Chechen Republic (che-CHEN) or Chechnya (CHECH-nyah). Located in southeast Russia, the Chechen Republic covers a land area (area: 7,452 sq mi/19,301 sq km) slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey. Chechnya’s population, estimated at 1.3 million in 1990, consists mainly of Chechen (50%), Russians (20%), and Ingush (10%) inhabitants. Both the Chechen and the Ingush are Sunni Muslims and speak a Caucasian language.
The first Russian invasion of Chechnya occurred during the time of Peter the Great, in the early eighteenth century. After a long series of fierce battles and bloody massacres, Chechnya was incorporated into Russia in the 1870s. In 1936 Stalin created the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic but in 1944 he deported more than 1 million Chechens, Ingush, and other North Caucasian peoples to Siberia and Central Asia on the pretext that they had collaborated with the Nazis. The deportees were returned to the Caucasus in 1956, and the republic was reestablished in 1957.
In 1991 the parliament of the republic declared Chechen-Ingush’s independence from Russia. Russian President Boris Yeltsin sent troops to Chechen-Ingush to prevent the republic from seceding. In late 1994 and early 1995, the Russian army invaded Chechnya. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to institute a cease-fire Russian and Chechen authorities negotiated a settlement in August 1996 that resulted in a complete withdrawal of Russian troops and the holding of elections in January 1997. The agreement that ended the fighting, however, has left matters unresolved. Inhabitants of the Chechen Republic insist that their state is now independent; the Russians, while acknowledging Chechen autonomy, maintain that the republic is still part of Russia.
CIA World Factbook; U.S. Dept. of State Background Notes; Columbia Gazetteer, 8/2003, 10/2000, 1998