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The Move toward Secession

 

Secessionist sentiments emerged in Checheno-Ingushetia in 1991 as the Soviet Unions decline accelerated. A Chechen politician, Dzhokhar Dudayev (1944-96), quickly rose to the position of the chief champion of Chechen independence. 

 
Dzhokhar Dudaev

He was a former Soviet officer who had risen steadily in the air force to assume command of the strategic air base at Tartu, Estonia, in 1987 with the rank of major general.

Dudayev retired from the air force in May 1990 and returned to Grozny to devote himself to local politics. In November 1990 he was elected head of the Executive Committee of the unofficial opposition All-National Congress of the Chechen People, which advocated an enhanced political status for Chechnya as a separate republic within the USSR.

In August 1991, following the collapse of the conspiracy of the Communist hardliners in Moscow, Dudayev and his supporters carried out a coup against the local Communist government in Checheno-Ingushetia. The union imposed on the Chechen and Ingush by the Soviet authorities was dissolved, and Checheno-Ingushetia was divided into two separate republics: Chechnya and Ingushetia.

In October Dudayev was elected Chechen president in the rigged presidential election, in which less than 20 percent of those eligible to vote took part. In November he unilaterally declared Chechnyas independence from the Russian Federation. Russias supreme legislature of the time the Congress of Peoples Deputies immediately declared the election of the Chechen president illegal and his decrees devoid of legal force.

Although Russia refused to recognize Chechnyas move toward secession, it hesitated to use force against the separatists. In addition, the federal authorities were absorbed by an internal political crisis caused by the fierce confrontation between different branches of power in Moscow in 1992-93. 

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