Who are the Chechens?

The Chechens are a Caucasian ethnic group originating from the North Caucasus region, Eastern Europe. They are named after a Russian village called Chechen-aul. The Chechens refer to themselves as Vainakh which means “our people”. The term “Vainakh” is used by both Chechens and Ingush. A large number of Chechens currently live in the Chechen Republic, which is a Russian federal state. They settled around the isolated terrain of the Caucasus mountains. The Chechens are egalitarian and organized into groups of local clans known as teips .

Geographical areas inhabited by the Chechens

As much as most Chechens live in Chechnya, others are located in Dagestan, Moscow and Ingushetia located in Russian territory. Furthermore, the countries of Kazakhstan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq and Jordan are also inhabited by the Chechens. Following the wars in Chechnya, thousands of Chechen refugees have settled in the European Union.

The history of the Chechens

The Chechens are part of the Vainakh peoples. They have been influenced by Byzantine and Georgian cultures. As a result, some Chechens converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Around the same time, the Islamic religion began to infiltrate Chechen society. However, the Chechen pagan religion still prevailed until the 19th Century. A challenge that the Chechens had to face in the 13th and 14th Century was the invasion of the Mongols and the Tamerlans. They successfully resisted the Mongols, even if at the cost of a massive destruction of their state. The Chechens then moved to the Caucasus plains in the late Middle Ages. Their neighbors became the Ottomans and the Persians. However, in the 16th century, the Russians began to expand into the region where Chechens, Ottomans and Persians lived. They were resisted by these people who led to the Russo-Persian war that took place in 1722-1723. The Russians defeated the Persians, thus conquering most of the territories of Caucassian. Then in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Russians declared war against the Chechens who were described by General Yermolov as “a bold and dangerous people”. This war fought for decades was won by the Russians with the Chechens who lost most of their entire population. Most refugees have fled to the Ottoman Empire. The Russian victory did not end the Chechen rebellion against Russian / Soviet power. In fact, they tried to regain their independence in the 90s after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The culture of the Chechens

Before the Chechens adopted Islam, they practiced many beliefs and traditions. For example, they engaged in rituals such as rain rituals, the Thunderer Sela Day and Goddess Tusholi Day. They also kept their story in epic stories and poems known as illesh. The Chechen society is structured in clans, that is 130 teips . The points are made of gars (branches), and gars made of nekye(patronymic families). The Chechen culture has cultivated in them a Chechen character which is a strong sense of nationality. Their national animal is the wolf that derives from their belief that the Chechens are “free and equal like wolves”. The Chechens appreciate their freedom and this can be seen in their daily practices as a simple greeting which is marsha oylla which means “to go free”. They are predominantly Muslim.

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