First Chechen War

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First Chechen War
Date 1994 - 1996
Location Chechnya

parts of Ingushetia, Stavropol Krai and Dagestan

Result ceasefire and Russian withdrawal; de-facto independence of Chechnya
Casus belli Chechnya's de facto independence
Image:Flag of Russia.svg
Russian Federation
<center>Image:Flag of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.svg
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Pavel Grachev Aslan Maskhadov
20,000 Russian Army
20,000 MVD
3,000 regulars
10,000 irregulars
at least 5,500
at least 161 outside Chechnya<ref>120 in Budyonnovsk, and 41 in Pervomayskoe hostage crisis</ref>
at least 3,000
35,000-100,000 (including ethnic Russians)
Chechnya and Russia

The First Chechen War (Russian: первая чеченская война) was fought between Russian and Chechnya from 1994 to 1996 and resulted in Chechnya's de facto independence from Russia.


[edit] Overview

Russian forces attempted to control the mountainous area of Checnya, but were set back by Chechen guerrilla raids despite Russia's overwhelming manpower, weaponry, and air support. The resulting widespread demoralization led Boris Yeltsin to declare a ceasefire in 1996. He signed a peace treaty a year later.

The war was a humiliating defeat for Russia and a disaster for Chechnya. By a conservative estimate, there were 7,500 Russian military, 4,000 Chechen combatant, and more than 35,000 civilian dead. [1] Other estimates put the number of casualties in the range of 80,000 to 100,000 killed.[citation needed] More than 500,000 persons were displaced by the conflict.[citation needed]

[edit] Origins of the war in Chechnya

[edit] The collapse of the Soviet Union

Russia became an independent nation after the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991. While Russia was widely accepted as the successor state to Soviet Union, it lost most of its economic and military power. Ethnic Russians made up more than 70% of the population, but ethnic and religious differences in some regions of Russia significantly threatened disintegration of the country.

In the Soviet period, some of Russia's approximately 100 nationalities were granted ethnic enclaves that had various formal federal rights attached. Ethnic Russians constituted the majority of the population in these enclaves, but the titular nationalities usually had disproportionate representation in local government bodies. Relations with the federal government and demands for autonomy erupted into a major political issue in the early 1990s.

[edit] The Russian Federation Treaty

President Yeltsin incorporated these demands into his 1990 election campaign by claiming that their resolution was a high priority. There was an urgent need for a law to clearly define the powers of each federal subject. Such a law was passed on March 31, 1992, when Yeltsin and Ruslan Khasbulatov, then chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet and an ethnic Chechen himself, signed the Federation Treaty bilaterally with 86 out of 88 federal subjects. In almost all cases, demands for greater autonomy or independence were satisfied by concessions of regional autonomy and tax privileges. The treaty outlined three basic types of federal subjects and the powers that were reserved for local and federal government.

The only federal subjects which did not sign the treaty were Chechnya and Tatarstan. Eventually, in the spring of 1994, President Yeltsin signed a special political accord with Mintimer Şäymiev, the president of Tatarstan, granting many of its demands for greater autonomy for the republic within Russia.

Thus, Chechnya remained the only federal subject which did not sign the treaty. Neither Yeltsin nor the Chechen government attempted any serious negotiations and the situation would deteriorate into a full-scale conflict.

[edit] The history of Chechen conflicts

[edit] Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union

Russian Cossacks had lived in lowland Chechnya (Terek) since the 16th century. Russia first invaded the Chechen highlands during the reign of Peter the Great, in the early 18th century, as a countermeasure to Chechen raids on Russian settlements. After a series of fierce battles, Russia defeated Chechnya and annexed it in the 1870s.

Chechnya's subsequent attempts at gaining independence after the fall of the Russian Empire failed. In 1922 Chechnya was also incorporated into Bolshevist Russia; and later into the USSR.

In 1936 Soviet leader Joseph Stalin created the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1944, on the orders of NKVD chief Lavrenti Beria, officially as punishment for alleged collaboration with the invading Nazis, more than 1 million Chechens, Ingushes, and other North Caucasian peoples were deported to Siberia and Central Asia. Stalin's policy made the state of Chechnya a non-entity. Eventually, Soviet first secretary Nikita Khrushchev granted the Chechen and Ingush peoples permission to return to their homeland, and restored the republic in 1957.

[edit] Chechen declaration of independence

On September 6, 1991, with the aim of asserting independence, militants of the All-National Congress of the Chechen People (NCChP), led by Dzhokhar Dudayev, stormed a session of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR Supreme Soviet. They killed the Communist Party chief for Grozny, Vitali Kutsenko, brutalized several other party members, and effectively dissolved the government of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR.

In the following month Dudayev won overwhelming popular support to oust the interim central government-supported administration. He was made president in an allegedly fraudulent election.[citation needed] Dudayev then declared independence from the USSR. In November 1991, President Yeltsin dispatched troops to Grozny. They were forced to withdraw when Dudayev's forces prevented them from leaving the airport.

After Chechnya had made its initial declaration of sovereignty, the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic split in two in June 1992. Ingushetia joined the Russian Federation, while Chechnya declared full independence in 1993, which was not recognized by other countries.[citation needed] From 1991 to 1994, tens of thousands people of non-Chechen ethnicity, mostly Russians, left the republic amidst reports of violence against the non-Chechen population. Chechen industry began to fail as a result of many Russian engineers and workers leaving or being expelled from the Chechen Republic. During the Chechen Civil War, factions both sympathetic and opposed to Dudayev fought for power, sometimes in pitched battles with heavy weaponry.

[edit] Internal conflict in Chechnya

In March 1992 the opposition attempted a coup d'etat, but their attempt was crushed by force. A month later, Dudayev introduced direct presidential rule, and in June 1993, dissolved the Parliament to avoid a referendum on a vote of non-confidence. He also ordered the opposition disloged from Grozny to Nadterechny district.[citation needed] Federal forces dispatched to the Ossetian-Ingush conflict were ordered to move to the Chechen border in late October 1992. Dudayev, perceiving this as "an act of aggression against the Chechen Republic", declared a state of emergency and threatened general mobilization if the Russian troops did not withdraw from the Chechen border. After staging another coup attempt in December 1993, the opposition organized a Provisional Council as a potential alternative government for Chechnya, calling on Moscow for assistance.

Chechnya long had a reputation in Russia as a center of organized crime. The proportion of Chechens and other Caucasian peoples in Russia's emerging market economy was much higher than their representation in the population as a whole.[citation needed] In its campaign to justify military action against Chechnya, the Russian government played upon the stereotypes of the Chechen criminal and dishonest businessman. Seventy-one percent of Russians believed Chechnya was invaded to halt Chechen-inspired crime.[citation needed]

[edit] Covert support of opposition forces

Dudayev's supporters pray in front of the Presidential Palace in Grozny, 1994. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev

In August 1994, when the coalition of the opposition factions, based in the north of Chechnya, launched an armed campaign to remove Dudayev's government, Moscow supplied rebel forces with financial support, military equipment, and mercenaries. Russia suspended all civilian flights to Grozny while the air defence aviation and border troops set up a military blockade of the republic. On October 30 unmarked Russian aircraft began bombing Grozny.

The opposition forces, who were joined by Russian troops, launched a clandestine but badly organized assault on Grozny in mid-October 1994. It was followed by a second, larger attack on November 26-27 1994. Dudayev's National Guard forces, improvising their defence, repulsed the attacks and succeeded in capturing some 20 Russian Army regulars and about 50 other Russian citiziens hired by the FSK.[citation needed] Five aircraft manned by Russian "advisors" were also shot down.[citation needed]

On November 29, President Boris Yeltsin laid down an ultimatum to all warring factions in Chechnya to disarm and surrender. When the government in Grozny refused, President Yeltsin ordered an attack to restore the constitutional order. By December 1, Russian forces were carrying out heavy aerial bombardments of Chechnya, targeting both military sites and the capital Grozny. On December 11, five days after Dudayev and Minister of Defense Pavel Grachev of Russia had agreed to avoid the further use of force, Russian troops invaded Chechnya.

[edit] The War in Chechnya

[edit] Invasion

A Russian helicopter downed by Chechen separatists near the capital Grozny, December 1994. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev

The Chechen Air Force was destroyed in the first few hours of the war. Nevertheless, Boris Yeltsin's expectations of a quick surgical strike, quickly followed by Chechen capitulation, were horribly misguided, and Russia was quickly submerged in a quagmire.

On December 11, 1994, Russian forces lauched a three-pronged ground attack towards Grozny. The main attack was halted by deputy commander of Russian ground forces,Colonel-General Eduard Vorobyov, who resigned in protest, stating that he would not attack fellow Russians. Yeltsin's advisor on nationality affairs, Emil Pain, and Russia's Deputy Minister of Defense, Colonel-General Boris Gromov (esteemed hero of the Soviet-Afghan War), also resigned in protest of the invasion, as did Major-General Borys Poliakov. More than 800 professional soldiers and officers refused to take part in the operation. Of these, 83 were convicted by military courts, and the rest were discharged.

The morale of the troops was low from the beginning, for they were poorly prepared and did not understand why they were sent into battle.[citation needed] Some Russian units resisted the order to advance, and in some cases the troops sabotaged their own equipment. In Ingushetia, civilian protestors stopped the western column and set afire 30 military vehicles. About 70 conscripts deserted their units. Advance of the western column was halted at Dolinskoye. A group of 50 Russian paratroopers surrendered to the local militia, after having been deployed by helicopters behind enemy lines and then abandoned.

Yeltsin ordered Russian commanders to show restraint, but they were neither prepared nor trained for this. Other problems occurred as Yeltsin sent in freshly trained conscripts from neighboring regions rather than regular soldiers. Highly mobile units of Chechen fighters caused humiliating losses to Russia's ill-prepared, demoralized troops. The Russian military command then resorted to devastating carpet bombing and indiscriminate tube and rocket artillery barrages, causing enormous casualities among the Chechen and Russian civilian population.

On December 26, Dudayev's son, Avlur, was seriously wounded in fighting. Chechens started to prepare bunkers and set up fighting positions in Grozny. On December 29, Russian forces repelled a Chechen armored counterattack in the battle of Khankala.

[edit] Battle for Grozny

A Chechen separatist near the Presidential Palace in Grozny, January 1995. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev

When Russians attacked the Chechen capital of Grozny, from December 1994 to January 1995, thousands of civilians died from a week-long series of air-raids and artillery bombardment of the sealed-off city. The first attack led to heavy Russian casualties and nearly a complete breakdown of morale. An estimated 2,000 soldiers died in the disastrous New Year's Eve assault alone. The entire Maikop Brigade of more than 1,000 men was destroyed during the 60-hour fight for, and around, Grozny's central railway station. Several other Russian armored columns each lost hundreds of men during the first two days and nights of the siege.[2] Dozens of soldiers were captured.

Despite the early Chechen defeat of the New Year assault, and many further casualties, Grozny was eventually conquered by Russian forces amidst bitter urban combat. On January 7, 1995, Russia's Major-General Viktor Vorobyov was killed by mortar fire; he became the first on a long list of generals to be killed in Chechnya. On January 19, despite heavy casualties, Russian forces seized the ruins of the presidential palace, which had been heavily contested for more than three weeks as Chechens finally abandoned their positions in the destroyed downtown area. The front then largely stabilized along the river Sunzha, dividing Grozny in half. On February 8, a truce was announced, and the remaining Chechen forces withdrew from the devastated city; they moved their headquarters to the town of Novogroznensk, the first of several temporary capitals to follow.

By some estimates, about 27,000 civilians, many of them ethnic Russians, died in five weeks of fighting. Military casualties are not known exactly (the Russian side admitted close to 2,000 killed or missing. [3]) International monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe described the scenes as nothing short of an "unimaginable catastrophe," while German Chancellor Helmut Kohl described the events as "sheer madness."[4]

[edit] Quagmire

The dominant Russian strategy was to use heavy artillery and air strikes throughout the campaign. Russian forces engaged in indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force, resulting in numerous civilian deaths. They also prevented civilians from evacuating from areas of imminent danger, and prevented humanitarian organizations from assisting civilians in need. It was alleged that Russian troops committed numerous, and in part systematic, acts of torture and summary executions on rebel sympathisers; they were often linked to zachistka (cleansing) raids, affecting entire town districts and villages that harbored boyeviki, the rebel fighters.[citation needed] In the village of Samashki, from April 7-April 8, 1995, Russian forces killed 103 civilians[5]; several hundred more were beaten or otherwise tortured.

Chechen separtists resorted to vicious guerrilla tactics, such as setting booby traps and mining roads. The success of Chechen mining and use of explosive devices was particularly noteworthy. By the summer of 1995, Russian military sources said the Chechen mining of transportation routes, buildings and other targets were "acquiring a massive character." Chechen separatists effectively exploited a combination of mines and ambushes, as well as mines and explosives, to target Russian leaders and facilities.

As the war went on, separatists resorted to large hostage kidnappings, attempting to influence the Russian public and Russian leadership. More than 1,500 hostages were seized and about 120 civilians died in the raid on the southern Russian city of Budyonnovsk. On March 6, 1996, a Cypriot passenger jet flying toward Germany was hijacked by Chechen sympathisers to publicize the Chechen cause; as was a Turkish passenger ship carrying 200 Russian passengers on January 9, 1996. These incidents, perpetrated by Turkish gunmen, were resolved without fatalities.

Separatist fighters killed Chechens that they considered collaborators, and they mistreated civilian captives and federal prisoners of war, especially pilots. Both rebel and federal sides of the conflict kidnapped hostages for ransom, and used human shields for cover during the fighting and movement of troops. Russian forces committed violations of international humanitarian law and human rights on a much larger scale than Chechen separatists.[citation needed] Television and newspaper accounts widely reported these to the Russian public. As a result, the Russian media coverage partly precipitated a loss of confidence of the government, and a steep decline in president Yeltsin's popularity. Chechnya was one of the heaviest burdens on Yeltsin's 1996 presidential election campaign.

The protracted war in Chechnya, as well as many reports of extreme violence against civilians, ignited fear and contempt of Russia among other ethnic groups in the federation. The inability of Russian forces to subdue the Chechen fighters also encouraged other ethnic groups to defy the central government by proclaiming and defending their independence.[citation needed] In Chechnya, the full-scale Russian attack also led many of Dudayev's opponents to unite with Dudayev, and to thousands of volunteers swelling the ranks of mobile guerilla units. Many others formed local self-defence militia, defending their settlements in case of a federal attack.

In the fall of 1995, the Russian commander in Chechnya, Lieutenant General Anatoliy Romanov, was critically injured in a bomb blast in Grozny. Suspicion fell on rogue elements of the Russian military for responsibility of the attack. The attack destroyed hopes for a permanent ceasefire based on a developing trust between Romanov and General Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen military commander and former Soviet Colonel. [6]

[edit] Spread of the war

Akhmad Kadyrov's declaration that Chechnya was waging a Jihad (holy war) against Russia raised the spectre that terrorists from other regions and even outside Russia would enter the war. By some estimates, 5,000, mostly Caucasians, served in volunteer formations, including 1,500 Dagestanis, 1,000 Georgians and Abkhazians, 500 Ingushes and 200 Azeris, as well as 300 Turks, 400 Slavs from outside Russia, and more than 100 Arabs and Iranians.[citation needed] The volunteers included a number of ethnic Russians, which included Moscow citizens.

Russian government officials feared that a move to end the war short of victory would create a cascade of secession attempts by other ethnic minorities, and present a new target for extreme nationalist Russian factions. The Don Cossacks, who were originally sympathetic to the Chechen cause, became hostile to Chechens after Chechen terror attacks; Kuban Cossacks started organising themselves against the Chechens, including manning a paramilitary roadblock.

Meanwhile, the war in Chechnya spawned a new form of separatist activity in the Russian Federation. Resistance to the conscription of men from minority ethnic groups to fight in Chechnya was widespread among other republics, many of which passed laws and decrees on the subject. For example, the government of Chuvashia passed a decree providing legal protection to soldiers from the republic who refused to participate in the Chechnya war and imposed limits on the use of the Russian army in ethnic or regional conflicts within Russia. Some regional and local legislative bodies called for a prohibition on the use of draftees in quelling internal uprisings; others demanded a total ban on the use of the armed forces in quelling domestic conflicts.

Some fighting occurred in Republic of Ingushetia in 1995, mostly when Russian commanders sent troops over the border in pursuit of Chechen fighters. Although all sides generally observed the distinction between the two peoples that formerly shared the autonomous republic, as many as 200,000 refugees from Chechnya and neighboring North Ossetia strained Ingushetia's already weak economy. On several occasions, Ingush president Ruslan Aushev protested incursions by Russian soldiers, and even threatened to sue the Russian Ministry of Defence for damages inflicted.

In January 1996, the destruction of the border village of Pervomayskoye in the Russian Republic of Dagestan by Russian forces in reaction to the large-scale Chechen hostage taking in Kizlyar brought strong criticism from the hitherto loyal Republic of Dagestan and escalated domestic dissatisfaction.

[edit] Endgame

Chechen irregular fighter with a Borz ("Wolf") sub-machine gun. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev

The poorly trained, ill-supplied, and badly led conscripts of the Russian army proved incapable of suppressing determined Chechen opposition, both in the Chechen capital and in the countryside. Russian forces took over 15 months to capture Bamut, a small village southwest of the capital Grozny, which fell on May 22, 1996. On March 6, 1996, between 1,500 and 2,000 Chechen fighters infiltrated Grozny and launched a three-day surprise raid on the city, overruning much of the city and capturing caches of weapons and ammunition. A month later, forces of an Arab commander Ibn al-Khattab inflicted considerable damage on the reconnaissance company and 2nd Motor rifle battalion column of the 245th Motorized Rifle Regiment in an ambush near Shatoy. However the ambush allowed other Russian forces to deploy (remaining troops of the 245th MRR, the 324th MRR, combined battalion of the 104th airborne division and reinforced battalion of the 7th Airborne division) which resulted in capture of Chechen arms and stores stockpile andeventually Shatoy itself.

As humiliating defeats and growing casualties made the war more and more unpopular in Russia, and as the 1996 presidential elections neared, Yeltsin's government sought a way out of the conflict. Although a Russian missile attack killed Dudayev on April 21, 1996, the Chechens persisted.

On August 6, 1996, three days before Yeltsin was to be inaugurated for his second term as president, the Chechens launched a new attack on Grozny. More than 1,500 Chechen fighters, led by Shamil Basayev, again moved in by trucks and cars in a carefully orchestrated assault. Within hours, they had overrun the key districts, and laid siege to the Russian posts and bases and the government compound in the centre, in spite of the fact that the Russians had about 12,000 troops in and around Grozny. Russian troops in Argun and Gudermes were also surrounded in their garrisons. A number of Chechens deemed collaborators were rounded up, detained, and executed.

Several attempts by the Army armored columns to rescue the mainly MVD units, which were trapped by the Chechens, were repelled with heavy Russian casualties; the 276th Motorized Regiment of 900 men lost 450 dead or wounded in a two-day attempt to reach the city centre. Russian military officials said that more than 200 soldiers had been killed and nearly 800 wounded in five days of fighting, and that an unknown number were missing—Chechens put the number of Russian dead at close to 1,000. Thousands of demoralized, thirsty, and hungry troops were either taken prisoner or surrounded and largely disarmed, with their heavy weapons and ammunition commandeered by the rebels. On August 12 and again on August 17 a truce in Grozny was announced.

[edit] The Khasav-Yurt Accord

Scene of rubble in Grozny

Despite the presence of large numbers of both Chechen and Russian civilians and federal servicemen, on August 19 the Russian commander Konstantin Pulikovsky gave an ultimatum for Chechen fighters to leave the city, or it would be leveled in a massive aerial and ground bombardment. The bombardment was halted by a ceasefire brokered by Yeltsin's national security adviser Alexander Lebed on August 22. During eight hours of talks, they drafted and signed the Khasav-Yurt Accord on August 31, 1996. It included: technical aspects of demilitarization, the withdrawal of both sides' forces from Grozny, the creation of joint headquarters to preclude looting in the city, the withdrawal of all federal forces from Chechnya by December 31, 1996, and a stipulation that any agreement on the relations between the Chechen Republic Ichkeria and the Russian federal government need not be signed until late 2001.

[edit] Moscow peace treaty

The Khasavyurt accords paved the way for the signing of two further agreements between Russia and Chechnya. In mid-November 1996, Yeltsin and Maskhadov signed an agreement on economic relations and reparations to Chechens who had been "affected" by the 1994-96 war. Six months later, Chechen elected president Maskhadov traveled to Moscow where he and Yeltsin signed a formal treaty "on peace and the principles of Russian-Chechen relations" that Maskhadov predicted would demolish "any basis to create ill-feelings between Moscow and Grozny."[citation needed] Maskhadov's optimism, however, proved misplaced. Over the next two years many of Maskhadov's former comrades-in-arms, led by field commander Shamil Basayev, launched an incursion into Dagestan in the summer of 1999.

[edit] Casualties

Dead bodies on a truck in Grozny

According to official Russian statistics, 5,500 Russian soldiers died during the war. The estimate of Committee of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia, however, puts the number of dead at 14,000.[7] According to NVO, the country’s most authoritative independent military weekly, up to 52,000 were wounded and some 3,000 more remained missing in action by 2005.[8] As of mid-January 1997, the Chechens still held between 700 and 1,000 Russian soldier and officer prisoners of war.[9]

Chechen casualties are estimated at up to 100,000 dead or more (mostly civilian.)[10] Various estimates put the number of Chechens dead or missing in the range of more than 50,000 to 100,000.[11] Chechens separatists estimate their combat casualties at about 3,000.

[edit] See also

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[edit] External links

[edit] Notes

<references/>ca:Primera Guerra de Txetxènia de:Erster Tschetschenienkrieg es:Primera Guerra Chechena fr:Première guerre de Tchétchénie ja:第一次チェチェン紛争 pl:I wojna czeczeńska ru:Чеченский конфликт 1994—1996 годов fi:Ensimmäinen Tšetšenian sota sv:Första Tjetjenienkriget

uk:Перша чеченська війна

First Chechen War

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