Published August 25, 2004
A glance at Chechnya, which holds a presidential election Sunday, and its conflict. Russian authorities have expressed concern that separatist rebels could carry out attacks linked to the election to replace Akhmad Kadyrov (search), the pro-Russian president killed by a bombing in May.
GEOGRAPHY: Oil-producing region in Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia (search); 5,000 square miles, about size of Connecticut.
POPULATION: Preliminary figures from official 2002 census put population at more than 1 million, about same as estimated 1994 prewar population. More than 100,000 Chechen refugees live in neighboring Ingushetia region. Population mostly Muslim with strong religious beliefs.
HISTORY WITH RUSSIA: Conquered by czarist armies in 1859 after decades of war, but Chechens never accepted Russian rule. During World War II (search), dictator Josef Stalin (search) ordered Chechens deported en masse to Kazakhstan. Many died. The rest returned in 1950s, after Stalin's death.
CURRENT CONFLICT: Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev declared area's independence in 1991. Russian troops invaded to oust Dudayev in December 1994, setting off 20-month war that killed up to 30,000, including Dudayev. Afterward, Chechnya was de facto independent and plunged into lawlessness. Fighting resumed in 1999, after raids by Chechen rebels into the neighboring region and bombings that killed some 300 at apartment buildings in Russian cities. Russian leaders blamed bombings on Chechens.