policies were fraught with serious legal, economic, and criminal
consequences. They severely undermined or completely destroyed the
republicís health care, education, and social security systems. Even
before the first, December 1994, invasion, tens of thousands of
refugees had fled the province.
aggressively nationalistic, anti-Russian policies began to affect
not only the Chechen economy, but also Russia as a whole. Russiaís
economic ties with the newly independent Transcaucasian states of
Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan were severely disrupted. Train
robberies became common with hundreds of trains and thousands of
of petroleum products produced in Chechnya were sold abroad
illegally with the spoils appropriated by the republicís leaders.
Chechnya became Russiaís main hub of financial fraud, where
huge amounts of counterfeit banknotes and fraudulent payment
documents were forged causing massive damage to Russiaís financial
system. From 1991 to 1994 alone, Russiaís economic losses caused by
the ďChechen factorĒ amounted to $15 billion.
The removal of
all judicial, customs, and tax controls by the Chechen authorities
transformed the province into a safe haven for criminals from all
over Russia. Each month from 100 to 150 unsanctioned international
flights were made from the Grozny airport. Chechnya
became a transit base for drugs and weapons smuggling. Some of the
Chechen warlords turned drug barons, owning heroine-producing
facilities. The illicit drug industry yielded profits comparable to
or better than those from oil extraction and refining.
economic dislocation created ideal conditions for criminal business
when the only means of subsistence for many locals became working in
hemp and poppy fields or pushing drugs through Chechen criminal
networks across Russia, the Transcaucasian region, the Baltic
states, and Eastern Europe.
administration tried to overcome the degradation of Chechen society
by attempting to reorient the republicís state and judicial systems
toward Islamic tenets and values and even by seeking to institute a
code of Islamic laws known as Shariat. The move to Shariat was
designed to strengthen the presidential authority by giving it an
elevated religious status and to use strict Shariat norms to combat
the rising crime rate.
introduction of the Shariat code had an opposite effect. Far from
propping up Maskhadovís authority, it led to a complete
disintegration of the judicial system, as armed groups took the law
into their own hands under the banner of enforcing Islamic norms.