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.
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
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.
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
Chechnya’s independence from the Russian Federation. Russia’s
supreme legislature of the time – the Congress of People’s Deputies
– immediately declared the election of the Chechen president illegal
and his decrees devoid of legal force.
Russia refused to recognize Chechnya’s 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.