Dudayev, Jokhar Musayevich

(1944–1996)
   Born during the forced deportation of the Chechen nation to Soviet Central Asia, Jokhar Dudayev returned to Chechnya in 1957. He defied the odds by rising to the rank of Major-General in the Soviet air force. After participating in the Soviet-Afghan War, he was stationed in Estonia, where he displayed empathy with local nationalists during the late 1980s. He returned to his homeland in 1990 and entered politics, supporting the campaign to elevate the Checheno-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) to the status of a union republic. In the wake of the August Coup of 1991, Jokhar Dudayev moved against his pro-Communist opponents and declared an independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya, with himself as its president. Boris Yeltsin ordered federal troops to move against the separatist regime but withdrew them after being confined to the airport by forces loyal to Dudayev. Ichkeriya was recognized by Georgia, then in the midst of its own civil war, but received little support from other quarters. Dudayev oversaw Chechnya’s split from Ingushetiya in 1992, a development that buttressed his own authority in the region. He then instituted a number of reforms, including a series of disastrous economic policies and the abandonment of the Russian language, as well as the universal right to bear arms. His rule grew more authoritarian in 1994, allowing the Kremlin the opportunity to fund and arm opposition groups within Ichkeriya. Hoping to win a short and popular war in advance of his reelection campaign, Yeltsin initiated the first Chechen War in 1994. Dudayev was forced to quit the capital, Grozny, but promised to continue leading a guerilla war until the Russians relented. After more than a year in hiding, Dudayev was killed on 21 April 1996 by two laser-guided missiles that targeted the satellite phone he was using. He was succeeded by his vice president, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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