Eurasian Politician

The Eurasian Politician - July 2004

The Chechen struggle for independence

by David Storobin, July 15, 2004


THESIS: Brought to their knees after years of war, Chechens have temporarily accepted Russian rule. Corrupt elections and referendum created impression of acceptance of Moscow and surrender of further demands for independence, yet nobody – including the press secretary of the pro-Moscow Chechen President – believes that is the true will of the Chechen people. The Chechen attempt to achieve independence is not over. Nationalists are still convinced about the righteousness of their cause and are unwilling to submit to Moscow. Islamists have engaged in scores of anti-Russian terrorist acts and have aligned themselves with the most extremist elements in the Moslem world. Their strongholds in the mountainous areas of Chechnya have not been defeated.  Nationalists may be down, but are only waiting for their chance to come back and may become more radical as their isolation worsens. While many Chechens are tired of war and may be willing to surrender to Moscow, future battles for independence are a matter of when, not if. Meanwhile, Russia cannot afford to give up control over Chechnya as it would set a precedent for dozens of other autonomous republics within the Russian Federation that are itching for independence. Just like the Solidarity Movement in Poland led to the breakup of the Communist Warsaw Pact, and the independence of the Baltic states led to the breakup of the Soviet Union, so will Chechen independence lead to breakup of much of Russia. Thus, the region will not know peace for a long time and extremism, nationalism and Islamism are likely to grow and prosper in Chechnya and the rest of the Caucasus.

Indeed, it was partly the radicalization of Chechen society that led to the Second Chechen War. Isolated by the West, moderate Chechen nationalists, such as President Aslan Maskhadov have been weakened, while Islamic fundamentalists led by Shamil Basayev got support from Arabs and led an invasion of Dagestan. Their terrorist acts led Russia to invade Chechnya and defeat the breakaway republic, while imposing a government favored by Russia, but unwanted by the Chechen people.

The debate between Islamists and Nationalists ripped the Chechen society apart. Nationalists wanted independence as a democratic, secular state. Islamists wanted fundamentalism, even if it meant falling under Russian rule once again or acting as a step-child of their Arab sponsors.


Chechnya has a long history of struggle for independence and violence against Russia. From 1824 to 1859, Russian Czar Nicholas I and Caucasian leader Imam Shamil fought a bloody war, with Russians finally occupying and annexing Caucasus only due to their greater numbers. [1]

During the Communist Revolution of 1917, Dagestan – which included Chechnya at the time – declared its independence as a North Caucasian Republic. In 1919, the anti-Bolshevik forces conquered the NCR, but were forced to withdraw after the Islamic rebels received support from the Bolsheviks.

In 1921, the Communist authorities set up Soviet Socialist Autonomous Mountain Republic consisting of the Chechens, Ingush, Ossetians, Kabardians, Balkars, and Karachai. A year later, Chechnya was detached from the Mountain Republic. However, the independent Dagestan-Chechnya nation called the North Caucasian Republic was not fully conquered for 6 years. When de facto independence ended in 1923, the republic was split in three parts within the Russian Federation – Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia. Eventually, Chechnya and Ingushetia were united as a Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

Chechnya always presented a problem for Russia. "The Chechens and Ingush presented a special problem. Inhabiting the nearly inaccessible mountain ranges bordering on Dagestan, they were always, from the Russian point of view, a troublesome element. Unassimilable and warlike, they created so much difficulty for the Russian forces trying to subdue the North Caucasus that, after conquering the area, the government felt compelled to employ Cossack forces to expel them from the valleys and lowlands into the bare mountain regions. There, faced by Cossack settlements on one side, and wild peaks on the other, they lived in abject poverty tending sheep and waiting for the day when they could wreak revenge on the newcomers and regain their lost lands," wrote Richard Pipes in the "Formation of the Soviet Union. [2]

Less than a generation later in 1944, practically all Chechen nation was exiled to Kazakhstan on suspicion of support for the invading German army, resulting in mass deaths on the way to Kazakhstan and in the exile itself. At least 30% of Chechens died as a result. The Soviet policy at the time also eliminated the Chechen-Ingush Republic.

Yet, the Chechens did not submit to oppression and stood proud, unrelenting in their desire for self-determination. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in "The Gulag Archipelago": "there was one nation that would not give in, would not acquire the mental habits of submission -- and not just individual rebels among them, but the whole nation to a man. These were the Chechens. They were capable of rustling cattle, robbing a house, or sometimes simply taking what they wanted by force. They respected only rebels. And here is an extraordinary thing -- everyone was afraid of them. No one could stop them from living as they did. The regime which had ruled the land for thirty years could not force them to respect its laws." [3]

Upon returning to Chechnya in 1957, when the Chechen-Ingush Republic was reconstituted, they found that their homes  had been given to Russian settlers, and part of their land has been taken away and given by the Soviet authorities to a Dagestani nation called Laks. The region (called Akki) was re-named "Novo-laksky rayon" (New Lak Region). To this day, the status of the region has not been totally resolved between Chechens and Laks. Also, part of Ingushetia was annexed to North Ossetia and given to the Ossetians (today known as Prigorodniy rayon).


In 1988, the Soviet authorities proposed to build a biochemical plant in Gudermes, sparking wide-spread protests. In opposition to the plant, the Chechen-Ingush Popular Front was organized. The organizations aims quickly changed from environmentalism to nationalism. In 1989, for the first time a Chechen – Doku Zavgayev – was elected the first secretary of the Communist party of the Chechen-Ingush Republic. [4

On November 23, 1990, the Chechen National Congress was formed with consent of Zavgayev and immediately demanded sovereignty. Four days later, CNC declared independence as a Chechen-Ingush Republic. The chairman of the CNC was Maj.-General of the Soviet Army Jokhar Dudayev, who was exiled by the Soviets from 1944 to 1957. Dudayev was "single-mindedly dedicated to the independence of Chechnya," wrote Edward Klein. n the spring of 1991, Dudayev declared the Soviet/Russian rule to be colonialist. The CNC's spring 1991 meeting concluded by declaring early Presidential and Parliamentary elections. [5 ]

On September 15, 1991, Ingushetia separated from Chechnya, their decision accepted by both Chechen and Russian authorities. Ingush leadership have taken pains to avoid getting bugged down in the Russo-Chechen war, while at the same time trying to serve as intermediaries. [6]

Meanwhile, Zavgayev lost control of Chechnya due to this support for the putschists who were trying to overthrow Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, while Dudayev came out strongly against the attempted overthrow. [7]

In 1991, as the USSR was collapsing, Chechen President Jokhar Dudayev declared Chechnya an independent nation, following the example of the 14 Republics (Baltic States, Central Asian states, etc.) that gained independence from Moscow around the same time. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev refused to recognize Chechen independence. Indeed, no country in the world recognized independent Chechnya.

The main reason for the discriminative treatment of different independence declarations lied in the Soviet hierarchy of different regions: the international community decided to recognize those who had the Socialist Soviet Republic (SSR) status in the USSR (including Russia itself), while those with Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic (ASSR) status were not recognized. While the SSR's were theoretically (but not practically) semi-sovereign under the Soviet rule, the ASSR's were part of SSR's. The result was that some Central Asian republics became independent with reluctance, while some smaller but eagerly independence-minded republics (mainly Chechnya and Dagestan, but also Tatarstan and Tuva) had to choose between surrendering their nationhood or starting active resistance. Only the Chechens chose the latter.

From 1991 to 1994, Russia did not assert de facto rule over Chechnya, with RF authorities still busy trying to develop a new form of government, a new economy and a capable military and intelligence.


Meanwhile, local Chechen resistance to Dudayev developed, under the leadership of the Communist leader Umar Avturkhanov in 1993. The opposition took control of the Nadterek region in northern Chechnya, and set up Provisional Council as an alternative government to Dudayev's rule. It immediately appealed to Russia for help. [8] Russia promised to help, but originally was not willing to commit forces. Most of President Yeltsin's advisors at the time indeed advised against military adventurism in regard to Chechnya.

On August 10, 1994, Chechen chiefs, elders and Islamic leaders declared that they would wage a Jihad against anyone who dared to attack them. Twenty days later, on September 1, Avturkhanov's forces clashed with Dudayev's military. By September 6, the fighting ended with a victory by Dudayev. A week later, more military actions took place, this time resulting in the destruction of most of Dudayev's air force. More fighting in October and November turned the tide back in favor of Dudayev. [9] Despite denials by the Yeltsin administration, many of the Avturkhanov's soldiers were Russian. In the November 1994 fighting, separatists captured 70 Avturkhanov troops – 21 of whom turned out to be Russian. [10]

More than three years after Chechens declared independence, on November 25, 1994, Russian helicopters attacked Chechen rebels, with Avturkhanov's men launching a tank attack and reaching all the way to the palace of the President of Chechnya by the next day. [11]

On December 11, Boris Yeltsin officially sent the Russian military into Chechnya, engaging in a bloody war. By 1995, 10,000 Russian soldiers took control of Grozny, the capital of the breakaway republic, and 35,000 more federal troops occupied Chechnya. Chechen President Dudayev was killed in a targeted killing by a missile.

Yet, the federal forces could not defeat the Chechens. The rebels were committed to their cause and many were trained in the Soviet Army during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, while Russian soldiers – mostly teenagers – were not properly trained, underfed and kept in terrible conditions. Desperate, many Russian soldiers and officers began selling weapons and intelligence information to the rebels. [12]


Traditionally, Chechens subscribed to either the Shafi'i form of Sunni Islam (also practiced in parts of Yemen, Bahrain, Indonesia, Philippines, and parts of Central Asia, among other places) or the Sufi brotherhoods ("tariqats")

Neither Shafi'i nor Sufi Islam is extremist. Shafi'i Islam is considered the least restrictive and demanding of any forms of Islam when it comes to personal practice and while it is not as open to modernization as Hanafi Islam, it is certainly not an intolerant faith. [13]

Sufis are probably the most peaceful of all types of Moslems. It is a spiritual religion, focused more on tolerance, education and beliefs than actions and revenge.

Chechen Sufis accepted women as equal members, so it is not surprising that women took part in fighting during Chechen wars. [14] Additionally, Chechnya is one of the few places in the world where the man is considered the primary caregiver to children in case of divorce, out-of-wedlock birth, etc.

As such, despite their reputation, Chechens are not generally an extremist people.

However, the years of Soviet rule wiped much of the religious knowledge in the Chechen community, as in every other group in the USSR. In Azerbaijan, for example, the people used to be Shi'ite (the primary difference between Turks and Azeris historically has been that Turks were Sunni and Azeris were Shi'ite). Yet, to prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, Azeri President Haidar Aliev prevented Iranians and Arabs from entering his nation and teaching the locals about Islam. Instead, he let Turks teach the Azeris about Islam and, as a result, Azeris became Sunni during the 1990's.

A similar process happened in Chechnya. However, instead of the moderate Turkish influence, many Chechens were indoctrinated in the most radical, most extremist forms of Islam by the Arabs who came either as university students or missionaries. Arabs arrived in Chechnya because they saw it as a new front to promote Jihad. One of the arriving Arabs was a Saudi Arabian radical Islamist called Samir bin Salih bin Abdullah al-Sweleim (known as Khattab), who belonged to the Wahhabi sect. Following his death, he was replaced by another Wahhabi Arab, Abd al-Aziz al-Ghamidi, known as al-Walid. [15]

The Arab radical Islamists' openly stated goal was to uproot the Sufi "heresy." [16] The Muslim Brotherhood, the "granddaddy" of Islamic fundamentalist organizations, which has set up bases in Chechnya is actually dedicated to eradicating Sufi Islam. [17]

As a result of the 1994 war, Chechens found themselves in complete isolation and destruction. They had expected Western support for their independence, much the same way that the West supported the 14 Republics that gained independence from Moscow. That did not occur. The only support Chechens could muster came from Shamil Basayev's contacts with Islamic fundamentalists, predominantly in the Arab world. [18] While most Chechen separatists saw the West as their best hope, Basayev engaged in Islamist, anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Semitic rhetoric. In 1995, Saudi fundamentalist named Samir bin Salih bin Abdullah al-Sweleim (known as al-Khatab) arrived in Caucasus and married an Avar woman (Avars are the largest ethnicity in neighboring Dagestan). [19] It is believed that Khatab settled in Chechnya at the invitation of Basayev.

Another Arab fundamentalist, Abd al-Aziz al-Ghamidi (known as al-Walid), arrived in Chechnya in 1995 and served as Khatab's deputy until Khatab's death. [20]

Local Islamist figure popped onto the scene in 1996 -- Salman Raduyev. In January 1996, he led a force of about 100 fighters into Kizlyar, Dagestan, where he blew up Russian helicopters and took people hostage. [21] His actions are largely overlooked by the world – yet he was the one who set the precedent of invading Dagestan and others following his example have led to Chechnya's fall and the loss of de facto independence. These attacks eventually led Russia to invade Chechnya the second time, driving the separatists underground and taking over the government.


In 1996, President Dudayev was killed by Russian authorities and was replaced by his Vice-President, Zelimkhan Yanderbiyev. In May 1996, Yanderbiyev initiated peace talks with President Yeltsin and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. [22] Subsequent elections in February 1997, Chechen military leader Aslan Maskhadov, who actually led negotiations with Russia, was elected President of Chechnya after claims of assassination on Maskhadov by Yandarbiev. Maskhadov received 59% of the vote, Basayev 23% and Yandarbiev 10%. Another 13 candidates split the remaining 8% of the vote. All 16 candidates for Chechen Presidency supported the breakaway republic's independence. [23]

Maskhadov was widely viewed as a moderate politician who was fairly, legitimately elected in free and democratic elections. Yet, he immediately blundered and on January 1, 1998 – at the urging of Moscow authorities -- appointed extremist Basayev the Prime Minister of Chechnya for a term of 6 months, following which he resigned. Three other radicals, Aslan Ismailov, Aslanbek Abdulhajiyev, and Ruslan Gelayev, got ministerial posts in Chechnya. [24]

Moscow authorities were afraid that a moderate, legitimately elected Chechen leader may win de jure recognition and hoped that by getting Maskhadov to join with Islamic fundamentalists, they could get him into so much trouble that he would find himself unable to govern, much less acquire de jure recognition. [25]

The plan largely worked. After leaving office in disagreement with Maskhadov, Basayev joined forces with Yandarbiyev in attacking Dagestan in 1999 and organized a number of terrorist attacks, including the siege of Moscow Theater in October 2002.

President Maskhadov found himself a victim of multiple assassination attempts by the Wahhabis and fundamentalist opposition. His attempts to suppress Islamic extremism and to prevent Basayev and Yandarbiev from invading Dagestan were unsuccessful.

After parting ways with Basayev, Maskhadov accused Yandarbiev and Basayev of aligning with Wahhabis and other Islamist extremists. [26]

Whether the charges were true about Yandarbiyev during his rule as President of Chechnya, it is certainly true that he chose to a join forces with Islamist radicals in 1999 and thereafter, an act which more than anything else led to the fall of Chechen independence and submission to Russian rule.


Despite overwhelming electoral victory, Aslan Maskhadov proved to be a weak leader. While rejecting Islamist fundamentalism, he failed to take effective action against the radicals, constantly trying to come to some sort of an agreement with them. Maskhadov may have felt that without the support of the West, he needed Islamists and their Arab friends. Thus, while rejecting their ideology and terrorist acts, the rebel President believed that the schools, mosques, orphanages, etc. built by Islamists would be useful, and the military prowess of fundamentalist forces is helpful as well. With money running out towards the end of his administration, Maskhadov could no longer reject the radicals' aid.

The decisive movement came in the summer of 1998 when Islamists rose up in rebellion against Maskhadov. After defeating the fundamentalists, Maskhadov failed to arrest them and even revised Dudayev's secular constitution and introduced nominally the Shari'a (Islamic religious law). [27]

Maskhadov's ally of choice would have been the United States, Europe and the rest of the West. He condemned Basayev's terrorist attacks at least in part because he saw Europe and the West as his great hope for indepedence, as well as because Maskhadov understood that attacking RF would result in an unwelcome invasion by the powerful Russian military, which was no longer in the same disarray that it was in the early days of post-communism.

Additionally, Maskhadov's forces included more ethnic Russians (!!!) and Ukrainians than Arabs. [28] Thus, the separatist President was not against Russians per se. Maskhadov was willing to cooperate with Russia on anything – trade, crime, anti-terrorism: anything, except Chechen independence. The web site of the Foreign Ministry of Maskhadov's government reported: "On May 12, 1997, President Maskhadov signed a treaty of peace and friendship with then Russian President Boris Yeltsin, which rejected ‘forever the use of force or threat of force in resolving all matters of dispute' between Russia and Chechnya and declared that the two countries would ‘develop their relations on generally recognized principles and norms of international law.'" [29]

While Maskhadov's main line was saving the independence of Chechnya, he could not run the country properly and was unable to control the country and suppress crime. Although the Islamist organizations had the hidden agenda of spreading Wahhabism and founding cover organizations to infiltrate their own militants into Chechnya, they also financed schools, hospitals, and construction of mosques, which made it hard to say "no" to them. A wealthy Jordanian Islamist and veteran of the Afghan War, Sheikh Muhammad Fatih, founded boarding schools and orphanages in Urus-Martan, and started to finance Wahhabi proselytism. Islamist mosques were founded in Urus-Martan and Gudermes to compete with the Sufi mosques," wrote Anssi Kullberg. [30]

Chechen fundamentalists did not support separatism, but rather Islamism – which can be achieved in an independent Chechnya or under Moscow rule. Traditionally, Russian authorities, even prior to the Communist Revolution, allied themselves with conservative Qadimists, while opposing the reformist Djadidists, in order to use the Ulema (religious council) to suppress the Chechen people, whose religious practices were more keen on organizing around families, clans and villages, rather than religious figures. [31]

Thus, while Chechen separatists looked to Eastern and Central European intellectuals as their role models, the fundamentalists chose to go with the pro-Soviet Islamic Renaissance Party, calling for preservation of the Soviet Union and then to be part of the Russian Federation. Shamil Basayev, the leader of Chechen fundamentalists, served in the Interior Ministry troops (OMON) in the Soviet times and fought alongside with the Russian military intelligence GRU against Georgia in the Abkhaz War in the early 1990's. [32]

Yet Arabs began pouring into Chechnya, bringing with them not only religious extremism, but also Islamic internationalism and anti-Westernism. By mid-90's, Chechen extremists began to adopt the Arab world-view. [33]

Arab fundamentalists, under Khattab and Walid, organized jihad training camps where Chechens, Dagestanis and other Moslems were well-fed and accomodated, but also indoctrinated in Wahabism and jihad. [34]

Arab fundamentalists, along with Yandarbiev and Basayev, organized Chechen attacks in neighboring Dagestan, where some people were also clamoring for independence. [35] Inevitably, Russia responded.

But that was precisely the goal of Islamists. Basayev and his Arab supporters wanted to engage in a war with Moscow, thinking they can defeat the Russian military and establish an radical Islamist Caucasian Republic (a.k.a. North Caucasian version of Saudi Arabia or Sudan), consisting of Chechya, Ingushetia, Dagestan and any other parts of southern Russia that they would be able to occupy. The new Caucasian Islamist state was supposed to feed off of Arab extremism and ally itself with the most fundamentalist regimes in the Middle East, rather than the West. Naturally, Islamists were opposed to making friends with the West, which they view as the ultimate enemy. [36]

Meanwhile, Yandarbiev, unwanted in Chechnya because of his extremist connections and the wrath of the Russian army that he brought upon the breakaway republic, fled to Pakistan, then to United Arab Emirates, before finally settling in Qatar, where he has maintained close ties with Wahabi radicals. He has been listed by the United Nations as one of the people connected with al Qaida. [37] On February 13, 2004, Yandarbiev was killed in a targetted killing by either Chechen authorities or, more likely, Vladimir Putin's administration.

But by February 13, 2004, Chechnya's fate has already been long sealed. Yandarbiev's attacks on Russia resulted in the republic losing de facto independence.

In response to Chechen attacks on Dagestan, 100,000 Russian troops were sent to Caucasus, freeing Dagestan and destroying much of Grozny. By 2000, 250,000 people became refugees and militants escaped to the villages in the mountains.

Maskhadov was willing to cooperate with Russians to get rid of the Wahhabis (the catch-all term for Islamic extremists) and even expelled Khattab and Basayev. His goal was not to fight with Russia. Indeed, that was the opposite of what he wanted. Maskhadov wanted a peaceful, secular, independent Chechnya in peace with Russia and the West. The Chechen Congress of Prefects condemned attempts to impose the Sharia (Islamic law) on the republic. Deputy prime minister of Chechnya Ahmed Zakayev co-authored a book with Y. Chagayev called "Wahhabism - the Kremlin's remedy against national liberation movements", where he associated the Islamist fundamentalism with Russia's global pro-terrorist policy during the Soviet era, and the Kremlin's support for radical dictatorships in the Islamic world, like Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Libya. Deputy Prime Minister asserted Hamas, Hizballah, Usama bin Ladin, and Illich Ramírez "the Jackal" to be creations of the Soviet policy, while the Chechens did not even know the Taliban or bin Ladin. [38]

But Moscow was not interested in merely getting rid of Chechen extremists and preferred to invade to re-integrate Chechnya into Russian Federation. [39]

Indeed, the Islamists were useful to Russia. Basayev wanted to rule over Chechnya and after Maskhadov's overwhelming victory in fair, free and democratic elections, he felt the need to do something to both undermine Maskhadov and gain support among the Chechen populace, which wanted independence. As such, Basayev engaged in terror against Russia not only to harm Russia, but also to harm Maskhadov. Between Islamism and independence, Basayev and his gang of extremists preferred Islamism. This viewpoint was openly recognized by Islamist fundamentalist and mafia leader Bislan Gantemirov, who even worked for pro-Moscow government in Chechnya.

Feeding off of fundamentalism from Iran and Arab countries, Islamists were not interested in independence just for the sake of independence. Arabic language does not even have a word for "nation" or "nationalism." Rather than being part of a nation, they consider themselves to be part of the "umma" – an Islamic community. During the wave of pan-Arabism in the Middle East, nationalists began referring to "umma Islamiyya" (Islamic community) and "umma Arabiyya" (Arab community). That gave rise to other types of "umma" and the word got a second meaning – nation. Arabic language still does not have a word for "nationalism," instead using the term "tribalism."

However, Arab Islamists reject the idea of an umma that is anything other than Islamic community. To them, there are two groups: umma (Islamic community) and Jahiliyya (barbarism, lack of social order). Nationalism, as envisioned by Dudayev, Maskhadov and most Chechens is barbaric Jahiliyya. Arab fundamentalists, who sponsored Basayev and other Chechen extremists, specifically reject the idea of sovereignty and democracy because it is a rule of man, rather than rule of God (Hakimiyyat Allah). Indeed, even de-colonization is seen negatively by fundamentalists because it introduced the idea of nationalism. Nationalism is seen as a Western conspiracy, imposed on the Middle East by "Ataturk and his Jewish adherents," according to Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, a prominent leader of Muslim Brotherhood which has been active in Chechnya (Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is the founder of modern Turkey). [40] As far as the Middle Eastern fundamentalists flooding Chechnya are concerned, it is better to have disorder than a nationalist, democratic government because a non-fundamentalist government will damage Islam and would serve as an impediment to Nazim Islami (Islamic World Order).

In October 2002, Maskhadov tried to organize a Chechen Congress, excluding the fundamentalists. The main purpose of the meeting was to condemn terror against Russia and anyone else. The congress was led by Ahmed Zakayev, who published a book condemning fundamentalists as enemies of the Chechen people. Yet, it was opposed by Russia. [41] Basayev could not allow this. As such, he organized an attack on the Moscow Theater, holding almost a thousand people hostage. The resultant deaths of over 100 people sparked outrage and anti-Chechen feelings in Russia, just as both Basayev and Putin wanted. The fundamentalists did not want Chechnya to become another pro-Western Islamic nation – they wanted a fundamentalist state, and if they couldn't get independence as Islamists, they would live under the permanent disorder of Russian occupation. Indeed, the scholarly European publication called the "Eurasian Politician" reported that "Islamists in modern Russia are KGB-trained provocateurs, who fight traditions and nationalism, and dream about a re-established Soviet Union. Their perception of Islam resembles more a Communist caricature than the historical roots of . . . Caucasian and Tatar Muslims." [42] Indeed, we know for a fact that the Islamic Renaissance Party in Caucasus was established in the guidance of the KGB in 1990. [43]

The Moscow Theater terrorist act sabotaged Maskhadov's attempt to organize a Chechen anti-terrorist congress. It also sabotaged the secular independence movement, in favor of Russian occupation.


In 2001, Stanislav Ilyasov was appointed the Prime Minister of Chechnya by the Russian authorities. In March 2003, Chechens voted on a new Constitution granting them greater self-determination rights, but foreswearing any further attempts to declare independence. In September of the same year, Akhmad Kadyrov was officially elected President of Chechnya, the role he has been unofficially performing for the past three years. Kadyrov has served as a Sufi Mufti of Chechnya since 1995, but was never an extremist and rejected people like Yandarbiev and Basayev. However, at one point he did declare a Jihad against Russia. [44] He claims that he began to support Russians in late 1999 because he disapproved of the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalists among separatists. [45] Others, however, maintain that he joined Russians only out of political expediency.

Most analysts questioned the fairness of Chechen elections. Nonetheless, Kadyrov's election as President, whether fair or not, has been seen as a final nail in the coffin of Chechen sovereignty for the foreseeable future. Any person who will be elected President of Chechnya to replaced the recently assassinated President Kadyrov is going to be completely dependent on Moscow for power, military and political, and, thus, remains staunchly loyal to President Putin.

Meanwhile, Ilyasov has been replaced by Anatoliy Popov as Prime Minister of Chechnya. Popov, of course, is an ethnic Russian, showing that Russia is back in Chechnya in every way possible. Popov has previously served as a Chairman of Chechen government. According to Russia's Kommersant newspaper, Russian law enforcement agencies wanted Popov to gain power to prevent Kadyrov and Ilyasov from gaining too much power (remember, Dudayev used to be loyal to the USSR as its General and even led some Soviet forces in the Baltic Republics when they rebelled). [46]

To give the pro-Moscow government an "Islamic flavor," former Islamic radical and Chechen mafia boss Bislan Gantemirov was appointed Kadyrov's press secretary. But in August 2003, Gantemirov stated that his boss, President Kadyrov, would get no more than 3-5% of Chechen vote in fair elections and was immediately fired. [47] Most people, including myself, who are familiar with Chechen society believe that Gantemirov was accurate in his assessment.

Indeed, we can see that Chechnya under the pro-Moscow government became less democratic. The new government's policy is to suppress separatists and Islamists by any means necessary – unfair elections, restrictions on the freedom of speech of even the President's press secretary, massive attacks on suspected separatists.

The new government is widely seen as a puppet of the Putin administration, and acts as such. It has foresworn any attempts to break away from the Russian Federation. The Kadyrov government saw Russia as its main protector and ally, and conducted all business through Kremlin. Whatever contacts the Chechen President had with the outside world had to be approved by Putin.


Peace in Chechnya seems impossible for the time being. The anti-separatist government has been installed as a puppet of Moscow, only to see the head of the government killed. More than 1 in 5 Chechens has been killed in the last 10 years, costing lives in almost every family. [48] Thus, whatever good will Chechens may have had towards Russia has been eliminated. At the same time when Hitler killed 1 in 3 Jews, Russia killed 1 in 3 Chechens. Imagine the outrage of the Jewish community if Germany in the 1990's engaged in an indiscriminate assault on Jewish civilians resulting in the death of 1 in 5 remaining Jews. That is exactly how Chechens feel today.

In the end, it can be said that the biggest losers are the Chechen people. Most Chechens want independence in a modern, non-extremist sovereign state. But non-Islamist forces have been mostly defeated or exiled. Chechens now have a choice between Basayev's Islamic extremists and submission to Russian rule. Neither choice is particularly appealing to the vast majority of Chechens. I suspect that eventually Chechens will choose to embrace extremism and join forces with Islamist extremists in an attempt to win independence or at least avenge the deaths of their relatives.

Essentially, Chechens need international recognition. Russia, a country that lost 22 million people during World War II, is going to tolerate loss of life from terrorist organizations without folding. But international recognition will not come in the foreseeable future. With Islamic terrorism widely and accurately seen as the #1 threat to international security, Chechens will have a hard time winning friends now that Basayev has given them a reputation of being Islamist terrorists.

"We could cut off IMF aid and export/import loans to Russia until they heard the message loud and clear, and we should do that . . . until they understand the need to resolve the dispute peacefully and not be bombing women and children and causing huge numbers of refugees to flee Chechnya," said Governor George W. Bush on February 16, 2000. [49]

Yet, following September 11, Vladimir Putin became President Bush's "friend" and ally.

As such, Chechens will not gain international recognition and the war is likely to continue and spread. My recommendation to Chechen separatists would be to end their military struggle for now because there is no way for them to achieve recognition right now and all their martial activities will be seen as Islamist terrorist acts. They must support the War Against Terror, while telling the world of their desire for independence in a democratic state. When the War on Terror ends many decades from now, only then will Chechens have a shot at sovereignty.

Wrote Paul Quinn-Judge: "While Russian leaders claim that the republic is gradually returning to normal, the conflict is in fact spreading: to the west into Ingushetia and to the north into the Russian heartland as far as Moscow, where suicide bombings at a rock concert and an attempted bombing on the capital's main thoroughfare in July have unnerved the public. In Chechnya itself, the guerrilla movement is split between traditional separatist fighters loyal to President Aslan Maskhadov and newer, deeply fundamentalist militants backed by Arab money and a sprinkling of volunteers from the Islamic world. The fighters inflicting the most damage are local Wahhabis, who welcome the idea of martyrdom and hope to push out the Russians and create a Caucasian caliphate." [50]


1.                  Edward Klein, President of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, "Chechen History,"

2.                  Ibid.

3.                  Ibid.

4.                  Ibid.

5.                  Ibid.

6.                  Ibid.

7.                  Ibid.

8.                  Ibid.

9.                  Ibid.

10.              "The Background of Chechen Independence" by Anssi Kullberg,

11.              Klein, "Chechen History"

12.              Author's conversation with a Russian soldier who served in the Russian army from 1995 to 1997.


14.              Anssi Kullberg "The Contradiction between Nationalists and Islamists in Eurasian Conflict Areas," Eurasian Politician, August, 2003. Cited Online. Available at:

15.              Andrew McGregor, "Chechnya: Amir Abu al-Walid and the Islamic component of the Chechen war,"

16.              Anssi Kullberg, "The Background of Chechen Independence," August, 2003. Available at:

17.              Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia; Page on Muslim Brotherhood Available at:

18.              Anssi Kullberg, "The Background of Chechen Independence," August, 2003. Available at:

19.              Ibid.

20.              Andrew McGregor, "Chechnya: Amir Abu al-Walid and the Islamic component of the Chechen war,"

21.              Anssi Kullberg, "The Background of Chechen Independence," August, 2003. Available at:

22.              Online Encyclopedia Wikipedia. Cited Online on April 22, 2004. Available at

23.              Anssi Kullberg, Eurasian Politician, "The Background of Chechen Independence," August, 2003. Available at:

24.              Ibid.

25.              Ibid.

26.              Online Encyclopedia Wikipedia. Cited Online on April 22, 2004. Available at

27.              Thomas De Waal, "The Chechen Conflict and the Outside World," April 18, 2003. Cited Online on May 15, 2004. Avalable online at:

28.              Antero Leitzinger, "The Roots of Islamic Terrorism," Eurasian Politician, March 2002, Cited Online on May 15, 2004. Available at:

29.              Chechen Foreign Ministry Web Site. Cited Online May 23, 2004. Available at:

30.              Anssi Kullberg, Eurasian Politician, "The Background of Chechen Independence," August, 2003. Available at:

31.              Anssi Kullberg, Eurasian Politician. August, 2003. "The Contradiction between Nationalists and Islamists in Eurasian Conflict Areas,"

32.              Ibid.

33.              Ibid.

34.              Ibid.

35.              Online Encyclopedia Wikipedia. Cited Online on April 22, 2004. Available at

36.              Anssi Kullberg, Eurasian Politician. August, 2003. "The Contradiction between Nationalists and Islamists in Eurasian Conflict Areas,"

37.              Online Encyclopedia Wikipedia. Cited Online on April 22, 2004. Available at

38.              Anssi Kullberg, Eurasian Politician, "The Background of Chechen Independence," August, 2003. Available at:

39.              Ibid.

40.              Bassam Tibi, "The Challenge of Fundamentalism, p. 161

41.              Anssi Kullberg, Eurasian Politician. August, 2003. "The Contradiction between Nationalists and Islamists in Eurasian Conflict Areas,"

42.              Antero Leitzinger, "The Roots of Islamic Terrorism," Eurasian Politician, March 2002, Cited Online on May 15, 2004. Available at:

43.              Ibid.

44.              Ibid.

45.              Paul Quinn-Judge, Time Europe magazine, "Chechnya: No Way Out?",

46.              RusNet, "New Chechen Premier Appointed," February 11, 2003.

47.              Paul Quinn-Judge, Time Europe magazine, "Chechnya: No Way Out?",

48.              Roman Khalilov, "The Russian-Chechen conflict," Eurasian Politician, February 2002, Cited Online on May 15, 2004. Available at:

49.              Dmitri Trenin, "The Forgotten War: Chechnya and Russia's Future," Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2003, Cited Online on May 5, 2004. Available at:

50.              Paul Quinn-Judge, Time Europe magazine, "Chechnya: No Way Out?",


1.         Edward Klein, President of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, "Chechen History,"

2.         Andrew McGregor, "Chechnya: Amir Abu al-Walid and the Islamic component of the Chechen war,"

3.         "The Background of Chechen Independence" by Anssi Kullberg,

4.         Wikipedia, Online Encyclopedia,

5.         Paul Quinn-Judge, Time Europe magazine, "Chechnya: No Way Out,"

6.         RusNet, "New Chechen Premier Appointed,"

7.         Thomas De Waal, "The Chechen Conflict and the Outside World," April 18, 2003. Cited Online on May 15, 2004. Avalable online at:

8.         Antero Leitzinger, "The Roots of Islamic Terrorism," Eurasian Politician, March 2002, Cited Online on May 15, 2004. Available at:

9.         Roman Khalilov, "The Russian-Chechen conflict," Eurasian Politician, February 2002, Cited Online on May 15, 2004. Available at:

10.        Dmitri Trenin, "The Forgotten War: Chechnya and Russia's Future," Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2003, Cited Online on May 5, 2004. Available at:

11.        Prof. Bassam Tibi, "The Challenge of Fundamentalism."