chechen-mapThe first Chechen War was fought between Russia and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The war lasted from 1994 to 1996 and resulted in the death and displacement of thousands of Chechens. The conflict has its roots in the constitution that Chechnya adopted in 1992 which defined Chechnya as an independent, secular state from Russia. Over the course of the conflict approximately 100,000 people were killed (many of whom were civilians). After 20 months of fighting Russia retreated and Chechnya became independent.

The United Nations published a report in 1998 titled ‘The situation of human rights in the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation’ Рthis report analysed the war and the impact that it had on the people of Chechnya. One of the key findings of the report was that following the lowering of the age of consent, children as young as 11 were used by the Chechen separatist forces. Both boys and girls were used and soon after they joined the movement they were sent to the front line where they carried out the same duties as adults.

There are a number of reasons that children joined the fight: children whose parents had been killed as a result of the conflict were motivated to join the conflict as well as allowing them to protect their family. Joining the army provided them with some economic stability which was vitally important at this time in Chechnya.

The independent state did not last long – in 1999 Russia again invaded Chechnya. The Second Chechen War lasted much longer than the first – a resolution was only reached in 2009. The Second Chechen War also included children fighting on the front lines but this time it was different as they received little to no training and were essentially thrown in at the deep end.

-Michelle O’Brien
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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