1940–1944 insurgency in Chechnya

1940–1944 insurgency in Chechnya
1940-1944 Chechnyan insurgency
Part of World War II
Date February 1940 - February 23, 1944
Location Chechen-Ingush ASSR, Soviet Union
Result Soviet victory, Operation Lentil (Caucasus)
Chechen, Ingush and other mountaineer rebels
Nazi Germany German paratroopers
 Soviet Union (58th Army, NKVD)
Commanders and leaders
Khasan Israilov 
Mairbek Sheripov
General Khomenko (NKVD)
5,000 (November 1941)
6,540-18,000 (February 1943)[1]
Several dozen Germans [2][3]
110,000 (Operation Lentil)
Casualties and losses
657 killed (but 3,875 "captured") according to GARF[4] - 4,368 killed according to other scholarly estimates[2] 269 (165 combatants, 104 non-combatants) according to GARF[4] - 12,000 killed according to other scholarly estimates [3]

The 1940-1944 Chechnya insurgency was a revolt against the Soviet authorities in the mountainous Chechnya. Beginning as early as in June 1941 under Khasan Israilov, it peaked in 1942 during the German invasion of North Caucasus and ended in the beginning of 1944 with the deportation of the Chechens and the Ingush people.

However, the resistance in the mountains lasted until autumn 1947 and the last rebel was killed only in 1976 at the age of 70.[citation needed]

During the insurgency rebels had no control over the plains of Chechnya and its capital Grozny.


Beginning of the Insurgency

By February 1940, Khasan Israilov and his brother Hussein had established a guerrilla base in the mountains of south-eastern Chechnya, where they worked to organize a unified guerrilla movement to prepare an armed insurrection against the Soviets. In February 1940 Israilov's rebel army took Galanchozh, Sayasan, Chaberloi and a part of Shatoysky District. The rebel government was established in Galanchozh.[3]

Israilov described his position on why they were fighting numerous times:

"I have decided to become the leader of a war of liberation of my own people. I understand all too well that not only in Checheno-Ingushetia, but in all nations of the Caucasus it will be difficult to win freedom from the heavy yoke of Red imperialism. But our fervent belief in justice and our faith in the support of the freedom-loving peoples of the Caucasus and of the entire world inspire me toward this deed, in your eyes impertinent and pointless, but in my conviction, the sole correct historical step. The valiant Finns are now proving that the Great Enslaver Empire is powerless against a small but freedom-loving people. In the Caucasus you will find your second Finland, and after us will follow other oppressed peoples."[5]

"For twenty years now, the Soviet authorities have been fighting my people, aiming to destroy them group by group: first the kulaks, then the mullahs and the 'bandits', then the bourgeois-nationalists. I am sure now that the real object of this war is the annihilation of our nation as a whole. That is why I have decided to assume the leadership of my people in their struggle for liberation."


After the German invasion in the USSR in June 1941, the brothers convened 41 different meetings in summer 1941 to recruit local supporters under the name "Provisional People’s Revolutionary State of Checheno-Ingushetia", and by the end of midsummer of that year they had over 5,000 guerrillas and at least 25,000 sympathizers organized into five military districts encompassing Grozny, Gudermes, and Malgobek.

In some areas, up to 80% of men were involved in the insurrection. It is known that the Soviet Union used bombers against the rebels, causing losses primarily to the civilian population.[3]

Khasan had planned the insurrection to begin on January 10, 1942, but a stalled German advance, combined with poor communication between the hundreds of guerrilla units spread throughout the region, aborted his plans. Soviet counter-insurgency efforts were also stymied by the mountainous terrain - Soviet bombing raids twice attacked suspected mountain hideouts of Chechen guerrillas in spring of 1942, but the mountain guerrillas escaped the sustained attacks virtually unscathed.

By January 28, 1942, Khasan had decided to extend the uprising from Chechens and Ingush to eleven of the dominant ethnic groups in the Caucasus by forming the Special Party of Caucasus Brothers (OKPB), with the aim of an 'armed struggle with Bolshevik barbarism and Russian despotism'. Khasan also developed a code among the guerrilla fighters to maintain order and discipline, which stated:

• Brutally avenge the enemies for the blood of our native brothers, the best sons of the Caucasus;
• Mercilessly annihilate seksoty [secret agents], agents and other informants of the NKVD;
• Categorically forbid [guerrillas] to spend the night in homes or villages without the security of reliable guards.[8]

In February 1942 Mairbek Sheripov organized rebellion in Shatoi, Khimokhk and tried to take Itum-Kale. His forces united with Israilov's army relying on the expected arrival of the German Wehrmacht. In neighbouring Dagestan rebels also took the neighbourhoods of Novolakskaya and Dylym.

The insurrection provoked many Chechen and Ingush soldiers of the Red Army to desert. Some sources claim that total number of deserted mountaineer soldiers reached 62,750, exceeding the number of mountaineer fighters in the Red Army.[2]

German support

Abwehr's Nordkaukasische Sonderkommando Schamil landed in several points in Chechnya, coordinating strikes with rebels. On 25 September 1942, German paratroopers landed in Dachu-Borzoi and Duba-Yurt and took the Grozny petroleum refinery, to prevent its destruction by the Red Army in case of its retreat. Then they united with the rebels, trying to hold the refinery until the German First Panzer Army arrives. However, the German offensive stalled, and so the saboteurs were forced to retreat.

The Germans made concerted efforts to coordinate with Khasan, but Khasan's refusal to cede control of his revolutionary movement to the Germans, and his continued insistence on German recognition of Chechen independence, led many Germans to consider Khasan Israilov as unreliable, and his plans unrealistic. Although the Germans were able to undertake covert operations in Chechnya — such as the sabotage of Grozny oil fields — attempts at a German-Chechen alliance floundered.[2]

That the Chechens actually were allied to the Germans is highly questionable and usually dismissed as false.[9][10][11] They did have contact with the Germans. However, there were profound ideological differences between the Chechens and the Nazis (self-determination versus imperialism), neither trusted the other; there was an influential Jewish clan among the Chechens (who were not "Aryan" to begin with according to Hitlerian theory); the German courting of the Cossacks was not pleasing at all to the Chechens (their traditional enemies which with they still had numerous land disputes and other conflicts); and Khasan Israilov certainly had a strong dislike for Hitler. Mairbek Sheripov reportedly gave the Ostministerium a sharp warning that "if the liberation of the Caucasus meant only the exchange of one colonizer for another, the Caucasians would consider this [a theoretical fight pitting Chechens and other Caucasians against Germans] only a new stage in the national liberation war." [12]


By 1943, as the Germans began to retreat in the Eastern Front, the mountain guerrillas saw their fortunes change as many former rebels defected to the Soviets in exchange of amnesty. On December 6, 1943, German involvement in Chechnya ended when Soviet spies infiltrated and arrested the remaining German operatives in Chechnya.

After the German retreat from the Caucasus, almost 500,000 of Chechen and Ingush people were forcibly resettled to Kazakhstan en masse, resulting in a large number of deaths among the deportees. Those who were not deported were simply massacred on spot. In the mountainous part, some war crimes, such as the Khaibakh massacre, took place.

By the next summer, Checheno-Ingushetia was dissolved; a number of Chechen and Ingush placenames were replaced with Russian ones; mosques and graveyards were destroyed, and a massive campaign of burning numerous historical Chechen texts was near complete [13][14] Throughout the North Caucasus, about 700.000 (according to Dalkhat Ediev, 724.297 [15], of which the majority, 479.478, were Chechens, along with 96.327 Ingush, 104.146 Kalmyks, 39.407 Balkars and 71.869 Karachais). Many died along the trip, and the extremely harsh environment of Siberia (especially considering the amount of exposure) killed many more.

The NKVD, supplying the Russian perspective, gives the statistic of 144.704 people killed in 1944-1948 alone (death rate of 23.5% per all groups), though this is dismissed by many authors such as Tony Wood, John Dunlop, Moshe Gammer and others as a far understatement [16]. Estimates for deaths of the Chechens alone (excluding the NKVD statistic), range from about 170.000 to 200.000 [17][18][19][20], thus ranging from over a third of the total Chechen population to nearly half being killed in those 4 years alone (rates for other groups for those four years hover around 20%). Although the Council of Europe has recognized it as a "genocidal act", no country except the self-declared, unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria officially recognizes the act as a genocide.

However, some rebel groups stayed in the mountains, continuing the resistance. Rebel groups were also formed in Kazakhstan.[2]


  1. ^ (Russian) Операция "Чечевица"
  2. ^ a b c d e (Russian) Эдуард Абрамян. Кавказцы в Абвере. М. "Яуза", 2006
  3. ^ a b c d (Russian) Александр УРАЛОВ (А. АВТОРХАНОВ). Убийство чечено-ингушского народа. Народоубийство в СССР
  4. ^ a b (Russian) Игорь Пыхалов. За что Сталин выселял народы.
  5. ^ http://www.history.neu.edu/fac/burds/Burds-FifthColumnists.pdf
  6. ^ Avtorkhanov.Chechens and Ingush.Pages 181-182
  7. ^ Wood, Tony. Chechnya: The Case for Independence. Page 34
  8. ^ "Jeffrey Burds. The Soviet War against ‘Fifth Columnists’:The Case of Chechnya, 1942–4". Archived from the original on 2009-09-03. http://www.history.neu.edu/fac/burds/Burds-FifthColumnists.pdf. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  9. ^ Avtorkhanov. Chechens and Ingush. p183
  10. ^ Wood, Tony.Chechnya: The Case for Independence.p36
  11. ^ Gammer. Lone Wolf and Bear.Pages 161-165
  12. ^ Avtorkhanov. Chechens and Ingush. Page 183.
  13. ^ Gammer, The Lone Wolf and the Bear, p182
  14. ^ Jaimoukha. Chechens. p212
  15. ^ Ediev, Dalkhat. Demograficheskie poteri deportirovannykh narodov SSSR, Stavropol 2003, Table 109, p302
  16. ^ Wood, Tony. Chechnya: the Case for Independence. page 37-38
  17. ^ Nekrich, Punished Peoples
  18. ^ Dunlop.Russia Confronts Chechnya, pp 62-70
  19. ^ Gammer.Lone Wolf and the Bear, pp166-171
  20. ^ Soviet Transit, Camp, and Deportation Death Rates

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