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Self-determination through warfare

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Title:
Self-determination through warfare a review and analysis of the Russian-Chechen war as a method of establishing indigenous autonomy
Creator:
Vance, James William
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English
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128 leaves : illustrations ; 28 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Indigenous peoples -- Legal status, laws, etc -- Russia (Federation) -- Chechni︠a︡ ( lcsh )
Indigenous peoples -- Legal status, laws, etc ( fast )
History -- Checheno-Ingushetia (Russia) ( lcsh )
History -- Chechni︠a︡ (Russia) -- Civil War, 1994- ( lcsh )
Russia (Federation) -- Checheno-Ingushetia ( fast )
Russia (Federation) -- Chechni︠a︡ ( fast )
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History. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
History ( fast )

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Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 120-128).
General Note:
Department of Political Science
Statement of Responsibility:
by James William Vance.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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ocm40462354
Classification:
LD1190.L64 1998m .V36 ( lcc )

Full Text
SELF-DETERMINATION THROUGH WARFARE:
A REVIEW AND ANALYSIS OF THE RUSSIAN-CHECHEN WAR
AS A METHOD OF ESTABLISHING INDIGENOUS AUTONOMY
by
James William Vance
B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1994
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Political Science
1998


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
James William Vance
has been approved
by
Glenn T. Morris
Steve Thomas
Date


Vance, James William (M.A. Political Science)
Self-Determination Through Warfare: A Review And Analysis Of The Russian-
Chechen War As A Method Of Establishing Indigenous Autonomy
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Glenn T. Morris
ABSTRACT
In the world struggle of indigenous peoples it is a rare thing when a people not
only have the opportunity to declare themselves independent at what would seem to
be an appropriate moment, but, when the time comes, are able to defend that right
with force. The Russian-Chechen War of 1994-1996 presented that opportunity for
the Nokhchi of Chechnya, an indigenous people with a long and proud history tied to
the North Caucasus Mountains.
This thesis will introduce the reader to the Nokhchi from an economic, social,
and religious perspective, and will introduce their claims as an indigenous people
worthy of protection under internationally recognized documents and laws. It will
further discuss their rights as an indigenous people to independence and sovereignty,
utilizing not only United Nations documents, but also internal Soviet and Russian
m
Federation documentation.


This thesis will present the history of the Chechen (Nokhchi) people, from
information about their ancient ties to the land up to the time Russia invaded their
homeland in force in 1994. From this point discussions of events throughout the war
will be presented in an effort to illustrate the intensity of the struggle the Nokhchi
people were forced to endure in their quest for peace. In addition, a detailed account
will show the brutal nature of the Russian siege and invasion of one particular town,
and across Chechnya, in a campaign of ethnocide against the Nokhchi people.
Finally this thesis will discuss an alternative perspective on the Russian-
Chechen war that is often overlooked. Even if the indigenous aspects were ignored,
the fact remains that at the end of this war Russia proved to be the loser of the war
and therefore should have relinquished any claims on the Chechen territory as part of
Russia. This military outcome is an aspect of the war that many within Russia, as
well as the global community, have noted, and it therefore needs to be explored as an
alternative argument if the indigenous rights argument were to fail.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.
Signed
Glenn T. Morris
IV


CONTENTS
Figures................................................vii
CHAPTER
1. AN INTRODUCTION TO THE CHECHEN PEOPLE................1
Geography..........................................1
Demography and Language............................3
Social Organization................................5
Economy............................................7
Indigenousness.....................................8
2. CHECHNYAS PAST: PRE-HISTORY TO DECLARATION OF
INDEPENDENCE,1992....................................18
Pre-Commonwealth History..........................18
3. FROM JIHAD TO THE FOUNDATIONS OF PEACE: 1992 TO
AUGUST 1996..........................................27
Preparations for War..............................27
War...............................................29
The Destruction of Samashki.......................31
The Death of Dudaev...............................68
4. PEACE PLANS AND CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS................87
5. THE INTELECTUAL ARGUMENTS FOR INDEPENDENCE..........97
The United Nations an International Law Supporting
Documentation.....................................97
V


Customs in Warfare: To The Victor Go The Spoils...............104
References..........................................................120
Figure References...................................................127
VI


FIGURES
Figure
1.1 A topological map of the Chechen nation and surrounding nations and states.. 2
1.2 Chechen Soldier in Traditional Dress........................................5
1.3 Traditional Female Nokhchi Dancers........................................ 13
1.4 Traditional Male Nokhchi Dancers...........................................13
2.1 Ancient Russian fortress outside Grozny....................................18
2.2 General Ermolov...........................................................19
2.3 Dzhokhar Dudaev...........................................................25
3.1 Boris Yeltsin..............................................................27
3.2 Nokhchi home destroyed by Russian attacks, just outside Grozny............29
3.3 Nokhchi citizens walk through a bombed out district of Grozny............30
3.4 Nokhchi displays bodies of dead Russians.................................30
3.5 Dead Nokhchi Civilian in Assinovskaya....................................32
3.6 MVD Check-point near Samashki............................................33
3.7 HinD flying over Samashki................................................37
3.8 Nokhchi villager killed in the shelling of Samashki.......................38
3.9 Nokhchi Woman onboard Refugee bus........................................56
3.10 One of the destroyed refugee buses in Samashki.............................57
3.11 Dead civilian after Russian shelling of Samashki..........................57
vii


3.12 Dead civilian after Russian shelling of Samashki............................57
3.13 Bum marks made in Nokhchi body in Samashki..................................58
3.14 Nokhchi civilians killed in Russian raid on village......................58
3.15 Dead Civilian from bus shelling in Samashki.................................58
3.16 More dead Civilian from bus shelling in Samashki............................58
3.17 More dead Civilian from bus shelling in Samashki............................58
3.18 More dead Civilian from bus shelling in Samashki............................58
3.19 More dead Civilian from bus shelling in Samashki............................59
3.20 More dead Civilian from bus shelling in Samashki............................59
3.21 Blood stains from a civilian shot by Russian.............................59
3.22 Damage to Nokhchi home after Russian shelling attack..................... 59
3.23 Destroyed Nokhchi home after Russian shelling.............................59
3.22 Nokhchi Soldier Displays Russian Federal Force Soldier Captured in Assault. 62
3.23 Russian Federal forces assault HinD helicopter on attack run in Chechnya.63
3.24 Gleb Z., Designer and Admin, of a prominent Russian based Pro-Chechen
web page..................................................................65
3.25 Yeltsin Announces His Peace Plan.........................................66
3.26 Photo of Dzhokhar Dudaev Taken Several Months Before His Assassination.. 69
3.27 Chechen Citizens in Grozny and Across Chechnya Learn of Dudaevs Death.. 72
3.28 Chechen Citizens in Grozny and Across Chechnya Learn of Dudaevs Death.. 72
3.29 Dudaevs Sucessor, Yandarbiyev pictured with Dudaev.........................73
vm


3.30 Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev..............................................76
3.31 Aslan Maskhodov....................................................76
3.32 Shamil Basaev......................................................77
3.33 Aleksandr Lebed................................................... 80
4.1 Independence Day rally at a surviving stadium in Grozny.............89
4.2 Military parade as part of Independence Day celebrations in Grozny..89
4.3 Independence Day celebrations in Grozny.............................90
4.4 Independence Day march in the streets of Grozny.....................90
IX


CHAPTER 1
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE CHECHEN PEOPLE
Geography
The state of Chechnya lies in the southwestern area of Russia, with its southern
border lying deep inside the Caucasus Mountains. To the west Chechnya shares its
borders with the Ingush Republic, a close relative in culture and language. Although
each state informally recognizes the other, the borders between the two have not been
definitively settled since they split into two separate states with the declaration of
independence by Chechnya in 1991. Georgia, a former member of the Soviet Union
and currently a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, is situated over
the Caucasus Mountains to the south. Dagestan, another Republic of the Russian
Federation, surrounds Chechnya to the east and north, while the Stravropol Krai and
the North Ossetian Republic he to the northwest (Fig 1.1).
The northern half of Chechnya is a fertile plain crossed by the Terek and
Sunja rivers, providing excellent grazing conditions for livestock, as well as various
types of farming. The southern half contains the wooded foothills rising to the
northern slopes of the main Caucasus range. The actual physical area of Chechnya is
roughly 6,000 square miles, somewhat larger than the state of Connecticut in the
United States. Prior to the beginning of the 1994-1996 war with Russia, the Black
1


Sea, the Caspian Sea and Moscow were all easily accessible from the capital city of
Grozny by established railroad and roadway systems.
Oemryf \
ftynok t
Dagestan

Fig 1.1: A topological map of the Chechen nation and surrounding nations and states.
2


Demography and Language
The Chechens are proud to distinguish themselves in that they are the single
largest definitive North Caucasian ethnic population, and the second largest Caucasian
group overall, just after the regionally dominant Georgians. According to the 1989
census, the last taken before the 994 conflict with Russia, the population of the
Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic numbered 1,270,000. In just those districts
now considered part of Chechnya after the split between Chechnya and the Ingush
Republic, there were approximately 1,084,000 inhabitants, 715,000 of whom were
Chechens, 269,000 transplanted Russians, (including a small Cossack population),
and 25,000 remaining Ingush. In 1989, the population of Grozny was listed at
approximately 397,000 (Nichols, 1995).
A critical aspect of the Chechen people that must be understood is the fact
that the name Chechen is not their own given name, but rather a Russian name
placed upon them, much like that of the American Indians by European explorers
and settlers. The term Chechen is a Russian ethnonym taken from the name of a
lowlands village. The name "Chechnya" is derived from that ethnonym, but in this
case, the Chechens utilize this name for their territory. The Chechens, however,
call themselves Nokhchi, with the singular being Nokhchuo. In English, as well as
most languages, they refer to themselves as Chechens. However in Russia, and
Chechnya they maintain the name Nokhchi. As will be discussed in later sections of
3


this analysis, this maintenance of their traditional name will become one of many
important arguments for designating the Nokhchi people as an indigenous people
(Nichols, 1994).
Extensive research into the Nokhchis language has yielded critical information
regarding their uniqueness amongst a vast expanse of different peoples. Evidence
exists that the Nokhchi have slowly, steadily moved into a unique language base over a
period of the last 5000 to 6000 years (Wixman, 1980). This evolution is supported by
archaeological expeditions that established the premise that the Nokhchi people have
been residents of the lands they now inhabit for not only those 5000 to 6000 years, but
in reality closer to 8000 or more years. To add to these territorial-heritage claims is
another issue of language heritage and use. In Chechnya, over 97% of the Nokhchi
people proclaim the Chechen language as their one primary tongue, though most
also speak Russian quite fluently by virtue of a mandatory Russian language program
instituted during the Soviet control era (Nichols, 1995).
Chechen also was not traditionally a written language for many centuries.
An orthography using the Russian alphabet was created in the 1930's and is used for
various kinds of publication, although for most Nokhchi the chief vehicle of literacy is,
again, Russian. Traditionally, as is the case in most North Caucasian societies, many
individuals were bilingual or multilingual, using an important lowlands language for
inter-ethnic communication; any literacy was in Arabic. Russian has now displaced
4


both the lowland language known as Kumyk, and Arabic in these functions. There has
been some concern from certain academic Nokhchi and other language scholars that if
the economy in Chechnya does not rebound after the war with Russia, and mass
homelessness continues to undermine the social structure, there is danger that the
Chechen language will be functionally reduced to household use only, and will then
yield completely to Russian (Gamkrelidze and Gudava, 1992 vol. 22). As will be
argued later in this paper, this change may be attributed to systematic and deliberate
ethnocide on the part of Russian authorities.
Social Organization
The Nokhchi have traditionally been seen as a
fiercely independent and a relatively democratic
mountaineering people. In a comment about the Chechen
people, the renowned Russian poet Mikhail Yurevich
Lermontov (1814-1841) wrote in 1832, "Their god is
freedom, their law is war, stressing the attitude of the
Nokhchi on maintaining their identity and their
independence (Nekrich, 1978).
From the 17th to the mid-19th centuries, the Nokhchi clans were converted to
the Sunni branch of the Muslim religion, more specifically placing emphasis on the Sufi
r~
Fig. 1.2: Chechen Soldier in
Traditional Dress
5


mystic form. This conversion came as Sufi brotherhoods moved across the North
Caucasus spreading their ways to animist areas like Chechnya. Part of the mass appeal
of Sufism for the Nokhchi and other peoples of the area was their fight against
invading Russians from the North. The Sufi brotherhoods either aided or played a
primary role in inspiring, organizing, and leading the fight against the Russians during
this time period. They (the Sufi brotherhoods) preached to the people a message of
non-resistance to evil and the acceptance of infidel domination, with the infidels
being the Russians (Bennigsen and Wimbush, 1985). These ideals that Islam seemed
to carry were nothing new to the people of the Caucasus. However the level of
organization, both socially and militarily, that Islam represented, as well as the
discipline and the brotherhood by something other than clan and blood ties was
indeed a new, and quickly embraced factor in the rapid conversion of the area.
The Muslim religion plays an important role in Nokhchi society, although the
ancient clan structure of the Nokhchi social and political life persists to the present, as
do blood feuds and other traditional customs. Kinship and clan structure are
patriarchal, but one element of the Soviet system that has been incorporated into
societal norms allows women to have a very modem role with full social and
professional equality and prospects for financial independence equivalent to those of
men. Family and clan honor, respect for and deference to one's elders, hospitality,
formal and dignified relations between families and clans, and courteous and formal
6


public and private behavior also remain important to Nokhchi. Villages have had
mutual defense obligations in times of war, and clans have had mutual support
relations that linked them into larger clan confederations (which generally coincided
with dialects). Each clan leader is chosen by council vote from respected elders within
the clan. Among Nokhchi there are no social classes and no differences of rank apart
from those of age, kinship, and earned social honor. Until the Russian conquest, the
Nokhchi were an independent nation with their own language and territory but they
had no formal modem political organization as we might know it today with mayors,
governors, and the like. Villages were viewed as completely autonomous, as were the
clans (Friedrich and Diamond, 1994 vol. VI).
Economy
Traditionally, the lowlands Nokhchi were grain farmers, and the highlanders
raised sheep. At the time of initial contact with Russians in the 1500s, the lowlands
were wealthy and produced a grain surplus, while the highlands were not self-sufficient
in food and traded wool and eggs for lowlands grain. The heavily industrialized ways
of Russian life has not affected the populace much with the exception of a new
industry to explore, that of oil drilling, transportation, and refining. However,
according to the 1989 census, 70% of all Nokhchi still lived in rural areas, ignoring
this industrial boom (Nichols, 1995).
7


Rich oil fields, discovered to be surrounding the capital city of Grozny, have
been exploited by Russia since 1893. Prior to the war with Russia, oil production was
slowing (in 1992 slightly exceeding 3.5 million tons), because of the reduction in
military-grade petroleum usage by the Soviet, then Russian, armed forces. Still,
Grozny has remained a major center of refining (about 6.5 million tons of petroleum in
1992) and of petrochemical production with the refineries receiving the offset 3.0
million tons of petroleum from other sources in Russia. Grozny has been a hub for rail
and road transport, as well as for important oil and gas pipelines (Nichols, 1994). As
will be discussed in a later section, these pipelines and transportation routes are a new
source of tensions between Russia and Chechnya since the end of the war.
Indigenousness
The claim of being an indigenous people is perhaps the most critical aspect of
the struggle between the Nokhchi and the Russians. Whether the people fought the
Russian forces for politics, for ancient blood-lusts, or for personal pride, in the end it
was for the freedom of the Nokhchi people as a whole. This pride of the Nokhchi that
binds them together as a people is just the beginning of the fact that they have always
seen themselves as different. The following will discuss the factors involved in
identifying the Nokhchi as an indigenous people different enough to be recognized by
the international community. The Nokhchi struggle not only involves a war for
8


territory, or a war of political ideals, but is also a war of culture, religion, and a way of
life.
The United Nations, in its lengthy definition of indigenousness, states:
Indigenous populations are composed of the existing descendants of the
peoples who inhabited the present territory of a country wholly or
partially at the time when persons of a different culture or ethnic origin
arrived there from other parts of the world, overcame them and, by
conquest, settlement or other means, reduced them to a non-dominant or
colonial situations; who today live more in conformity with their
particular social, economic and cultural customs and traditions than with
the institution of the country of which they now form a part, under a
State structure which incorporates mainly the national, social and
cultural characteristics of other segments of the population which are
predominant.
(UNESC Commission on Human Rights, 1982)
While in some ways this definition may seem vague, it is actually quite specific when
applied to a particular people to determine qualifying factors, in this case the Nokhchi.
Throughout the centuries, and most importantly for the last two or three
hundred years, the Nokhchi have maintained their own social, economic, and cultural
customs, as well as religion and language, in the face of adversity and terror from
White Russians from the north. Whether under a Volograd city-state economic
cartel, or the Romanovs empire, or the Soviet socialist regime, or the new Federated
democracy, the nation or state of Chechnya has managed to exist in some form that
the Nokhchi people have always recognized as their own. Equally important to the
9


debate of indigenous rights by the Nokhchi people is that generations after generations
of the same people that have inhabited the lands have been continuously subject to
persecution to the point of genocidal actions by whoever might be the current regime,
most especially in this last 60 years. The Nokhchi people are indeed a unique nation
that warrants the attention of not only human-rights groups like Amnesty
International, but indeed the entire assembly of the United Nations with regard to the
valid application of such documents as the Draft Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples as support for their struggle, and their victory.
Perhaps the most important issue to a people attempting to keep its collective
identity is the fact the Nokhchi, having never given up their culture and their traditions,
never submitting to federal intervention, have remained a truly unique people amongst
the Russian Republics and peoples. As was discussed in the previous accounts of the
Nokhchi language, culture, economy evidence exists in both linguistic analysis and
archaeological evidence that these same people have inhabited the lands now called
Chechnya for somewhere in the area of 6000-8000 years, in reality much longer than
most white Russians have inhabited any single area. While more detail on the
ancient history and recent historical imperial attacks and conquest by Russian forces,
and modem history will be discussed in Chapter 2, some fundamentals will be
discussed here. In more modem times however, with the spreading influence and
imperial desires of political regimes the Nokhchi people have been attacked repeatedly,
10


forcibly removed because of dubious charges of being enemies of the State, and
replaced by transplanted White Russians. Throughout the annals of Russian history
the Nokhchi have long been considered citizens of the greater Russian empire. Yet it
wasnt until the 19th century that they were forcibly conquered and considered
territorially Russian. Additionally, they have suffered at the scrutinizing hand of
Russian authorities, being accused of harboring criminals, founding crime syndicates,
collaborating with enemies, and much more throughout the Czarist and early
Communist periods of occupation. The legacy of discrimination continued, in almost a
natural transition, during the Soviet years, finding the most hostile reactions from
Premier Josef Stalin when he placed blame on the entire Nokhchi people for the
behavior of a suspected handful of Nazi sympathizers. After the fall of the Soviet
Union, the new Russian federated government maintained not only political control on
Chechnya, but a stranglehold on its people, as seems, has been the standard Russian
governmental behavior toward the Nokhchi (Nichols, 1995).
The next issue to examine in detail with regard to defining the Nokhchis
indigenous claims, beyond the fact they have lived and survived on a land unimpeded
for 6000 or more years, is language. The Nokhchi employ a language unique within
all of Russia, and the neighboring Caucasus states and districts. Familiarly known as
Chechen by Europeans, Americans, and Russians, it is actually more properly known
as Nakh-Danghestanian. Despite attempts to force proper Russian on the people as
11


an official language throughout the pre-Soviet Imperial Russian period, as well as
Soviet and post-Soviet years, the Nokhchi have managed to utilize Russian only in
dealings with non-Nokhchi, and in formal documents such as legislation and contracts
in which the lack of a true written version of their language has failed them
{Economist, November 28, 1992). Having been forced to utilize Russian in these
cases, the Nokhchi did make an effort to expand their linguistic heritage into written
form, utilizing a newly devised, modified variation of the Russian/cyrillic alphabet, and
also teaching Arabic for use in legal proceedings, as an alternative to Russian. The
evidence exists however that, as previously discussed, the youngest generations
exposed to Russian schools, those taught prior to the 1994-96 war with Russia, had a
reduced exposure and capacity to utilize their own language due in part to a
regimented Russian language program that did not teach Nokhchi.
The next factor in determining that the Nokhchi are indigenous and not simply
an ethnic minority within Russia is their culture and religion. Despite the fact that
throughout the Czarist years Islamic religion was typically considered questionable if
not illegal, and then in the Soviet years religious celebrations were considered to be
completely illegal, as the state officially had no use for or recognition of religions
place in society, the population of Chechnya continued to recognize itself as Sunni
Muslim, with that tradition dating back to as early as the 17th century. This religion set
12


them apart from many of their northern neighbors and all of the white Russians, and
created a religious brotherhood with many others in the area.
Cultural identification is the other half of this important criterion. With clan
traditions, unique dance rituals and
celebrations, and a vast array of additional
customs and traditions that date back
thousands of years, the Nokhchi enjoy a
cultural uniqueness to which Ingush, and
others show no link. And again, showing
their determination and tenacity, they
managed to derail popular policies of the
late Romanov empire and Stalinist Soviet
eras of injecting the Chechen lands with
white Russians or moving the Nokhchi to
other regions of the empire in an effort to
diffuse these cultural bonds. As the population demographics have shown, upon the
return from the World War II exile period, and regular growth, Chechnyas population
(pre-war) was approximately 1,084,000 inhabitants, 715,000 of which were Nokhchi,
269,000 were transplanted Russians, including a small Cossack population, and 25,000
were Ingush still residing in the area despite the split with Chechnya in 1991. The
13


Nokhchi have always managed to maintain the dominant population in their territory,
with the exception of the aforementioned exile period from 1944 to 1957.
When combining these factors, it would seem the Nokhchi fit well into the
concepts outlined in the United Nations definition of indigenousness. Indeed these
factors, as well as the nearly stubborn, if not almost personal attachment to their
ancestral homeland, has made them a constant target of the various Russian
governments. Based on this fact, the Nokhchi can establish themselves, under the
rules and guidelines of the United Nations own definition, as an indigenous people,
then the next most critical aspect to defining the Chechen-Russian War of 1994-1996
comes from the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Supporting
Document 5.1). As can be assessed from the following two articles of that
declaration, the Nokhchi were well within their rights to declare independence from
Russia when the opportunity presented itself, and more importantly, had every right to
defend themselves and their indigenous territories from the repeated invasions of
Russian military forces which eventually erupted into warfare.
14


Article 3
Indigenous peoples have the right of self- determination. By virtue of
that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue
their economic, social and cultural development.
Article 4
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their
distinct political, economic, social and cultural characteristics, as well as
their legal systems, while retaining their rights to participate frilly, if they
so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.
(United Nations, August 1993)
It would seem however that in the modem industrial and technological world Russia is
forging for itself, when the Nokhchi people followed the global trends of separatist,
nationalist ideas, they entered into a new level of intense attacks that may only qualify
as ethnic cleansing, or a genocidal response (Critchlow, 1991). Both Article 3 and 4
were ignored by the Russian officials in the case of the long abused Nokhchi.
Some might argue that such items as the Draft Declaration highlighted above
as support for the Chechen-Russian War as being an indigenous issue rather than a
human-rights issue is completely irrelevant since this was an internal issue, a war of
secession perhaps. At the least critics would argue, these articles are irrelevant
because they hold no consequences in any international court as they are merely part
of a draft document, and have never been approved to date. The counter argument to
this lies not in semantics or issues of precedence, but in both the old Soviet
Constitution and the recently adopted Russian Constitution, both of which discuss the
15


proper and legal treatment of indigenous peoples within Russian borders as they were
at the time.
Section 11
The soviets of those regions which differentiate themselves by a special
form of existence and national character may unite in autonomous
regional unions, ruled by the local congress of the soviets and their
executive organs.
These autonomous regional unions participate in the Russian Socialist
Federated Soviet Republic upon a Federal basis.
(Constitution of the RSFSR, July 10,1918)
Article 72.
Each Union Republic shall retain the right freely to secede from the
USSR.
(Constitution of the RSFSR, Ninth Convocation, October 7,1977)____________
Article 69.
The Russian Federation guarantees the rights of small indigenous peoples
in accordance with the generally accepted principles and standards of
international law and international treaties of the Russian Federation.
(Russian Constitution, December 12, 1993)
If the Soviet law of 1918 was followed, and as will be discussed later in the historical
review of the Nokhchi, it was for a very brief period of time, the Chechen Republic
would have remained absolutely autonomous within the Soviet Union. The only
guidelines they would have been forced to follow would have been they follow some
method of government similar to that of the Soviet Unions. They would be allowed
to enact all their own laws, guidelines for ways of life, and more. They were only
required to participate at the federal level, as a voice of a part of the Soviet Union.
16


Even more to the point, if the 1977 revision of the Soviet constitution was taken into
account, as is shown in the sample from the constitution, Chechnya would have been
permitted to legally secede without retribution. Taking into considering the Soviet
constitution was still legally in effect in 1991 when Chechnya declared independence,
around the same time as Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, Chechnya should have been
granted the same independence Premier Gorbachev had granted the other breakaway
Republics.
With the Russian article of their constitution they are even more obvious about
how Russia is supposed to treat indigenous peoples: by following the generally
accepted principles and standards of international law and international treaties of the
Russian Federation which in most cases carried over from the Soviet Union. What
does this mean to the Nokhchi? It means that if the Russian officials responsible for
the war would have read their own constitution, and read the United Nations
documentation on indigenous peoples rights, they could have been a free and
independent nation today rather than rebuilding from a war. Instead the Russians
ignored, or perhaps decided to re-translate their words and the United Nations words
to fit the meaning they desired and attempted to squash the Nokhchi independence
movement. Despite the massive nature of the Russian response in December of 1994
the Nokhchi people survived, not in defeat, but for all intensive purposes, in victory
against their attempted oppressor.
17


CHAPTER 2
CHECHNYAS PAST: PRE-HISTORY TO DECLARATION OF
INDEPENDENCE, 1992
Pre-Commonwealth History
The Nokhchi have, as previously
discussed, been in or near their present
territory for at least 6000 years. Also
previously noted, there has been a fairly
seamless archeological continuity for a least 8000 years in central Daghestan,
suggesting that the Nakh-Daghestanian language family, from which the Chechens are
derived, is indigenous. Russia's methodical attempts to subdue and occupy the North
Caucasus region started as far back as the 1500s, but entered a dedicated military
phase during the mid-to-late 18th century with the official military campaign beginning
in 1783. Sheik Mansur, a Nokhchi, led the resistance from 1785 until his capture in
1791. But resistance to Russian occupation did not end. From 1824 until 1859, Imam
Shamil, a legendary figure of the area, led the Muslim peoples of the North Caucasus
in a long, bloody war against the Russian invaders. The Russians won by sheer force
of numbers, as well as by carrying out a policy of relentless, highly aggressive warfare
from fortress towns located deep in the North Caucasus such as Grozny, (Fig 2.1)
founded in 1818 by the Russian General Alexander Ermolov (Fig 2.2). After the
18


surrender of Shamil, the Commander-in-chief of the
Russian forces, Prince Bariatinski, declared .in the
name of the Tsar, the Russian government leaves
you forever free to profess the faith of your fathers...
The authorities in charge of your government will
exercise their authority according to the shariat
(Muslim written law that regulates the civil, social,
and family life of all believers) and the adat (Muslim
customary law that varies from people to people)." Despite Shamil's surrender, the
Caucasian War continued on a reduced scale until 1864, and there continued to be
outbreaks of guerrilla warfare and general armed resistance to Russian imperial rule in
the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including a lengthy period of open warfare in
1877-78 (Nekrich, 1978).
In May 1918, seizing the opportunity offered by the Russian revolution, the
peoples of Dagestan and the North Caucasus (including Chechnya) formed the North
Caucasian Republic and declared their independence. For three years civil war raged
between the North Caucasian Republic and the new Soviet governmental armed forces
for the control of the Caucasus. At first defeated by the prominent anti-Bolshevik
Russian General Denikin, in the fall of 1919 Sheikh Uzun Haji organized a North
Caucasian Emirate in the mountains of Chechnya and led the anti-Denikin resistance.
19


Denikin was forced to withdraw his forces north, out of what is now Chechnya and
Dagestan. This was followed by betrayal at the hands of the Russians once again, as
with the Bolsheviks, who had earlier cooperated with Sheikh Uzun Haji, installed a
regime of military occupation, leading to a new outbreak of fighting in August 1920.
In January 1921 in Vladikavkaz, a Congress of Mountaineers was convened,
and, with Josef Stalin, who was a Georgian himself, personally participating and
speaking as the official representative of the Soviet Union, a Soviet Socialist
Autonomous Mountain Republic (which included the Nokhchi, Ingush, Ossetins,
Kabardians, Balkars, and Karachai) was established. The Republic's constituent
assembly accepted Soviet sovereignty in return for recognition of the shariat and adat
as the basic law of the Republic, full autonomy of the Republic in domestic affairs, and
the transfer to the Republic of territory that had been taken from Mountain peoples by
the Tsars. Under the circumstances, it seemed the best possible option for peace, and
some level of independence for the Caucasus peoples.
In November 1922, Chechnya was detached from the Mountain Republic and
given the status of an Autonomous Oblast of the Russian Federation, just the first step
in the progressive erosion of Bolshevik pledges to respect the mountain peoples'
autonomy. The collectivization campaign of 1929 sparked a new cycle of rebellion by
the mountain peoples, and attempted repression from the Soviets. In 1934, the
Chechen and Ingush Autonomous Oblasts were merged, and in December 1936, prior
20


to the adoption of a new Soviet Constitution, their status was elevated to a Chechen-
Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR). However, Stalins purges of
1936-38 led to the execution and imprisonment of thousands of Nokhchi and the
stiffening of anti-Soviet sentiment (Nekrich, 1978).
In January 1940, Hassan Izrailov assumed the leadership of the Nokhchi anti-
Soviet guerrillas, declaring in a letter to the Soviet leaders: "For twenty years now, the
Soviet authorities have been fighting my people, aiming to destroy them group by
group: first the kulaks, then the mullahs and the 'bandits, then the bourgeois-
nationalists. I am sure now that their real object is the annihilation of our nation as a
whole." After the German army invaded Russia in June 1941, Nokhchi guerrilla
actions and Russian countermeasures intensified greatly (Nekrich, 1978).
In November 1942 German units were approaching Vladikavkaz and had
reached Mozdok on the road to Grozny, but they had to retreat when the German 6th
army was cut off at Stalingrad later that month. Although the Germans never
occupied Chechnya, on February 23-24, 1944, the Nokhchi and their neighbors the
Ingush were systematically rounded up by Russian troops and shipped off to the east
in freight trains.
The Soviet census of 1939 had counted 407,690 Nokhchi and 92,074 Ingush;
altogether some 400,000 Nokhchi and Ingush were deported to Soviet Central Asia,
the majority to Kazakhstan. It is estimated that 30% or more died during their
21


detention and transport from the Caucasus or within the first year of their forcible
resettlement. The decree from Moscow ordering the deportation and abolishing the
Chechen-Ingush ASSR was dated March 7,1944. It explained the action as follows:
During the Great Patriotic War, and especially during the time the
German-Fascist army was operating in the Caucasus, many Chechens and
Ingush betrayed their motherland, went over to the side of the fascist
occupiers, enlisted in detachments of saboteurs and spies sent by the
Germans into the rear of the Red Army, in response to German orders
formed armed bands to fight against Soviet power, for several years have
also taken part in armed actions against the Soviet authorities, and for a
long time without engaging in honest work have conducted bandit raids
against the collective farms of neighboring regions, robbing and killing
Soviet people. Therefore, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet orders: 1.
Deportation to other regions of the USSR of all Chechens and Ingush
living on or adjacent to the territory of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR, and
liquidation of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR....
(Nekrich, 1978 and Critchlow, 1991).
Although at the time there was no evidence, and there remains to be no evidence of
the Nokhchi as a people, or as any sort of Autonomous Republic, supplied or assisted
the Nazi incursion into the Soviet Union, the deportation took place under the scrutiny
of heavily armed Red Army soldier.
The behavior of the Nokhchi in exile in Kazakhstan has been described in The
Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: "there was one nation that would not
give in, would not acquire the mental habits of submission and not just individual
rebels among them, but the whole nation to a man. These were the Chechens. They
were capable of rustling cattle, robbing a house, or sometimes simply taking what they
22


wanted by force. They respected only rebels. And here is an extraordinary thing
everyone was afraid of them. No one could stop them from living as they did. The
regime which had ruled the land for thirty years could not force them to respect its
laws" (Nichols, 1995).
On February 25, 1956, in Khrushchev's speech to the 20th Party Congress
exposing Stalin's crimes, he mentioned the Nokhchi among the peoples deported
toward the close of World War II, commenting: "no reasonable man can grasp how it
is possible to make whole nations responsible for hostile activity, including women,
children, old people, Communists and Komsomols, to use mass repression against
them, and to expose them to misery and suffering for the hostile acts of individuals or
groups of individuals." On July 16, 1956 following Khrushchev's signal, the Presidium
of the USSR Supreme Soviet issued a decree abolishing the legal restrictions that had
been imposed on the deported Nokhchi, but specifically ruled out claims for return to
their homeland and restitution of confiscated property. On January 8, 1957, a further
decree of the Presidium reconstituted the Chechen-Ingush AS SR, and cancelled the
ban on the return of Nokhchi and Ingush. The horror of their mass deportation and the
misery of their resettlement regimen in Kazakhstan and Kirghizstan still has not been
forgotten or forgiven by the Nokhchi (Nekrich, 1978 and Critchlow, 1991).
For the next thirty years the Nokhchi people remained relatively quiet in their
dissent against the Soviet Union and Russians. Planning and organization for another
23


opportunity was the course of action during these years. Opportunity presented itself
in Mikael Gorbachevs perestroika initiative, beginning a period of renewed problems
in Chechnya. Nokhchi intellectuals began by attacking the Soviets officially
sponsored historian Vitaly Vinogradov's view that Chechnya had voluntarily joined
Russia. In summer 1988, a Chechen-Ingush Popular Front was formed, which started
out with ecological agendas, but quickly moved to directly political slogans and
motivations. Then in June 1989, for the first time a Nokhchi, Doku Zavgaev, was
elected first secretary of the Communist Party in the Chechen-Ingush AS SR (Nichols,
1995).
Various civic action groups began to organize, and on November 23, 1990, a
Chechen National Congress (CNC) was convened, with the consent and participation
of Zavgaev. The Congress passed a resolution calling for the "sovereignty" of the
Chechen-Ingush Republic and elected Dzhokhar Dudaev chairman of its Executive
Committee. Dudaev, at that time, had no idea how pivotal his role would be in the
future of Chechnya (Fig 2.3) (Sheehy, 1990).
On November 27, 1990, prodded by the CISC's resolution, the Supreme Soviet
of the Chechen-Ingush AS SR adopted a "Declaration on the State Sovereignty of the
Chechen-Ingush Republic." Since "sovereignty" was also proclaimed at this time by
other Soviet Republics, especially much larger and more important ones to Russia,
the Chechen-Ingush declaration, which was endorsed by Zavgaev, did not cause
24


particular concern, despite the implicit upgrade in status from that of Autonomous
Republic within the Russian Federation (Sheehy, 1991).
In June 1991 when the CNC again
convened, the more vocal of the pro-independence
factions was in the majority. In a speech to this
Congress published in a Grozny newspaper,
Dudaev declared that the Soviet Union and its
instruments of colonial oppression the
Communist Party, the KGB, the Ministry of
Internal Affairs, and the Procuracy had robbed
the Chechen nation of its "religion, language,
education, science, culture, natural resources,
ideology, mass media, leadership cadres, and rights
to freedom and life." He acknowledged that "the
price of genuine sovereignty is great," but rejected proposals to accept diminished
sovereignty in exchange for economic stability, asserting that it was absurd "to
presume that the Chechens will ever be reconciled with their present miserly colonial
freedom" (Nichols, 1995).
The CNC concluded its gathering by calling for early parliamentary and
presidential elections, for adoption of a new constitution and a law on citizenship, and
25


for a referendum on the Republic's status. The CNC set as prerequisites for signing a
treaty with the USSR or Russia the unconditional recognition of the Nokhchi nation's
right to independence, compensation for crimes committed against the Nokhchi nation,
trials of the guilty, and establishment of a government based on democratic principles.
Despite the vocal cries of independence by Chechnya, the Russian Constitution
(Article 65) lists the Chechen Republic as a part of the Russian Federation. On
November 2, 1991, in direct defiance of Russias public statements about the status of
Chechnya as a Russian territory, Chechnya proclaimed its independence. On March
17, 1992, a constitution was adopted; it defined the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as
an independent, secular state governed by a president, Dzhokhar Dudaev, and a
parliament. Although previously informally agreed upon, this also marked the official
split between Chechnya and the Ingush Republic, creating the non-military, yet still
disputed border problems between these two states (Nichols, 1995).
26


CHAPTER 3
FROM JIHAD TO THE FOUNDATIONS OF PEACE: 1992 TO AUGUST 1996
Preparations for War
The turbulent times leading up to war had begun with the declaration by the
Nokhchi claiming independence from Russia. Throughout 1992-3, a series of political
upheavals in Russia and Chechnya, promises of troop removal by the Russian
government from the area (though there were no troops left in Chechnya itself by
now), outbreaks of guerrilla warfare attacks, and cries of a Muslim holy war by
Chechen elders engulfed Chechnyas days. Russia during this time refused to budge
on the proposals to allow Chechnya to break away from its status as a district and
declare itself an independent nation. Russia reinforced its position by repeatedly and
deliberately included Chechnya in various drafts of the Russian Constitution (Sheehy,
April 1, 1993).
As tensions continued to build even further, in August 1994 Russian President
Boris Yeltsin (Fig 3.1, below) went on record taking some
responsibility for the situation in Chechnya when he imposed a
puppet Provisional Council in an effort to force out Nokhchi
President Dudaev. Dudaev had by this time moved into positions
with the independence movements as chief spokesman despite
27


repeated assassination attempts from political opponents rumored to be backed by pro-
Moscow forces. Additionally, Yeltsin promised there were no plans to use military
force to quell the rebellion in Chechnya. However, in his own words, ... it cannot be
said that Russia does not interfere onto the Chechen affairs (Wishnevsky, August 12
1994). However within two months, despite attempts in October to organize
negotiations with the Russian government, it was evident that the government had
military solutions planned (Fuller, October 5 1994). Nokhchi forces downed Russian
Air Force combat aircraft in mid-October, then launched a helicopter attack against
invading Russian troops just north of Grozny, killing over 160 Russian troops. It was
obvious at that point the Chechen revolution was going to have to deal with the
Russian military forces Yeltsin had promised would not be there (Fuller, October 21,
1994).
When such posturing and movement by Russian forces had been confirmed, the
government of Afghanistan officially offered the breakaway Nokhchi government an
incredible one million muhajedin fighters to again engage the same Russian army that
the Afghanis had successfully ousted at the close of the 1980s. The Nokhchi refused
the support officially, though there were reports of muhajedin mercenaries amongst
some of the guerrilla groups fighting in the Caucasus Mountains (Fuller, October 11,
1994). Attention of the Nokhchi crisis came from other sources as well, especially
from international agencies concerned with human-rights violations that had been
28


reported being committed by Russian (Fuller January 11 1995).
War
Perhaps the greatest international recognition of the situation, as well as
internal demand for solutions, came on December 5, 1994, when Russian Air Forces
bombed positions thought to ---------------------------------------------------------------
Fig 3.2; Nokhchi home destroyed by Russian attacks, just
hold revolutionary forces, outside Grozny
including some sites that were 1"
just outside Grozny (Fig 3.2).
This action raised serious L
international concerns as well
as prompted the Russian
Parliament to demand
answers for who ordered the advanced military actions (Brown, December 6 1994).
With most of the pressure falling on President Yeltsin, he formally addressed the
Nokhchi people on December 21, demanding the disarmament of the Nokhchi
rebels, promising that there will never again be a deportation of the Nokhchi people
from their homeland, vowing no further military interventions, guaranteeing all civil
rights and liberties to the Nokhchi people, but vowing that Chechnya will again
become an equal subject of the Russian Federation (Socor, December 22 1994) It is
29


considered by most who have done analysis on the conflict between Russia and
Chechnya to be these two events, the bombings near Grozny, and the Yeltsins speech
on the Nokhchi situation, to mark the beginnings of the Russian-Chechen War.
At the turn of 1995 the fighting
in Chechnya continued, the battle being
carried all the way into the streets of
the capital city of Grozny (Fig 3.3). It
was here that perhaps the most intense
fighting to date took place. Early in
January, despite being outnumbered,
and subjected to constant bombing




1
Fig 3.3; Nokhchi citizens walk through a bombed
out district of Grozny.
runs, it seemed that the Nokhchi forces had been dealing the Russian forces serious
blows. The Russian Deputy Prime Minister admitted in the middle of January that
Russia had indeed suffered far more casualties than the
Nokhchi fighters (Fig 3.4), but reiterated the policy that
Russian forces would stay, not to protect the integrity of the
Russian borders, not to protect its citizens that wish to
remain part of Russia, but to ensure continued oil supply
from Chechnya (Wishnevsky, January 12 1995) This
Fig 3.4; Nokhchi
displays bodies of statement stirred a renewed heavy opposition to the Russian
dead Russians
30


policy towards Chechnya among the Russian populace. Nokhchi rebels took the
statement as a battle cry that Russian troops cared nothing for the people, but only for
Russias economic interests.
The Destruction of Samashki
An example of the brutality and horrors inflicted by the Russians on the
Nokhchi during the war came with the incidents at the village of Samashki. In a
lengthy, drawn-out process of what could only be defined as ethnic terrorism and
intimidation of civilian populations, Russian troops, in a slow and calculated method,
devastated this and other small villages in the area over a period of about five months.
The following is an account of the crimes against the Nokhchi in these villages. Much
of this information is taken directly from first-person accounts in the form of diaries
and testimonies, given to reporters and government officials, with supporting evidence
from other sources such as newspaper reports and television programs. It is being
presented as a sampling of the lengths Russian soldiers and especially commanders
would go through to destroy these people. It also provides an example of just how
little control there was by Russian government officials in Moscow over Russian Field
Commanders in Chechnya.
For a period of time western Chechnya was a considered to be the central area
of concentration for Russian forces that had just recently invaded. The primary excuse
31


for the Russian troops to engage this area was that tens of thousands of refugees from
Grozny had amassed. Russian troops claimed that many of these refugees were
actually Nokhchi soldiers and must be pursued. On December 12, 1994 columns of
Russian Federal troops were shelled in the village of Assinovskaya by Nokhchi soldiers
attempting to stop their progress westward. Russian servicemen in response to the
attack opened fire on the village, leading to, among other things, the deaths of civilians
and destruction of their homes. Assinovskaya was surrounded, and MVD motor
vehicle divisions later conducted numerous reconnaissance operations to search for
arms and fighters.
In the neighboring village of Novyi-Sharoi a crowd of residents, civilians, from
nearby villages blocked the road to deny Russian troops further movement westward.
Claims were made by Russian armored division officers that Nokhchi soldiers had
forcefully put civilians in front of them as human shields. It was later discovered in
conversations with Novyi-Sharoi residents that these claims were completely false. On
December 19, 1994 members of the Human Rights
Ombudsman's Group, including O. Orlov, (1994) a
Memorial Human Rights Center member, visited the
district. Even at this early stage of the war, local residents ^
distinguished between Russian Ministry of Defense
Fig 3.5; Dead Nokhchi
Civilian in Assinovskaya
servicemen, whose conduct toward civilians was considered an acceptable if unwanted
32


presence, from MVD employees and servicemen, whose actions gave rise to
complaints about looting and violence to the Ombudsman group. This distinction
became clear during a December 16 visit to Assinovsky by the Human Rights
Ombudsman group. Ministry of Defense soldiers deployed on the outskirts of
Assinovsky told the Human Rights Ombudsman's group that they had petitioned their
commanders to have the MVD divisions removed in order to avoid further tensions
between servicemen and villagers, and second, to end skirmishes with partisan fighter
units, which every village had. These units were armed with automatics, machine guns
and grenade launchers. Additional Nokhchi village-defense units based in the area
south of the village of Bamut had armored vehicles (Thomas, 1995).
Russian Federal forces were consequently reinforced along this conditional
border area near the villages of Samashki, Davydenko, Novyi Sharoi, Achkoi-Martan,
and Bamut. On December 17, 1994 Russian forces
had Samashki semi-surrounded, but the divisions left
the village soon thereafter. An MVD checkpoint *
(Post No. 13) was established about four to five
kilometers from Samashki. on the road to
Semovodsk despite strong protests from villagers
(Amaev, April 1 1995).
Fig 3.6; MVD Check-point near
Samashki.
33


On December 18th the Russian Pskov Paratrooper Division skirted around
Samashki to the north and together with other divisions, went through the uninhabited
and barren ridge of the Sunzha hills to Grozny's defense outpost, where it went to
battle Nokhchi armed groups. A road was paved along the Sunzha hills for
transporting military supplies and to facilitate federal troops' approach to Grozny.
Russian Federal forces set up firing positions on the southern hills, those that faced
Samashki (Snegovskii, 1995).
Federal troops blocked a portion of the Rostov-Baku highway toward the
southwest of Samashki. As a result, the main route from Ingushetia to Grozny and
back was through Samashki. Throughout the winter of 1994-1995 and through mid-
March, vehicles traveling both directions were allowed through the MVD checkpoint
located between Semovodsk and Samashki. During the first half of February the post
was ordered to allow through trucks traveling toward Samashki while MVD
employees manning the checkpoint checked documents and looked for arms. By
maintaining a humanitarian corridor connecting a number of villages in Chechnya with
the outside world, the command of Russian forces in Chechnya was, of course,
complying with established humanitarian laws. But in numerous incidents, MVD
employees also detained Nokhchi men for one reason or another at Post No. 13,
subjected them to mistreatment, beatings, and torture before sending them off to the
filtration camp at Mozdok. (Conditions of Detention in the Armed Conflict Zone in
34


the Chechen Republic: A Report of the Observer Mission of Human Rights and Public
Organizations in the Armed Conflict Zone in Chechnya, Memorial, 1995.)
While battles were being fought in Grozny, both sides in the Samashki Achkoi-
Martan, and Bamut region more or less maintained a status quo of neutrality, which
was advantageous both to Russian forces and villagers not involved in the war.
However, periodic clashes and shelling interrupted the relative peace. Nokhchi
soldiers sabotaged and shelled Federal forces' posts along the military supply road to
Grozny with increasing frequency once the fighting erupted in Grozny. Village elders
in the aforementioned Nokhchi villages sought to restrain members of armed
formations and urged them to use purely defensive tactics, while those villagers who
wanted engage Russian forces were asked to leave for Grozny. Nevertheless,
according to the command of MVD Internal Troops, from December 11th through the
end of March, about thirty Russian soldiers, officers and MVD staff were killed in the
area around Samashki (Leonenko, 1995).
On January 18th 1995, a Moskovsky Komsomolets correspondent reported:
A Russian APC fell behind, got lost in the Chechen village of Samashki
and was hit from behind with a grenade launcher. The APC burst into
flames, but managed to move aside. The crew was badly burned, and one
soldier was in critical condition. Troops from the Novocherkass OMON
manned the post near Samashki. OMON Major Valerii (he did not give his
last name) told a Moskovsky Komsomolets reporter that Samashki
residents were quite alarmed that even Russian troops might try seek
revenge for the APC. The local elders approached the officers and swore
that they had long ago forbidden local men from fighting near the village,
and that non-local fighters had fired on the APC. The officers believed the
35


elders. Major Valerii told the MK reporter, We were offended by the
Moscow press. It feels sorry only for soldiers, and calls officers murderers.
But we're trying to reach a mutual understanding with local residents, and
look, we didn't order the soldiers to wipe Samashki off the face of the
earth just to get revenge for the APC
(Teterin, January 18 1995).
On January 18th, despite the comments and promises made by Russian officers
the day before, what can only be described as a senseless incident took place.
According to a report by G. Zhavoronkov, a correspondent for Obshchaya Gazeta,
and P. Marchenko, his partner, they traveled with a column of Ingush Republic
EMERCOM cars transporting food to those citizens still trapped in Grozny by
fighting. Both sides to the conflict would let columns of this sort, traveling under
white flags, pass through checkpoints unimpeded. At approximately 11:30 a.m. the
column went through the MVD checkpoint between Semovodsk and Samashki. As the
column was entering Samashki, however, a Russian APC caught up with it, drove up
into the middle of the column, and then rode along with it to the edge of the village
using the EMERCOM vehicles as cover. Shooting began almost immediately after
Nokhchi forces saw what MVD forces were doing. Fortunately, no one in the
EMERCOM vehicles was injured, as some of the cars in the column were able to
speed away from the battle, and others took cover in ditches along the road
(Zhavoronkov and Marchenko, January 19 1995).
36


Russian Federal troops began shelling and bombing Bamut and Arshty (a
village nearby, but located in the Ingush Republic), as part of their war efforts several
weeks before, causing casualties among civilians despite protests from Nokhchi,
Ingush, and Russian citizens. Once again, so early in the war, Russian actions had
drawn international attention for possible human-rights violations. On January 6th,
during a joint mission with the U.S.-based human rights organization Human Rights
Watch/Helsinki, A. Sokolov, a Memorial Human Rights Center monitor, interviewed
residents and examined the consequences of aerial bombardments and destruction in
the villages of Bamut and Arshty. Not long after the first and second APC incident,
Russian forces began shelling Samashki in the same methodical aerial design that was
being used on Bamut and Arshty (Shevtsov, June 8 1995).
As the war expanded across Chechnya in its early months, the situation in
Samashki deteriorated further. In late January, for a period of several days, Russian
forces used HindD attack helicopters on strategic positions on the edges of and
surrounding Samashki, including the railway station. (Amaev,
April 1, 1995). In the last days of the month the head of the
Samashki village administration, L. Abdulkhajiev, held a
meeting of villagers at the House of Culture, at which he
recounted his meeting with a Russian general. The village elders spoke in favor of
signing a cease-fire with the Russian side, but many villagers supported another point
37


of view: if the village wasnt guarded in force, the Russians would do the same to
them as they did to Assinovskaya (Amaev, April 1 1995).
The situation declined further on January 30th. A column of Russian armored
vehicles and trucks attempted to drive through Samashki. Different sources described
this incident in different ways; however, most Russian newspapers reported basically
the same thing: the elders went out on the road and asked them not to drive the
column through the village in order to avoid provoking a clash with villagers. The
column nonetheless moved forward, and began to shoot villagers. Nokhchi returned
fire, causing the deaths of at least three Russian servicemen, and took several APCs
and military vehicles out of action. Seventeen people were injured. The military then
led the column away from the village (Aleynik and
Gorodetskaya, February 2 1995). An alternative
account, according to one of Samashki's pro-Russian
village elders, stated that a series of armed Nokhchi
groups attacked military vehicles that had gotten lost
and entered the northern end of the village. Three soldiers were killed, the wounded
were taken prisoner and then taken to a hospital. The elders reported that the
wounded were drunk, possibly the reason they were apparently lost in the village,
unable to get a bearing on the exit to the village (Amaev, April 1 1995).
Fig 3.8; Nokhchi villager killed
in the shelling of Samashki.
38


In apparent retribution the next day, tanks and more helicopter forces joined in
the intermittent shelling of the village outskirts. Russian infantry soldiers began
surrounding the village. In the next several hours houses were destroyed, gas lines
were hit and ignited, electricity cut off, and the water supply was heavily damaged.
The shelling finally ended at dusk, when people began to leave the village and head
toward Achkoi-Martan as an alternative safe-haven as a checkpoint closed off the road
to Semovodsk. Throughout the night small arms fire could be heard from inside the
village.
Ministry of Defense press releases claimed these attacks on the town and
citizens of Samashki were actually part of a special operation to weed out Nokhchi
fighters. Lt.-Gen. A.C. Kulikov reported at a press conference that on January 31, one
person died and twelve were wounded during this special operation in Samashki.
Those not included in the official casualty list were residents of the shelled village
outskirts, including several sources of this very analysis because they were not
residents of Samashki, (Moskovsky Komsomolets reporter A. Kolpakov was a
witness to this incident.) The reporter described the consequences of the shelling:
"There was an unexpected, silent strike one hundred meters from us and a
minute later a human cry cut through the air. We ran toward the cry. A
square yard. On the ground three people killed, smeared in blood; a
wounded man sits near the wall, his head thrown back; on his forehead,
swollen beyond belief, blood. Nearby there were women and children,
crying, wiping their tears across their faces. It seemed as though the mine
fell directly on the funeral: that morning the same kind of mine killed a
woman and a fourteen-year-old girl. Our side clearly has one target...
39


(Kolpakov, February 4 1995).
Despite the claims in press conferences that stated Samashki had been
successfully taken in special operations and rebel soldiers driven out, Russian forces
continued their campaign of terror on the civilians of Samashki. Shelling and
helicopter based rocket attacks continued for days, striking homes, small village farms,
and important resource centers. In an attempt to make a stand against the actions
Russian soldiers were taking without violence, the village administration represented
by administration head Magomed Zelimkhanov and the pro-Dudaev military
representative in the district, Musa Merzhuyev refused to allow Russian MVD troops
to pass through. Citing incidents of Russian servicemen looting and mistreating
villagers in Assinovskaya, where those village elders had allowed the troops to pass in
accordance with neutrality agreements, elders stood their ground against Russian
officers (Gorodetskaya, February 4 1995). Evaluating the emerging situation on the
Chechen-Ingush border, A. Nikolaev, director of Russian Border Troops (FPS), stated
that the situation was moving towards continuing military activities and seemed to be
getting strained. In what might be translated as an admission to the abominable
treatment of civilians, the FPS director stated the residents of villages that had greatly
suffered from military activities. Citizens of Assinovskaya, Samashki, Semovodsk,
and others, according to the FPS director had become exceptionally hostile to any
40


Russian in uniform, including border troops in the Ingush Republic because of the
daily incidents they were being forced to deal with (Golotyuk, February 4 1995).
Samashki villagers had constantly endured continued military activities despite
the neutrality and non-aggression agreements with the Russian officers-in-charge.
Despite these agreements Russian forces had laid mines around the village completely
at random. Two cases in mid-February four Samashki residents seriously injured when
their tractors drove over mines along roadways. Throughout February the areas
around the villages of the Sunzha hills were continuously shelled. In Grozny, the
situation turned against Dudaevs forces as they were forced out of the city. While the
area of Baumut became the primary center for anti-Russian resistance, Russian forces
directed shelling further inward, deeper into Samashki, claiming they were shelling a
new contingent of pro-Dudaev forces which had slipped past Russian checkpoints,
constantly shelled plains and hills, helicopter patrolled and rocketed forest areas, and
mined village roads and outlying areas, and managed to penetrate Samashki.
Journalists covering the fighting in the area reported that Russian military commanders
headquartered in Mozdok persistently spread word that new Dudaev fortresses were
being formed, including in Samashki, and that, consequently, an attack on and from
Samashki was unavoidable (Gorodetskaya, February 7 1995; Kamyshev, February 8,
1995).
41


In a meeting on February 21st, Samashki village administrator Lema
Abdulkhajiev and several village elders met with Lt.-Gen. Kosolapov at the village
checkpoint. Responding to the question posed by the elders earlier, What needs to be
done so that there will be no war and murder in Samashki? Kosolapov stated, Heavy
armaments must be handed over, a partisan command must be created to guard the
village, consisting of about forty to forty-five people, an agreement must be drawn up
with the stamps of the imam and village chairman (village administration authors) and
explain it to the people that's all that's required. That very day the elders and the
head of Samashki's administration held a meeting that included the elders, the imam,
his assistant, and other village residents, including its youth. The people of Samashki
agreed to Kosolapov's offer. People began promoting the agreement among those
who had been absent at the meeting. While Nokhchi fighters were turned away,
Samashki villager made a point to let the Russian forces see they were cooperating
with their new agreement (Amaev, April 1 1995).
The next day several Russian Colonels arrived at the Samashki checkpoint and
promised the villagers that Samashki would no longer be shelled. An official
agreement was later drafted and Russian Col. Nikolai Nikolaevich, which was given to
villagers for discussion. The women and youth wavered on this revision because it
demanded full cooperation from the Nokhchi villagers to the Russian troops. The had
wanted to remain neutral, helping neither Russian nor Nokhchi soldier. On February
42


26th Samashki was shelled by Russian positions to force the issue. With the checkpoint
open at this time, many Samashki residents left for Semovodsk. When negotiations
between Russian military and village administrators seemed to be stalled, an ultimatum
demanding that villagers agree to the militarys conditions for peace or else they would
further intensify the shelling of the town with targeting moving further inward was
issued (Amaev, April 1 1995).
Meanwhile, at a press conference in Moscow, Deputy FSB Director Valentin
Sobolev stated that he saw no way to peaceful disarmament of rebel fighters in
Samashki and Bamut (Kamyshev, March 1 1995). But representatives of Russian
Federal forces in Chechnya called on residents of Argun, Samashki, Gudermes and
Shali to convince Nokhchi fighters to leave the villages' borders, not to jeopardize the
lives and health of citizens, and to spare the residential and material resources of
villages and cities. Should the fighters refuse, special passage for leaving towns and
villages during armed clashes would be offered to civilians (Gorodetskaya, March 4
1995). It seemed Russian commanders were establishing a position in the public eye
that Nokhchi soldiers resided in Samashki, while no direct evidence existed of these
soldiers being anywhere near the town.
The outskirts of Samashki were still being shelled in the beginning of March.
In apparent retribution, several Russian outposts located on opposite outskirts of the
village were shelled by Nokhchi soldiers from mobile positions in the forest areas near
43


Samashki, wounding three servicemen. Still trying to stop the shelling of the village,
elders met with Gen. Kosolapov at the Russian checkpoint again. The General gave
another ultimatum, a three-day deadline for fulfilling the conditions set out in the
agreement (Amaev, April 1 1995). The next day, local religious leaders and a group
of residents demanded that the Nokhchi fighting units leave the immediate village areas
as they were threatening the safety of the citizens (Sovetskaya Rossiya, March 4
1995). On March 5, with two days left before the end of the Russian ultimatum,
Russian forces attacked Nokhchi units' positions at Achkoi-Martan and took control of
the road connecting it to Samashki in preparation for an assault on any Nokhchi forces
that might remain in the Samashki areas. In the Russian Command's view, more than
200 Chechen fighters were now cut off, trapped near Samashki, as it was blocked on
three sides (Gorodetskaya, March 10 1995).
The Russian news program Vesti reported on March 5th that Russian Military
Commanders insisted on using the Federal forces' advantage in aviation and artillery to
drive Dudaev's forces out of towns and villages through air and surface strikes, having
created a way out of the areas in advance for civilians. Contrary to the truth of the
matter, the Federal forces' press center denied reports that they had been bombing
Samashki. According to the press center, since the village administration had itself
kicked out rebel fighters from its territory, shelling was not necessary in the future, and
had not taken place in the past. The rebel unit that had consisted of fighters from
44


other towns and villages exited the Samashki area for positions further south into the
forests on March 6th and 7th at the demands of Samashki's population, under pressure
of the Russian military, in an effort to save the village from attack. A self-defense unit
of about forty to fifty Samashki residents remained (Amaev, April 1 1995).
Throughout mid-March village representatives from Samahki met with the
Russian military at the checkpoint. The village, as promised, was not shelled despite
battles that continued in the area of Achkoi-Martan and Shaami-Yurt. In the following
days, repeated rocket bomb strikes took place in the forest located south of Samashki,
where the rebel fighter unit had retreated, but this time, not actually striking the
outskirts of the village. Press reports about the situation in Samashki during this
period were contradictory and at times highly inaccurate (Gorodetskaya, March 16,
1995). One such example of the inconsistency was along the Samashki-Achkoi-
Martan-Bamut front. One press agency had claimed that in accordance with the
peace agreement, opposition forces' positions have not been shelled with heavy
artillery for five whole days, while a March 17th report by another reporter stated:
Stormer aircraft, helicopters and howitzers hit the organized resistance's main nest, as
well as enemy forces that have gathered in Argun, Shali, and Samashki. Chechens
responded with short but effective mine and flame strikes... Likewise, reports
claimed that Russian army units were beginning to be transferred from Grozny to join
the 100th division of MVD internal troops to completely block off Samashki, yet in
45


reality, no troops were being transferred from Grozny, as the battles there were far too
fierce to remove any units in support of a countryside campaign (Zainashev, March 18,
1995).
Meanwhile, the NTV news program Segodnya (Today) erroneously reported
on around the same time that in fact Chechen fighters had not left the villages as
promised, and that up to 400 of Nokhchi infantrymen remained in Samashki.
Supposedly they, the Nokhchi forces, were threatening the leaders of the local
government with physical revenge for having favored a peaceful resolution of the
conflict, rather than siding with a military support of Nokhchi forces. The next day,
without a retraction for the previous day or an attempt to make a notation as a
correction, the very same television program reported, citing Russian military
sources, that there were now 200 Nokhchi soldiers in the village. Naturally, village
residents unanimously denied the NTV report. {Segodnya, March 11, and 12).
Perhaps based on this report Russian forces once again barricaded roads,
preventing free passage to or from Samashki, while on the same day, a military train
arrived at the Samashki station to restore the railroad lines damaged by shelling and
other warfare. Conscripts serving in the railroad forces who arrived with the train
repaired the mined railroad tracks between Semovodsk and Samashki. Samashki
residents were placed in a difficult position. On the one hand, the Russian military, as
a consequence of negotiations held on March 23rd through the 25th, apparently under
46


some duress upon village administrators, received permission to get the military train
through Samashki. Had this not been agreed to, apparently another Russian general
participating in negotiations, General Alekseev, once again resorted to threatening the
village with the use force and predicted bloodshed. On the other hand, Nokhchi
soldiers who turned up through the forest demanded villagers not allow the train to
pass through Samashki, as a sign they were true Nokhchi, and not Russian pawns in
the war effort. In the meantime, Nokhchi snipers wounded two soldiers, and earlier in
the month, Nokhchi forces also destroyed two railroad bridges along the railway lines
between Semovodsk and Samashki, the very same ones the Russians had just repaired.
The Russian forces, apparently irritated with the guerrilla attacks and the
wavering villagers cooperation, renewed shelling Samashki on March 26th, with six
helicopters. These came despite the agreement between Russian forces and villagers.
The attacks targeted both the village itself and the immediate surrounding areas
including the cannery which resulted in the wounding several villagers, the destruction
of two houses, and the slaughter of livestock. In interviews with survivors of the
attack, one reporter spoke with Nabis Barsnukaeva, an elderly woman in her late
seventys who resided in Samashki. She had been wounded in the leg and spent three
months in the hospital in Urus-Martan after this round of attacks. According to Mrs.
Barsnukaeva, two other elderly women were injured at the same time. It was
reinforced to reporters by pro-Russian villagers that this was only the first time the
47


village had been shot at in some form since March 8, as if this was not a horrible turn
of events. From that date on, the village was assaulted daily with mortars, helicopter
rocket attacks, small weapons fire, and artillery from armored vehicles which moved
closer to the village daily (Amaev, April 1, 1995).
Public disgust with the situation in Samashki had penetrated even the
misinformation the Russian military was piping through to the loyal state-regulated
newspapers and television correspondents. On March 26th, the same day Russian
forces began their renewal of hostilities on the exclusively civilian village, Russian
citizens from various public and religious organizations participated in an organized
March for Peace. Protesters entered Chechnya, having planned to make a peacefiil
entrance into Samashki, but were detained by Russian military at the checkpoint at the
intersection with the Rostov-Baku highway and were transported instead to Nazran
and Assinovskaya. From there, some of the protesters were then sent back to
Moscow and their respective cities. Despite the Russians efforts, seemingly like their
ability to capture Nokhcki fighters, some of the marchers slipped past the checkpoint
and passed through into Samashki.
Upon their arrival to Samashki, the Russian civilians saw the helicopters using
their rocket launchers, hovering and firing in the area above the village. When the
marchers finally reached the entry to the village, local residents under fire asked them
whether there were any surgeons among them. The rocket attacks had ceased by the
48


time the marchers arrived, with the helicopters leaving the area just before they
arrived, but the attack had begun almost two hours before. Several marchers
examined the houses that had been damaged in the air attack.
As was noted by the marchers after returning from Samashki many people
were indeed armed with automatic weapons within the village, some dressed in civilian
clothes, others in camouflage. In a conversation with D.A. Salokhina, one of the
marchers, the armed people all claimed they were local residents ready to defend their
village if the Russians returned. According to L. Abdulkhajiev, head of the village
administration, the Colonel who commanded the Russian checkpoint near the village
claimed the rocket attacks by Russians came also after he had demanded village
representatives to turn in their firearms. The villagers noted the agreement reached
earlier did not require residents to turn in firearms, and initially refused. The head of
the village administration, in an effort to retain the peace agreement they had made,
offered villagers cattle, grain, building materials, and other state farm property in
exchange for weapons. Some villagers agreed, relinquishing a sparse six or seven
automatic weapons, which were then handed over to representatives of the Russian
command (Amaev, April 1 1995).
At the end of March the misinformation laced NTV news program Segodnya
reported that if the elders did not force Nokhchi soldiers to leave soon, soldiers who
did not in reality exist in the village, then the same fate the bombed-out Grozny had
49


suffered, soon would befall Samashki, (Segodnya, March 29, 1995). It seemed the
pro-Russian agency was helping to establish another excuse for Russian forces to
continue if not escalate hostilities on Samashki citizens. A Radio Rossiya
correspondent who visited Samashki at the time however saw obvious changes in the
village compared to the beginning of March:
At that time there had been fighters from Dudaev's units...Today the
elders of the village are trying to negotiate with the fighters coming down
from the mountains and out of the woods not to touch the village. Also,
armed people at the village's border were members of the self-defense unit.
These fighters were subordinate to their fathers, brothers, elders. Said one:
We're defending the village. From looters, from Russian looters. There are
more of them than of us.
{Radio Rossiya, April 5 1995 10:00).
Events in early April seemed to be a harbinger of trouble yet to come for
Samashki residents. First a military train, set to pass through Samashki stopped
instead in Semovodsk. Russian infantry troops, from Semovodsk began to move in on
surrounding the village (Amaev, April 6 1995). Next, infantry scouts began to move
about the outskirts of the village, apparently searching for access routes into the
village for both infantry, and the heavy armored compliment positioned outside the
village. On April 6th the situation took a sharp turn for the worst for the villagers. In a
meeting between village administration and Lt.-Gen. A.A.Antonov, deputy
commander of Russian forces in Chechnya, at Post No. 13 an ultimatum was issued by
Anatonov: hand over, by 7:00 a.m. on April 7th 264 automatic weapons, two machine
50


guns, and one APC (which allegedly appeared on an aerial snapshot of the village),
and to allow MVD units freely into the village or Russian troops would enter the
village in force and conduct a full house-to-house weapons check. Antonov claimed
that military intelligence had supplied the information about the number of automatics
in the village. The Nokhchi delegation managed to convince Antonov to extend the
deadline by two hours, stating that they were not responsible for the presence of non-
village rebels or for their actions, but were responsible for the actions of their own
village defenders. Additionally, no one from the village would open fire on the
Russian troops, but they could not hand over the given number of weapons since they
village did not have them. They lastly told Antonov that the demand to surrender light
firearms contradicted the agreement that had been reached the previous month.
Nonetheless, in the interests of peace, and in an effort to prevent any more bloodshed,
the head of the village administration requested to be given three days to attempt to
gather and hand over around fifty automatics they knew of, but not more. The
general, without consideration to the offer, refused. Having returned to the village,
the leaders and elders gathered village residents and informed them about the
ultimatum, but no one brought forth any weapons (Amaev, April 6 1995).
A. Blinushov and A. Guryanov, monitors from the human rights mission, and
P. Kosov, an advisor to the president of the Ingush Republic, arrived at Post No. 13 at
6:30 p.m. on April 6th. By that time negotiations had already ended, but the head of
51


the Samashki village administration and two village elders continued to confer with
officers at the post. One of the officers, a Colonel, said that if there would be
gunshots from any house while troops were entering the village the following day, a
tank would be driven up to the house and would open fire. According to MVD
officers, artillery, mine launching battery, and tanks had already been deployed around
Samashki. That day an MVD internal troops division began advancing on the
outskirts of Samashki, seeking to strengthen their positions there. Soon after, about
1.5 kilometers from the northern end of the village an APC and a tank both exploded
and were destroyed on mines, and then an APC blew up on another mine on the village
outskirts. No troops were killed or wounded, but two people received contusions
(MVD troop, May 29 1995).
Shooting on the outskirts of the village had begun long before the ultimatum
deadline ran out. Beginning at 10:30 p.m. on April 6th, Russian forces heavily
bombarded the area outside Samashki with artillery or mine fire until 1:30 a.m. The
village was hit with aerial bombardments for twenty-five minutes on the morning of
April 7th, beginning as early as 5:00 a.m. According to villagers, the area adjacent to
the southern end of the village was bombed, wounding several civilians. A column of
APCs heading toward the village from the north spread cannon fire on Samashki from
around 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. (Amaev, April 11 1995). Human rights mission
observers near the village noted intensive artillery shelling in the area around Samashki
52


between 10:30 and 11:00. Supposedly only the outskirts of the village were shelled
order to frighten villagers, however based on the more central location wounded were
being found, this was not the case.
On April 7th, around 8:00 a.m., A.R. Amaev and L. Abdulkhajiev went to meet
Lt.-Gen. Antonov (who arrived by helicopter at 10:00 a.m.) at the checkpoint. They
left for the post from Semovodsk, where they had spent the night. According to L.
Abdulkhajiev, the general had told him: We couldn't come to an agreement with you.
Now I have no power over it any more, other troops will be operating there, and they
do not report to me. A group of leaders who arrived at the checkpoint from Samashki
a bit later missed Lt.-Gen. Antonov, who had also departed rapidly from the area by
helicopter. A new meeting to discuss the situation was arranged for 1:00 p.m. that
day.
Upon returning to Samashki, the village leaders and elders gathered a group of
Samashki villagers for a meeting in the mosque. On the way back they were shot at
from Russian troop positions. The head of the village administration suggested that
residents leave the village as quickly as possible. An MVD Colonel who had arrived in
the village again urged residents to hand over the mysterious 264 automatics, machine
guns, and the APC. The elders, by their account, swore to the Colonel that the village
did not have that many weapons. According to villagers, soon after the Colonel left
the village (through the northern end), snipers began to fire from the military
53


compound located in the Semovodsk range. A teenager was wounded near the
mosque around the same time (Blinushov, April 11 1995).
At 10:45 a.m., a group of villagers began to leave Samashki. They were
detained at the MVD checkpoint, where twelve passenger cars and trucks had
amassed. Within an hour, the first group of about fifty people was let thorough,
(Balburov, April 16-23 1995). In a telephone conversation with OM monitors, Ingush
Vice-President Boris Nikolaevich Agapov said that according to reports he had
received, MVD command intended to detain the male population of Samashki for
filtration. Agapov promised to maintain contact with the command in Mozdok in
order to facilitate the departure of women, children and the elderly from Samashki. At
1:00 p.m., L. Abdulkhajiev and the elders again went to meet with the Russian
command. This time they met with a general they did not know and who refused to
introduce himself. Moscow News reported that this was Gen. Lityakov, commander
of the Western Group of Russian Military Forces (Balburov, April 16-23 1995).
(Federation Council deputies, reported at their April 24 press conference devoted to
their trip to Samashki that MVD Maj.-Gen. Skripnik led the operation in Samashki.
There is no official military report identifying who actually led the operation in
Samashki). The mysterious new General stated: I command these troops. If you do
not hand over the weapons before 4:00 p.m., I will carry out my duties. He ordered
the weapons to be brought to a torch, which was improvised from a damaged gas pipe.
54


In response to complaints that his subordinates at the checkpoint prevented people
from leaving the village, the General issued an order to allow people to leave the
village (Amaev, April 11 1995). At 2:00 p.m., the elders and the deputy head of the
village administration left Samashki.
According to village leaders, the final deadline for the ultimatum 4:00 p.m., left
them too little time to notify the entire village population or to allow them to gather
their things and leave the village. Until that time, many people did not believe threats
that troops would in fact enter the village and hence did not want to leave their homes.
Judging from conversations of authorities, human-rights monitors, elders, and others
with many villagers, a part of those who had attempted to leave Samashki did not
succeed before the shelling began. The OM noted that several groups, numbering
about one hundred people, successfully escaped the village. Some of the men were
detained at the checkpoint and then taken by helicopter to the filtration point in
Mozdok. The deputy head of the village administration, who lingered behind, claimed
that he had counted about 100-150 residents who left the village at that time.
The final act of barbarism on the citizens of Samashki began with a tremendous
shelling barrage of the village began about fifteen to twenty-five minutes before the
end of the 4:00 p.m. ultimatum deadline, resulting in numerous casualties among
residents leaving the village (Blinushov and Guryanov, April 19 1995). S.
Govorukhin, chairman of the parliamentary commission, later admitted that the
55


Russian military had violated the cease-fire that had been declared to be in force until
4:00. Albert Digaev, a Nokhchi reporter, spoke with a Nokhchi Samashki villager
who said his wife had been killed just because of this violation of the agreement. The
widower stated that his wife had thrown herself on the side of the road to escape the
gunfire, but Russian troops had started shooting before 4:00, killing her and nearly him
as well. Ironically, this fact, as well Fig 3.9; Nokhchi Woman onboard Refugee bus. |
as the admission of guilt by the
chairman of the parliamentary
commission, inexplicably appears
neither in the conclusions published S.^JL
by the commission's members, nor in
the commission's briefing paper on
the events in Samashki (Digaev, July 1996).
When the shelling began, a bus filled with residents from nearby homes on
Ulitsa Sharipova did not have enough time to leave the loading point according to the
testimony of many witnesses. The bus was hit with mortar attacks, killing all inside.
The attack went on for several hours with the end result of the village being razed and
numbers reportedly in the hundreds of Nokhchi civilians killed. Conflicting reports
have never given an accurate account as to how many refugees survived the attack
that day as many former residents of Samashki have never come forward from
56


neighboring villages, and still others escaped to the Ingush Republic. The following
images were taken by Albert Digaev and others to document the horror and crimes
inflicted by Russian military forces during their final siege of Samashki:
Fig 3.11; Dead civilian after
Russian shelling of Samashki
Fig 3.12; Dead civilian after
Russian shelling of Samashki
57


Fig 3.13; Bum marks made in
Nokhchi body in Samashki
Fig 3.14; Nokhchi civilians
killed in Russian raid on
Fig 3.15; Dead civilians from
bus shelling in Samashki
Fig 3.16; More dead civilians
from bus shelling in Samashki
Fig 3.17; More dead civilians
from bus shelling in Samashki
Fig 3.18; More dead civilians
from bus shelling in Samashki
58


Fig 3.19; More dead civilians
from bus shelling in Samashki
Fig 3.20; More dead civilians
from bus shelling in Samashki
Fig 3.21; Blood stains from a
civilian shot bv Russian
Fig 3.22; Damage to Nokhchi
home after Russian shelling
attack
Fig 3.23; Destroyed Nokhchi
home after Russian shelling
59


In the end, what does this detailed analysis of the destruction of Samashki
prove to the point of an indigenous or self-determination struggle? Perhaps it simply
shows the brutality of the war for civilians caught in such a struggle, but perhaps it
shows more than just this. The destruction of Samashki, the siege of Samashki to be
more precise, is a sampling of the lengths Russian commanders and officers were
willing to take to terrorize a town of fairly cooperative Nokhchi. This was a village
willing to do anything within its power, with the exception of actually assisting the
Russian forces in the war, to ensure its survival. For Russia, hell-bent on the
destruction of the Nokhchi this was irrelevant. The evidence in the section above is
has been presented to show just how Russian troops were willing to fabricate reports
about Nokhchi troops in the village, mass caches of weapons, and villagers aiding
Nokhchi troops, as well as utilize the press to support such claims, in an effort to
justify their destruction of a non-combatant village. This analysis of the destruction of
Samashki has been presented in some detail to give evidence about what was taking
place in not only one small village, or several small villages in one select area, but
across Chechnya. These acts of terrorism are not isolated incidents by any means.
Evidence exists to support this was not a war for territory or for maintaining borders,
or even for economic interests, but in fact a war of ethnocide upon the Nokhchi
people. Villages with high Russian citizen concentrations near the northern border of
Chechnya were never attacked in such a manner, yet dozens, if not hundreds of these
60


small Samashki-like villages were assaulted, often razed, across Chechnya. So in the
end, the Destruction of Samashki section is offered as just a sampling of the kind of
terror nearly all Nokhchi civilians, hoping to stay in a neutral position through the war,
were faced with from Russian soldiers.
On the political front, the in-fighting that existed in the Russian government
was as extreme as its problems in dealing with the separatist Dudaev and his
supporters. Tensions between the Russian Defense Minister Grachev and Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had escalated from time to time. One such example of
the tensions between the two top government people assigned to dealing with the
problem came in October 1995 when Defense Minister Grachev surmised that any
peace negotiations would fail and he would be forced to renew hostilities (Fuller,
October 12 1995). Prime Minister Chernomyrdin demanded that the Defense Minister
do everything possible to ensure a peaceful settlement of the conflict, at virtually any
price (Fuller, October 20 1995).
In Chechnya, a new Prime Minister, Doku Zavgaev, was confirmed by the
Russian created and supported Committee for National Reconciliation and the
Nokhchi Supreme Soviet. Claiming the establishment of a pro-union Prime Minister
would expedite the peace process, the Russian government put its official support
behind Zavgaev (Fuller, October 25 1995). On November 15th Russian President
Boris Yeltsin endorsed holding both Nokhchi Duma and Head of State election on
61


December 17th. At this time the Nokhchi President Dudaev vowed to oppose any
i
j elections until the issues of the Nokhchi constitution had been settled, either via total
independence from Russia, or through a negotiated level of autonomy. Dudaev also
| denounced an agreement formed by Zavgaev with the Russian central government
! giving Russia all Federal powers, as other states of the Russian Commonwealth have
I
| done (Parrish, November 16 1995)
i
i
l .L
| On December 14 1995, just over one year after Russia had initially invaded
Chechnya and mounted what can best
be described as a war of subversion, a
six-month cease fire ended between
Nokhchi and Russian forces when
they engaged in open hostilities over
the town of Gudermes, (Fuller, Dec
15 1995). As the war moved into its
second year, Nokhchi soldiers began to gain ground, sometimes using questionable
i
means, including taking civilian hostages. One such incident included the Nokhchi
hostage incident in Pervomaiskoe in Dagestan in mid-January, 1996 which was
i
executed under the command of the son-in-law of Dudaev, popular Field Commander,
and future key political figure Shamil Basaev. After negotiating the release of
j
I hostages from an earlier incident in Kizlyar, also in Dagestan, Nokhchi forces were on
i
i
Fig 3.22; Nokhchi Soldier Displays Russian
Federal Force Soldier Captured in Assault.
62


a return path to Chechnya with security hostages set to be released upon safe return
to Nokhchi territory. Russian troops stopped the convoy of buses at the Chechen-
Dagestani border town of Pervomaiskoe demanding the release of the hostages as
promised. Nokhchi forces refused until they were safely within the Nokhchi borders.
The incident went rapidly into a tailspin, and open fighting began. Nokhchi forces fell
back into the village to secure a position from which they could defend themselves.
As negotiations for the release of the hostages and the safe passage of Nokhchi forces
back into Chechnya broke down over a few days, Moscow decided to take action. On
January 15th Russian forces launched an attack on the positions where the 150-200
Nokhchi soldiers had secured, as well
as the same complex where the
reported 70-150 hostages were being
held. Fire-bombings, shelling, air
assaults, heavy arms exchange, rockets,
Fig 3.23; Russian Federal forces assault HinD and armored column attacks were all
helicopter on attack run in Chechnya.
----------------------------------------- directed at the Nokhchi, and the
hostages. In the end, the attacks leveled a significant portion of the village, yet many
of the Russians targets, the Nokhchi forces, still escaped creating further
embarrassment for the Russian military and intelligence, while making heroes of the
Nokhchi (Fuller and Parrish, Jan 13-16 1996).

63


After this attack the general public and government officials denounced the
assault on the village as not only unnecessary and overkill reaction, but openly accused
the government of acts of misinformation. Television commentators, newspaper
editorials, and other public figures began blasting Yeltsin for his indiscriminate attack
on the village in an effort to obliterate the Chechen rebels, as well as by the reports
that the Nokhchi were executing hostages, which turned out to be false. The Nokhchi
rebels had, in fact, not executed the hostages as was declared by Yeltsin as the primary
rationale for the attack. For Yeltsin, the war was taking its toll in not just his
popularity, but in the pocket as well. As of late November 1995, an allocation of 90
billion rubles ($18.8 million US) was embezzled from the Russian Army Chechen
campaign support account. Suspicions centered on members of the Russian Army
Chechen campaign command staff, as well as members of the Supplies Division of the
armed forces. They were believed to have sold various supplies and arms to the black
market, or perhaps even the Nokhchi rebels. At the end of the investigation, several
command staff members were removed from the war effort, some were retired early,
and some were imprisoned on unrelated charges (Fuller, April 2 1996).
The war raged on, and the situation for high-ranking, pro-Yeltsin Russian
officials was becoming critical. The general population as well as other government
officials were calling for an end to the war, placing most of the blame on Yeltsin. Web
sites across the Internet began popping up in favor of the Nokhchi position, almost all
64


of which came from Russian, not Nokhchi,
citizens. It seemed Yeltsin was suffering from a
Russian variation of Vietnam, only in this case,
the people whom he was attacking, and losing
100,000 or more soldiers to, were technically,
according to the Commonwealths Constitution,
Russian citizens.
Feeling the pressure of looming
elections, Yeltsin began to make moves to settle
the Chechen crisis. First he set into motion a staged withdrawal of Russian Federal
forces. In an announcement made on March 26th, at the direction of Yeltsin, by
Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said major combat operations in Chechnya
will cease after a pending announcement from President Yeltsin (Clarke, March 27,
1996). Then, on schedule to his design, on March 31, 1996 Russian President Boris
Yeltsin outlined his initiative for a peaceful resolution of the Nokhchi conflict. Since
1992 the Nokhchi crisis had been an integral part of the political agenda of not only
Boris Yeltsin, but many of his opponents and supporters as well. Now seemed the
time to make a move to finally end the conflict, and to take credit for the victory.
Boris Yeltsin, still refusing to acknowledge that the Nokhchi situation was
anything more than a rebellion by separatist radicals, maintaining the standard
65


language of bureaucracy, outlined his peace plan as having
three steps towards a final end to all hostilities. With the
announcement that he was initiating a peace plan, he
^ immediately ceased all offensive combat operations of the
Fig 3.25; Yeltsin
Announces His Peace
Plan
Russian Federal forces. Despite this cease-fire decree,
Nokhchi combatants continually noted that the Russians continued to engage Nokhchi
Yeltsin envisioned the peace plan, Chechnya would have been granted a level of
autonomy higher than any other subject territory of the Russian Federation, but it
would not be granted independence from the Federation (Fuller, April 1 1996).
Despite this promise of an autonomous status within the Federation, Nokhchi
President Dzhokhar Dudaev, still labeled a rebel by Russian officials, refused to
comment formally on the plan. In fact, many of his closest advisors and military
commanders publicly criticized the plan, maintaining a constant state of heightened
combat readiness (Fuller, April 2 1996)
During this sudden turn towards peace from Moscow, a critical report blasting
Russias behavior in the war was released by the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission. Swiss diplomat Tim Guldimann accused
Russian forces of engaging in acts of warfare against the civilian population, and in
wanton destruction and systematic looting as well as extortion of money from
forces at will as they retreated to bases still within Nokhchi borders. In the end, as
66


villages by officers in return for not attacking them. This report blasted Russian
officials for their treatment of Nokhchi citizens throughout the war, placing much of
the blame directly on Yeltsins policy choices (Rutland, March 27,1996). This
perhaps was one of the most public non-Russian or Chechen positions making an
indigenous-rights argument, detailing acts of aggression that could be translated as
ethnocide against the Nokhchi people. The actions of the Russians now being
documented were against the entire people, military personnel and citizen alike. To
the Russian forces if they were Nokhchi they were targets, thus supporting the idea
that it was a battle against an entire resident population rather than a case of just
human-rights violations, supporting the idea that this was indeed an indigenous rights
to freedom issue.
Seeing this reaction from the key Nokhchi players, President Yeltsin moved
two days later to ensure amnesty to all Nokhchi fighters as part of his peace plan.
However, under Russian constitutional rules, only the Duma has the power to
guarantee any amnesty within Russia. And, despite a rapid political lobbying from
Yeltsin and his staff, many members of the Duma were unwilling to put their names on
an amnesty treaty for those responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Russian soldiers.
However, to help the peace plan move forward, the Duma Speaker, Gennadii
Seleznev, went on record as saying that the Duma would still consider the amnesty
issue for Dudaev and his fighters in order to stop the war and for the sake of the
67


lives that we can save (Orttung, April 3 1996). In the end, the amnesty issue for the
politicians became a moot point.
Russian troops remained in Chechnya, some slowly withdrawing to northern
bases still in Nokhchi territory, and some just outside Chechnya. Despite the peace
plans call for the withdrawal of troops from the area, and the formation of an
autonomous state within the CIS, in many cases Russian troops ceased the ordered
retreat to engage in what was labeled by Russian officials as defensive counter-
attacks against guerrilla Nokhchi forces. In late April, one such defensive attack
forever changed any hopes of a peaceful, politically advantageous Yeltsin victory.
The Death of Dudaev
In a planned strike by Russian forces attempting to demoralize the Nokhchi
and gain ground as the victors in the conflict, a strike against the Nokhchi President
himself, Dzhokhar Dudaev, was initiated. Also feeling the pressure to end the war, but
as the victor, Dudaev had begun engaging in satellite telephone conversations with a
Russian representative he trusted, in an effort to negotiate the beginnings of a peace
treaty. Russian forces, knowing that the telephone calls were often short, placed at a
fairly random time, also knew that the calls were being placed from a particular
satellite phone Dudaev always used. Utilizing missiles sold to Russia in 1992 by the
United States, namely smart-bomb homing missiles utilized in the Persian Gulf War
68


of 1991, the Russians locked a bomb on his
telephones frequency as he placed his weekly call
from his jeep convoy. This technology, the ability
to lock in on a particular satellite phone
frequency, was a new technology to Russia, sold
to them by the US in another high-tech weapons
reportedly after the of the war with Chechnya had
begun and Russian casualties were mounting
(Philps, April 25 1996).
To this day speculation as to the reasons the United States might have sold this
advanced technology to Russia is debated by many in the international political and
academic communities, and in Chechnya. Was this a case of strengthening Russia as
an ally in the new omni-polar system while, almost in a secret fashion, making a
statement by assisting in the destruction of a potentially successful indigenous rights to
freedom movement? Or was this a case of quid pro quo with Russia looking to gain
from the end of the war a restoration of control and flow from the much needed oil
pipelines, refineries and transfer stations located in Chechnya while the United States,
under the table as it would be, assisted in knocking off the international spotlight a
potentially dangerous anti-Western radical pro-Islamic movement? This author
speculates that in fact the United States had some interest in subverting the Chechen
Fig 3.26; Photo of Dzhokhar Dudaev
Taken Several Months Before His
Assassination
69


independence movement without a doubt. Throughout the war there was little to no
official reaction from the United States as to the brutal methodology the Russian
forces were using on the Nokhchi, despite cries from Amnesty International and other
human-rights groups. The only time any mention of the Chechen-Russian war was
ever made by a notable US Official was in a visit to Russia by Vice-President A1 Gore
in July 1996 when he, off official records, discussed the lengthy nature and high
casualty rates of the war with President Yeltsin (Fuller, July 17 1996). In the end, it is
this authors opinion that the United States indeed had a specific goal in mind when
they assisted Russia with the assassination of Dudaev, and that simply put was to
discourage any indigenous people, especially those in the United States, from ever
considering a forceful attempt at autonomy.
The following is a transcript, as taken from a recording from Konstantin
Borovoys telephone, of the conversation he was engaged in when Dudaev was
assassinated:
Call initiated by Dudaev at approximately 8pm, Chechen time:
[Dudaev] Good evening, Konstantin Natanovich. How are you?
[Borovoy] Thank you. I am currently very much concerned by the
situation over the start of peace talks.
[Dudaev] I must tell you that the National Congress of the Chechen
People ended yesterday. It deemed it impossible to hold talks with those
who have committed crimes against humanity on the territory of the
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
70


[Borovoy] Whom do you mean in particular?
[Dudaev] The lists of these criminals will shortly be made public.
[Borovoy] What was the mood at the congress?
[Dudaev] It was very radical. A large number of young people joined
forces to form the "Jihad" organization and are gearing up for revenge,
for executing the sentences passed on the war criminals.
[Borovoy] This seems very dangerous to me. Currently, ways of
resolving the crisis and starting talks have emerged. Mikhaylov
[nationalities minister] is currently in Grozny, he is attending to this
matter.
[Dudaev] I have told you many times that this is not a Chechen crisis,
but a Russian-Chechen war. By the way, tell Mikhaylov and Zorin that
they had better stay away from Chechen territory. This is dangerous for
them.
[Borovoy] Is it possible that a dialogue with those you call national
traitors might begin? These people are ready for civilized contact.
[Dudaev] I know that. They are already seeking direct contacts with
me. Zavgayev, Khadzhiyev, and Avturkhanov are already crawling
around.... Incidentally, it may be very hot in Moscow shortly. Do you
yourself live in downtown?
[Borovoy] Yes, in downtown. Moreover, in a house next to the Internal
Affairs Ministry.
[Dudaev] You had better change you place of residence for a time.
[Borovoy] This is unacceptable for me, Dzhokhar Musayevich.
[Dudaev] Russia must regret what it is doing....
(Kalinina, 3 May 1996.)
71


At this point the conversation was broken off, leaving only static at Borovoys
end of the connection. Dudaev never called back to complete the conversation.
President Dudaev, the man viewed as most responsible for organizing Chechnya in the
fight against Russia for independence as a unique people, was dying. As Borovoy said
after he learned of Dudaevs death, this behavior of hanging up was normal for him
(Dudaev), often cutting conversations off
in mid-sentence, complaining beforehand
of poor connections. It is highly likely the
words of this transcript are the last words
ever spoken by Dudaev, but this claim is
disputed by others. In an analysis of the
attack, it was obvious this was a tactical,
if not special operations strike, and not a
strike at his entire convoy. Only his jeep
and the one behind were damaged, and no
other rockets or missiles were launched.
Dudaev suffered serious injuries to the
back of the head and died shortly after the attack, with little or no hope of
hospitalization, according to Nokhchi soldiers present at the attack.
Fig3.27; 3.28; Chechen Citizens in Grozny
and Across Chechnya Learn of Dudaevs
72


BMECTEII HO KOHUA
Fig 3.29; Dudaevs Sucessor,
Yandarbivev Dictured with Dudaev.
According to Dudaevs successor, the former vice-president Zelimkhan
Yandarbiyev, he was buried in a morning
ceremony at a rural cemetery in the south of
Chechnya. In accordance with Muslim tradition,
there was no major gathering at the graveside,
and the site of the burial remained undisclosed for
some time. Mr. Yandarbiyev, who was Vice-
President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria,
reported Dudaevs last words were not those in
the transcript, but in fact were: "...do not give up
the cause we have begun. Continue to the end." In his first statement, Mr.
Yandarbiyev said: "The tragic death of the first president of Chechnya has not
destroyed our people. We are ready to continue the struggle for independence." Soon
after Yandarbiyevs rise to power with the death of Dudaev, reports of Yandarbiyevs
own death were being spread around the combat areas by April 29. These reports
were grossly exaggerated, though in fact he had indeed been wounded in one of
Russias defensive counter-attacks. Yandarbiyev, while recovering from his
wounds, vowed to avenge the death of his predecessor (CNN Interactive, April 29
1996). Despite this situation of changes in leadership, or perhaps a total gap in
leadership as some believed, Russian President Boris Yeltsin vowed, despite delays in
73


troop withdrawals, that the peace plan would proceed with or without Dudaev or
Yandarbiyev in control of Nokhchi forces (CNN Interactive, April 24 1996). He, as
well as his top officers in the Chechen theater, adamantly denied having had anything
to do with the strike on Dudaev, or any seemingly offensive strikes against Nokhchi
leadership positions. With this series of events over a five-day period, hostilities
renewed at an aggressive pace once again.
Beyond politics there are perhaps other reasons Nokhchi commanders and
outside analysts saw the intensive peace plan being initiated at this time rather than
earlier, or likewise, closer to the presidential election. One such reason is the release
of information regarding the various costs of the conflict in Chechnya. In an ITAR-
TASS report released on the same day the peace plan was announced by Boris Yeltsin,
it was noted that in 1995 alone, not including the late months of 1994 when combat
truly began, the war, expensed under the category of economic and social
reconstruction, had cost the federal government 6 trillion rubles, or $1.2 billion
American dollars. This includes the cost of lost equipment, maintenance costs, and
supplies for the combat equipment as well as for the 40,000 troops assigned to the
breakaway republic (Rutland, April 4 1996). In addition, on April 3, it was noted that
550 or more servicemen in the Russian Federal forces were missing, absent without
leave (considered to be missing in action by Russian officers), being detained as
prisoners of war, or as hostages according to Russian spokesmen, by Nokhchi forces
74


(Clarke, April 4 1996). The potential public outrage against Yeltsin and his supporters
of the war effort could have potentially destroyed any hopes of re-election by Yeltsin,
especially against the military-supported and pro-peace political opponent in the
upcoming election, Aleksandr Lebed. By releasing a peace plan prior to these figures
being made public, Yeltsin hoped to head off a public relations disaster before it began,
making him appear to have understood the costs in lives and rubles, and ending it now,
in peace, rather than losing more in conflict.
Yet as time marched on into May, things did not improve in Chechnya. In fact,
with the death of Dudaev, not only was he lifted to the status of a martyr, but the
ensuing cry for blood came from not only those who supported him but from Nokhchi
that earlier had believed a peaceful resolution could have been met earlier. Russian
troops that were supposed to have been exiting Nokhchi territory had completely
ceased their retreat, again defending their positions against guerrilla attacks by
Nokhchi forces. Even before the assassination of Dudaev, the retreat had slowed
considerably under orders of top officials commanding the Russian forces in Chechnya,
perhaps even Moscow. This retreat had slowly come about 180 degrees into an
offensive by May 10th, when the Russian forces began to launch bombing raids and
helicopter rocket attacks on villages around the supposed retreat path of the Russian
forces that were reported to be housing bases of operations for guerrilla attacks
against the Russians (Fuller, May, 14 1996). Then, like so many times before when
75


Russian military commanders managed to embarrass Moscow, the commander of the
Russian Federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, told journalists
on May 20th that all Chechen resistance would be eliminated sometime in early to mid-
June, but undoubtedly prior to the Russian presidential election (Fuller, May 21 1996).
With that report, Chechen attacks on Russian
armored columns and bases became far more
precise and deadly.
As Russian presidential elections neared,
Yeltsin maintained his posture for peace in
Chechnya, while in reality Russian and Nokhchi
forces were clashing in skirmishes almost daily.
Still, progress was being made by Yeltsin and his
diplomats on forming a potentially lasting treaty.
On the other side of the battle the Nokhchi
government remained somewhat in shambles
regarding who was in command, a three-way split
seeming to exist between Zelimkhan
Yandarbiyev, the acting President of the Chechen
Republic who seemed to be the new figurehead of the government after Dudaevs
death. Nokhchi Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov who seemed to have the best
Fig 3.31; Aslan Maskhodov
76


connections and rapport with Moscow, and son-in-law to the late Dudaev, now Field
opportunity to launch a series of offensive attacks on
with renewed vigor. Basaev, now seen as the
Russian positions, as well as reportedly devise and
military extension of Dudaevs legacy took the
Commander of the Nokhchi Armed Forces, Shamil
Basaev who continued his attacks on Russian forces
organize a select few acts of terrorism within Russian territories, all in the name of
Dudaev. Kremlin officials decided that all treaties and cease-fire accords would go
through Yandarbiyev, while initial contact and negotiations were made through
Maskhadov. As for Basaev, he was still viewed as the outlaw rebel, a criminal,
causing only problems in the pursuit of peace with death threats to Yeltsin, and his
continued attacks on Russian forces. By May 29th, just over a month after the death of
Dudaev, Yeltsin had the best he could hope for under the circumstances: a shaky, not
completely accepted cease-fire accord by all Chechen and Russian forces, signed off
on by Yandarbiyev. Political opponents Gennadii Zyuganov and radical ultra-
nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky blasted the cease-fire as nothing more than a
campaign trick. Even Russian television commentators, as well as other officials, were
highly skeptical of the chances for any sort of long-term peace plan actually working
based off this single accord (Belin, May 29 1996).
77


As was the case with any cease-fire signed by both sides, fighting continued on
after the agreement took effect at midnight on May 31st 1996. Disrupting proposed
disarmament talks that were scheduled to take place in Makhachlala on June 1st,
Nokhchi forces attacked a Russian position in the village of Shuani, with the heaviest
casualties falling upon the Russians. Losses were reportedly high, with a number of
soldiers and officers of the Russian Federal forces being held as prisoners of war.
Meanwhile Russian forces reported that Chechen warlord Ruslan Labazanov was
killed in his home base of Tolstoi-Yurt during the night on May 31st 1996. Russian
soldiers claim he was killed in a shoot-out with his own bodyguards, yet all were killed
by small-weapons fire, so none could be questioned on the nature of Labazanovs
death. The peace talks were immediately moved to the Ingush capital of Nazran, and
rescheduled for June 4th and 5th in an effort to keep Chechen or Russian strikes from
interfering with the talks (Fuller, June 3 1996).
Then in what seemed to be completely contrary to the public goals of Yeltsin
and his administration, a new round of elections were proposed for the Nokhchi
Peoples Assembly, reportedly by Yeltsin himself. The pro-Moscow head-of-state
Doku Zavgaev supported the elections, claiming the cease-fire had given the
opportunity to move forward in rebuilding the government of Chechnya. The next
day, June 13th, opposition to the idea of new elections from the pro-Chechen camp
exploded as acting Nokhchi President Yandarbiev vowed to employ "any means" in
78


order to disrupt the scheduled June 14th through 16th elections (Fuller, June 13, 1996).
Later that same day Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov threatened an
"incredible" response if the election to a new Chechen parliament was not postponed.
Later that same day, Yandarbiev said that if the election went forward on the
scheduled dates, he would not abide by the peace agreement he had just signed in
good faith at Nazran. Yeltsin apparently decided to remain aloof from the dispute,
claiming no need for intervention as the timing of the election was a local matter only,
and Russian officials should not be involved (Parrish, June 14 1996). Although
slightly less publicly blasted, the idea that the Nokhchi were also expected to vote in
the upcoming Russian presidential elections was equally criticized by both Russian and
Nokhchi citizens alike.
Taking the position that peace was the better option in this case, on June 17th
Aslan Maskhadov, Nokhchi Chief-of-Staff announced that the Nokhchi forces would
cease any hostilities until after the second round of the Russian presidential elections
rather than violate the June 10th agreement reached on the withdrawal of Russian
troops. While much of the voting was questioned, being called a parody of
democracy by OSCE representatives, an apparent 58% of the eligible voters still
turned out for the elections. It appeared at this point that if Basaev could be contained
from launching any unauthorized attacks, perhaps at last Russia was on its way to
peace with the Nokhchi people.
79


While small outbreaks of fighting continued in Chechnya, with nothing openly
endorsed or confirmed by either side, the peace effort continued to march along. In an
effort to secure his re-election as president, Yeltsin had made a deal with chief political
opponent Aleksandr Lebed that removed him from the
election, and made him a ally. Naming him to the position
of Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed also
became the chief negotiator in the Russian- Nokhchi peace
talks. Additionally, for the first time, through Russian
>1
Fig 3.33; Aleksandr Lebed
First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov, Yeltsin
also openly endorsed the June 10th Russian-Chechen peace agreement, and the
measures necessary for implementing that agreement (Fuller, June 19 1996). Yet, as
plans for formal peace talks were being made by Lebed and Aslan Maskhadov, it
appeared that tensions were once again on the rise. A Russian armored column had
apparently launched an attack on the small village of Alkhan-Yurt where Nokhchi
soldiers were housed, while a Russian transport helicopter was shot down by Nokhchi
forces in Tsentoroi (Fuller, June 21 1996). It appeared that just when things were
finally looking up, once again warfare took precedence over peace.
Yeltsin did his best to defuse the situation before it once again flowed over into
an all-out war. While his commander of Russian Federal forces in Chechnya, Gen.
Tikhomirov, was spending his time claiming the peace talks were fictitious, and a
80


chance for the Nokhchi to regroup and plan new attacks, as well as and completely
pointless as the cease-fire was being ignored for the most part, Yeltsin took military
measures back into his own hands (Parish, June 24 1996; Fuller, June 25 1996).
Signing a decree on June 26th Yeltsin promised a gradual withdrawal of military forces
out of Chechnya no later than September 1st 1996, with the initial withdrawal to begin
on June 28th. All military forces except two, a motorized rifle brigade and an infantry
regiment scheduled to remain in Chechnya, would be subject to the withdrawal
(Clarke, June 26 1996). Days later, as the withdrawal of troops slowly began
according to Yeltsins promises, Lt.-Gen Tikhomirov was sacked as the Commander
of Russian Federal forces and replaced with Lt.-Gen Pulikovskiy, the former Deputy
Commander of the North Caucasus Military District. It was said that Tikhomirovs
belligerent attitude towards the Nokhchi and the peace process was critically
threatening the situation (Clarke, June 8 1996).
Despite Yeltsins best efforts, it seemed nothing could hold back the conflict
from erupting back into open warfare. On July 7th Russian forces began an new
artillery bombardment of a series of villages in southeast Chechnya without
provocation from Nokhchi fighters. The Russian commanders who launched the
attack claimed they had been attacked by sniper and mortar fire from the villages and
were defending themselves (Fuller, July 8 1996). Over the course of the next weeks,
intense fighting would continue, the heaviest being in the village of Gekhi in southern
81


Chechnya. By July 10th there had already been up to 370 Nokhchi killed and another
170 wounded by Russian bombing and armored artillery attacks. Russian military
spokesman Igor Melnikov stated the severe attacks were being conducted to locate
and capture Nokhchi President Yandarbiev (Fuller, July 11 1996) who was believed to
be in either Gekhi or Makhety, which was also being bombed. The attacks rapidly
expanded to include the villages of Vedeno and Elistanzhi. Meanwhile the casualties
began to rise, including important military leaders on both sides: the Nokhchi
commander Doku Makhaev was killed while he and several other soldiers attempted to
escape from Gekhi. The same day, July 11th, Maj.-Gen Nikolai Skirpnik, the Deputy
Commander of the Interior Ministry troops in the North Caucasus was killed when his
vehicle struck a Nokhchi placed land mine (Fuller, July 12 1996).
The fighting continued, perhaps more intensely than any time prior in the way,
yet in the background, diplomats were trying to restart peace talks and renegotiate a
new cease-fire agreement. While attacks continued by Russian forces across the
southern areas of Chechnya, expanding into the bombing of the village Shatoi, the pro-
Moscow Chechen Head-of-State Doku Zavgaev, still in the puppet office, was
trying to make arrangements for peace negotiations between the interim Nokhchi
President Yandarbiev, himself, and possibly the Russian Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov, or if possible, directly with Aleksandr Lebed (Fuller, July 17 1996).
President Yandarbiev, in response to the please by Zavgaev, stated that he was open to
82


renewing the cease-fire, as well as restarting peace negotiations, however only if
Russian troops acknowledged and adhered to the previous cease-fire agreements, and
the negotiations for a peace treaty were mediated by United Nations officials (Fuller,
July 17 1996). On July 20th the next breakthrough towards peace came with an
acceptance of an offer for a new round of peace talks by Nokhchi Chief-of-Staff Aslan
Maskhadov (Fuller, July 22 1996).
As the new talks came together with new conditions being placed upon them
such as Maskhadov requiring OSCE mission head Tim Guldimann be present to
guarantee his safety, and Russian Lt.-Gen Pulikovskii (indirectly involved in the talks)
refiising to discuss any terms of a cease-fire or peace treaty with Field Commanders
Shamil Basaev or Salman Raduev, the fighting across Chechnya continued, but
significantly lessened until August 5th. On that day Nokhchi forces launched a fierce
counter-offensive to re-take the capital city of Grozny and the smaller towns of
Gudermes and Argun from Russian control once and for all (Fuller, July 26 1996;
August 6 1996). Over a period of only one week, this massive strike saw Nokhchi
soldiers killing or wounding over 1000 Russian Federal soldiers, while close to 100
Nokhchi civilians were killed by Russian helicopter attacks while they attempted to
flee the battle areas (Parrish, August 12 1996). Seemingly pushed around with some
ease compared to earlier campaigns, Russian troops found themselves in a strictly
defensive posture throughout the ordeal, dragging into its second week. Soon,
83


frustration, aggression, and perhaps fatigue took its toil on the Russian troops when
they began to show signs of a breakdown in command and discipline. On August 12th,
surrounded by Nokhchi soldiers and armor, Russian soldiers seized control of one of
the last functional and intact hospitals in the Grozny area, and took employees hostage
for bargaining to allow their escape from the area. On the same day, Russian troops
were accused of killing a Russian public TV correspondent, and harassing other
reporters covering the Russian-Chechen War, when they opened fire on international
news vehicles passing near a camp on August 8th (Parrish, August 13 1996;
Paretskaya, August 13 1996).
But peace negotiations were still on the horizon, as Russian President Yeltsin
personally ordered Lebed to go to Chechnya and find a solution to the crisis plaguing
the Kremlin staff. By August 16th, with only a few brief moments of discussion with
Aslan Maskhadov, fighting in Grozny and the two smaller towns came to a complete
halt. It is arguable whether this change in the fighting intensity was due to Lebeds
comments on his willingness to renegotiate Chechnyas status to the autonomous level
similar to that of Tartarstan, or statements of an impending cease-fire agreement that
called for the complete withdrawal of Russian troops immediately, or just the fact that
by the 16th the 2000 or so Nokhchi soldiers had either killed, driven out, or trapped
close to 7000 Russian soldiers in Grozny and had therefore secured over 95% of the
city. In any case, Lebed was now directly in charge of ending the war as soon as

84


possible, and the Nokhchi armed forces, as well as the Nokhchi civilians, were ready to
hear what he had to offer, and had slowed fighting to only sporadic gun shots (Parrish,
August 14 1996; August 16 1996).
Russian Commanders took this opportunity to attempt one last bold attack
plan before Lebed could make any progress. On August 19th, issuing a statement to
the Nokhchi civilians in Grozny, Lt.-Gen Pulikovskii ordered all civilians in Grozny to
evacuate within the next 48 hours. He stated that he and his forces reserved the
right to launch an all-out artillery and aerial bombardment of the city, now controlled
by Nokhchi fighters, but that this was not an ultimatum, just a warning of a possible
scenario the Russian forces might take. Lebed responded to what he saw as an
ultimatum by attacking any plans to renew hostilities, stating that the conflict could be
resolved only through peaceful measures, and that obviously confrontation has gotten
the Russians nowhere (Parrish, August 20 1996). The estimated 150,000 Nokhchi and
Russian civilians still remaining in Grozny took the threat seriously and began
evacuating the city as quickly as possible. Often met by Russian hostility, many
civilians were killed in their attempts to flee (Fuller, August 21 1996). The deadline
for what could have proven to be the largest single assault of the war was now only a
day away.
In a statement the next day, Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov indicated
that in fact Lt.-Gen Pulikovskii had acted incorrectly in issuing any sort of ultimatum
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not approved or ordered by the military high command in Moscow. Reflecting
tensions between the civilian political power and the military command, Lebed
followed up that same day by officially ordering the cancellation of the ultimatum,
calling it a bad joke and an attempt to undermine the cease-fire accords previously
reached with Aslan Maskhadov. Additionally, in support of Lebeds efforts to achieve
a lasting cease-fire agreement and eventually a truce or peace accord, the Russian
military high command ordered a,cessation of all hostilities by Russian forces in
Grozny. That night, the city remained completely quiet, no gunfire being heard
(Fuller, August 22 1996).
On August 22rd the breakthrough that would be the foundation for ending the
Russian-Chechen War was made. After eight hours of talks in the Nokhchi village of
Novye Atagi, Aslan Maskhadov and Aleksandr Lebed emerged with not only an
official and mutual cease-fire agreement to take effect at noon the next day, but with a
signed draft agreement on the technical specifications for the end of the war in whole.
It included details of the withdrawal of both forces from Grozny, the creation of a joint
military headquarters and police force to prevent looting of the city, and aspects of the
demilitarization efforts. It also called for a meeting to take place on August 25th to
work out a binding peace proposal that would officially end the war (Fuller, August 23
1996).
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CHAPTER 4
PEACE PLANS AND CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS
As scheduled, on August 25th Aslan Maskhadov and Aleksandr Lebed, with
additional support staff for both, and observer Tim Guildemann from the OSCE met to
work on a peace treaty that would at last end the nearly two-year-old conflict. The
agreement touched on the movement towards the ultimate goal of Chechnyas rights
to self-determination and independence from Russia, the complete withdrawal of
Russian forces from Chechnya, a Russian-Federation-funded reconstruction program
for Chechnya, and establishment of a governmental and legal system acceptable to the
Nokhchi people without interference from Russia. As seen in the Supporting
Document 4.1, the treaty is fairly short, yet well establishes the Russian post-war
responsibilities, as well as the movement of Chechnya toward complete national
independence. By the end of the days drafting and negotiations, all parties exited with
this document signed and approved. The next step was in getting it officially approved
by each partys governments (Fuller, August 26 1996).
Supporting Document 4.1: The Russian-Chechen Peace Treaty
We, the undersigned, taking into account the progress achieved towards the ending
of the warfare, endeavoring to create mutually acceptable basis for political solution of
the armed conflict, recognizing that it is prohibited to use armed forces or to threaten
the use of force as a means towards the resolution of issues under dispute, embarking
upon the universally recognized right of nations to self-determination, upon the
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principles of equality, freedom of choice, free expression of will, strengthening of
international accord and security of all nations, exercising the will towards the defence
of human and civil rights regardless of his or her nationality, religious affiliation, place
of residence and other differences, towards the ending of acts of violence in the relations
of political adversaries, while at the same time embarking upon the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights of 1949 and upon the International Pact on Civil and
Political Rights of 1966, have jointly worked out the Rules for Clarifying the Basis for
Mutual Relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic according
to which the further peace process shall be developed:
The Rules for Clarifying the Basis for Mutual Relations between the Russian Federation
and the Chechen Republic
1. The treaty regulating the basis for mutual relations between the Russian Federation
and the Chechen Republic, to be governed by the universally accepted principles and
norms of the international law, shall have been reached prior to 31 December, 2001.
2. No later than on 1 October, 1996, a Joint Commission shall have been formed,
constituted by the representatives of the state authorities of the Russian Federation and
of the Chechen Republic, the duties of which shall be as follows:
--to assume control over the implementation of the Decree of the President of the
Russian Federation
issued on 25 June, 1996, under No. 985, and to prepare proposals concerning the
completion of the withdrawal of the armed forces;
to initiate joint undertakings directed towards the combat of crime, terrorism and
nationalistic and religious prejudices, and to control their implementation;
to prepare proposals for the reconstruction of currency, fiscal and budgetary mutual
relations;
to prepare for the enactment by the Government of the Russian Federation of the
programmes for the rebuilding of the socio-economic infrastructure of the Chechen
Republic;
to control over the agreed forms of cooperation of the state authorities and other
relevant organizations concerning the supply and distribution of food and medical aid
among the population.
3. The legal system jof the Chechen Republic is based upon the respect for human and
civil rights, upon the right of nations towards the self-determination, upon the
principles of equal rights of nations, of the priority for civil accord, international peace
and security for citizens residing on the territory of the Chechen Republic regardless of
their nationality, religious identity and other differences.
4. The Joint Commission shall end its work upon mutual agreement of the parties.
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Signed by: A. Lebed, A. Maskhadov, S. Kharlamov, S-Kh. Abumuslimov
Date of signing: 25.08.1996
Place of signing: Khasavyurt, Republic of Dagestan
In the presence of the Head of the Special Task Group of the OSCE for Chechnya, Mr.
T. Guildemann.
It was not until August 31a, 1996 that the formal treaty was re-signed by the
same attending parties, and the Russian-Chechen War officially ended. While some
criticized the treaty for not actively defining by whom or how Chechnyas future status
would be decided, or exactly who was in charge until those decisions are made around
2001, the treaty did apparently sufficiently satisfy both the Nokhchi command staff and
Boris Yeltsin and his staff enough for them to approve the treaty. From that moment
on the Nokhchi, began taking command of their territory, their own Chechnya with a
renewed vigor and pride (Fuller, September 3 1996).
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After the peace treaty was in place, the Nokhchi immediately moved to hold
new elections in January 1997 with the help of the OSCE. On September 6th 1996, the
fifth anniversary of Chechnyas declaring independence, a victory celebration erupted
in Grozny as well as other locations across Chechnya despite requests from Aslan
Maskhadov to refrain from festivities until tensions could be reduced. Maskhadov also
wanted more Russian troops out of the country before celebrations began to prevent
any temptation of Nokhchi exacting revenge on them for lost friends or family (Fuller
September 7, 1996). Over the course of the next four months preparations were made
for the January elections amidst minor outbreaks of violence against the withdrawing
Russian forces, other rival Nokhchi factions or clans, and a new outbreak of fighting in
the form of political mud-slinging among the three chief presidential candidates. In an
Fig 4.3; Independence Day celebrations in Grozny I'l MW L Fig 4.4; Independence Day march in the streets of Grozny.
effort to show unity and the fact that a 1 candidates had the future independence of
Chechnya in mind rather than political motives, on January 23rd the three candidates
participated in ceremonies to honor the first Nokhchi President, Dzhokhar Dudaev.
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Dudaev was posthumously promoted to the rank of generalissimo, and in special
honor of all his efforts for the Nokhchi people, the capital city of Grozny was
scheduled to be permanently renamed Dzhokhar-Gala (Parrish, January 24 1997).
With the celebrations and honors for the their fallen leader, the final stages of
the election preparations were made. Representatives of the OSCE entered Chechnya
to ensure that no illegal or unusual pressures were placed on voters either not to vote,
or to cast their ballots a particular way. At long last came the elections that Russia
would have no influence over on January 27, 1997. It was not until February 2nd that
the final numbers were in, but by January 31st it was obvious that Aslan Maskhadov
had won the election, moving him from the Chief-of-Staff position, then interim Prime
Minister, to the officially elected President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
(Parrish, February 3 1997). The official results of voting are described in Table 4.1.
Table 4.1: Official Presidential Election Results
Aslan Maskhadov 59.3% of total vote
Shamil Basaev 23.5% of total vote
Zelimkhan Yandarbiev 10.1% of total vote
Overall turnout of registered voters 79.4%
Total registered voter turnout 407,699
Total registered voters 513,585
So fighting turned to politics as Russia and Chechnya began formal talks on
Chechnyas status within Russia for the next five years, as well as officially signing the
peace treaty drawn up the previous August. This proved necessary since Aleksandr
Lebed had been sacked from his position by Boris Yeltsin shortly after the treatys
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