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First Chechnya War - 1994-1996
Second Chechnya War - 1999-2006
North Caucasus Insurgency - 2006-?
  • Ramzan Kadyrov

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    Between 150,000 and 160,000 people -- this is the total death toll of the two wars in Chechnya, according to Taus Djabrailov on August 16, 2005, the head of Chechnya's interim parliament. The toll includes federal troops, rebel fighters, and civilians who died or went missing during both the first conflict -- from 1994 to 1996 -- and the second, which began in 1999 and continues. According to official figures, some 10,000 federal troops had been killed in both wars. Independent experts and rights advocates put this figure at up to 40,000. The high death toll given by Djabrailov came as a surprise for many Russians, particularly since the Chechen government remained largely loyal to the Kremlin, and would likely not be likely to highlight the grimmest aspects of the war. As for civilians, the human rights organization Memorial says up to 75,000 Russian and Chechen civilians have lost their lives since 1994.

    The activist group Soldiers’ Mothers rose to prominence for their activism on behalf of Russian soldiers fighting in Chechnya during the 1990s, when large casualties dramatically undermined popular support for the government of Boris Yeltsin. The Russian military was humiliated in Yeltsin's bloody incursion in Chechnya.

    The General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces claims that 3,826 troops were killed, 17,892 were wounded, and 1,906 were missing in action in the first Chechen War, 1994-1996. Others estimate Chechnya resulted in the deaths of at least 30,000 [ ~17,391 ??] Chechens and 5,000 [~5,732] to 14,000 Russian soldiers.

    The number of Russian casualties in the First Chechen War was below the threshold that would lead to mass antiwar protests. However, conscription and the deployment of police units from all across the country to fight in Chechnya contributed to a transformation of an initially local conflict into a nationwide one. The return of large numbers of angry and demoralized veterans led to talks about Russia’s “Weimar syndrome” in reference to pre-Nazi Germany, where World War I veterans played a significant role in political radicalization.

    Putin came up with what has to be described as a "brilliant" scheme: recoup the Chechen disaster, restore the Army's morale, and give the Russian people a sense that order can return and Russia can be great. Since its Second Chechen offensive began in September 2000, the military stressed casualties have been low, hoping to avoid public opposition of the kind provoked by heavy Russian losses in the 1994-96 Chechen war. Russian soldiers said that the military was understating casualties in Chechnya, hushing up deaths of scores of men to avoid a public backlash against the increasingly bloody war. In a series of interviews, Russian soldiers in Chechnya and the adjoining region of Ingushetia claimed their units suffered numerous casualties that were not reported.

    For the second war, 1999 to 2002, casualty figures are “unclear and often contradictory.” The only official figure given was by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in December of 2002. He reported that total losses of federal forces were 4,572 killed and 15,549 wounded. No official update had since been given. By 2005 the statistics showed that one police officer or serviceman was killed in the North Caucasus nearly every day.

    Exact official data on civilian casualties during the Chechen wars are not available. Estimated numbers of victims are based mostly on assessments by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but the numbers vary considerably. A conservative estimate of the number of civilian casualties in Grozny alone during the first war is between 25,000 and 29,000. Various Russian officials provided wide-ranging estimates of casualties. For instance, then Russian Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov claimed that the number of civilians who lost their lives was below 20,000.106 Conversely, Sergey Kovalyov’s estimate is around 50,000, and General Aleksander Lebed spoke about 80,000–100,000 civilians killed. According to Taus Dzhabrailov, the head of the Chechnya National Council in the mid-2000s, 150,000 to 160,000 people are believed to have died as a result of both Chechen wars, out of whom 75,000 were Chechen civilians.

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