Dudayev, Dzhokhar

Dudayev, Dzhokhar
▪ 1997

      Chechen separatist leader and former Soviet military officer whose declaration of Chechen independence, made after his victory in Chechnya's 1991 presidential election, resulted in prolonged fighting with Russia, which refused to allow the secession; he was killed during a missile attack (b. April 15, 1944—d. April 21, 1996).

▪ 1995

      If you asked a Muscovite in 1994 to describe the Chechens—who number some 1.3 million and live north of the Caucasus Mountains—you might hear characterizations as diverse as "proud Caucasian warriors," "gangsters from the south," "staunch defenders of Islam," or "a historically oppressed people." Similar things were being said about Dzhokhar Dudayev, the president of Chechnya (Chechenia), who declared the republic independent from Russia in 1991 and who has been a major thorn in Moscow's side ever since.

      Dzhokhar Musaevich Dudayev was born in February 1944, during the enforced deportation of his family (together with the entire Chechen and Ingush nations, on Joseph Stalin's orders) from their native village of Yalkhori in the Chechen-Ingush autonomous oblast. He spent the first 13 years of his life in Kazakhstan. Following the 1957 repatriation of the Chechens and Ingush, he studied at evening school in Chechen-Ingushetia and qualified as an electrician. He entered flying school and graduated from the Tambov Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots in 1966. He joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1968.

      Dudayev served in a heavy bomber unit of the Soviet air force in Siberia and Ukraine. He studied at the Gagarin Air Force Academy (1971-74) and rose steadily in the air force, assuming 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, the Chechen capital, 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 sovereignty for Chechnya as a separate republic within the U.S.S.R. When the communist leadership of the Chechen-Ingush republic publicly expressed its support for the Moscow putsch in August 1991, it was forced to step down. Dudayev was elected Chechen president in October 1991 and unilaterally declared Chechnya's secession from the Russian Federation. Russia refused to recognize this move, but hesitated to use force against the secessionists.

      Dudayev's aggressively nationalistic, anti-Russian policies soon began to undermine Chechnya's economy and, Russian observers claimed, transformed the region into a gangsters' paradise. In 1993 the Chechen parliament attempted to organize a referendum on public confidence in Dudayev on the grounds that he had failed to consolidate Chechnya's independence. He retaliated by dissolving parliament and other organs of power. Beginning in early summer 1994, armed Chechen opposition groups with Russian military and financial backing tried repeatedly, but without success, to depose Dudayev by force. In late November, Russian Pres. Boris Yeltsin issued an ultimatum to Dudayev and the opposition to lay down their arms. Russian tanks and troops entered Chechnya to quell the rebellion in December but found the tough mountain people an even match. Fierce fighting, most of it centred in Grozny, continued through the end of the year. (ELIZABETH FULLER)

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Universalium. 2010.

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