Russian History


Security Operations in Chechnya

The internal instability of the Soviet government during 1990-91 invited expressions of separatism in many of Russia's distinct ethnic enclaves, as well as in ethnically Russian districts in the Soviet Far East. The most volatile and troublesome area within the new Russian Federation was the North Caucasus, where the predominantly Muslim former Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic is located. A crisis had been building there for some time (see Movements Toward Sovereignty, ch. 4). In October 1991, a Chechen nationalist movement headed by former Soviet air force general Dzhokar Dudayev overthrew the existing government and installed Dudayev as president. Shortly thereafter, the Chechen Supreme Soviet declared Chechnya a sovereign republic.

Yeltsin responded by deploying Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) troops in the region, but the Russian Supreme Soviet declared the action invalid and ordered him to settle the conflict peaceably. The perceived indecision by the Russian government encouraged Chechen nationalists to pursue complete political independence and Russian recognition of that status. The Yeltsin administration was equally adamant in its refusal to negotiate until Chechnya redesignated itself part of the Russian Federation. Violence erupted in Chechnya on numerous occasions during 1993-94, and Russian security forces became fully involved in the conflict. In July 1994, a group of hostages taken by Chechen guerrillas near Pyatigorsk in Russian territory perished during an unsuccessful rescue operation by the MVD. The FSK armed Chechen opposition forces, which launched several unsuccessful attacks against the Dudayev government in the fall of 1994. When Russian conventional forces finally invaded Chechnya in December, they received substantial support from troops of the FSK, its successor the FSB, and the MVD. The FSB and MVD remained part of an uneasy occupation force through mid-1996 (see Chechnya, ch. 9).