The First Chechen War

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Chechen republic is located in North-East part of Caucasus. The republic has the common borders with Republic of Ingushetia, Republic North Osetiya Alaniya, with Stavropolskiy Kray of Russia, Dagestan and Republic of Georgia. Oil is the main resource of Chechnya and its product stock evaluates in 50 million tons.

In 2005 the population size of Chechnya was 1 1414 000. More than three-quarters of Chechens population are lived in rural areas. The most significant population are Chechens (93,5 %), Russians, Cumycs, Avars, Nogays, Ingushs are presented also.

In 1 November 1991 Chechen Republic proclaimed its sovereignty and independency. However its independent status is not recognized neither by world community nor Russian Federation, which considers Chechnya as its constitutional part.



Chechen Conflict of 1994—1996 — warfare of Russian forces in Chechnya and some neighboring places of Russian North Caucasus with purpose to prevent Chechnya’s withdrawal from Russian Federation. Frequently calls as “First Chechen War”, the conflict was officially named by Russian government as “measures on maintenance of public order”. The previous events and conflict itself are characterized by huge losses in killed and wounded among civil population, military forces and law-enforcement agencies. It also leads to stampede of Russians and other nations from Chechnya.

In spite of some military progress of Russian forces, the conflict results in withdrawal of Federal troops from Chechnya, the ravages of war and losses from both sides; Independence of Chechnya de-facto until the second phase of the conflict and many terrorist acts in Russia.

This work contains the analysis of the First Chechen War 1994-1996, factors which unleash the war and its consequences. The analysis bases on theory of Sean Byrne and Neal Carter Six Social Forces of Ethnoterritorial Politics, proposes six ethnic “variables,” which they label as “socio-cubism” and that constitute a potent basis of ethnicity:

1) History
2) Religion
3) Demographics
4) Political institutions and non-institutional behaviour
5) Economics
6) Psycho-cultural factors

This work also answers on question “Why Russian leadership initiated military action against in 1994 and no other constituent part of the Federation”.

2.1. Historical factors

There is a long history of war conflict in North Caucasus. In 1784 Sheikh Mansur (chief of a biggest Muslim order) proclaimed Gazzawat (holy war against the invading Russian Empire). It was the starting point in continuous Russia-Chechen conflict.

There was more then semicentennial warefare in 19th century, which was included in history as Caucasian war. Imam Shamil was the key figure in that war. He again proclaimed Gazzawat as a “Holy war against infidels”. In spite of desperate resistance of Chechens, Russians began to settle in the lowlands, particularly after oil was discovered near Grozny in 1893 and thousands of oil workers were sent to the city from European parts of Russian Empire .

Soviet authorities also understood important geopolitical and economic role, which North Caucasus played for USSR. Chechen Autonomous Oblast received status of an Autonomous Republic after joining with Ingush Autonomous Oblast in 1934. This period is characterized by growing of nationalist movement among the significantly enlarged population of ethnic groups in North Caucasus. In 1944 the Chechens became the largest group on a compact territory to be deported en masse by Stalin to northern Kazakhstan for 13 years. This deportation was recognized by Euro parliament as genocide.

Collapse of USSR became the reason of political crisis in Chechnya, crisis which developed to full-scale war from 1994 till 1996 with escalation of the conflict in 1999.

2.2. Religious factors

The most population of Chechnya traditionally confesses Sunnis Islam. Chechen nationalist radicals assumed religious cannons as a base of their struggle for power. It was reflected in the political program of Vainakh Democratic Party, which demanded the «separation of atheism from the state,” i.e. cessation of anti-Muslim religious persecution, and argued for the reestablishment of traditional national institutions in the republic such as “Counsil of Elders” and “Shariat Court”. Being in power Dudaev actively attempted to «turn Chechen Islam into an instrument for the manipulation of mass awareness”.

The practice of restrictions, used by communists against religion for ages, showed opposite effect. The “Gazzawat against infidels”, proclaimed by Aslan Maskhadov third time in history of Chechen-Russian conflicts, used the terrorism as a tool for goal achievement.

2.3. Demographic factors

A very high birth rate was noteworthy among Chechens since 1980th. In 1980, The republic’s natural growth per 1,000 inhabitants was 14.3; by 1985 , it had increased to 16.8; in 1990, it was 16.1; and in 1992 it stood at 13.9. The comparable figures for the Russian Federation as a whole were very much lower: 4.9, 5.3, 2.2, and – 1.5.

About 1,1 million citizens were lived in Chechnya in accordance with official population census of 1989. More than two thirds of them were presented by Chechens, the rest were Russians, Ingushs, Armenians, Ukraines and other nations. Last population census carried out in 2002 showed that population of Chechnya had not reduced in spite of war (1,2 million citizens). Moreover, it had increased. But national composition changed significantly. Chechens were presented by 98,8 % of population . The figures could be higher, if it were not for high level of mortality among population suffering from infectious and parasitical diseases (in 1987, 22.6 per 1,000, the mean figure for the Russian Federation as a whole being 13.9 per 1,000). The figures of infant mortality were “the worst in Russia”.

2.4. Political institutions and non-institutional behaviour

Political factors should be divided into two groups:

1. Successful carrying out of “Chechen Revolution” in 1991, created the necessary prerequisites for development of independent Chechen Republic Ichkeria
2. Total political destabilization of Dudaev’s regime, leaded to sanguinary war with Russia.

Talking about political factors it is necessary to accentuate the “Chechen Revolution” of 1991. It is “Chechen Revolution” became the beginning of dramatic defeat of Russia in First Chechen War and not its factual beginning in 1994. Its main result was declaration of Independent Chechen Republic Ichkeriya. The given period was characterized by desperate confrontation between communist clique headed by Kremlin’s protégé Zavgaev and nationalist opposition headed by Dudaev – future first President of sovereign Chechen state, elected through the national referendum in 30 October 1991.

In spite of the fact that Chechnya had lost its potential allies when Ingushetiya declared about its withdrawal from Chechen-Ingush Republic and coup d’état in Georgia made with direct participation of Russia, the Chechen Revolution should be named “triumphal”. It not only achieved independence but also showed lack of foresight and dissociation of the ruling Russian top suffered a crushing defeat at that stage.

Though successful emerging of independent Chechen state the future political management by Dudaev leaded it to total disorder and destitution. During the Dudaev’s regime many terrorist groups began their action under his actual consent. The corruption become uncontrolled and extensive. Dudaev’s inability to govern leaded to situation then many of his allies crossed over to the opposition. The Dudaev’s decision about dissolution of the Parliament and Constitutional Court in 1993 stimulated the further development of opposition. Very soon his own elite military and police unit tool the field against him. The active role in anti-Dudaev movement was played by «the national intelligentsia, the economic leaders, and a majority of entrepreneurs», who began to receive covert economic and military support from Moscow . Dudaev’s opponents named last event “criminal revolution” and characterized his regime as “criminal”. Particularly, Stanislav Govorukhin, a well-known Russian parliamentarian and committee chairman, has declared: “As the author of this term [i.e., “criminal revolution”], I can assure you that the greatest success of this revolution was achieved precisely in this subject of the Federation, in Chechnya. Precisely there did there indeed emerge a 100 percent criminal regime” .

Talking about political factors of Russian Federation it is necessary to note the policy of diarchy after collapse of the USSR (political confrontation between Gorbachev and Yeltsin) which prevented the identifying of efficient position with respect to Chechnya. The Moscow’s hesitant policy during the “Chechen Revolution” stimulated the development and strengthening of opposition movement in Chechnya with further military coup in September 1991.

The political instability of Russian Federation was illustrated by situation when Yeltsin’s resolution on the state emergency in Chechnya in 1991 was not approved by opposing Parliament. After failure of troops landing Yeltsin disappeared. «Boris Yeltsin proclaimed martial law in Chechnya, but Mikhail Gorbachev ordered the army to remain strictly neutral and take no part whatsoever in enforcing martial law. The Russian Supreme Soviet promptly overruled Yeltsin’s martial-law decree and the Chechen secessionist movement was allowed to develop” .

2.5. Economic factors

It is necessary to consider Chechen economy in two ways:

1. Chechen economy during the Soviet time, which was characterized by uneven system of distribution. It leaded to the situation when Chechnya became the poorest republic of the USSR having overwhelming economic potential.
2. Chechen economy during Dudaev’s regime, characterized by eventual breakdown of agro-industrial and oil complexes, eventually leaded to pervasive crisis.

Being dominated on market economy previously, Agro-industrial sector in Chechnya fall into decay in 1991, made more than 200 000 Chechens unemployed. Because of low labour productivity, the official wage of Chechen farmers was dramatically different from average wage of farmers in other republics of USSR. It was 74.8 % from average wage of Russian farmers.

It is necessary to note the discriminatory job quotas for Chechens especially to oil industry – the main kind of business of Chechen-Ingush Republic. The specialists were exported from Central Russia in case of need. This problem became keen in 1991 when oil resources started to decrease (for the period from 1985 until 1991 the total output volume of oil had been decreased from 87 million ton to 58 million) .

Showed himself as an active talented leader during the “Chechen Revolution”, Dudaev turned out a very unskillful in economic management. The situation of economic instability afforded an opportunity for large-scale abuses and embezzlements. Chechen oil-processing plants processed West-Siberian oil and exported it via Chernomorsk ports as non-taxable offshore property. Almost all numerous armed structures were involved in theft of oil in the guise of its protection. Russian cargo trains were regularly exposed to plunder during transit via Chechnya. Lots of dubious financial operations were carried out by Chechen branches of Russian and Baltic banks (so called “false aviso”). Airport in Grozny became the largest contraband centre (including drug and weapon trafficking). Chechnya became a shelter for many Russian criminals and economic offenders.

Gained factual independence Chechnya showed itself economically untenable, which leaded to growth of criminal “economy”. By the opinion of Dr. Julia Grigorieva “factors such as high levels of unemployment, population density and birth rate, combined with undeveloped infrastructure, promoted extreme instability in the region”.

2.6. Psycho-cultural factors

The playing on nationalist public mood, carried out by Chechenian politicians, played the key role in Russia-Chechen conflict. The nationalist intrigues pass as “red line” over the history of Soviet Chechnya. For instance, during the 1930th Soviet government applied so called principle of korenizazia (indigenization), encouraged the development of local languages and culture in an effort to attract the nationalities to the idea of revolution. However, this practice led to en masse deportation of Chechens, during that Chechen language more than 13 years was forbidden.

It is necessary to note that Russian language prevailed over the whole history of USSR in all of its constitutional parts, and the role of national languages was skeletonized. However the most severe treatment with national culture was applied only to Chechens, up to situation when the term «Chechen” disappeared from Soviet textbooks and encyclopedias for 13 years of deportation. That severe treatment had played the opposite role; maybe because of it Chechens were able to preserve national language and culture.

Chechenian politicians used nationalism as the main ideology by attempt to achieve the independence, as in 1922. …For many, ethnic affiliation became a political resource. It was used by those who possessed it to endorse their presentations of power over their “own people”. The policy of exclusion of national representatives during the distribution of key positions, carried out by Kremlin for ages, played opposite role also.


Chechen Republic Ichkeriya had not been recognized by any state as a subject of International law. It was officially recognized only by Georgian President Zviad Gamsahurdia’s government in exile. In 2000 Zelimkhan Yandarbiev achieved mutual state recognition between Chechen Republic Ichkeriya and Taliban movement controlled that time more than 90% of Afghan territory. Signed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Chechen President Aslan Mashadov Peace Agreement (1997) contained the obligation of Russian Federation to built equal relations with Chechnya on basis of International Law. This fact is interpreted by some competent lawyers as de-facto recognition of Chechen Republic Ichkeriya by Russian Federation.

In 2007 Chechen Republic Ichkeriya is existed as underground organization on the territory of Chechen Republic with branches beyond Russian Federation. In November 2007 formed Chechen President Doka Umarov stated about abolition of Chechen Republic Ichkeriya and establishing of Caucasian Emirate.


4.1. Terrorism as a main method of warfare by Chechen fighters

The rapid growth of terrorist activity was the official cause for Russian invasion to Chechnya in 1994 as well as 1999 after its escalation. The terrorist gangs and formations met with Chechen government support.

From the very beginning of his governing Dudaev did not deny the possibility of “applying of “terroristic acts” against Russia as a possible option for Chechens” . The official state support to terrorists had been demonstrated by Dudaev’s government after hijacking of Russian aircraft in 1991 when after return three hijackers were greeted as “national heroes”. Two terrorist acts took place in Russian city Mineralnie Vodi and preceded the Russian invasion in 1994 as a response to terrorist actions.

With the lapse of time terrorist acts had grown significantly both in frequency and human casualties. Besides “Holy war against infidels” terrorist groups practiced kidnapping (including kidnapping of Chechen people) which consisted their financial source along with donations from international terrorist organizations. However this fact does not allow consider them as “warlords” because they were under the control of official authorities and pursued the general objective – “Jihad” as a way to defend the independence of Chechen Republic.

4.2. Russia’s defeat in First Chechen War – blame of Russian Intelligence services

The role of Russian Intelligence services had been frequently discussed in Russian mass media.

On the one part Russian Intelligence agencies significantly promoted the negative public opinion with respect to Dudaev’s economic policy. The information about involvement of Russian Intelligent agencies expressly or by implication in large-scale robberies of cargo or oil trains was revealed frequently.

On the other part lack of foresight of Russian Intelligence agencies had been demonstrated by the fact that many Chechen fighters were trained in camps of Russian Intelligence Agencies. Later on Shamil Basaev repeatedly noted in interviews that “he predicted every move of Russian troops because being trained in Russian secret camp he was familiar with methods of warfare used by Russian Intelligence agencies”.

The previous events and Chechen War itself showed that many miscalculations of Russian invasion were made because of lack of real information. Weak activity of Russian Federal Intelligence agency frequently leaded to the situation when attempts of Russian Federation to present the invasion as a objective necessity were crushed contantly.

The most significant miscalculating of Russian Intelligence service took place on 24 November 1994 when Russian mass media announced that well-armed anti-Dudaev’s opposition entered in Grozny. However after “opposition members” were captured by Dudaev’s forces it was revealed that they were Russian officers recruited by Federal Intelligence Agency.

It is possible to say that Russian Intelligence Agency had played double role in First Chechen War. Firstly, it “helped” to start the conflict; secondly, it “helped” by self-weakness to its end which was so unfavorable and humiliating for Russian authorities.


Though the overwhelming superiority in troops, weapons and air fleet, Federal forces were not able to take Chechnya under the effective control. That was the result of weakness and indecision of political and military Russian leaders.

The significant losses in killed and wounded, insufficient military and logistics support, hostility of local inhabitants and incessant attacks of Chechen fighters – all these factors demoralized the command courage of Russian military personnel. Russia was defeated in propagandistic war. Russian public opinion was against continuation of the warfare.

The Hasavyurt Agreements which determined the end of first phase of Russian-Chechen War were signed in that atmosphere. Besides the term of cease-fire these documents included the article in accordance with that the issue of status Chechen Republic Ichkeriya was put off until 2001.


First Chechen War carried away an infinite number of persons – more than 50,000 civilians and 6,000 Russian soldiers. It is difficult to calculate the losses of Chechen fighters because there is no information about this. The information of Russian officials seems to be overrated.

For the period of First Chechen War more than 200,000 Russians, 125,000 Chechens and Ingushes, and 50-75% Caucasians – Georgians, Azerbaijanians, Osetins and Tatars leaved Chechnya because of actions of Federal forces, Chechen fighters, economic collapse and criminal outrage.

Chechen economic infrastructure was destroyed as a result of Russian air-bombing. The damage injured to environment was also significant and reduced not only to pollutions but also to total increasing of severe diseases.

But the most significant consequence of Chechen conflict is mutual hostility based on nationalist motives. The mark of “terrorist” is used with respect to Chechens not only by Russian mass media but also by commons and whereas Russians are considered as “aggressors” in Chechnya.


First Chechen War was initiated by Russian government not only with purpose to prevent Chechnya’s withdrawal from Russian Federation but also to demonstrate the military power of Post-Soviet Russia. However Russia had demonstrated the political and military weakness instead of fast and victorious war. Russia also defeated “International information war” estimated Russia’s invasion as “war of aggression”.

Leaders of independent Chechen state also discredited themselves by open support of terrorists, which was demonstrated by fact, that inherently “War for independence” was criticized by international community because of its “terrorist character”.

Unwillingness to make concessions, ambitious moods and weak governing of political leaders both Chechnya and Russia demonstrated that conflict which from the beginning could be resolved through negotiations grew into murderous war.

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