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Historical Introduction

The mountainous Caucasian region of Chechnya was colonized by Russia in 1859. After the Russian Empire crumbled, Chechnya became a part of the Mountainous Republic that was soon destroyed by the Red Army. To curb Chechen opposition, Communist authorities launched a wave of punitive operations. In 1931 alone, the NKVD admitted to have killed some 35.000 “enemies of the people” in Chechnya. In all, Chechnya lost almost 35% of its population during 1920–40. In 1944, Stalin had the remaining Chechen population of 520.000 deported to Eastern parts of the Soviet Union. Even Chechens fighting in the Red Army were arrested. Deportations were carried out ruthlessly: for example, 700 women, children and elderly were deemed non-transportable and burned alive in the town of Khaibachi. In some destinations, up to 70% of deportees perished in harsh living conditions. The remaining Chechens were allowed to return to their homeland after Stalin’s death. As the Soviet empire fell, Chechnya declared independence in 1991 and was attacked by Russian forces in 1994. The war lasted until 1996 and claimed 120.000 lives, or 12,5% of the total population. Chechnya’s economy was shattered and hundreds of thousands had been displaced. Another war followed in 1999–2000, crushing the independence movement and bringing Chechnya back under Russia’s control. This second war claimed at least 40.000 lives. After it formally ended, Chechnya was subjected to a terror regime that ran concentration camps and violated human rights on a massive scale.