|2 million to 3 million.|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Georgia||10,000 (including Kist people)|
Data figures from 2001 to 2013;
see also Chechen diaspora.
See Language section
|Predominantly Islam (Nondenominational Muslims, Shafi'i, Muwahhid Muslim, Sunni Muslim)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Nakh peoples (Ingush people, Bats people, Kist people)|
Chechens (, Chechen: Нохчий Nokhchiy; Old Chechen: Нахчой Nakhchuoi) are a Caucasian ethnic group of the Nakh peoples originating in the North Caucasus region of Eastern Europe. They refer to themselves as Vainakhs (which means "our people" in Chechen) or Nokhchiy (pronounced [no̞xtʃʼiː]) (singular Nokhchi or Nakhchuo). Chechen and Ingush peoples are collectively known as the Vainakh. The majority of Chechens today live in the Chechen Republic, a subdivision of the Russian Federation.
The isolated terrain of the teips.
- Origins of the word Chechen 1
- Geography and diaspora 2
- History 3
- Language 4
Origins and genetics 5
- Origins 5.1
- Genetics 5.2
- Culture 6
- Religion 7
- See also 8
- References 9
- Sources 10
Origins of the word Chechen
The term "Chechen" first occurs in Arabic sources from the 8th century. According to popular tradition, the Russian term "Chechen" comes from the name of the village of Chechen-Aul.The word "Chechen", however, occurs in Russian sources as early as 1692 and the Russians probably derived it from the Kabardian "Shashan".
Geography and diaspora
The Chechen people are mainly inhabitants of Chechnya, Russian Federation. There are also significant Chechen populations in other subdivisions of Russia (especially in Dagestan, Ingushetia and Moscow).
Outside Russia, countries with significant diaspora populations are Kazakhstan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and the Middle Eastern states (especially Jordan and Iraq, where they are mainly descendants of people who had to leave Chechnya during the Caucasian War (which led to the annexation of Chechnya by the Russian Empire around 1850) and the 1944 Stalinist deportation in the case of Kazakhstan. Tens of thousands of Chechen refugees settled in the European Union and elsewhere as the result of the recent Chechen Wars, especially in the wave of emigration to the West after 2002.
The Chechens are one of the Vainakh peoples, who have lived in the highlands of the North Caucasus region since prehistory. There is archeological evidence of historical continuity dating back since 3000 B.C.
In the devastated by the Mongol invasions of the 13th century and those of Tamerlane in the 14th. The Vainakh bear the distinction of being one of the few peoples to successfully resist the Mongols, but this came at great cost to them, as their state was utterly destroyed. These events were key in the shaping of the Chechen nationhood and their martial-oriented and clan-based society.
In the late Middle Ages, the Dagestan, Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Chechens however, never really fell under rule of either empires. As Russia expanded slowly southwards as early as the 16th century, clashes between Chechens and the Russians became more frequent, and it became three empires competing for the region. As Russia set off for the first time to increase it's political influence in the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea at the expense of Safavid Persia, Peter I launched the Russo-Persian War (1722-1723), in which Russia succeeded in taking much of the Caucasian territories from Iran for several years. Notable in Chechen history, this particular Russo-Persian War marked the first military encounter between Imperial Russia and the Vainakh. Sheikh Mansur led a major Chechen resistance movement in the late 18th century.
Following mainly due to Russian conquests of Iran's territories in the North Caucasus and Transcaucasia in the first half of the 19th century, and to a much lesser extent those of Turkey, Russia embarked on full-scale conquest of the North Caucasus in order to protect the route to its new territories in Transcaucasia, in the Caucasian War. Much of the campaign was led by General Yermolov who particularly disliked the Chechens, describing them as "a bold and dangerous people". Angered by Chechen raids, Yermolov resorted to a brutal policy of "scorched earth" and deportations; he also founded the fort of Grozny (now the capital of Chechnya) in 1818. Chechen resistance to Russian rule reached its peak under the leadership of the Dagestani leader Imam Shamil. The Chechens were finally defeated in 1861 after a bloody war that lasted for decades, during which they lost most of their entire population. In the aftermath, large numbers of refugees also emigrated or were forcibly deported to the Ottoman Empire.
Since then, there have been various Chechen rebellions against Russian/Soviet power (including during the Russian Civil War and World War II), as well as nonviolent resistance to Russification and the Soviet Union's collectivization and anti-religion campaigns. In 1944, all Chechens, together with several other peoples of the Caucasus, were ordered by the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to be ruthlessly deported en masse to the Kazakh and Kirghiz SSRs; and their republic and nation were abolished. At least one-quarter—and perhaps half—of the entire Chechen population perished in the process, and a severe blow was made to their culture and historical records. Though "rehabilitated" in 1956 and allowed to return the next year, the survivors lost economic resources and civil rights and, under both Soviet and post-Soviet governments, they have been the objects of both official and unofficial discrimination and discriminatory public discourse. Chechen attempts to regain independence in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union have led to the first and the second war with the new Russian state, starting in 1994.
Most Chechens living in their homeland can understand Ingush with ease. The two languages are not truly mutually intelligible, but it is easy for Chechens to learn how to understand the Ingush language and vice versa over time after hearing it for a while.
In 1989, 73.4% spoke Russian, though this figure has declined due to the wars for a large number of reasons (including the lack of proper education, the refusal to learn the language, and the mass dispersal of the Chechen diaspora due to the war). Chechens in Georgian, etc.).
Origins and genetics
The Chechen are black-, brown-, red- or fair-haired and eyes can be brown, blue or green. The skin is generally pale. George Anchabadze notes that the physical traits of Chechens, which includes being taller than average, are typical of the "Caucasian type" which many other peoples of the Caucasus exhibit.
Chechens are a Nakh people, and discussion of their origins is intertwined with the discussion of the mysterious origins of Nakh peoples as a whole. The only two surviving (and fairly numerous) Nakh peoples are Chechens and Ingush, but they are thought by some scholars to be the remnants of what was once a larger family of peoples.
Linguistically, Nakh peoples are distantly related to Dagestani peoples (such as Avars, Dargins, Lezghins, Laks, etc.), as they all speak languages in the Nakho-Dagestanian family, or Northeast Caucasian language family. However, this relationship is not a close one: the Nakho-Dagestani family is of comparable or greater time-depth than Indo-European, meaning Chechens are only as linguistically related to Avars or Dargins as the French are to the Russians or Iranians.
Nakh peoples such as Chechens are thought to either be descended from original settlers of the Caucasus (North and/or South) or supposedly Nakh-speaking ethnic minorities in the north-eastern regions of the ancient state of Urartu (whose people also spoke a language that was possibly related to the Nakh languages). The two theories are not mutually incompatible, and there has been much evidence that seems to link both of the two together (either by dual origins or the "return" theory, in which the Nakh peoples originally lived in the Caucasus and then returned). It should be noted that Chechen genetics show a high level of genetic diversity (see section below).
Proposed Nakh placenames have been found in numerous areas of the South Ossetia, Nakhichivan, and eastern Armenia (i.e. the modern Republic of Armenia). There are also a span of Nakh placenames in the North Caucasus outside modern Nakh territory, particularly in North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria (the Balkars are suspected by some to be partial Nakh descendants, later Alanized and then Turkified).
In particular, the Chechens are descended from the Dzurdzuks, a group well known in the Georgian chronicles (Dourts in the Armenian version). Other groups linked Amjad Jaimoukha traces the name Dzurdzuk to an ancient city north of Gargareans (from the Nakh root gergara; reported by Strabo to have "returned" from the South Caucasus to the North Caucasus, fleeing the wars in the south) and the Nakhchmateans (Armenian chronicles).
Genetic tests on Chechens, though sparse and not sufficiently thorough so far, have shown roots in the Caucasus as well as strong connections to and influences from the Middle East as well as Europe. As is the case with many other Caucasian peoples, Chechens are connected with the Middle East on the Y-DNA side, but closer to Europe in terms of mitochondrial DNA.
The most recent study on Chechens, by Balanovsky et al. in 2011 sampled a total of 330 Chechens from three sample locations (one in
- Amjad Jaimoukha, The Chechens: A Handbook (London, New York: Routledge, 2005)
- Lechi Ilyasov, The Diversity of the Chechen Culture: From Historical Roots to the Present (Moscow, 2009)
- John B. Dunlop, Russia Confronts Chechnya: Roots of a Separatist Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 1998)
- Russian Census 2010: Population by ethnicity (Russian)
- Russian Census of 2002 (Russian)
- As Hit Men Strike, Concern Grows Among Chechen Exiles, RFE/RL, March 12, 2009
- Chechens in the Middle East: Between Original and Host Cultures, Event Report, Caspian Studies Program
- Kristiina Markkanen: Chechen refugee came to Finland via Baku and Istanbul (Englisch)
- Jaimoukha p.12
- Chechnya's Exodus to Europe, North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 3, The Jamestown Foundation, January 24, 2008
- Arutiunov, Sergei. (1996). "Ethnicity and Conflict in the Caucasus". Slavic Research Center
- Jaimoukha pp. 33–34
- Dunlop p.3
- Dunlop p.14
- Jaimoukha (p.50): "The Chechens suffered horrific losses in human life during the long war. From an estimated population of over a million in the 1840s, there were only 140,000 Chechens left in the Caucasus in 1861..."
- by Johanna Nichols, University of California, Berkeley.
- Dunlop p.29ff. Dunlop writes (p.30): "In 1860, according to Soviet-era figures, 81,360 Chechens left for Turkey; a second emigration took place in 1865, when an additional 22,500 Chechens left. More than 100,000 Chechens were thus ethnically 'cleansed' during this process. This was perhaps a majority of their total population..."
- Jaimoukha p.50
- Jaimoukha p.58
- Dunlop, Chapter 2 "Soviet Genocide", particularly pp. 70–71 ("How many died?")
- Jaimoukha p.60
- Mikhailov, Valentin. Chechnya and Tatarstan
- Чеченцы // Энциклопедический словарь Брокгауза и Ефрона: В 86 томах (82 т. и 4 доп.). – СПб., 1890–1907.
- Jaimoukha. Chechens. Page 29.
- I. Nasidze, E. Y. S. Ling, D. Quinque et al., "Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Variation in the Caucasus," Annals of Human Genetics (2004) 68,205–221.
- Oleg Balanovsky et al., "Parallel Evolution of Genes and Languages in the Caucasus Region," Molecular Biology and Evolution 2011
- Yunusbaev 2006
- Yunusbaev 2006.
- Caciagli et al, 2009. The key role of patrilineal inheritance in the genetic variation of Dagestani highlanders.
- Nasidze et al. "Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Variation in the Caucasus"," Annals of Human Genetics (2004)
- Jaimoukha. Chechens. Page 83
- Gammer, Moshe. The Lone Wolf and the Bear: Three Centuries of Chechen Defiance of Russian Rule. London 2006. Page 4
- Wood, Tony. Chechnya: The Case for Independence. Page 46
- Jaimoukha, Amjad. ‘’The Chechens: A Handbook’’. Page 14
- Manning, Paul. Just Like England: On the Liberal Institutions of the Circassians
- by Martin Frost.
- , by Brian Glyn Williams, The Jamestown Foundation, October 2, 2003
- Wood, Tony. Chechnya: the Case for Independence. p127-145
- Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens: A Handbook. Throughout book.
A stereotype of an average Chechen being a fundamentalist Muslim is incorrect and misleading. By the late 2000s, however, two new trends have emerged in Chechnya. A radicalized remnant of the armed Chechen separatist movement has become dominated by Salafis (popularly known in Russia as Wahhabis and present in Chechnya in small numbers since the 1990s), mostly abandoning nationalism in favor of Pan-Islamism and merging with several other regional Islamic insurgencies to form the Caucasus Emirate. At the same time, Chechnya under Moscow-backed authoritarian rule of Ramzan Kadyrov has undergone its own controversial counter-campaign of Islamization of the republic, with the local government actively promoting and enforcing their own version of a so-called "traditional Islam", including introducing elements of Sharia that replaced Russian official laws.
Chechnya is predominantly Muslim. Most Chechens belong to the Shafi'i school of thought of Sunni Islam. Some adhere to the mystical Sufi tradition of muridism, while about half of Chechens belong to Sufi brotherhoods, or tariqah. The two Sufi tariqas that spread in the North Caucasus were the Naqshbandiya and the Qadiriya (the Naqshbandiya is particularly strong in Dagestan and eastern Chechnya, whereas the Qadiriya has most of its adherents in the rest of Chechnya and Ingushetia).
Chechens are sometimes referred to as the "French of the Caucasus", for a number of reasons (it is notable that the Circassians are the "English of the Caucasus", and the Georgians are the "Italians of the Caucasus"). This comparison may refer to either political/historical traits, or to personality characteristics. Like the French, who overthrew their age-old monarchy in the French Revolution, the Chechens had a similar revolution a century or two earlier, and like the French, they bore the distinction (for a period) of being the only egalitarian society in an area full of monarchic states. Like the French, the Chechens preferred swift, revolutionary (and often violent) methods to realize the change they wished to see – unlike the Circassians (called the "English of the Caucasus" both for their political and personality characteristics) who preferred more gradualist methods.
Chechen culture puts a strong value on the concept of freedom. This asserts itself in a number of ways. A large majority of the nation's national heroes fought for independence (or otherwise, like the legendary Zelimkhan, robbed from the nation deemed the oppressor in order to feed Chechen children in a Robin Hood-like fashion). A common greeting in the Chechen language, marsha oylla, is literally translated as "enter in freedom". The word for freedom also encompasses notions of peace and prosperity.
 – the obligation to clan, tukhum, etc. This is often combined with old values transmuted into a modern sense. They are mythically descended from the epic hero, Turpalo-Nokhchuo ("Chechen Hero"). There is a strong theme of representing the nation with its nokhchalla Chechens today have a strong sense of nation, which is enforced by the old clan network and
Chechen society is structured around tukhum (unions of clans) and about 130 teip, or clans. The teips are based more on land and one-side lineage than on blood (as exogamy is prevalent and encouraged), and are bonded together to form the Chechen nation. Teips are further subdivided into gar (branches), and gars into nekye (patronymic families). The Chechen social code is called nokhchallah (where Nokhchuo stands for "Chechen") and may be loosely translated as "Chechen character". The Chechen code of honor implies moral and ethical behaviour, generosity and the will to safeguard the honor of women. The traditional Chechen saying goes that the members of Chechen society, like its teips, are (ideally) "free and equal like wolves".
Prior to the adoption of Islam, the Chechens practiced a unique blend of religious traditions and beliefs. They partook in numerous rites and rituals, many of them pertaining to farming; these included rain rites, a celebration that occurred on the first day of plowing, as well as the Day of the Thunderer Sela and the Day of the Goddess Tusholi. In addition to sparse written record from the Middle Ages, Chechens traditionally remember history through the illesh, a collection of epic poems and stories.
A 2004 study of the Kabardins. They clustered closer to European populations than Middle Eastern populations this time, but were significantly closer to Western European populations (Basques and Britons) than to Eastern European populations (Russians and other Slavs, as well as Estonians), despite living in the East. They actually clustered about as close to Basques as they did to Ingush (Chechens also cluster closer to many other populations than Ingush, such as Armenians and Abazins), but the Chechens were the closer to the Ingush than any other population, the imbalance probably largely being due to the uniqueness of the Ingush on the mitochondrial DNA among those tested.