Russian forces enter Chechnya


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Year
1994
Month Day
December 11

In the largest Russian military offensive since the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks pour into the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya. Encountering only light resistance, Russian forces had by evening pushed to the outskirts of the Chechen capital of Grozny, where several thousand Chechen volunteers vowed a bitter fight against the Russians.

With the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Chechnya, like many of the other republics encompassed by the former Soviet Union, declared its independence. However, unlike Georgia, the Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and the other former Soviet states, Chechnya held only the barest autonomy under Soviet rule and was not considered one of the 15 official Soviet republics. Instead, Chechnya is regarded as one of many republics within the Russian Federation. Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who permitted the dissolution of the Soviet Union, would not tolerate the secession of a state within territorial Russia.

About the size of Connecticut and located in southeastern Russia on the Caspian Sea, Chechnya was conquered by the Russians in the 1850s as the Russian empire pushed south toward the Middle East. Its people are largely Muslim and fiercely independent, and the region has been a constant irritant to its Russian and Soviet rulers.

In August 1991, Dzhozkhar Dudayev, a Chechen politician and former Soviet air force general, toppled Chechnya’s local communist government and established an anti-Russian autocratic state. President Yeltsin feared the secession of Chechnya would prompt a domino effect of independence movements within the vast Russian Federation. He also hoped to recover Chechnya’s valuable oil resources. After ineffective attempts at funding Chechen opposition groups, a Russian invasion began on December 11, 1994.

After the initial gains of the Russian army, the Chechen rebels demonstrated a fierce resistance in Grozny, and thousands of Russian troops died and many more Chechen civilians were killed during almost two years of heavy fighting. In August 1996, Grozny was retaken by the Chechen rebels after a year of Russian occupation, and a cease-fire was declared. In 1997, the last humiliated Russian troops left Chechnya. Despite a peace agreement that left Chechnya a de facto independent state, Chechnya remained officially part of Russia.

In 1999, Yeltsin’s government ordered a second invasion of Chechnya after bombings in Moscow and other cities were linked to Chechen militants. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Yeltsin’s handpicked successor as Russian leader, said of the Chechen terrorists, “we will rub them out, even in the toilet.” In 2000, President Putin escalated Russian military involvement in Chechnya after terrorist bombings in Russian cities continued. In this second round of post-Soviet fighting in Chechnya, the Russian army has been accused of many atrocities in its efforts to suppress Chechen militancy. A peace agreement remains elusive.

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Chechen separatists storm Russian school

Year
2004
Month Day
September 01

On September 1, 2004, an armed gang of Chechen separatist rebels enters a school in southern Russia and takes more than 1,000 people hostage. The rebels demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from the disputed nearby region of Chechnya. September 1 was the first day of a new school year for millions of students across Russia, a day of celebration in schools that both parents and students traditionally attend. Nearly 340 people, about half of them children, died in the ensuing three-day ordeal.

The rebels stormed the school at 9:30 a.m., just after a ceremony celebrating the new school year had ended. They initially held more than 1,000 hostages, though some were released later that day. The hostages were crowded into the school’s gym, where they were surrounded by mines and bombs to prevent them from escaping. The rebels placed children along the room’s windows to discourage Russian authorities from storming the building and randomly shot off their guns to intimidate the hostages. Temperatures quickly rose in the overcrowded gym, forcing the hostages to strip nearly naked to stay cool. The captors refused to allow food or drink into the school; some hostages were forced to drink their own urine to keep from dehydrating in the hot building.

Finally, on the morning of September 3, the rebels allowed Russian emergency workers in to retrieve the bodies of those who had been killed in their initial assault on the school. Soon after, two bombs in the gym were accidentally detonated, one of which caused the gym’s roof to collapse. In the subsequent chaos, some hostages escaped. When the rebels began to shoot children, Russian special forces stormed the school. Over the course of the next few hours, the Russian troops secured the building, killing all but one of the 32 attackers. Rescue workers found hundreds of bodies in the debris of the burned-out former school gym. More than 700 others were wounded.

The secondary school was located in Beslan, North Ossetia, near Chechnya in the war-torn North Caucasus region of Russia. The people of North Ossetia are predominately Christian and have strong ties to Russia. Chechens, on the other hand, are mainly Muslim. Chechen separatists have demanded their freedom from Russia since soon after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and have increasingly turned to terrorist tactics to further their cause. Chechnya is important to the Russian economy because of several oil and gas pipelines that run through Chechen territory. It is estimated that at least 200,000 people have been killed in the ongoing Chechen-Russian conflict.

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Stalin’s body removed from Lenin’s tomb

Year
1961
Month Day
October 31

Five years after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalinism and the “personality cult” of Soviet rulers at the 20th Party Congress, Joseph Stalin’s embalmed body is removed from Lenin’s tomb in Moscow’s Red Square.

When Vladimir Lenin died in 1924, the leader of Russia’s Bolshevik revolution was embalmed and placed in a special mausoleum before the Kremlin wall. Featuring glass casing, the tomb made the father of Soviet Russia visible for all posterity.

Lenin was succeeded as Soviet leader by Joseph Stalin, who ruled over the USSR with an iron fist for three decades, executing or working to death millions of Soviets who stood in the way of his ruthless political and economic plans. However, Stalin also led his country to a hard-won victory over German invaders during World War II, and when died in 1953 he joined Lenin in his tomb. Within a few years of Stalin’s death, however, Soviet authorities uniformly condemned the brutal leader. In October 1961, his body was removed from public display in Red Square and shunted off to a nearby tomb.

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The Russo-Japanese War begins


Year
1904
Month Day
February 08

Following the Russian rejection of a Japanese plan to divide Manchuria and Korea into spheres of influence, Japan launches a surprise naval attack against Port Arthur, a Russian naval base in China. The Russian fleet was decimated.

During the subsequent Russo-Japanese War, Japan won a series of decisive victories over the Russians, who underestimated the military potential of its non-Western opponent. In January 1905, the strategic naval base of Port Arthur fell to Japanese naval forces under Admiral Heihachiro Togo; in March, Russian troops were defeated at Shenyang, China, by Japanese Field Marshal Iwao Oyama; and in May, the Russian Baltic fleet under Admiral Zinovi Rozhdestvenski was destroyed by Togo near the Tsushima Islands.

These three major defeats convinced Russia that further resistance against Japan’s imperial designs for East Asia was hopeless, and in August 1905 U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt mediated a peace treaty at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (He was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this achievement.) Japan emerged from the conflict as the first modern non-Western world power and set its sights on greater imperial expansion. However, for Russia, its military’s disastrous performance in the war was one of the immediate causes of the Russian Revolution of 1905.

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The Battle of Tsushima Strait

Year
1905
Month Day
May 27

During the Russo-Japanese War, the Russian Baltic Fleet is nearly destroyed at the Battle of Tsushima Strait. The decisive defeat, in which only 10 of 45 Russian warships escaped to safety, convinced Russian leaders that further resistance against Japan’s imperial designs for East Asia was hopeless.

On February 8, 1904, following the Russian rejection of a Japanese plan to divide Manchuria and Korea into spheres of influence, Japan launched a surprise naval attack against Port Arthur, a Russian naval base in China. It was the first major battle of the 20th century, and the Russian fleet was decimated. During the subsequent war, Japan won a series of decisive victories over the Russians, who underestimated the military potential of its non-Western opponent. In January 1905, the strategic naval base of Port Arthur fell to Japanese naval and ground forces under Admiral Heihachiro Togo, and in March Russian troops were defeated at Shenyang, China, by Japanese Field Marshal Iwao Oyama.

Russian Czar Nicholas II hoped that the Russian Baltic fleet under Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky would be able to challenge Admiral Togo’s supremacy at sea, but during the two-day Battle of Tsushima Strait, beginning on May 27, more than 30 Russian ships were sunk or captured by the superior Japanese warships. In August, the stunning string of Japanese victories convinced Russia to accept the peace treaty mediated by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (Roosevelt was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this achievement.) In the Treaty of Portsmouth, Russia recognized Japan as the dominant power in Korea and gave up Port Arthur, the southern half of Sakhalin Island, and the Liaotung Peninsula to Japan.

Japan emerged from the conflict as the first modern non-Western world power and set its sights on greater imperial expansion. However, for Russia, its military’s disastrous performance in the war was one of the immediate causes of the Russian Revolution of 1905.

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St. Petersburg founded by Peter the Great

Year
1703
Month Day
May 27

After winning access to the Baltic Sea through his victories in the Great Northern War, Czar Peter I founds the city of St. Petersburg as the new Russian capital.

The reign of Peter, who became sole czar in 1696, was characterized by a series of sweeping military, political, economic, and cultural reforms based on Western European models. Peter the Great, as he became known, led his country into major conflicts with Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and Sweden. Russian victories in these wars greatly expanded Peter’s empire, and the defeat of Sweden won Russia direct access to the Baltic Sea, a lifelong obsession of the Russian leader. With the founding of St. Petersburg, Russia was now a major European power–politically, culturally, and geographically. In 1721, Peter abandoned the traditional Russian title of czar in favor of the European-influenced title of emperor. Four years later, he died and was succeeded by his wife, Catherine.

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Trapped Russian sub rescued

Year
2005
Month Day
August 07

On August 7, 2005, a Russian Priz AS-28 mini-submarine, with seven crew members on board, is rescued from deep in the Pacific Ocean. On August 4, the vessel had been taking part in training exercises in Beryozovaya Bay, off the coast of Russia’s far-eastern Kamchatka peninsula, when its propellers became entangled in cables that were part of Russia’s coastal monitoring system. Unable to surface, the sub’s crew was stranded in the dark, freezing submarine for more than three days.

At 1 p.m. on August 4, the Priz, trapped at 190 meters below the ocean surface, issued a mayday call. The Russian navy soon began to organize a rescue mission, asking for help from the United Kingdom, United States and Japan. In the ensuing days, while the three countries mobilized rescue crews for the trip to eastern Russia, the Russian navy attempted to first lift the sub from the water and later to drag it to shallower water where it could be reached by divers. Both approaches were complicated by the 60-ton anchor attached to the cables that had ensnared the sub. Finally, with fears mounting that the trapped crew’s oxygen supply would soon run out, the six-man crew of a British-owned-and-operated Scorpio-45 rescue sub arrived and was able to cut the sub loose. All seven on board, which included six Russian navy seamen and one representative of the company that made the sub, survived the ordeal.

The Priz incident occurred just five years after the Kursk, a Russian nuclear submarine, sank, killing all 118 people on board. In that disaster, the Russian government had delayed asking for outside help for some 30 hours and was widely blamed for the sailors deaths. As the disaster unfolded, Russian President Vladimir Putin stunned the public by failing to address the nation and even refused to cut short his vacation in light of the tragedy.

Although Russians everywhere were relieved and happy that the Priz was successfully rescued, others could not believe that the Russian navy had not acquired its own rescue equipment in the five years since the Kursk tragedy. For many, the Priz incident highlighted the effect of a decade of decay on the once-mighty Russian military.

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Russian fleet surrenders at Port Arthur


Updated:
Original:
Year
1905
Month Day
January 02

During the Russo-Japanese War, Port Arthur, the Russian naval base in China, falls to Japanese naval forces under Admiral Heihachiro Togo. It was the first in a series of defeats that by June turned the tide of the imperial conflict irrevocably against Russia.

In February 1904, following a Russian rejection of a Japanese plan to divide Manchuria and Korea into spheres of influence, Japan launched a surprise naval attack on Port Arthur, decimating the Russian fleet. In the subsequent fighting, Japan won a series of decisive victories over the Russians, who underestimated the military potential of its non-Western opponent.

In January 1905, the strategic naval base of Port Arthur fell to the Japanese; in March, Russian troops were defeated at Shenyang, China, by Japanese Field Marshal Iwao Oyama; and in May, the Russian Baltic fleet under Admiral Zinovi Rozhdestvenski was destroyed by Admiral Togo’s fleet near the Tsushima Islands. These three crucial defeats convinced Russia that further resistance against Japan’s imperial designs on East Asia was hopeless, and in August 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt mediated a peace treaty at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Japan emerged from the conflict as the first modern non-Western world power and set its sights on greater imperial expansion. For Russia, however, the disastrous performance in the war was one of the immediate causes of the Russian Revolution of 1905.

Source

Peter the Great dies


Year
1725
Month Day
February 08

On February 8, 1725, Peter the Great, emperor of Russia, dies and is succeeded by his wife, Catherine.

The reign of Peter, who became sole czar in 1696, was characterized by a series of sweeping military, political, economic, and cultural reforms based on Western European models. Russian victories in major conflicts with Persia and the Ottoman Empire greatly expanded Peter’s empire, and the defeat of Sweden in the Great Northern War won Russia direct access to the Baltic Sea. Here, Peter founded the new Russian capital of St. Petersburg, and Russia became a major European power–politically, culturally, and geographically. In 1721, Peter abandoned the traditional Russian title of czar in favor of the European-influenced title of emperor. Four years later, he died.

READ MORE: Why Peter the Great Tortured and Killed His Own Son

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Czar Nicholas II crowned

Year
1896
Month Day
May 26

Nicholas II, the last czar, is crowned ruler of Russia in the old Ouspensky Cathedral in Moscow.

Nicholas was neither trained nor inclined to rule, which did not help the autocracy he sought to preserve in an era desperate for change. Born in 1868, he succeeded to the Russian throne upon the death of his father, Czar Alexander III, in November 1894. That same month, the new czar married Alexandra, a German-born princess who came to have great influence over her husband. After a period of mourning for his late father, Nicholas and Alexandra were crowned czar and czarina in May 1896.

As the ruler of Russia, Nicholas resisted calls for reform and sought to maintain czarist absolutism; although he lacked the strength of will necessary for such a task. The disastrous outcome of the Russo-Japanese War led to the Russian Revolution of 1905, which Nicholas only diffused after approving a representative assembly–the Duma–and promising constitutional reforms. The czar soon retracted these concessions and repeatedly dissolved the Duma, contributing to the growing public support enjoyed by the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary groups.

In 1914, Nicholas led his country into another costly war–World War I–and discontent grew as food became scarce, soldiers became war-weary, and devastating defeats at the hands of Germany demonstrated the ineffectiveness of Russia under Nicholas. In 1915, the czar personally took over command of the army, leaving the Czarina Alexandra in control at home. Her unpopular court was dominated by the Russian mystic Rasputin, who replaced the czar’s competent ministers and officials with questionable nominees.

In March 1917, the army garrison at Petrograd joined striking workers in demanding socialist reforms, and Nicholas II was called on to abdicate. On March 15, he renounced the throne in favor of his brother Michael, whose refusal of the crown brought an end to the czarist autocracy in Russia. Nicholas, his wife, and children were held at the Czarskoye Selo palace by Russia’s Provincial Government and in August moved to Tobolsk in Western Siberia under pressure from the Petrograd Soviet, the powerful coalition of soldiers’ and workers’ councils that shared power with the Provincial Government in the first stage of the Russian Revolution.

In November 1917, the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin seized power in Russia and set about establishing the world’s first communist state. In April 1918, Nicholas and his family were transferred to Yekaterinburg in the Urals, which sealed their doom. Civil war broke out in Russia in June 1918, and in July the anti-Bolshevik “White” Russian forces advanced on Yekaterinburg during a campaign against the Bolshevik forces. Local authorities were ordered to prevent a rescue of the Romanovs, and after a secret meeting by the Yekaterinburg Soviet, a death sentence was passed on the imperial family.

Just after midnight on July 17, Nicholas, Alexandra, their five children, and four family retainers were ordered to dress quickly and go down to the cellar of the house in which they were being held. There, the family and servants were arranged in two rows for a photograph they were told was being taken to quell rumors that they had escaped. Suddenly, a dozen armed men burst into the room and gunned down the imperial family in a hail of gunfire.

The remains of Nicholas, Alexandra, and three of their children were excavated in a forest near Yekaterinburg in 1991 and positively identified two years later using mtDNA fingerprinting. The Crown Prince Alexei and one Romanov daughter were not accounted for, fueling the persistent legend that Anastasia, the youngest Romanov daughter, had survived the execution of her family. Of the several “Anastasias” that surfaced in Europe in the decade after the Russian Revolution, Anna Anderson, who died in the United States in 1984, was the most convincing. In 1994, however, scientists used mtDNA to prove that Anna Anderson was not Anastasia but a Polish woman named Franziska Schanzkowska.

READ MORE: Romanov Family 

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