In Russia’s North Caucus region, the federal subject of Chechnya has been the scene of conflict between separatists and the government of Russia for decades. Originally a nationalist movement wanting to separate from the former Soviet Union’s unyielding communist control, the rebels of Chechnya later on become more defined by Islam. After World War II, Joseph Stalin deported many of the Chechen ethnicity to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The uncle of the Tsarnaev Brothers said that they were both born in Kyrgyzstan.
Chechnya is part of the Caucasus region, which is neighbor to and encompasses part of Russia.
Two key military interventions on Russia’s behalf make up their rather violent history. In 1994, Russian President Boris Yeltsin sent troops into Chechnya to rid of its separatist leader, Dzhokhar Dudayev who was killed two years later after being targeted by two laser-guided missiles. The war also took the lives of many Chechen citizens as well as Russian troops. A peace agreement in 1996 brought an end to the war and gave Chechnya autonomy.
The Invasion of Dagestan in 1999 by the Islamic International Brigade (IIB) based in Chechnya was lead by Shamil Basayev and Ibn al-Khattab. The IIB have been said to hold ties with the likes of Al-Qaeda. Their troops invaded Dagestan in favor of the separatist movement forming there. The victory of Russian in halting the progress of the militant Islamists brought about the Second Chechnya War in 1999. The war lasted for over nine years, overseen by President Vladimir Putin. Casualties of Chechen civilians have been estimated to be up to 50,000 with Russian numbers over 5,000.
In 2001, Russia tied its efforts of defeating Chechen rebels to that of the grand scale “war on terrorism.” However, the names of Iraq and Afghanistan circulated the media more so by comparison.
The current leader of the Chechnya Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, was a former rebel is said to now be pro-Moscow and responsible for the relative inactivity of the Chechen separatists. His counter-terrorism has been criticized as harsh and violating human rights.