CHECHNYA AFTER DUDAYEV
By Charles Blandy
The news of the death of President Dzhokar Dudayev, as a result of a rocket attack on the village of Gekhi-Chu near Grozny, which he was visiting on the evening of Sunday 21 April 1996, began to filter through to Western media channels some time on Tuesday 23 April. Some confusion as to the veracity of this report persisted, as have conflicting reports of the death of his interim successor, Z.Yandarbiyev, a week later.
Whoever emerges as leader of the Chechen opposition, any hopes that the demise or removal of Dudayev will enable a quick conclusion to the conflict in Chechnya must be still-born and should be dispelled. The evidence of history points in the other direction. It should be remembered that even when Imam Shamil was captured at Gunib (Daghestan) in 1859 by Prince Aleksandr Ivanovich Bariatinskiy, the Long Caucasian War ground on until 1864. The Chechens are a courageous, resourceful and resolute people who are capable of taking reverses in their stride, as exemplified by the businesslike attitude of the Chechen people trading, buying and selling in the open-air market one year after the Russian assault on Grozny, in snow, ice and mud amidst the stark, blackened and damaged skeletal structures which were once office and apartment blocks in Grozny 1* . Furthermore, the determination of the Chechen people to obtain some form of independent status is found in this simple straightforward statement by Aslan Maskhadov 2*:
"The Chechen nation will continue to fight for their independence until Russians are off the soil of our country. We have been resisting them for 250-300 years and at no time have we ever accepted Russian domination. We know that we are on our own and that no-one can help us" 3
The Creation of a National Leader
As a result of three years of Dudayev's rule in Chechnya, from November 1991 to November 1994, there were many amongst the Chechen people who did not support him or his presidency; six out of the 11 rayony in Chechnya were against him. The words of the Chechen opposition Interim Council who were firmly against Dudayev in September 1994 testify to this view:
"The rule of Dzhokar Dudayev, which has lasted for almost three years, has placed the Chechen Republic on the brink of political and economic catastrophe. The Republic's economy and social sphere has been completely ruined and almost no longer functions; unemployment has passed the 50% mark; the little which is produced and brings in revenue is pilfered by the mafioso-functionary clans, and the rest goes to maintain Dudayev's Junta and the inordinately swollen services apparatus, and the people find themselves on the brink of destitution, . . an orgy of embezzlement of public funds . . . impoverishment of the Chechen people and furthermore the destruction of the age-old Chechen traditions, the launch of genocide against our own peoples and the spilling of fraternal blood" 4*.
The discovery that Russian officers and men were involved in the Chechen opposition coup attempt against Dudayev on 26 November, and the Yel'tsin ultimatum between 26 November and 11 December 1994 were instrumental in bringing the majority of the Chechen fully behind Dudayev in his stand against Russian intervention. President Yel'tsin had created a national leader overnight, to provide a focal point from which Chechen resistance to Russian armed intervention would stem. As the Federal Armed Forces were to find out in the ensuing 16 months, the quality of Dudayev's leadership, Chechen resistance and combat actions were not exactly to be dismissed with the characteristic contempt of the Russian for the Muslim peoples of the Caucasus. The first signs of disagreement among the united Chechen opposition appeared in summer 1995 during the peace talks in Grozny. The position of Dudayev with regard to the negotiations was clear:5*
"Dudayev himself is only one of many, and possibly not the most acute. At the moment he is in a difficult enough position. A significant part of his supporters in Chechnya are striving for the end of conflict and achievement of order at the conference table. Against this background the Leader of the Separatists looks like a hostage of his own irreconcilable position. From here a verbal "slalom" lets slip extravagant statements. Dudayev is not able to allow himself unilateral action to tear apart negotiations that have been achieved, but wants to leave the possibility to repudiate them in this or that part if the situation allows. In unilateral action he is already "revising" the agreement, at least in relation to assisting in the capture of the fighter Shamil Basayev, but the Chechen delegation agreed on that in Grozny (Dudayev himself calls the terrorist ringleader a national hero)".
As the peace negotiations demonstrated, others, including the Chief of Staff Maskhadov were capable of going along the route of compromise on the basis that "a bad peace is better than a good quarrel". Dzhokar Dudayev saw the achievement of Chechen independence through war.
It is important to emphasise, however, that whilst Dudayev and Maskhadov may have had their differences about the means to attain "independence", their views on the final objective in the main were similar - simply the removal of the Russian military presence and the freedom to run their own affairs.
Dependence of Chechen Commanders on Dudayev
All the sources of funding were situated firmly in the hands of Dudayev and his Chechen Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shamseddin Yuysef. During active operations, the leaders of the Chechen resistance worked like a well-oiled machine - Yuysef obtained and brought over the money from abroad; Dudayev distributed it, whilst Maskhadov fought. Up until now, there had been no circumstances to break this routine arrangement. It was not only Maskhadov who was dependent on funding from Dudayev, but also all the other field commanders, such as Shamil Basayev, Ruslan Gelayev and Abu Movsayev, to name but three.
First, the death of Dudayev could act as an intensifier in Chechen military operations and strengthen their resolve against the Federal Armed Forces. "Black Tuesday", one week previously, had seen a remarkable success for the Chechens against a Russian column in the vicinity of Shatoy where severe losses in manpower and equipment were inflicted on the Russians, leading to the Russian regimental commander being dismissed from his post.
Second, Chechen relief at the removal or terminal removal of Dudayev cannot be discounted, given the tensions noted above, the repercussions from the January 1996 raid on Kizlyar and the subsequent shoot-out at Pervomayskoye. Since that raid, Maskhadov has been wounded6 and the raid's perpetrator Raduyev died 'from a head wound'.
It is important to remember that initially the Chechen cause was severely damaged by the raid on Kizlyar; the entry into a maternity home was contrary to Islam, it offended against the long standing customs of the peoples of the Caucasus with their particular code of honour and the taking of Daghestani people hostage was a serious hostile act against a neighbouring people . Subsequently, Russian actions at Kizlyar and Pervomayskoye have served to produce an even greater resentment by the Daghestanis against Moscow and its troops than for the Chechens.
It is significant that, during the drama of Pervomayskoye, Maskhadov and Basayev worked together to put a relief operation into effect; Basayev subsequently announced that there would be no more operations like that one.
Third, the Chechen will continue their struggle to rid their soil of the Russians, particularly their military presence. It is doubtful that the Chechen resistance will fragment, if only due to the centralised funding system. The successor to Dudayev will have control of this financial mechanism, which will enable him to retain and enforce control over the field commanders.
Fourth, there is a body of opinion, exemplified by Maskhadov, who remains a robust commander, fighter and loyal chief of staff, but also believes that there is another way to achieve the removal of the Russians - by negotiation. However, the Russian military have proved themselves untrustworthy in the past concerning cease-fires, particularly with random, nocturnal artillery bombardment. Recent events have also shown that they are not under the control of the President. With the absence of Dudayev, it may well prove easier to reach an equitable and lasting settlement by negotiation. The first step to achieve this peace, must be a meeting with the new leader of the Chechens, who do not want a puppet government under Russian control, and on the Russian side a person no less than the Russian Prime Minister. The Russians may find it easier to negotiate with Dudayev's successor, on the basis that he will be comparatively unknown, and therefore, will not involve such a loss of face that a meeting with Dudayev might have entailed.
3. One of the main points made by Maskhadov during a meeting with a medical fact finding mission to Chechnya on 3 December 1995 at his house in Ichkeria and again on 4 December 1995 made to the Author at Shali, whilst waiting for a representative of the OSCE mission from Grozny to arrive. BACK