Aslan Maskhadov was elected President of Chechnya 10 years ago
By Umalt Chadayev
CHECHNYA - On January 27 1997 elections to the post of President were held in Chechnya. A convincing victory in them was gained by Aslan Maskhadov, the former chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI).
The presidential elections in Chechnya took place after the end of the so-called "First Chechen War", which began in the autumn of 1994. The first military campaign in the republic, called a "restoration of constitutional order", ended in August 1996 with the signing in Khasavyurt of agreements between Aslan Maskhadov, then still the representative of Ichkeria, and the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Alexander Lebed.
In January 1997 free democratic presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Chechnya under the aegis of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). The elections were conducted on the basis of the Chechen constitution adopted in March 1992, according to which the Chechen Republic was an independent democratic state.
Representatives of more than 20 countries, as well as the United Nations and the OSCE, attended the elections as observers. Many of the foreign representatives said that they had never encountered such a high turn-out of voters in elections anywhere.
"I remember that day as if it were today", a Grozny resident who worked in one of the electoral commissions told PW’s correspondent in a recent interview.
"Hundreds of people gathered near the polling stations from early morning onwards. Many did not know how to vote, and so the republic’s central election commission had to extend the period of voting for an extra two hours. I have never again encountered the universal enthusiasm, the unanimity, the agreement and the almost festive mood that showed itself in people on that day. It was a national holiday. And the elections were possibly among the most open and democratic in the whole of history. Their results were recognized both by the international observers and by Moscow. One recalls that even the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, congratulated Aslan Maskhadov on his victory in the elections."
Aslan Maskhadov gained a convincing victory in the elections, obtaining the support of more than 60 percent of the voters. The runner-up was the well-known field commander Shamil Basayev, for whom 23 percent of citizens voted, and third place was taken by Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who had fulfilled the responsibilities of President after the death of Dzhokhar Dudayev.
In Moscow during May of the same year Aslan Maskhadov and Boris Yeltsin signed an "Agreement on Peace and Principles Governing Relations Between the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the Russian Federation". One of the points of this document stated that the two sides rejected the use of armed force in the resolution of any disputed questions. In the autumn of 1999 Russia began a "counter-terrorist operation" in Chechnya.
In March 2005 Aslan Maskhadov was killed as a result of a special operation carried out by members of the Russian special services in the village of Tolstoy-Yurt, Groznensky district. According to one unconfirmed report, the Chechen President was deliberately killed after being lured into talks with the Russian side which were to take place with the mediation of a number of foreign countries.
Translated by David McDuff.