Second war with Russia and its aftermath

The initial Russian goal was to create a “security zone” in the traditionally loyal lowlands of Chechnya north of the Terek River. In November 1999, Russian forces crossed the Terek  to re-occupying the remainder of Chechnya. Grozny was taken after a long siege, and Chechen fighters retreated into the mountains of southern Chechnya.

Chechen resistance

The Chechen command reconsidered its strategy. Small groups of fighters made their way down from the mountains and infiltrated behind enemy lines, where they linked up with existing resistance cells. Hit-and-run attacks on the Russian forces grew bolder, more frequent, and better coordinated, undermining their morale and discipline. Russian retaliation was often directed against Chechen civilians, enabling the separatists to recruit additional fighters seeking to avenge friends and relatives.

Refugee camps
The OSCE assistance group to Chechnya secured support for projects to help bring some sense of normality to the lives of refugees living intent camps since the outbreak of armed hostilities,2001.(OSCE)

The OSCE assistance group to Chechnya secured support for projects to help bring some sense of normality to the lives of refugees living intent camps since the outbreak of armed hostilities,2001.(OSCE)

As in the first war, a large proportion of the population sought refuge in and outside Chechnya, particularly in neighboring Ingushetia. Many ended up in squalid refugee camps.

Russians work through Kadyrov

In January 2001, President Putin announced a new Russian strategy in Chechnya. Greater reliance was placed on the civilian administration of theMufti Akhmad Kadyrov, a Muslim cleric and former secessionist who came over to the Russian side. Kadyrov was allowed to set up his own courts and his militia was expanded. The size and salience of the Russian troop presence in Chechnya was gradually reduced.

Military phase “ends”

In April 2002, Putin declared that the military phase of the conflict could be considered closed. However, a large number of Russian troops remain in Chechnya and secessionist violence has continued in and out of the area. For example:

  • Chechen terrorists took over 800 people hostage in a Moscow theater in October 2002; Russian Special Forces used knockout gas and killed the 40 terrorists, but 130 of the hostages died as well.
  • Suicide bombers blew up government office buildings in Groznyin May 2003.
  • Secessionist fighters carried out an attack on Nazran, capital of neighboring Ingushetia in June 2004.
  • Two Russian passenger planes crashed after explosions, killing89 in August 2004.
  • A suicide bomb attack killed 10 in a Moscow subway in August2004.
  • A school was seized in Beslan, North Ossetia, with 1,200children and adults held hostage in September 2004. At least 335 were killed and hundreds wounded.
Redefining Chechnya’s status

The Russian government was determined not to negotiate with the secessionists, whom it regarded as terrorists. All attempts at mediation by third parties were rejected. The Russian government opted for unilateral steps to redefine Chechnya’s status within the Russian Federation.

A referendum held in March 2003 approved a draft constitution and electoral law for Chechnya as a special part of the Russian Federation. A two-chamber parliament with 61 seats was created.

OSCE/ODIHR and Council of Europe experts examine preparations for the 23 March referendum in a polling station in Grozny, Chechnya, during an assessment visit on 3 March 2003.(OSCE)

OSCE/ODIHR and Council of Europe experts examine preparations for the 23 March referendum in a polling station in Grozny, Chechnya, during an assessment visit on 3 March 2003.(OSCE)

Chechnya held presidential elections on October 5, 2003. The OSCE did not send monitors to observe neither the referendum not the presidential elections. Several candidates challenged Kadyrov, the strongest of whom was the Moscow-based Chechen businessman Malik Saidullayev. The election took place in an atmosphere of intimidation: all candidates except Kadyrov were prevented from holding meetings and denied media coverage, and a hand grenade was thrown into Saidullayev’s headquarters. Kadyrov was proclaimed victor with 80% of the vote.

Refugee camps closed

The Russian government and the Kadyrov administration claimed that the situation in Chechnya was returning to normal and refugees should return. Many did not want to do so, realizing that the situation was still extremely dangerous. Nevertheless, refugee camps were closed and most refugees had togo back to Chechnya.

Kadyrov assassinated
On May 9, 2004, abomb planted by secessionists under the VIP box in Grozny’s Dinamo stadium exploded during Victory Day celebrations, killing Kadyrov and six others. Prime Minister Sergei Abramov was appointed acting president.
Alkhanov elected president

Kremlin-backed Police General Alu Alkhanov was elected president in elections held in 2004. Western governments asserted that these elections did not meet international democratic standards, although no outside parties, including the OSCE, were invited to send formal observers.

Alkhanov declared that he would never negotiate with Maskhadov (killed by Russian forces in 2005) or other leaders of the Chechen rebels, thereby effectively cutting off the possibility of a negotiated arrangement to the conflict. After Maskhadov’s death, the Chechen leadership became more radicalized, including rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Movladi Udugov inits ranks. In 2006, a truck bomb killed Basayev in a neighboring republic. The Russian security services claimed credit for the assassination, but others have suggested a rival separatist leader killed him.

 

Ramzan Kadyrov appointed Deputy Prime Minister

After Kadyrov’s assassination, Putin appointed Kadyrov’s son Ramzan as Deputy Prime Minister. Ramzan began a massive rebuilding program but he and his militia have been accused of brutality and corruption. Ramzan also supports a greater role for religion in society. He has implemented several tenets of Shari’a law, including banning gambling and alcohol and decreeing that all women wear head scarves.

 

Kadyrov elected president

Alkhanov resigned the presidency in 2007 and Putin appointed him Russian Federation Deputy Justice Minister. Ramzan Kadyrov was named Acting President. A joint session of Chechnyna’s two-chamber parliament elected Kadyrov president in March, with 56 supporting votes, one against and one abstention.

 

Power struggle between pro-Moscow Chechen factions

Forces loyal to Kadyrov and his main pro-Moscow Chechen rival, Sulim Yamadayev, reportedly clashed in eastern Chechnya in April 2008, leaving 18 dead. The struggle was over the control of the Russian military Special Battalion Vostok unit, the biggest pro-Moscow militia, which was not under the control of Ramzan Kadyrov. Up until 2008, Sulim Yamadayev was officially in command of this unit. Despite the fact Yamadayev was wanted in Russia on a federal warrant, he nevertheless served as a Russian military officer in Russia's 2008 war with Georgia during the same period.

The feud between Yamadayev and Kadyrov stemmed in part from the bomb assassination of Sulim's brother, Dzhabrail Yamadayev, in 2003. Yamadayev's older brother, Ruslan Yamadayev,was also murdered in Moscow in 2008. Sulim Yamadayev was shot dead in Dubai in 2009, and two Kadyrov ex-employees were sentenced for the crime.

 

High profile murders linked to Kadyrov

In 2009 the human rights activist Natalia Estimirova was abducted and killed in Chechnya. Sheworked for the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Grozny and had been investigating the murder of Chechen women by Kadyrov's security forces. Estemirova also worked with investigating journalist Anna Politkovskaya and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, both of whom were also murdered, in 2006 and 2009, respectively.  Politkovskaya had been working on a story on the torture practices used by the Chechen security detachments known as Kadyrovites. In her final interview, she described Kadyrov as the "Chechen Stalin of our days."  Markelov investigated many of the abuses documented by Politkovskaya.

 

Chechnya today

Although the counter-terrorist regime was formally lifted in 2009, military operations continue. Chechnya is undoubtedly quieter, especially compared to the other North Caucasian republics, but security is still a problem. Human rights organizations continue to accuse the government of human rights violations. Since the beginning of the war, more than 40,000cases have been brought against the Russian Federation in the European Court of Human Rights. The majority of the claimants were from the north Caucasus and Chechnya.

Grozny once considered the most war-torn city in the world, is now rubble-free, with shiny modern glass skyscrapers, a new international airport, and the largest mosque in Europe. From 1995 to 2001 about 39,000apartments and more than 17,000 private houses were destroyed in Grozny, although some who lost their homes have been given new apartments, approximately 12,000 residents are without housing. Social tension over housing shortages has increased in past few years as many refugees who fled to Europe and neighboring Ingushetia are finally returning. Most suspect the government of improperly using the federal subsidies for reconstruction.

 

Chechnya's future

Although major hostilities in Chechnya have ceased, the republic may be slowly drifting away from Moscow’s control. Kadyrov has introduced polices that directly contradict the laws of the Russian Federation, such as open acceptance of polygamy, Muslim dress for government employees, compulsory hijab for women, and teaching Islam in the public school system. The hijab, an import from Arab and Persian states, is not the traditional headscarf style of Chechen women, who previously wore a short kerchief after marriage or no head covering at all. The Kremlin silently condones these policies in Chechnya while in other parts of Russia the Kremlin has vehemently opposed Muslim girls even voluntarily wearing the headscarf at school.

There are concerns that the republic is being Islamized. Over 700 mosques have been built in the republic since the end of the war, along with 20 medrasahs and two higher Islamic institutions. Chechnya is now home to the largest mosque in Europe, which can accommodate 10,000 worshipers.  Kadyrov promotes his brand of Islam based on sufism.

In 2012 Kadyrov appointed all imams and qadis as deputy headmasters in schools so that their work is funded by the republic’s school system. An Islamic dress code has been introduced in Chechen schools. Girls must sit separately from boys. Female teachers must wear a headscarf on their heads and must also cover their shoulders and neck. Girls are obliged to wear a headscarf starting at the age of six.

The Kremlin's lack of criticism of Kadyrov’s corruption appears to be the necessary price to pay to maintain peace in Chechnya.   Chechnya has an unemployment rate of 31.9%, the highest in Russia. Many of the neighboring north Caucasian republics have even higher unemployment rates such as Kabardinia and Ingushetia with 48%. Although they also receive subsidies, Chechnya is viewed with envy.

As during the presidency of Jokhar Dudayev, Chechen oil plays a crucial role. During Dudayev’s time independence was tolerated as long as Dudayev transferred 80% of oil revenues to Yeltsin’s government.  It is believed that Dudayev fell out of favor with Yeltsin when he proposed a 50/50 split of oil revenues.

After the war, the Russian oil company, Rosneft, was awarded the license to extract oil from Chechnya, which accounts for approximately 7% of Rosneft’s output. Chechnya's known hydrocarbon reserves are estimated at some 60 million tons of oil and 3 billion cubic meters of natural gas. In2011, Rosneft's local subsidiary pumped 800,000 tons of oil in the republic.