Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
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The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (//; Chechen: Nóxçiyn Paçẋalq Noxçiyçö [noχtʃʰiːn pʰɑtʃʜɑlq nɔχtʃɪtʃʰy̯ø], Cyrillic: Нохчийн Пачхьалкх Нохчийчоь; Russian: Чеченская Республика Ичкерия; abbreviated as "ChRI" or "CRI") is the unrecognized secessionist government of the Chechen Republic. The republic was proclaimed in late 1991 by Dzokhar Dudayev, and fought two devastating wars with the Russian Federation, which denounced the secession. In late 2007, the President of Ichkeria, Dokka Umarov, declared that he had renamed the republic to Noxçiyc̈ó and converted it into a province of the much larger Caucasus Emirate, with himself as Emir. This change was rejected by some members of the former Chechen government-in-exile.
Ichkeria was a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. Former president of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, deposed in a military coup of 1991 and a leading participant in the Georgian Civil War, recognised the independence of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in 1993. Diplomatic relations with Ichkeria were also established by the partially recognized Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan under the Taliban government on January 16, 2000. This recognition ceased with the fall of the Taliban in 2001. However, despite Taliban recognition, there were no friendly relations between the Taliban and Ichkeria—Maskhadov rejected their recognition, stating that the Taliban were illegitimate. Ichkeria also received vocal support from the Baltic countries, a group of Ukrainian nationalists and Poland; Estonia once voted to recognize, but the act never was consumated due to pressure applied by both Russia and the pro-Russian elements within the EU.
In November 1990, Dzhokhar Dudayev was elected head of the Executive Committee of the unofficial opposition All-National Congress of the Chechen People, which advocated sovereignty for Chechnya as a separate republic within the Soviet Union. In October 1991, he won the presidential election.
Dudayev, in his new position as president of Ichkeria, unilaterally declared the republic's sovereignty and its secession from the Soviet Union and Russia. Not recognized by any government except Georgia under Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the country has maintained an unstable existence, due in part to constant threats of invasions from the Russian Federation.
Dudayev's government had created the constitution of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which was introduced on March 1992. In the same month, the opposition attempted a coup d'état, but their attempt was crushed by force. A month later, Dudayev introduced direct presidential rule, and in June 1993, dissolved the parliament. Federal forces dispatched to the Ossetian-Ingush conflict were ordered to move to the Chechen border in late October 1992, and Dudayev, who perceived 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.
However, the issue of contention was not independence from Russia: even the opposition stated there was no alternative to an international boundary separating Chechnya from Russia. In 1992, Russian newspaper Moscow News made note that, just like the most other seceding republics except for Tatarstan, ethnic Chechens universally supported the establishment of an independent Chechen state. Again, in 1995, during the heat of the First Chechen War, Khalid Delmayev, an anti-Dudayev belonging to an Ichkerian liberal coalition, stated that "Chechnya's statehood may be postponed... but cannot be avoided". Opposition to Dudayev came mainly due to his domestic policy, as well as his personality: on one of the most notorious incidents being a declaration, referencing earthquakes experienced by Armenia and Azerbaijan, that Russia intended to destabilize his nation by "artificially creating earthquakes". This did not go off well with most Chechens, who came to view him as a national embarrassment at times (if still a patriot at others), but it did not, by any means, dismantle the determination for independence, as most Western commentators note.
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After the war, parliamentary and presidential elections took place in January 1997 in Chechnya and brought to power Aslan Maskhadov, chief of staff and prime minister in the Chechen coalition government, for a five-year term. Maskhadov sought to maintain Chechen sovereignty while pressing Moscow to help rebuild the republic, whose formal economy and infrastructure were virtually destroyed. Russia continued to send money for the rehabilitation of the republic; it also provided pensions and funds for schools and hospitals. Most of these transfers were stolen by Chechen authorities and divided between favoured warlords. Nearly half a million people (40% of Chechnya's prewar population) have been internally displaced and lived in refugee camps or overcrowded villages. The economy was destroyed. Two Russian brigades were stationed in Chechnya and did not leave He took effort to rebuild the country and its devastated capital Grozny by trading oil in countries such as the United Kingdom.
Chechnya had been badly damaged by the war and the economy was in a shambles. Aslan Maskhadov tried to concentrate power in his hands to establish authority, but had trouble creating an effective state or a functioning economy.
The war ravages and lack of economic opportunities left numbers of armed former guerrillas with no occupation but further violence. Kidnappings, robberies, and killings of fellow Chechens and outsiders, most notably the killings of four employees of British Granger Telecom in 1998, weakened the possibilities of outside investment and Maskhadov's efforts to gain international recognition of its independence effort. Kidnappings became common in Chechnya, procuring over $200 million during the three year independence of the chaotic fledgling state, but victims were rarely killed. In 1998, 176 people had been kidnapped, and 90 of them had been released during the same year according to official accounts. There were several public executions of criminals.
Conceding to an armed and vocal minority movement in the opposition led by Movladi Udugov, in February 1999, Maskhadov declared The Islamic Republic of Ichkeria, and the Sharia system of justice was introduced. Maskhadov hoped that this would discredit the opposition, putting stability before his own ideological affinities. However, according to former Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov, the public primarily supported Maskhadov, his Independence Party, and their secularism. This was exemplified by the much greater numbers in political rallies supporting the government than those supporting the Islamist opposition. Akhmadov notes that the parliament, which was dominated by Maskhadov's own Independence Party, issued a public stating that President Maskhadov didn't have the constitutional authority to proclaim sharia law, and also condemning the opposition for "undermining the foundations of the state".
President Maskhadov started a major campaign against hostage-takers, and on October 25, 1998, Shadid Bargishev, Chechnya's top anti-kidnapping official, was killed in a remote controlled car bombing. Bargishev's colleagues then insisted they would not be intimidated by the attack and would go ahead with their offensive. Other anti-kidnapping officials blamed the attack on Bargishev's recent success in securing the release of several hostages, including 24 Russian soldiers and an English couple. Maskhadov blamed the rash of abductions in Chechnya on unidentified "outside forces" and their Chechen henchmen, allegedly those who joined Pro-Moscow forces during the second war.
Some of the kidnapped (most of whom were non-Chechens) were sold into indentured servitude to Chechen families. They were openly called slaves and had to endure starvation, beating, and often maiming.
The years of independence had some political violence as well. On December 10 Mansur Tagirov, Chechnya's top prosecutor, disappeared while returning to Grozny. On June 21 the Chechen security chief and a guerrilla commander fatally shot each other in an argument. The internal violence in Chechnya peaked on July 16, 1998, when fighting broke out between Maskhadov's National Guard force led by Sulim Yamadayev (who joined pro-Moscow forces in the second war) and militants in the town of Gudermes; over 50 people were reported killed and the state of emergency was declared in Chechnya.
Maskhadov proved unable to guarantee the security of the oil pipeline running across Chechnya from the Caspian Sea, and illegal oil tapping and acts of sabotage deprived his regime of crucial revenues and agitated his allies in Moscow. In 1998 and 1999 Maskhadov survived several assassination attempts, blamed on the Russian intelligence services.
Since the declaration of independence in 1991, there has been an ongoing battle between secessionist officials and federally appointed officials. Both claim authority over the same territory.
Since the fall of Grozny in 2000 some of the Ichkerian government was based in exile, including in Poland and the United Kingdom. On 23 January 2000 a diplomatic representation of Ichkeria was based in Kabul during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
On October 31, 2007, the separatist news agency Chechenpress reported that Dokka Umarov had announced the Caucasus Emirate and declared himself its Emir. He integrated the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as Vilayat Nokhchicho. This change of status was rejected by some Chechen politicians and military leaders who continue to support the existence of the republic. Since November 2007, Akhmed Zakayev says he is now the Prime Minister of Ichkeria's government in exile.
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