Chechnya: before the war began

To continue the yesterday's topic of Chechnya, here's a link to the web-site of Yuri Kondratyev, also known as Roy Conrad, Russian-Canadian journalist who currently lives in Korea: Roy Conrad. Till 1993 he lived in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. In 2000 he wrote a book about his life in Grozny and why he had to leave. The book is available online: Grozny. A Few Days...

However, the book is not the only thing that deserves attention there. Roy Conrad has collected the testimonies of many former citizens of Chechnya: Russians, Jews, Ukrainians, Armenians and others, including Chechens. These accounts may explain why Russian army and police had to return to Chechnya on 11 December 1994. Here are some excerpts from this article titled "Russians! Don't leave, we need slaves!"

Mr. D. Gakuryan, former Grozny resident.

“In November 1994 my Chechen neighbors threatened me with gun and then kicked me out of the apt. and settled down there.”

Ms. P.Kuskova, former Grozny resident.

“On July 1, 1994 four Chechen teens broke my arm and raped me not far from “Red Hammer” plant when I was coming home from work.”

Ms. N. Trofimova, former Grozny resident.

“In September 1994 Chechens stormed my sisters apt. (Ms. Vishnyakova). They raped her in the presense of her children, beat her son and took away her 12-year old daughter Helen. She never returned home.

From 1993 my son has been severely beaten and robbed by Chechens.”

Ms. Khrapova, former Gudermes resident.

“In August 1992 our neighbor Mr. Sarkisyan and his wife were tortured and set on fire alive.”

Ms. Vdovchenko, former Grozny resident.

“Some days ago, early in the morning my neighbor, a KGB officer, Mr. Tolstenko, was kidnapped by armed Chechens. Later, his mutilated corpse was found. I was told about this by Ms. O.K.” (It really happened in Grozny in 1991)

Ms. Nazarenko, former Grozny resident.

“I stayed in Grozny until November, 1992. President Dudaev was indulgent towards all kinds of crimes against Russians and Chechens were never punished for that. Quite unexpectedly the principal of Grozny State University, Mr. Kan-Kalik disappeared. Later, his corpse was accidentally found in a forest in a pit. He was murdered because he didn’t want to quit his position.”

Ms. Chekulina, 1949 – y.o.b.

“I left Grozny in March, 1993. My son was robbed 5 times, his clothes taken. On his way to school, the Chechens beat him severely, broke his skull, threatened with knife. I was beaten and raped also only because I’m Russian. The Dean of my son’s faculty was murdered. Before our departure from Grozny, my son’s friend Max was killed.”

Ms. Yu. Plentyova, 1970 – y.o.b.

“In the summer of 1994 at 1 pm on Khrushchyov Square I witessed an execution of 2 Chechens, 1 Russian an 1 Korean. It was performed by 4 Dudaev’s guardsmen, who brought the above mentioned victims in foreign made cars. One car which was passing by during the execution was damaged and the driver sustained injuries.”

Mr. A. Fedyushkin, 1945 – y.o.b.

“In 1992 disguised armed Chechens hijacked my relative’s car in the village of Chervlyonnaya. In 1992 or 1993 2 armed Chechens tied up my wife (1949 – y.o.b.) and my older daughter (1973 – y.o.b.) and raped them, then they stole our TV, gas range and disappeared. The attackers were wearing masks.

In 1992 in the village of Chervlyonnaya my mother was robbed by some Chechens. They beat her and took away her icon, and a cross.

My brother’s neighbor went driving outside Chervlyonnaya village and disappeared. This car was later found in the mountains and his corpse – in the river 3 months later.”

Ms. Fefelova, former Grozny resident.

“Our neighbor’s daughter, a girl of 12 years old, was kidnapped by Chechens. Later, they started sending them pictures of her being raped and tortured. They demanded a ransom.”


Kyle & Svet Keeton said...


Emil Perhinschi said...

... so, what the hell happened in Chechnya ?

The breakup of Soviet Union was a very peaceful business, considering what happened with Yugoslavia. I used to live near the SU border (on the other side), and was watching Moskva1 TV channel (I guess it's called Ostankino now), and I know for sure that a huge amount of effort was put in ensuring that, as a guest to a talk show from '91 or '92 said, "Russia means those that want to stay", and that those that do not want to stay can separate peacefully: after all, most of the successor states have nothing to do with ethnicity or historical legitimacy or anything, but are only the internal administrative districts of (former) Soviet Union, and their borders were drawn to facilitate administration, not to respect some "national boundaries", and all of them separated on on peaceful terms.

What went wrong in Chechnya ?

Dmitri Minaev said...

Thanks for the good question, Emil. I am afraid that it has no answer. I have some hypotheses, but how close they are to the truth, I don't know.

The breakup of the USSR was relatively peaceful because by that time the Union was already unable to use force. The central government had no financial resources, the republics stopped to transfer the collected taxes to the central budget. The army and police were already controlled by the republican governments. As a matter of fact, the USSR as a state ceased to exist even before the republics proclaimed their sovereignty.

As Yegor Gaidar wrote in his "Death of the Empire", the governments of the republics were mostly comprised of the Soviet apparatchiks and communists, who needed to confirm their legitimacy and gain the popular support. The fastest way to reach their goals was to leverage the nationalist agenda. This provoked the rise of nationalism and separatism within these new states. Or, at least, in those where a large part of the population belonged to an ethnic group other than the main nation (besides Russians): Abkhazians and Ossetians in Georgia, Armenians in Azerbaijan, Chechens, Tatars and Bashkirs in Russia, Crimean Tatars in Ukraine. Even in Lithuania there was a short period of the rise of Polish separatism.

But when these territories wished to secede from the new-born countries, they had to oppose weak, but properly functioning new states that had enough resources to protect their territorial integrity. Some of them failed (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldavia). Russia almost failed, but finally it was able to gather enough resources to re-claim the lost territory.

(There was a special case in Moldavia, where the republican government followed the patterns of the other republics, but the separatist movement was based on the political, rather than ethnic, identity.)

The separatist movements in Russia were also provoked by the Russian government, when Yeltsin coined his famous "Take as much sovereignty as you can". He intended, probably, to decrease the pressure on the federal budget by pushing the members of the federation towards self-sustainability, but this statement was interpreted as a permission to secede.

However, why it was Chechnya where the violence took the most tragic forms, I cannot tell. Perhaps, something to do with the person of Dzhokhar Dudayev...