Republicans should back Chechnya
By P. O'Catharnaigh
As a republican, I have always been proud when I see republicans maintaining solidarity with others who are also struggling to give voice to their aspirations of freedom and self-determination, such as the Basque people. To this end, I have been very disappointed that I have not heard anything from the republican leadership nor from grass roots republicans regarding the struggle of the Chechen people in their fight against Russian imperialism.
Chechnya was annexed by Tsarist Russia in 1859 against the wishes of the Chechen people and they have been fighting for the return of their freedom ever since. When the Soviets took power in Russia, they made Chechnya a part of the USSR, part of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Republic, also against the will of the Chechen people.
During this time of Soviet occupation of their homeland, the Chechen people rose up against the Soviets the same way that they did against Tsarist Russia, time and time again trying to assert their demands for self-determination and an independent Chechen Republic. Armed resistance against foreign occupation was and still is an old-established tradition in Chechnya.
These uprisings, especially those during the 1940s, resulted in thousands of Chechen men being `deported' from their homeland, put into prison cars on trains where the Soviets hoped that typhus and other epidemics would take hold so that these `traitors' would die `naturally'. Those who actually survived were sent to the far corners of the USSR to spend their lives in exile.
In the spring of 1942, the Soviets even bombed those who were supposed to be their own people with Soviet air-raids over the Chechen-Ingush mountains, part of Chechnya. In some villages like Shato, Istumkala and Galanchozh, the Soviet bombing left the number of dead greater than that of the living. Such savage destruction of the Chechen people and their homeland has continued unabated to this very day.
From its formation, just after our own declaration of a republic in 1916, up until its collapse in 1991, the USSR tried to finish the task which their tsarist predecessors had left unfinished: to create in the Caucasus a new colonising force combining military and police functions and incorporating subjugated natives who would be obedient in defending Soviet imperialist interests. Sound familiar to anyone?
With the break up of the USSR in 1991, the Chechen people once again declared their independence, a Chechen Republic under Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudaev. The Russians, like their Soviet and tsarist forefathers, refused to recognise Chechnya's independence, and in December 1994, Russian forces invaded the Chechen Republic. They met with strong resistance and after months of fighting and many thousands of casualties, the two sides agreed (July 1995) to a formal cessation of hostilities, but sporadic warfare continued. The Russians killed Dudaev in April 1996, and a second truce was concluded the following month.
And now, at the beginning of 2000, we see the Russians again refusing to recognise the wishes of the vast majority of the Chechen people to have their own independent Chechen Republic. It was and still is for their pursuit of freedom and independence that the Chechens and Ingush are still being destroyed and their republic being liquidated by Russian imperialism.
As we approach a new millennium, it is my hope that fellow republicans can see the parallels in the plight of the Chechen people with our own struggle for freedom and self-determination in Ireland.
It is my hope that fellow republicans will speak out against the genocide that the Russians are still, to this day, trying to visit on the Chechen people.
It is my hope that the republican leadership will recognise the Chechen Republic as an independent sovereign nation and make public statements to such effect.
It is my hope that Irish republicans everywhere will say to the Chechen people, "Tiocfaidh do lá!", and join them when they shout "Ivan Domoi!", which can be translated as "Ivan Go Home!".