By Hasan Siddiqui

Chechnya, one mention of the name leaves a lot of people confused by what it is, but they don’t know that it was, and still is, one of the most terrifying and destruction-filled conflicts of our time. Let me take you back from where it started and guide you to the current situation. Chechnya was merged into Russia in 1859 after a long conflict, which had started in the 16th century. During WWII, they were accused of helping the Nazis. Even though a lot of the Chechens and their neighboring areas fought alongside the Russians against Germany, the whole population was deported to Kazakhstan. Only in the late 1950's were they allowed to return. A lot of the people who went never got to come back because of the harsh treatment and weather they had to endure. After the fall of communism, Chechnya was still a part of Russia. In late 1991 they announced their independence. The Russian government did not recognize Chechnya as a republic, because if Chechnya became independent, other areas would follow in their footsteps and declare independence from Russia. The Russians then prepared for war to take control of the self-proclaimed republic. One of the Russian generals said that one battalion of paratroopers would be done with the job in a couple of hours, but little did he know what was to happen. The drive to the capital of Chechnya started on October 30th, year?. By the end of December, Russian troops had reached and laid siege to the capital. Grozny, which means “terrifying” in Russian, had been shelled since the end of October. The city was in total ruins. Chechen rebels had been preparing defensive lines and trenches since the offensive had started. They had the city under total control and had thousands of defensive positions. On New Years Eve, the Battle of Grozny had started. Estimates are that between 1000 and 2000 Russians troops died on the New Years Eve assault of Grozny alone. The 131st brigade of the Russians was sent to take control of the city’s railway station. The brigade numbered around 1000 men. By the end of the battle for the railway station the brigade was completely destroyed. What the Russians had forgotten was that the rebels, who were in their late teenage years before the Soviet Union fell apart, had been trained by the Soviet Army as there were conscription laws which were enforced very strongly. A lot of the rebels fought in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War of 79-89. The Russian soldiers were mostly conscripts who were only trained for a week or so and sent into the heat of the battle. A lot didn’t even know they were in Chechnya until heavy fighting started. They were misinformed, ill-trained & their morale was at rock bottom. Later on, a lot of people from other countries came to fight for the Chechens as mercenaries or to fight in the name of God. This war officially cost the Russians over 5000 soldiers, and the Chechens over 3000 military losses. A range of 50 000-100 000 civilians were killed in this conflict. The Russians were defeated in the war and they withdrew. From 1996 to 1999 everything was calm, until things started to heat up again, when rebel leader, Shamil Basayev, tried to take control of neighboring Dagestan because he believed that Chechnya and Dagestan would be better as a single state. Because Dagestan was counted as a part of Russia, the Russians came to defend their land. They drove the Chechens out. After that, a series of bomb explosions shook Russia and were blamed on Chechnya, and so started the Second Chechen War. The war again started in October. By December, Grozny was again laid siege to by Russian troops. This time they learnt from their mistakes in the last war and proceeded with caution, and heavy air and artillery support. The Battle of Grozny cost Russia and its pro-Russian local Chechen militiamen around 1000 soldiers. The rebels dispersed into the forests and carried out daily attacks on Russians, and still do. The war was plagued by war crimes from both sides. Russians used to carry out raids and destroyed whole villages in the process. They looked for the people who participated in the First Chechen War and arrested them. Most of them if not all were killed later. They “cleansed” villages of suspected rebels. Suspected rebels were aged from 15 to 65. Since the war began, there are reports of over 2000 disappearances, people who were last seen being taken away by Russians. Most of those did not return and are believed to be dead. Mass graves had been found around Chechnya. Rebels did not go easy on captured soldiers, they used to execute them and distribute executions on tape. They killed everybody who they believed was collaborating with the Russians. The war has ended officially but there is no sign of calmness. Chechnya is plagued by daily attacks, corruption, death, looting, raping and other horrors. Because of the media censorship in Russia, people in the world can’t see what is really happening in Chechnya. Everybody thinks it is over, but it is just over its major stages. Fear is now constant there, and will be, until the killings and disappearances stop and people can try to get back to normal.

Source: Wikipedia

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