Chechnya

Independence and autonomy are two words used to describe Chechnya. Recognized as a distinct people since the 17th cent., the Chechens were the most active opponents of Russia's conquest (1818–1917) of the Caucasus. They fought bitterly during an unsuccessful 1850s rebellion led by Imam Shamyl. After Soviet rule was reestablished, the area was included in 1921 in the Mountain People's Republic.

In 1991, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, the Chechen-dominated parliament of the republic declared independence as the Republic of Ichkeria, soon better known as Chechnya. Tensions between the Russian government and that of Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev escalated into warfare in late 1994, as Russian troops arrived to crush the separatist movement. Grozny was devastated in the fighting, and tens of thousands died.

The mountainous region has important oil deposits, as well as natural gas, limestone, gypsum, sulfur, and other minerals. The population, which is concentrated in the foothills, is predominantly Chechen. The Chechen, like the neighboring Ingush, are Sunni Muslim, and speak a Caucasian language.



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