Chechnya is coming into the limelight after the alleged Boston bombers brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were identified as Chechen.
So where and what is Chechnya?
Chechnya was part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991. Located on the northern side of some of Russia’s highest mountains, the Caucasus Mountains, it is part of what is commonly referred to as the northern ‘Caucasus’ region. Chechnya has approximately 1.3 million residents most of which are Muslim living on 6,600 square miles of land. Three languages dominate the region, Russian, English and the native Nochi Mott language. Chechnya has never been in favor with the Soviet Union so much so that dictator Joseph Stalin deported the entire population during World War II to Asia – over 100,000 Chechens died during the deportation.
Separatists have been fighting Russia for its independence since the early 1990’s. It is considered a deeply troubled part of the world, that has seen tens of thousands of killings and as a result many flee Chechnya as refugees. Chechnya is often listed as one of the most repressive countries along with North Korea and Burma.
It is believed many of the members of the Tsarnaev family were granted asylum in the U.S. as a result of the contentious situation in Chechnya. The country also has a terrible record on human rights.
The long legacy of violence in the country has created Chechen rebels for hire and ideological warriors. Many Islamic organizations have recruited Chechens to fight in regional hot zones like Bosnia in the 1990’s and Afghanistan currently. Chechen rebels have focused their acts of terror against their own people and Russians.
There are two horrific acts of terror that stand out amongst the countless acts of violence in the region. In 2004 Chechen rebels took over a school in the nearby town of Beslan for over three-days that resulted in the killing of 300 individuals most of which were children. In 2010 Chechen rebels claimed to have bombed a Moscow subway killing over 40 people.
Leaders of the movement for Chechen independence have become heroes to many including apparently the Tsarnaev family. Bombing suspect Dzhokhar shares his name with the first president of independent Chechnya, Dzhokhar Dudayev, a former Soviet military general.
Since 2003 Russia imposed its will on Chechnya by creating the ‘Head of the Chechen Republic’ which serves as the ultimate ruler of the region and is required to be of Russian origins. Currently pro-Moscow Ramzan Kadyrov holds the office since 2007. Kadyrov immediately separated Chechnya from the allege bombers, blaming their American upbringing on their crime spree instead of their Chechen roots. This coming from a man who has a horrific human rights record, allegation of fiscal and sexual improprieties and approves of honor killings of women since they are deemed property of their husband.