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Understanding Chechens’ Insurgency – Analysis

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The Chechens are the inhabitants of the Chechnya Republic. Historically, Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation located in the North-East Caucasus region of Europe near the Caspian Sea. The breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1991 caused the Chechen ethnic groups to break into two major groups; the Republic of Ingushetia and the Chechen Republic of Muslim majority. The Ingushetia gained independence from Russia, and the Chechens Republic is still fighting to secede from Russia.  Even though Chechnya gained actual independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Moscow reinstated Russian Federation power in the Second Chechen War of 1999–2000. Subsequent to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there has been an Islamic uprising in Chechnya until today. It resulted in sporadic guerrilla attacks that persisted in the mountains and southern areas. 

Pakistan, Turkey, and Iran provided training to Chechen fighters. The Chechens employed Guerilla warfare tactics and snipers to attack Russians from trees, buildings, and the ground. Muslim ideology was applied in the Chechen first war. Young Chechens wore green bandeaus with messages from the Koran. Finances used by Chechens were obtained from Pakistan’s ISI, Islamic charities, and the Russian Mafia. The Fighters were organized into small clan-based groups that were easy to coordinate. Russian helicopters would be enticed into combat areas and attacked through snipers and machine guns. Yeltsin was the most disputed leader in Russia’s history. He tried to conduct mediation with Chechens, but they took advantage and organized their troops effectively. Chechens destroyed Russian pipelines to destroy its resources and its economy. 

Creation of Strategic Depth and Support

Turkey acted as a home for Chechen refugees of war. Istanbul was a base for the Chechen military and their families. In addition to these, Turkey was a training ground for Chechen fighters. Intelligence services of Pakistan offered training to Chechen soldiers on training grounds of Pakistan. During the first Chechen war, Pakistan was the first to criticize the Russian military. Although Pakistan denied the presence of its citizens in Chechen, it made a statement that it sympathized with Chechen citizens. Iranians also provided training to Chechen fighters. Although only a small number of Chechens, Russia considered it a collaboration between Iran and Chechen.

The Chechens are a group of Asian origin; their name originates from a village known as Chechen-Aul. Their other name is “Vainakh,” meaning “our people.” The source of the war between Russia and the Chechens traces back to more than a hundred years ago. Studies had, however, shown that the tension started when Chechnya wanted to be an independent state during the breaking up of the Soviet Union. Chechens gained strength through successful war tactics such as Guerilla warfare in the forest. Russian fighters moved in big groups, and Chechens would attack them from every side, stopping them from forming successful defense units. The Chechens also used snipers to shoot at Russians from both the ground and trees. These snipers changed positions frequently to avoid being spotted (Dent, 2017). Women have been used as suicide attackers. These women executed attacks by carrying bags filled with bombs and driving trucks with explosives, and even exploding themselves on planes. Chechnya is a group that has connections abroad; financial aid is given to them by other Muslim groups. 

Ideology Appeal and Support created

The Muslim ideology was put to practice in the first Chechen war. The war was based on the Quran verses’ political and spiritual interpretation advocating for the armed fight against people who occupy Islamic areas. The notion of militant Jihad is; fighting against any non-Muslims within the Chechen area. Green bandeaus with statements extracted from the Koran were worn by minor Chechens who swore to war against non-Muslims without care about their lives. Therefore, many guerilla attacks were executed by people with green headbands, indicating the Islamic spirit. The influential people considered their power as the only way to protect Muslim virtues. Maskhadov, an elected leader, implemented the Sharia law by coming up with Shari’s defense ministry. 

Sources of Finances

Money used by Chechens was sneaked in by wealthy private business persons. They also contributed significant amounts to fund-raising. Chechens also participated in trafficking narcotics; in some regions of Russia and Central Asia. Profits from Narcotics financed the terrorist activities of the Chechens and tapping some oil pipes. In addition to this, the Russian Mafia financed some of Chechens’ operations. The Russian government and its agencies using Mafia executives to conduct criminal activities that the government cannot do on its own. An example of such an event is smuggling firearms. Pakistan’s ISI actively participates in and supported terrorist activities in the name of Pakistan’s interests. Islamic Charities also financed the Chechens; Pete Seda, the director of a Muslim charity organization, offered $130.000 to a company that needed its degree holders to carry out terrorist activities. 

Force Multipliers Created at the Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Level

The Chechens were trained by a former major of the Russian Special Forces called Daniil Martynov. He defied his group’s interests and instead went for a profit-making contract with the Chechens. An effective tactic by the Chechens is their social establishments. They move from their homes to battlefields to provide moral aid. At home, fighters share their latest encounters with Russians with other clans. Clan-based military groups have been successful in the war against Russians. In towns, Chechen units fight by attacking the leading and last vehicles and engaging the remaining ones in gunfights; this way, they can disable Russian troops (Ekinci, 2017). Furthermore, Chechens enticed Russian helicopters to pre-determined combat areas to attack them. The small Chechen military units were waiting for the Russian helicopters and ambush them in the kill zone using snipers and machine guns.  

Strategic Targeting Rather Than Operational Targeting

Yeltsin was the most disputed leader in the history of Russia; he is known as the person who individually killed the Soviet Union. He asked other government leaders to negotiate with the Chechens on his behalf. The Chechens, however, took advantage by setting their forces in strategic positions for attack. Chechens mainly targeted Russia’s oil lines and pipelines; There were explosions in the Caucasian Republic that destroyed part of the pipeline used to export gas. This accounted for the fourth attack on Russian pipelines (Souleimanov & Aliyev 2017). The assaults on pipelines aimed to destroy Russia’s resources and capabilities and, consequently, its economy. Chechens also stole oil and gasoline from Russia; the revenue from the sale of this oil was used to purchase firearms. 

Conclusion

Pakistan, Turkey, and Iran supported Chechens by training their fighters and providing them with a training ground. Chechens practiced Guerilla warfare maneuvers, and they attacked Russians by using snipers from the field, buildings and trees. The Muslim ideology was practiced in Chechen’s first war where young Chechens put on green bandeaus with Koran messages on them. These young Chechens swore to fight without care for their lives. Chechens acquired finances from Pakistan’s ISI, who did it in the name of supporting Pakistan’s interests. Muslim charity organizations and the Russian Mafia also financed them. Yeltsin was the most disputed leader in Russia; he tried negotiating with Chechens, but they took advantage and set up their troops in strategic positions. The Chechens also attacked Russia’s pipelines to destroy its resources and disable its economy. The situation on the ground remains unresolved and more negotiation still needs to be done to settle the dispute.  

References

Dube, D. (2016). Portrayals of Chechen Identity During the Second Chechen War.

Ekinci, D. (2017). Russia-Turkey Relations (1991–2016): Diverging Interests and Compelling Realities. In Turkish Foreign Policy (pp. 151-172). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Silinsky, M. (2016). The Taliban, Affiliated Insurgent Groups, and Pakistan and Iran. Security Issues in the Greater Middle East, 249.

Souleimanov, E. A., & Aliyev, H. (2017). How Socio-Cultural Codes Shaped Violent Mobilization and Pro-Insurgent Support in the Chechen Wars. Springer.

Wibben, A. T. (Ed.). (2016). Researching war: Feminist methods, ethics, and politics. Routledge.

Shay, S. (2017). Islamic terror and the Balkans. Routledge.

Steve Alexander. Russian Urban Warfare in Chechnya in 1996.  “Russian Urban Warfare in Chechnya” Retrieved on September 16, 2019

Dent, M. J. (2017). Chechnya in the Russian Republic. In Identity Politics (pp. 157-166). Routledge.

Dr. Mustapha Kulungu

Dr. Mustapha Kulungu is the Principal Researcher at the ILM Foundation Institute of Los Angeles, California. He graduated from Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, California.

One thought on “Understanding Chechens’ Insurgency – Analysis

  • May 30, 2021 at 9:40 pm
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    The uprise of the Cheshen people against Russia dates three centuries back. It did not start with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. However, the fall of the Soviet Union gave the Chechns an incentive to seek independence like many other Soviet republics. There is nothing in common between Chechens and Russians. They fought for three centuries.

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