Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Some notes on the Chechens and Chechen demography

Last Monday's Boston Marathon bombings gave some most unattractive publicity to the Russian autonomous republic of Chechnya and the Chechen people, on account of the ethnicity of the alleged perpetrators, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. One thing that came out in their life stories was they way in which they recapitulated the 20th century demographic history of the Chechens, able summarized in Asya Pereltsvaig's Geocurrents post.

During World War II, some Chechen separatists saw an opportunity to escape Russian domination by siding with the fast-approaching Nazis, who pushed into the North Caucasus in November 1942, attracted by the rich oil fields near Baku (see map on the left). Under that slight pretext, Stalin ordered virtually the entire Chechen population to be herded up and shipped by train to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Siberia on February 23, 1944. Up to 40% of the Chechen nation perished in the process, according to Stanford historian Norman M. Naimark. Houses of the exiled Chechens were offered to refugees from the war-ravaged western regions of USSR. But Stalin sought not only to move the Chechens away from the area of potential German conquest, but to destroy their ethnic identity. Chechen gravestones and cultural monuments were demolished; whole villages were deleted from maps and encyclopedias. In 1956, during Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization program, those Chechens who had not perished during their harsh 13-year exile were “rehabilitated” and permitted to return back to their homeland. Nonetheless, the survivors of the exile lost economic resources and civil rights. They have also continued to suffer from discrimination, both official and unofficial, and have endured years of discriminatory public discourse.

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In the ensuing First Chechen War, the Russian air force and artillery hammered Chechen cities, particularly the capital of Grozny, which is now considered “the most destroyed city in the world”. Hundreds of thousands of Chechen refugees were driven out of Chechnya and into other parts of the Caucasus, particularly Ingushetia and Dagestan (where the younger of the Boston bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, attended school). Others went further afield, to the United States, Europe, or Central Asia, where Chechen communities remained since the exile ordered by Stalin. In the meantime, rebel forces in Chechnya retreated to the mountains, resorting to guerrilla warfare and terrorist attacks. Using tactics similar to those developed by the mujahideen in Afghanistan, rebels wore down the Russian troops; alcohol, drugs, and terror also took a heavy toll on the Russian military enterprise. Russian forces responded by fighting not only the armed rebels but also by inflicting destruction and rape on the peaceful Chechen population. As Russian casualties mounted, public opinion turned against the war. Russia agreed to a ceasefire in 1995, but since the political issues underlying the conflict were not resolved, violence soon resumed. After Dudayev was killed by two laser-guided missiles fired by a Russian aircraft, a new ceasefire agreement was brokered in 1996, calling for withdrawal of Russian forces and a political resolution in 2001.

[. . .]

Initially, the Second Chechen War went better for Moscow than did the First Chechen War. Russia launched massive and indiscriminate air strikes, forcing as many as 400,000 Chechens to flee. However, Moscow quickly became trapped again in an Afghan-style quagmire, while international condemnation mounted. Chechen president Maskhadov made several abortive attempts to cut a deal with the Russians, but found himself dismissed by Moscow and increasingly ignored by his own compatriots. He fled Grozny in 1999, as violence continued to escalate on both sides (eventually, Maskhadov was killed by Russian special forces in March 2005). He was replaced by a Chechen cleric Akhmad Kadyrov, who broke with the anti-Russian resistance movement, in part over its increasing religious radicalism, and began working with Russian authorities. After prolonged and bitter resistance, the Russians finally recaptured Grozny in early 2000, though the insurgency phase continued throughout the 2000s.

Born in a family of mixed ethnicity (Chechen father, Avar mother) in the eastern North Caucasus, moving at an earlier age to Kyrgyzstan an eventually to the United States, maintaining close connections to their homeland, the Tsarnaev brothers represent extremes in many ways. For starters, very few ethnic Chechens live in the United States--the number is approximately two hundred or so. (Most of the Chechens in the United States do live in the Boston area.) The Chechen diaspora, large and growing after the past century of genocides and wars, is concentrated in Eurasia: in Central Asia, particularly Kazakhstan but also Kyrgyzstan, where Chechens were deported in the Second World War and where substantial Chechen communities remain; in the remainder of the Russian Federation, where Chechens have travelled in major cities in the hope for a better life; in Turkey, where substantial Chechen migration dates to the 19th century expulsions of Muslims from the Russian North Caucasus; and, in western Europe. More notably, the Tsarnaev brothers stand out among the Chechen diaspora as the first Chechens to commit a terrorist act outside of Russia, the 1996 hijacking of a Russia-Turkey feerry aside. Olivier Roy (at The New Republic) and Anne Applebaum (at Slate) are probably right to classify the Tsarnaev brothers' alleged bombing as product of the alienation of first-generation immigrant children from their adopted homeland, not some sort of transnational network.

(I made two links posts on the subject Saturday, one of links to interesting blog posts and one of noteworthy news articles.)

Chechnya does stand out in the Russian Federation for any number of factors, of which--as described by Saidova and Zemlyanova the still-high Chechen fertility rate is a notable factor. Despite the terrible casualties of a decade of war, estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, Chechnya has one of the highest fertility rates of any unit in the former Soviet Union.

In the last few years after the socioeconomic situation stabilized and population of the Chechen republic returned to peaceful life favorable development trends of demographic situation are being formed with positive factors of natural increase of population and increase in population number.

From the moment when collection of official demographic statistics was resumed in the republic in 2003 the following population dynamics is traced: as to January, 1 in 2004 number of population was 1121 thousands, and by January, 1 in 2009 it increased up to 9.5% and was 1238 thousands. Total fertility rate (TFR) in Chechen republic exceeds the replacement level. In 2008 it was 3.40 per woman at the age of 15- 49. For comparison, in the same year TFR in neighboring Republic of Dagestan was 1.95, in Republic of Ingushetia it was 1.96, in the whole South Federal District it was 1.67 and in the whole Russian Federation it was 1.49.

This does fit into a general trend, outlined by Judyth Twigg's December 2005 analysis, of Muslims in the Russian Federation evidencing higher fertility rates than non-Muslims. However, Valery Dzutsev's November 2010 Eurasia Daily Monitor analysis makes the point that there are good reasons to doubt the validity of the census data, particularly in the context of extremes.

Many experts have expressed doubts about sudden population increases in the North Caucasian republics over the past 10 years. For instance, Ingushetia’s population officially increased from just under 190,000 in 1990 to a whopping more than 455,000 in 2002 and 516,000 in 2010. Chechnya’s population, following two devastating wars that displaced hundreds of thousands people and virtually eliminated the large ethnic Russian minority in the republic, also increased from 1.1 million in the 1990 to an estimated nearly 1.3 million in 2010, according to the official statistics (www.gks.ru, accessed on November 14).

[. . .]

The demographics of Chechnya are a politically sensitive topic, as the population of the republic was significantly reduced by the two wars and the accompanying destruction of its cities and villages in the 1990’s and again in the 2000’s. Because Ingushetia and Chechnya formed a single administrative entity until the disbandment of the USSR, Ingushetia’s population also had to be manipulated to cover up the real losses among the locals.

The prominent North Ossetian sociologist Aleksandr Dzadziev estimated that Chechnya lost at least 455,000 of its prewar population from 1989-2002, as a result of both migration and casualties. Just before the 2002 census, estimates of Chechnya’s population varied significantly, from 650,000 by the Russian statistical committee to 850,000 by the pro-Moscow Chechen government and Dzadziev’s own estimate of 820,000, all of them much lower than the officially announced results of the 2002 census –1.1 million people (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/analyticstext/analytics/id/765541.html).

It is understandable why both Moscow and its puppet regime in Grozny were interested in exaggerating the population numbers for Chechnya in 2002. Moscow wanted to show there were not too many casualties and that the refugees had returned to Chechnya, while the local authorities wanted to receive more funds and thus needed a higher population to justify their demands. However, it is less clear as to why other North Caucasian republics overstated their populations in the 2002 census. Dagestan’s official population was put at 2.6 million, while according to the year-to-year estimates of the Russian statistical service and Dzadziev’s own estimates it should have been only about 2.2 million. The expected population of Ingushetia in 2002 was 430,000, but came out as 469,000. The expected population figure for Kabardino-Balkaria was about 780,000, but it jumped to over 900,000.

The official explanation for the rapidly increasing populations of the North Caucasian republics is that they have higher birthrates. This is especially applicable to Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia. Still, it is doubtful that the people of Chechnya possess the highest fertility rate in Russia –one that is at the same level or exceeds Saudi Arabia’s and Iraq’s fertility rates.

Migration from Chechnya has occurred on a large scale owing to reasons of war and political oppression, but out-migration is a major theme of the North Caucasian Federal District generally, the only one of Russia's eight federal districts to have a non-Russian majority. (Two-thirds of the North Caucasian Federal District's population is non-Russian, a proportion that would rise if the largely Slavic Stavropol Krai was excluded.) The North Caucasus is a poor region, but young, and Russian government plans for the economic development of the North Caucasus seek to encourage migration to regions elsewhere in Russia.
Demographics of the North Caucasus Federal District differ from that of Russia in general. Now the demographic situation in the region is stable to the increase of birth and decrease of death rate, as well as mass migration to the region. The population of the region increased from 1990 to 2009 by 1.68 million people and is now 13.437 million people. In the year 2009 the natural increase of the population in the North Caucasus Federal District was 75.6 thousand people.
[. . . ]

The birth rate in the North Caucasus Federal District is the highest in the Russian Federation. Especially high is the birth rate in Chechnya (29 new-born children per 1000 residents) and Dagestan (19 new-born children per 1000 residents). That is why the percentage of the young people in the North Caucasus Federal District is higher than in other regions of the Federation. Especially high is the percentage of the youth in such subjects of the Federation as Chechnya (32.9%), Ingushetia (28.9%), and Dagestan (25.4%).

[. . . ]

The level of urbanization is rather low due to the traditional agricultural specialization of the region. The percentage of rural population in 2009 was 51.2%, in 2010 51.1% (in Russia this number is 26.9), that means that 4729.1 thousand people live in rural area. In the Republic of Dagestan, in the Republic of Ingushetia, and in the Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia the percentage of the rural population is 56 – 57%. In the Chechen Republic the figure is 64.7 percent. The infrastructure in the rural areas is rather poor and that prevents labour migration and determines low quality of life of the local residents.

The forces migration is another acute problem. Various ethnic and international conflicts force people to migrate to other regions of the Federation. In 2008 population loss due to migration formed 11.9 thousand people. In Dagestan this figure was 9.8 thousand people, in Kabardino-Balkaria 2.9 thousand, in North Ossetia 2.7 thousand, in Karachay-Cherkessia 1.9 thousand, and in the Chechen Republic 1 thousand people. Population increase due to migration was registered in Stavropol Territory.

The problem of migration is to be solved by the Federal Center together with local authorities. This will require a series of political, social, economic and cultural measures. The average annual labour migration from the region to the other regions of Russia should be on the level of 30 – 40 thousand people. This will stabilize the demographic situation in the region and lower unemployment level.

One third of the population of the North Caucasus Federal District is young people. This means that the Government should adopt a sufficient youth policy. Such a policy should focus on the development of youth organizations, trade union and labour market. The Federal Government together with local authorities should support young entrepreneurs and young families, support education and healthcare system, popularize sports and national traditions of the Caucasian people, and tolerance.

The Danish Immigration Service's 2011 report on Chechens in Russia outlines the various pressures on Chechens to migrate from their homeland, and the legal and other problems that they encounter elsewhere in the Russian Federation. Anti-Chechen discrimination and violence, often state-sponsored, is quite common. All this occurs in the context of what is described, in the 2007 paper of Vendina et al, as the "demographic diversification of the North Caucasus, as Russian and other Slavic populations decrease in number while the largely Muslim populations of nationalities indigenous to the North Caucasus grow.