integrity - but it also had the potential to economically impact Russia. North Caucasus is a corridor for the lucrative Caspian Sea oil pipelines and also provides important access to sea trade routes. It was these two considerations that made Russia to fight back and keep Chechnya in its fold.

For three years, from the time Chechnya unilaterally seceded from Russia in 1991 and Russian invasion in 1994, tension with Russia steadily grew as Chechnya asserted its independence and took step to build a national army. Moscow first tried to unseat Dudayev through coups to undo the declaration of independence. After Kremlin inspired coup attempts failed, in December 1994, Russian troops marched into Chechnya, and thus the first Chechen war of independence started. After an estimated ten of thousands people died, and the 1996 ceasefire agreement, Russia withdrew its troops, and granted Chechnya significant autonomy but not full independence, only to return in 1999 for the second round of the war.

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Retired engineer from aircraft industry and a freelance columnist.
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