Forgotten Episodes

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 1

Relations between Moscow and Chechnya have been so painful for most of the last two centuries that we too easily forget that there has been a positive side. At the rank-and-file level, Slavs and Chechens have often managed to live as good neighbors and friends. This is shown by the frequency of inter-ethnic marriages before the tragedies of the 1990s. And political scientist Emil Souleimanov of the Charles University in Prague reminds us, on another level, of the Chechens’ dramatic role in the First World War. Souleimanov recounts in a January 4 essay published by Prague Watchdog that “…Muslims in the Russian Empire traditionally did not have to serve in the army…[but] the military and feudal elites of some Muslim nations (Dagestanis, Adygs, Azerbaijanis, Crimean Tatars and others) considered it a matter of honor to serve in the army. And the Chechens’ desire to serve was almost a mass movement…”

In 1915 Czar Nicholas II sent a letter of appreciation in which he noted that “the Ingush regiment took the German Iron Division by storm and was supported by the Chechen regiment….In less than an hour and a half the Iron Division, feared by the best military units of our allies, was destroyed. Therefore, on my behalf…warm fraternal regards are extended to the fathers, mothers, sisters, wives and brides of those valiant warriors of the Caucasus, whose fearless bravery marked the beginning of the end of the German hordes. Russia will never forget their bravery. We salute them!”