I have compiled some very good references that address the individual
questions you have asked. Due to the broad nature of this subject
matter, I have only excerpted a few of the most pertinent paragraphs
under each topic. If you read the references I have posted in their
entirety, you should have a very good understanding of the conflict in
*** Please keep in mind that there is a lot of propaganda and biased
material on the web. I did not include any overly opinionated
references, but you might want to pursue the search further now that
you have some objective background.
BACKGROUND ON THE CHECHEN WAR AND ISLAMIC INTERESTS
Some very thorough background on the Chechen War can be found in the
references below. I have excerpted some of the pertinent paragraphs
that touch on the Islamic history and growing militism in Chechyna.
From "Crisis in Chechnya."
"Recognized as a distinct people since the 17th century, Chechens were
active opponents of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus during the
period 1818-1917. In 1858 Russia defeated leader Imam Shamil and his
fighters who were aiming to establish an Islamic state. After the 1917
Russian Revolution, a declaration of independence by the Chechens was
met with occupation from the Bolsheviks who later established the
Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Region in 1924. In the mid-1930s, it became
an autonomous republic.
* "Like their Ingush neighbors, Chechens are predominantly Sunni
Muslim. As well as different cultural and religious beliefs, as for
any group of people throughout history subdued by external rule or
empire, external rule first by the brutal Russian Czarist empire and
then by the Soviets, was unpopular and tenuous."
"During World War II, Chechen and Ingush units collaborated with the
invading German Nazis. As a result, in 1944 Stalin deported many
residents to Central Asia and Siberia. The context of the deportation
and hostility towards the Chechens is important."
"With the death of Stalin in 1953, deportees were repatriated in 1956,
and the republic was reestablished in 1957."
"This legacy helps explain why Chechen nationalism has been more
radical and anti-Russian than that of Russia's other Muslim ethnic
"The aftermath of the 1994-96 war further eroded the Chechen
government's control over the militias, while local warlords gained
strength. The destroyed Chechen economy left armed but unemployed
Chechens. Brutalized by war and atrocities committed by Russian
troops, they were easily radicalized.
** The Soviet-Afghan war had attracted Islamic militants as well as
resistance fighters to Chechnya and neighboring Dagestan, emboldened
because the area was free of Russian military
"Dudayev, killed in a 1995 Russian rocket attack was replaced by
Aslan Maskhadov, elected in 1997. At the beginning of 1999, Maskhadov
declared Islamic Shari'ah law, to be phased in over the next three
years. Some former rebel commanders announced a rival body to govern
Chechnya, also based on Shari'ah law, calling on Maskhadov to resign,
hinting at internal conflicts.
"Around mid-1999, Moscow accused the Chechen leadership of supporting
extremist Islamic militants in Dagestan. While denied by the
government, local warlords (mostly independent of the central
government) did support militant Islamic groups there."
An excellent year-by-year history of the Chechen conflict can be found
in the following document:
Background Information on Chechnya: A study by Alexander Iskandarian."
Dec. 2000. http://www.ecoi.net/pub/mv121_chya-bg2000-iskandarian.pdf
Excerpts concerning Islamic interests:
"Chechens call themselves "Nakhcho". Their language belongs to the
Nakh-Dagestan group within the North Caucasian language family. By
religion, Chechens are Sunni Moslems. Traditionally, there were two
Sufi trends in Chechnya, Nakshbandiya and Kadyriya. Over the last
decade, a new Islamic trend, so-called "Wahhabism", has been gaining
** Read further about the early history of Chechen conflict along with
a very detailed history of events through 1999 and the surge of
After the First Chechen conflict of 1994-1996:
Rise of Islamic Militism:
"One of the consequences was the surge of Islamic extremism that the
press usually wrongly refers to as ?Wahhabism?. From the extremists?
point of view, the Islamic trends that are traditional in Chechnya
disagree with ?true Islam?; they try to replace ethnic nationalism
with ?Al Umma Al Islamia?, the Nation of Islam, whereas the conflict
between Russia and the Chechens is seen as an inter-religious conflict
between Christianity and Islam. The religious vision evolves into a
primitive kind of political ideology used as an instrument for
explaining away the confrontation. Besides other things, religious
extremists get access to financial support from those foundations
abroad, usually in the Middle East, which uphold that kind of ideology. Chechen
combatants are divided according to their attitudes to extremist
Islam. Military leaders Basaev and Arsanov and ideologists Udugov and
Yandarbiev tend to favour the ?Wahhabites?. Maskhadov and, until
recent times, Kadyrov have supported the traditional forms of Islam,
"From the religious point of view, genuine Wahhabism (owing its name
to 18th century Arabian preacher Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab at-Tamimi)
is the basis of the official Islamic religion in Saudi Arabia. It has
nothing to do with the Northern Caucasus with its completely different
religious tradition. Islamic theologians usually refer to the Northern
Caucasian ?Wahhabites? as ?Salafites?, meaning people who call for
restoration of early Islamic ethics. ?Wahhabism? in the Northern
Caucasus is in fact very heterogeneous. The term is used to refer to
various religious groups that have one thing in common: they reject
the ?old? traditional Islamic faith and try to restore a ?true?
Islamic faith, which had supposedly existed in the 7th and 8th
centuries. The religious trends are usually highly politicised,
preaching Islam as a primitive radical political ideology of a
confrontational anti-Jewish and anti-Christian kind. ?Wahhabism? is
used as a derogatory term, the ?Wahhabites? never call themselves
"On February 3, 1999, Maskhadov made a decree proclaiming Shari?a law
in Chechnya. He was thus trying to get an upper hand over the Islamic
extremists in the same ideology field, but his manoeuvres were
understood as an acknowledgement of impotence and lost him what
authority he had had outside the city of Grozny."
The Second Chechen conflict of 1999:
"The second Chechen war started in August 1999, after armed groups of Chechen
radicals invaded Dagestan. Backed by local ?Wahhabites?, they managed to seize
control over a dozen villages in the Tsumadi region of highland Avaria.......
The Nature of the Current Conflict:
"The 1999-2000 war is in fact different from the first one. This time,
Chechen resistance was totally decentralised, there was in fact no
"Decentralisation has become the major feature of the Chechen
resistance as well as of every aspect of life in Chechnya. Chechnya is
no longer one body, whether social, economic, cultural or political.
Communication, even between villages, has become a problem. The
confrontation has fully evolved into a guerrilla war as predicted by
most experts. The causes are clear enough: this style of fighting does
not require many financial or human resources, it is much more
?rewarding? in the way it works to terrorise the enemy and the way it
is covered by the media."
"The sub-culture of ?Shehids? (martyrs of faith) already existing in
Chechnya shall continue to produce new combatants for the guerrilla
groups. The war itself is quite efficient in producing this
sub-culture: Russian military, unable to revenge their fellow
soldiers, abuse civilians, thus adding to the numbers of those willing
to fight. The term ?civilians? as applied to Chechnya is fairly
stretched. The social structure of the resistance is very flexible;
besides ?professional? Mojaheds, of which there are perhaps several
thousand, there are many people who fight once in a while or passively
support the combatants, giving them food and shelter. To an extent,
almost the entire populace is the reserve of resistance. This
structure is very stable and can remain in place for years."
"Although few people are prepared to act as kamikaze, the existing system of
regeneration of combatants ensures that the guerrilla war goes on,
growing younger as it does: many of today?s combatants are
16-17-year-olds for whom war is the only lifestyle they have even
known. They have little or no education; they no longer have their
fathers? Soviet background, nor do they belong to the Russian cultural
area. Their cultural references are a blend of archaic local
traditions and a ?primitivised? Near Eastern Islamic tradition. The
new generation?s motive for war is no longer independence from
imperial Russia, but a fight against ?infidels? modelled on Islamic
radical movements of the Near East. In the absence of a ?common
language?, the new generation will be much more difficult for Russia
to negotiate with than the one that is
currently in power."
Read further, including the Author's opinion and conclusion about the
future of resolving the Chechen conflict.....
IMPORTANCE OF CHECHNYA TO RUSSIA
Please keep in mind that the following are "opinions" concerning the
Russian interest in Chechnya!
From "A Chechnya Primer."
Why is Chechnya important to Russia?
"Wedged between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus region
is the conduit for the lucrative Caspian Sea oil pipeline and also
offers Russia important access to sea and trade routes. More than 1
million ethnic Russians live in the Caucasus region, which is
integrated into the Russian economy. Chechnya is only one of 37 hot
spots in a region where ethnic minorities are threatening to rebel
against Moscow's rule, and Russia fears that losing it might open the
floodgates to a widespread challenge to its territorial integrity."
From "CONFLICT IN CHECHNYA." Online NewsHour. PBS
Q. "Do you feel that the Russian government's main interest in
Chechnya has been the oil line that runs through the territory? This
has been proposed by various commentators on the situation, but I
wonder how this argument would still hold up based on the new pipe
line that has been constructed to bypass Chechnya."
A. As you say, the pipeline from the Caspian Sea now loops round
Chechnya and it is no longer a major oil centre. Its refineries used
to make Chechnya one of the major centres of the oil industry and
Soviet days and the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline gave it added
importance. There is still a kind of backyard oil industry in
Chechnya, produced in what the locals call "mini-refineries,"
primitive extraction units that give out bad quality oil (very
damaging to health and the environment by the way) and earn locals and
corrupt soldiers useful cash. But that it is not a major strategic
factor. In researching the chapters of my book on the causes of the
first Chechen war in 1994, I was struck by how no one talked about
oil. Russian politics is a very short-sighted business and I think the
war mostly had to do with internal Kremlin politics and the desire of
the hawks around President Boris Yeltsin to have him win a "small
victorious war" and boost his popularity ratings." (Mr. de Waal is
editor of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting's weekly Caucasus
From "Roots of Chechen Rebellion Embedded in Russian History," by Donald Smith
Environmental News Network. February 17, 2000
"In the case of Chechnya, Russia has an economic interest in railways
and oil pipelines that run through the country. More generally, it
fears that allowing an ethnic minority to break away could lead to
fragmentation of the federation, resulting in ever escalating ethnic
From "Russia's second Afghanistan," By Dr Michael A Weinstein. Asia
Times Online. Sept. 9, 2004.
"Russia has a vital security interest in maintaining its territorial
integrity and discouraging bids for autonomy in republics where ethnic
Russians are a minority, particularly in the Caucasus. Rebel movements
have sprung up in neighboring Ingushetia, which has ethnic and
religious ties to Chechnya. Inter-clan conflict has arisen in the
republic of Dagestan and there have been recent reported incidents of
armed confrontations with security forces in the republic of
Kabardino-Balkaria. A generous grant of autonomy by Moscow to Chechnya
might not result in effective separatist movements elsewhere, but it
would be highly likely to create instability in the region."
"Finally, Russia has a vital strategic interest in maintaining control
over the northern Caucasus region and expanding its influence into the
southern Caucasus to break American encirclement through Georgia and
Azerbaijan, and prevent the US from monopolizing Caspian Sea oil. De
jure or de facto separation of Chechnya from Russia would be a major
setback to core Russian strategic aims."
GOALS OF THE ISLAMIC MILITANTS
From "Dagestan: Isolated Incident or Beginning of a Chain Reaction?"
The Estimate. 1999. http://www.theestimate.com/public/082799.html
"But in many ways the wars of the northern Caucasus, first in Chechnya
and then in Dagestan, do bear comparison with the long resistance of
the last century. In both cases an Islamic revival is seeking to
challenge Russian domination; in both cases rugged mountain fighters
have been able to stand off much more modern armies in their mountain
"Many Chechens, including Basayev and some of his allied fellow
warlords, have long talked of spreading their Islamic revolution to
the rest of the Northern Caucasus. Basayev himself, and many other
Chechens, have fought against Georgia in Abkhazia. Many dream of a
mountain republic on Islamic principles stretching from the Black Sea
to the Caspian."
"How realistic is that dream? Before Chechnya in effect won its
independence from Russia in the war of 1994-96, it would have seemed
impossible. It is still going to be difficult to achieve. Russia is a
decrepit, declining state in many ways, but it is going to fight for
key national interests, of which the pipeline from Azerbaijan to
Novorossisk is perhaps the most important. Chechen guerrillas have
frequently interrupted that pipeline, but never stopped it for good.
And Russia did, eventually, recover some of the lost villages in
Dagestan, albeit at a cost, and with the rebels themselves
unilaterally deciding to withdraw and fight again another day, on
"But perhaps the biggest obstacle to a successful unification of North
Caucasian Muslims is the diversity and division of the region itself.
More about the present-day Islamic militants and their goals can be
found in the following article, which is also referenced under the
section on Putin.
From "THE CHECHEN WARS-2005 BACKGROUNDER," by Paul Tumelty. American
Committee for Peace in Chechnya. January 2005
"Rebel forces are reduced in strength compared with the first war and
number up to 2000 fighters, with many others participating
opportunistically. Rebel command structure has become more
decentralised with less co-ordination between commanders and greater
numbers of small groups of fighters operating on a semi-autonomous,
low intensity basis. Fighters are usually grouped with extended family
and friends, or according to clan, or teip, affiliation, though these
attributes have been distorted given the length of the conflict and
the relative attrition rates. Many of the more famous commanders have
also been killed during the second war but subordinates have quickly
assumed their positions and much of the local population remains
"The rebels have also experienced an ideological split between the
nationalist-separatist cause and that of the Islamists, personified by
Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev respectively. Increasingly
extremist methods, manifested in the multiple suicide bombings and the
tragedy in Beslan suggest that the balance of power now lies in the
Islamists' favour. Having known nothing but conflict since early
childhood, to many young men Islamist commanders are the source of
authority which more closely resonates with their own experiences. To
this generation, pre-war Chechen societal traditions have not applied
as they did to others in the recent past and the authority and
moderation of both Chechen Elders and the nationalist-separatist
rebels no longer holds sway. However, on the ground, any distinctions
between different rebel groups are irrelevant as the fighting persists
and Maskhadov - while condemning extremist actions - relies on those
loyal to Basayev to continue fighting."
"Still, the more extreme character of rebel methods is significant in
other respects, as increasing radicalisation, as well as the presence
of a small, though visible number of Arab fighters, allows President
Putin to link the conflict in Chechnya to the global war against
Al-Qa'idah. In reality Chechnya is a central feature of external
Islamist propaganda and Gulf based organizations have donated money to
Chechen rebels. However, the Arab fighters in Chechnya were
established well before Usamah Bin-Ladin became a household name and
there is yet to be any concrete linkage between a single Arab
commander in Chechnya and Al Qa'idah."
Also read "Chechen militants threaten increased terrorism," by Tamara
Makarenko. Terrorism and Insurgency. April 2003.
From "THE CHECHEN WARS-2005 BACKGROUNDER," by Paul Tumelty. American
Committee for Peace in Chechnya. January 2005
* Though I have excerpted a few paragraphs, the following article also
provides a very good overview of the historical conflict, so please
read it in it's entirety!
"Chechnya has also become a central feature of Russian foreign policy
as President Putin - who has forged his political career on the
conflict - repeatedly portrays it as Russia's front in the
post-September 11 "war on terrorism." The reality is more complex, but
the events in Beslan buttress the Kremlin's line and demonstrate, in
some respects, how the conflict has developed since the first war of
1994 -1996. Then, the Chechen rebels were largely unified under the
separatist banner, but now the more secular nationalist-separatists
are increasingly hostage to and marginalized by the Islamist factions
while the republic is ruled by a pro-Moscow Chechen government waging
war against sections of its own population."
"The second war - labelled as a "counter-terrorism" operation from the
start - has resulted in the adoption of more extreme methods, with the
widespread and systematic violation of human rights and the
indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians by both sides. The
obstruction of all independent media from the type of coverage which
dented Yeltsin in opinion polls bred a culture of impunity among
Russian troops during "zachistki," or, cleansing operations, when
entire districts were blockaded and inhabitants suspected of collusion
with the rebels arrested and taken to filtration camps."
"The Putin administration - which has maintained consistently high
ratings in opinion polls since late 1999 - has aimed to present the
war as over. To do this the Kremlin has attempted to "Chechenize" its
military operations, essentially passing operational control from the
Ministry of Defence to the Federal Security Service to the pro-Moscow
Chechen administration and Interior Ministry who now officially rule
the republic. Still, some 70,000 Russian troops remain stationed in
the North Caucasus region."
"In 2000, in the first step of the "Chechenization" process, Putin
appointed Akhmed Kadyrov, former Mufti of Chechnya, as interim head of
a new Chechen administration. Kadyrov fought against federal forces
during the first war but opposed the renewed fighting in revulsion at
what he saw as foreign elements - Wahhabism - influencing the rebels
and destroying Chechen traditions. Against the backdrop of the ongoing
conflict he was elected president in October 2003 in elections widely
regarded as rigged but was assassinated in a bombing at the Dynamo
stadium in Groznyy in May the following year."
"In October 2004 Kadyrov was succeeded by Colonel Alu Alkhanov in
presidential elections also viewed as manipulated by the Kremlin. Real
power, however, resides with Ramzan Kadyrov, Akhmed's son, who was
passed over as a presidential candidate after his father's death due
to age. He commands a presidential security force and has accumulated
positions as First Deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya, presidential
security adviser to the southern Federal District of Russia and,
following his most recent appointment, now controls federal finances
in the republic. High level sources in Moscow privately balk at his
growing status, yet even Alu Alkhanov has stated that his own position
is temporary as he awaits Ramzan's coming of age."
"Also on side are the 15,000 strong pro-Moscow Chechen Interior
Ministry troops pitted against the rebels and changing the dynamic of
the second war compared to the first, with the situation now more
closely resembling a civil war scenario. The lines of division are
blurred even further by amnestied rebels who switch sides to the
Interior Ministry in search of a regular income."
Some further "opinions" about Putin's role in the Chechen conflict can
be found in the follwing article:
"The Forgotten War: Chechnya and Russia's Future," by Dmitri V.
Trenin. Carnegie Moscow Center. 2003.
"Is Russia Really Fighting 'Terror' in Chechnya?" By Matthew Riemer.
Power and Interest News Report. June 9, 2003
You have a lot of information to read through here, but I trust you
will gain a good understanding of the Chechen conflict, Putin's role
and the rise of Islamic militism after you are done!
background of islamic revolution in Chechnya
importance of Chechnya to Russia
Putin and Chechnya
russian interest in Chechnya