Monday, April 22, 2013

What You Need to Know about the Modern Historical Geography of Chechnya

The Chechen Republic is a ethnic homeland republic within the Russian Federation.  While many Americans have either not heard of the republic or merely second hand and confuse it with the Czech Republic, it is an important area in the War on Terrorism and, as we have seen when the Boston Marathon bombing, of global significance.

Pre-Soviet Union

Ethnic Russians are not native to the region.  The native populations include Armenians, Georgians, Ossetians, Chechens, Abkhaz, and many others.  While the northern Caucasus nominally went back and forth between the Ottoman Empire, Russian Empire, and Persian Empire, on a local level the region stayed independent with local leaders paying small taxes to the far away overlord while life stayed fairly normal.

The Caucasus Region is one of Russian romanticism.  The Russian view the Caucasus as sort of their Wild West.  The Russians used ethnic Slav, culturally Russian Cossacks to make inroads into the region and conquer it step by step.  But even then the Cossack Russians only firmly held main towns and the roads/lines of communication.

Cossack Conquest step by step. From La Salle University
Soviet Union

The Caucasus region was drawn and redrawn during the end of World War I and the rise of the Soviet Union.  Nationalistic forces fought against the Russian monarchists and then the Communist as part of the Mountain Republic and North Caucasian Emirate.  Under the Soviet Union, Stalin formed and reformed various local ethnic homelands.  Eventually in the late 1930s and early 1940s, nationalists rose up against the Soviet Union and allied themselves with Nazi Germany, along with other Caucasus ethnic groups.

Stalin's punishment was severe.  February 23, 1944 saw the start of Operation Lentil.  Lentil was the complete deportation of all Chechens in the region to Central Asia.  All of them.  Tens of thousands if not over hundreds of thousands, out of a population of about half a million, died in this genocide.  Chechens were not allowed to move back until 1957.  In 1959 census showed that Russians and Ukrainians made a majority in Chechnya.  The region was held in check until the collapse of the Soviet Union though the ethnic Chechen population slowly began to regrow.

Chechens round up waiting for deportation by the Soviet Union.  What's the different between Soviet and Nazi ethnic cleansing?  The Soviets completed the job (but since they were part of the Allies we do not teach that in schools).

Post-Soviet Wars

The various republics of the Soviet Union declared their independence and were allowed to leave peacefully with the fall of Communism.  However, Chechnya was not a separate republic in the USSR but a republic within Russia itself.  So when the Chechens established their own Chechen Republic of Ichkeria there was war.  Unready Russian troops were defeated by mostly nationalistic/secularist rebels.  Russia withdrew under an agreement that allowed de facto independence.  The de facto independence of Chechnya saw the mass emigration of ethnic Russians.

From Darussophile
However, in 1999 a Chechen and foreign-Islamist force invaded the neighboring Republic of Dagestan and a series of terrorist attacks targetting Russian apartment buildings (note: this may have been a false flag operation by Moscow).  This launched the Second Chechen War in which the Russians defeated the Chechen rebels.  However, a low-intensity but bloody insurgency first by the remnant forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and then against its successor state, a pan-ethnic Islamist entity known as the Caucasus Emirate continues even today.

The Chechen Republic of Ickeria morphed into the Islamist Caucasus Emirate which wants to control both Christian and Muslim lands in the northern Caucasus
The Chechen Republic itself is governed by the political Islamist, ethnic Chechen, pro-Moscow President Ramzan Kadyrov.  While there are some Russian troops fighting in the Caucasus much of the pro-Moscow fighting is being done by the local troops coming from the various republics who report directly to their own republics, acting much like a national guard.  The situation is more like the Imperial era than the Soviet period as ethnic governments have much more local control than in most of the last century though Moscow takes a very active interest in pushing for action against rebels.

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