Fall of the Soviet Union
The Chechens were the most active opponents of Russia's nineteenth century conquest of the Caucasus -- and have resisted foreign occupation ever since. The demise of the Soviet Union gave Chechens another opportunity to assert their independence from Russia. Here, a demonstrator sledges away at the Berlin Wall while East German guards look on from above: November 11, 1989. CREDIT: Reuters
Dzhokhar Dudayev, a former general of the Soviet air force, was elected leader of the Chechen Republic in 1991, and quickly issued a unilateral declaration of independence from Russia. Tensions between Dudayev and the Russian government led to war in 1994. He was killed in 1996 by a Russian air attack. At right, standing behind Dudayev, is Dudayev's successor, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who in 2004 was assassinated by a car bomb in Qatar, where he was trying to rouse Muslim support for the Chechen cause. CREDIT: AP Photo/Misha Japaridze
First Chechen War
Russian troops invaded Chechnya in late-1994, destroying much of its largest city, Grozny. Some 25,000 people were killed in Grozny during a week-long air raid in January 1995. Although many areas came under Russian control that year, guerillas commanded the mountainous south and began adopting terrorist tactics. In this photo a woman from the Chechen city of Gudermes mourns her dead son in front of their home on December 27, 1995. Hundreds of civilians were killed in Gudermes over the course of eleven days of heavy fighting between Russian soldiers and separatist rebels, who took control of Chechnya's second largest city to disturb parliamentary elections. CREDIT: Reuters
In June 1995, Chechen forces raided a hospital in Budyonnovsk in southern Russia, took more than 1,000 hostages, and demanded a cease-fire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. Russian federal forces attempted to storm the hospital but were unsuccessful, and hundreds of civilians were killed. In part as a result of this incident, the Russian Federation began to withdraw from Chechnya and agreed to negotiate.
Death of a Dream
With casualties mounting and presidential elections on the horizon, President Boris Yeltsin's government finally agreed to a cease-fire in August 1996. Here, a Chechen refugee walks through the bombed-out capital of Chechnya on August 26. The woman had fled fighting the week prior and was returning to Grozny to find out whether her home had survived the battle.
Shamil Basayev, who led the 1995 raid on a hospital in Budyonnovsk, Russia, has also claimed responsibility for the Beslan school siege of September 2004. A Chechen separatist and an important shaper of the guerilla tactics employed during the first Chechen War, Basayev is now widely perceived as a terrorist. The Russian government has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Russian Apartment Bombings
Rescue workers clean up the rubble of an eight-story building that exploded in Moscow on September 13, 1999. The explosion was set off on the ground floor, killing 94 people inside and injuring 150 outside the apartment. The bombing was one of several that took place in Russia between August 31 and September 22, and which were supposedly organized by Chechen separatists. Almost 300 people were killed by the bombs, triggering the start of the Second Chechen War.
CREDIT: Reuters/ Sergei Karpukhin
In December 1999, then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin (left) listens to then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a meeting in the Kremlin. After Putin became president in 2000, Russia installed a government of pro-federal Chechens in local Chechen government offices. Putin has lobbied for a stronger Kremlin and less autonomy for regional leaders. Certain commentators have suggested his use of Chechen separatists and the rhetoric of a global "war against terror" to centralize power is increasingly authoritarian and may signify a shift away from pluralism and free speech.
In January 2003, a Russian soldier fires at a target from a position at the Terti border post in the rebel province of Chechnya. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the Chechen war to be over in 2002, but since then federal forces have continued to regularly battle Chechen rebels, and numerous acts of violence have been committed by separatists, including the siege of School No. 1 in 2004.