Where is Chechnya?

The Chechen Republic is a federal subject (constituent entity of Russia, of which 83 exist) of Russia. It is located in Southeastern Europe in the North Caucasus mountains, and the capitol is the city of Grozny. Approximately 1,269,000 people live in Chechnya as measured by the 2010 census.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Chechen separatists attempted to secede from Russia and successfully gained de facto independence following the First Chechen War that raged from 1994-1996. On October 1, 1999, armed Russian troops re-entered Chechen territory and began a campaign to re-establish Russian control. Since the conclusion of the ensuing Second Chechen War, a systematic attempt at rebuilding the area has been conducted; however, Chechen separatist extremists remain Russia's number one terrorism problem with sporadic violence. In 2002, a hostage-taking attack on a Moscow theater killed 129. In 2004, a hostage-taking attempt involving explosives at a school in Beslan killed more than 330 people, many of them children.

Of the region's 1.3 million estimated residents, ethnic Chechens make up around 95%.

It is currently believed that the Boston Marathon terrorist attacks were carried out by a pair of Chechen brothers who moved to the U.S. about a decade ago. Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned the Boston Marathon attacks as a "disgusting" crime," saying that the detonation of the bombs at a packed sporting event made them "particularly disgusting."

Although a cursory review of Google news sees many references to Chechnya as a "breeding ground of terror," it is extremely important to keep in mind that Chechen extremism represents just one small segment of Chechen society. Like anyone else, the vast majority of Chechens simply want peace.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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