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Vol. 72/No. 34      September 1, 2008

Wars in Chechnya revealed
Moscow’s chauvinism
Russian officials peddle Moscow’s invasion of Georgia as a defense of the rights of the Ossetian people. However, the brutality of the Russian government’s wars against the people of Chechnya in the 1990s displayed Moscow’s real stance toward the rights of oppressed peoples.

Chechnya’s population is largely Muslim, and is situated along Georgia’s northeastern border in the Caucasus mountain region. The toilers in Chechnya have a long history of resistance to Russian domination.

In the early 1990s, the Stalinist bureaucratic regimes of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union shattered, creating a new opening for the struggle of the Chechen people. Chechnya declared its independence in 1991.

On Dec. 11, 1994, 40,000 Russian troops invaded Chechnya in what then-president Boris Yeltsin of Russia claimed was a war against “Islamic fanaticism.” Washington and other imperialist powers backed Moscow’s action with an eye toward suppressing political unrest in the region that could upset plans to restore capitalist property relations. They said the invasion was an “internal affair.”

Chechens continued to resist Russian military incursions through 1996, when Yeltsin was forced to sign a cease-fire agreement, granting Chechnya de facto self-government.

Despite the agreement, Moscow did not officially recognize Chechen independence and launched another invasion in 1999, deploying 100,000 troops this time.

Sustained shelling throughout both conflicts left Chechnya’s capital in ruins. During a Dec. 16, 2000, invasion of that city, thousands of Chechen fighters defended the city against Russian tanks and military personnel. On March 3, 2000, United Nations personnel described the aftermath as a “devastated and still insecure wasteland, littered with grenades and bodies.”

The 11,000 hospital beds in the country in the early 1990s had been reduced to 2,200 by 2000. The oil industry, which had previously employed 6,000 workers, was now reduced to a workforce of 500.

Some 30,000 Chechens were killed in the course of Moscow’s two invasions.

Under tsarist rule, the peoples of the Caucasus, including Ukrainians, Jews, Central Asian peoples, and others were denied basic rights of language, religion, and control of cultural, economic, and political affairs.

The October 1917 Bolshevik-led Russian Revolution decisively ended the tsarist empire and broke the domination of capitalist and landlord social relations. The Bolsheviks championed the right to self-determination of oppressed nationalities, which was a decisive element in the alliance between workers and peasants—a driving force of the revolution. Federation in the new union of socialist republics was on a voluntary basis, with nations having the right to secede.

However, a political counterrevolution led by a bureaucratic caste headed by Joseph Stalin reversed this course. Chechnya retained formal autonomy, but in reality was subject to police repression and political dominance by Moscow.
Related articles:
Russian troops out of Georgia!
Invading Russian troops dig in
How Lenin fought to defend Georgia’s self-determination
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