Year
1994

Yeltsin orders Russian forces into Chechnya

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.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Billionaire conman Bernard Madoff arrested

On this day in 2008, financier Bernard Madoff is arrested at his New York City apartment and charged with masterminding a long-running Ponzi scheme later estimated to involve around $65 billion, making it one of the biggest investment frauds in Wall Street history.Madoff, who was ...read more

UNICEF founded

In the aftermath of World War II, the General Assembly of the United Nations votes to establish the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), an organization to help provide relief and support to children living in countries devastated by the war.After the ...read more

Edward VIII abdicates

After ruling for less than one year, Edward VIII becomes the first English monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne. He chose to abdicate after the British government, public, and the Church of England condemned his decision to marry the American divorcée Wallis Warfield ...read more

Germany declares war on the United States

On this day, Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States, bringing America, which had been neutral, into the European conflict.The bombing of Pearl Harbor surprised even Germany. Although Hitler had made an oral agreement with his Axis partner Japan that Germany would join a ...read more

Paratroopers depart South Vietnam

Paratroopers from the U.S. Third Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, depart from Vietnam.The unit was sent to Vietnam in February 1968 as an emergency measure in response to the Communist 1968 Tet Offensive. Landing at Chu Lai, the unit was attached to the 101st Airborne Division ...read more

Muhammad Ali vs. Trevor Berbick

On this day in 1981, the Jamaican boxer Trevor Berbick beat former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in a unanimous 10-round decision, before a crowd of 10,000 at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre in Nassau, the Bahamas.At the age of 39, Ali (born Cassius Clay) was attempting his ...read more

Alexander Solzhenitsyn is born

On this day in 1918, Alexander Solzhenitsyn is born in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia.Solzhenitsyn’s father, an artillery officer on the German front in World War I, died before Solzhenitsyn was born, and he was raised by his mother, a typist. He began writing as a child but ...read more

Tootsie actress Teri Garr born

On this day in 1944, the actress Teri Garr, who will rise to fame in Hollywood in the 1970s with such hit films as Oh, God! and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is born in Lakewood, Ohio.Garr was born into a show business family: Her father was a vaudeville performer and her ...read more

Toronto endures record snowstorm

The city of Toronto, Canada, is battered with its worst-ever snowfall on this day in 1944. Twenty-one people died as a result of the record storm, in which nearly 20 inches of snow fell in a single day.The storm began hundreds of miles to the south near the Gulf of Mexico; it ...read more

Federals occupy Fredericksburg

On this day in 1862, the Union Army of the Potomac occupies Fredericksburg, Virginia, as General Ambrose Burnside continues to execute his plan to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia.However, the occupation did not happen until three weeks after Burnside’s army ...read more

Yuan Shih-kai accepts Chinese throne

With war raging in Europe, conflict also reigns in the Far East between two traditional enemies, Japan and an internally-divided China. On December 11, 1915, the first president of the new Chinese republic, Yuan Shih-kai, who had come to power in the wake of revolution in 1911 ...read more