Cessation of operations
Russia has announced the end of its ten year “counter-terrorism” campaign in The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (aka Noxçiyn Respublika Noxçiyçö and Нохчийн Республика Нохчийчоь). Although Chechnya has been fairly peaceful for some time now, many allege that it is due to the ironfisted rule of Russian-approved-and-installed Chechen leader, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, who along with his private militia, Kadyrovtsy, faces widespread suspicion of kidnapping, torturing and murdering advocates of self rule.
Russia’s involvement with Chechnya
Chechnya declared its independence in 1991, alongside many of its fellow Soviet republics. In what’s become an almost comically transparent double standard, Russia recognized the independence of former Soviet republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia (since they’re within Georgia), and Georgia, which denied recognition to its breakaway republics, was one of two nations to recognize Chechnya’s independence (although the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria is a member of the Unrecognized Nations and Peoples Organization), the other being Afghanistan.
From a Russian standpoint, their involvement in Chechnya has been largely disastrous. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ordered Russia to pay damages to the families of thirteen people who disappeared in Chechnya between 2001 and 2003, finding the government guilty of violating the ban on torture and the right to life and freedom.
Most estimated that the Russians lost around 5,000 troops in the first operation alone (and killed at least 41,000 Chechens). The most widely recognized event of the second war was the Beslan Massacre in North Ossetia, in which over 300 people died.
A pattern of violence
In March 2005, the democratically elected Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov was killed by Russian special forces. His successor was Kadyrov’s Moscow-approved father, who was killed by a landmine in 2007. Ramzan Akhmadovich Kadyrov is a former Chechen rebel (like his father) who assumed power in 2007. Shortly afterward, a pattern has emerged of his critics getting shot and killed.
In 2008, Ruslan B. Yamadayev was shot dead in his car whilst driving in Moscow. In January of this year, one of Kadyrov’s former bodyguards, Umar S. Israilov, was shot dead whilst buying yoghurt in Vienna after talking extensively to the New York Times about the Kadyrovsty’s widespread abuses.
Just this March, Sulim B. Yamadayev, one of Ruslan’s brothers and an elected member of Parliament, was shot dead in the parking garage of his apartment in Dubai. Dubai’s police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan bin Tamim, said the killing was traced to one of Kadyrov’s associates, Adam S. Delimkhanov. Kadyrov came to Delimkhanov’s defense and countered that Yamadayev had tried to kill him by poisoning a lake as well as committing other abuses, including involvement in the death of Kadyrov’s father, also a former rebel who defected to the Russian side and subsequently governed Chechnya.
A history of struggle
One thing is inarguable. After killing most of his opponents, Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, has achieved a peace that many thought would never come – especially as violence flares up in other parts of the region. Even before the twenty year violent struggle against Russia, Chechens have long been among the most embroiled people on earth. In the 1940s, Stalin deported the entire population to Siberia, charging them as a people with collaborating with the Nazis to weaken Russia’s imperialist hold on the Soviet-subjugated region. A third of the Chechen people died on the way there, another third died when they were moved back in 1956.
Chechnya is a mostly Muslim nation. Despite their language belonging to the Nakh family, Arabic was the only written language until 1923, when the Chechen alphabet was created. Chechnya converted to Islam under the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s. Before Islam, their religion was largely based around rain rites and farming, including honoring the Thunderer Sela and the Goddess Tusholi.
Although Muslim, Chechen’s traditional culture imbues their lives, especially the concept of “nokchallah,” a term for the Chechen behavioral code which is roughly analogous to the dead concept of chivalry in the west.
As with most cultures, a big part of Chechen cultural expression is their music. As with their spiritual views, their musical expressions are also closely tied to Chechen culture. Pkh'armat is a legendary figure who brought fire to the Chechens with a burning reed, who is thus honored with the music of the native reed pipe. The chiondarg is a fiddle-like instrument that, when played, is believed to lead to healthier crops. The pondur is a stringed instrument similar to the balalaika.
The Soviet composter A.A.Davidenko travelled to Chechnya in the 1920s and published arrangements of their folk music in 1926. Chechen musicians include Marina Aidaeva, Imam Alimsultanov, Ilyas Ayubov, Liza Akhmatovabulat, Zina Anasova, Aza Bataeva, Eliza Betirova, Valid Dagayev, Ali Dimayev, Amarbek Dimayev, Said Dimayev, Umar Dimayev, Khas-Magomed Hadjimuradov, Sultan Islamov, Sultan Makkayev, Raisa Malsagova, Timur Mucuraev, Ramzan Paskayev, Tatyana Rostova, Makka Sagaipova, Adnan Shakhbulatov, Maryam Tashaeva, Fatima Turtulhanova, Liza Umarova, Imran Usmanov and Malika Utsayeva.
Chechnya has been the subject of several documentaries and features, albeit nearly all focused on more recent, traumatic events: From Chechnya to Chernobyl, Rights and Wrongs: Chechnya - Russia's Human Rights' Nightmare, Guerrilla Tactics – Total Resistance, Kavkazkie plenniki, Terror in Moscow, Mountain Men and Holy Wars, Disbelief, Coca: The Dove From Chechnya - Europe In Denial of a War, Beslan: Siege at School No. 1, Kavkazskaya Rulyetka (Caucasian Roulette), Marksman, Alexandra and Russian Triangle.
Become a fan of Eric's Blog on Facebook!