From the Publisher
“Akhmadov feels disgusted by both Ramzan Kadyrov's rule and the jihadists who hijacked the independence movement. He nurses a vision of the Chechen people one day resurrecting the idea that animated their initial revolt in 1994: the establishment of Chechnya as a secular, democratic state.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Akhmadov does not avoid…pointing out how (Chechens) contributed to their own national catastrophe. But he saves much of his bitterness for the west. The desires of the Chechens were meaningless when compared to our own security needs. Akhmadov forcefully argues that, in ignoring the legitimate desires of ordinary people, the democracies undermine the very safety they think they are securing...when historians write about the war on terror, Akhmadov will come out of it a lot better than a lot of western politicians will.”—The Guardian
“A personal and a historical account of the Chechen struggle….informative and highly readable…Recommended.”—Choice
"Ilyas Akhmadov's memoir is the first personal account by a member of the Chechen leadership of the events that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Chechens and the transformation of Russia. He gives the best description I have seen of the fateful 1999 invasion of Dagestan that led to the Second Chechen War and he provides objective and fair minded portraits of the two most important Chechen leaders, Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev. He also shows the roots of the divisions in Chechen society and explains the background to the kidnapping for ransom that did so much to damage the reputation of the Chechens. His book needs to be read."--David Satter, Darkness at Dawn: the Rise of the Russian Criminal State
“The publication of The Chechen Struggle is an event of singular importance. As Chechnya’s former Foreign Minister, Akhmadov ably shows that there was always a moderate alternative to Chechen extremism -- and that Russia has systematically destroyed it. This is Akhmadov’s urgent message, and as the Chechen conflict spreads to the other republics of the North Caucasus, further emboldening Russia’s autocrats, it is one the world can no longer afford to ignore.”--Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy
Read an Excerpt
The Chechen Struggle Independence Won and Lost
By Ilyas Akhmadov
Palgrave Macmillan Copyright © 2010 Ilyas Akhmadov
All right reserved.
THE WAR BEGINS
Prior to the summer of 1994, I considered myself an ordinary person. I was not involved in politics, and I had the equivalent of a master of arts in political science from Rostov State University in Rostov on the Don. I had served in the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces for almost five years when I was demobilized in 1985. I held a minor clerical job in the Chechen Foreign Ministry for about six months in 1992 under Foreign Minister Shamil Beno.
When I realized that war with Russia was imminent, I joined up with Shamil Basayev, a famous Chechen commander with whom I had formed a friendship and had later served under Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen Army Chief of Staff. During the first war (1994–96), I had frequent and close contact with these two men, who were brilliant military commanders and dominant figures in Chechen politics. Their relationship, sometimes cooperative and other times competitive, determined the course of the nation’s history in the ensuing decade. Joining up with Shamil in August 1994 gave me a unique vantage point from which to view and analyze Chechen politics.
Politically, I was a nationalist who favored independence and supported General Dzhokhar Dudayev. As the head of the National Congress of the Chechen People Dudayev proclaimed Chechnya’s independence in November 1991, just as the Soviet Union was collapsing. Dudayev’s pro-independence government had domestic l egitimacy and w as e nthusiastically accepted by most of the population. After 1991, Chechnya did not participate in the referendum on the Russian constitution, had no representation in the Russian parliament and Dudayev did not take policy directions from the Russian government. Chechnya maintained its own economic and foreign policies and did not participate in Russian national elections.
In the Soviet period Checheno-Ingushetia was an autonomous republic within the Russian union republic. When the Soviet Union dissolved, the Ingush and the Chechens separated; the Ingush preferred to remain in the Russian Federation while the Chechens wanted independence. However, though the international community recognized union republics as independent states, it did not extend the same recognition to autonomous republics like Chechnya. Nonetheless, even without de jure recognition, Chechnya began functioning as an independent state in 1991. The dissolution of the Soviet Union presented a historic opportunity for Chechnya to finally achieve the independence it had sought for centuries. Many Chechens believed that if Chechnya could function as an independent state, it would eventually receive official recognition from other states and the United Nations.
My support for Dudayev and Chechen independence did not mean that I approved of everything that was happening. There were different political factions that challenged Dudayev’s leadership, and these internal disputes were not resolved transparently. People with little experience in politics were exercising their freedoms of speech and assembly for the first time, and the absence of established political institutions led to a variety of conflicts. The political environment suffered from an unstable mix of Soviet-era structures, such as a strong executive system, new efforts to import Western institutions—a new parliament and electoral system—and attempts to introduce national institutions such as the Mekh Khell (a traditional council of elders) which should have been purely consultative. Dudayev used the Mekh Khell to legitimate his decisions when the parliament would not. He eventually disbanded parliament in 1993 and appointed a new one. I felt a strong distaste for such power struggles and for the constant rallies that took place in the center of Grozny where, in the presence of armed men, orators gave inf lammatory speeches. The summer of 1994 brought new and unwelcome changes to city life, including the appearance of armored personnel carriers in the streets and occasional gunfire at night.
Those who were not involved in politics managed to ignore these scenes and go on with their daily lives. Politics involved only a small sliver of the population of one million; most people did not understand why a particular shoot-out had occurred or why the supporters of one politician or another were rallying in front of the presidential palace—like others, we too thought it was palace intrigue that did not concern us. But everything changed a few months later when the first war dragged all Chechens into a battle for survival.
Excerpted from The Chechen Struggle by Ilyas Akhmadov Copyright © 2010 by Ilyas Akhmadov. Excerpted by permission.
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