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Anti-Chechen sentiment or Chechenophobia, Nokhchophobia and Anti-Chechenism refers to fear, dislike, hostility, and racism towards ethnic Chechens and anything related to Chechen culture and North Caucasian culture in general. Anti-Chechen sentiment has been historically strong in Russia, and to some degree has spread to other countries in the former Soviet Union such as Azerbaijan and Armenia, to Europe (Poland, France), the Middle East (Syria), and to the United States. The main causes of hatred against Chechens for decades have been largely due to Russian anti-Chechen propaganda, Chechen involvement in global Islamic terrorism, and the adherence of the Chechens to Islam.
The fear and negative stereotype of Chechens have been largely uprooted by the history of Russian conquest of Chechnya and Dagestan, when Russia conquered the Chechen territory in 1859 and merged it with the Russian Empire. During the conquest, Russian general Aleksey Yermolov openly disliked Chechens, considering the Chechens dangerous and hypocritical, while calling for mass genocide of the Chechens due to their resistance against Russia. Eventually, when Russia absorbed Chechnya into its territory, mass ethnic genocide of Chechens occurred in 1860s.
Due to the Chechens' refusal to accept Russian rule, a number of violent conflicts erupted in Chechnya in an attempt to free Chechnya from Russia. This was often met with brutal reprisals by the Russian authorities, such as the bloody repression of Chechens in 1932 by the Soviet military. During World War II, the Soviet authorities blamed Chechens for supporting Nazi Germany, resulting with the tragic Aardakh in which many Chechens were deported to Siberia and Central Asia, many dying on the journey. These tensions were superseded with ethnic conflict in the 1950s and 1960s, when Russians and Chechens clashed in Grozny. Soviet authorities largely sided with Russians against Chechens.
The conflict between Chechens and Russians reached its peak when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, when Chechen nationalists, led by Dzhokhar Dudayev, proclaimed the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and sought to separate from Russia, causing the First and Second Chechen Wars. The Russian military responded brutally against ethnic Chechens, especially in the second war where an estimated thousand or more Chechen civilians were killed by the Russian military.
Ethnic violence between Russians and Chechens were common in 2000s, due to the Chechen link with Islamic terrorism, leading to an increased number of racist killings against Chechens. In 2007, 18-year-old Artur Ryno claimed responsibility for 37 racially motivated murders in the course of one year, saying that "since school [he] hated people from the Caucasus." On 5 June 2007, an anti-Chechen riot involving hundreds of people took place in the town of Stavropol in southern Russia. Rioters demanded the eviction of ethnic Chechens following the murder of two young Russians who locals believed were killed by Chechens. The event revived memories of a recent clash between Chechens and local Russians in Kondopoga over an unpaid bill, when two Russians were killed. Chechens in the Russian Armed Forces have also faced frequent violent activities against them by Russian military instructors.
In modern times, this was also evoked by the Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor when he faced Khabib Nurmagomedov, stating that the Chechens and Dagestanis are hostile to each other due to the memory of old Chechen conflict and the accusation of Dagestani betrayal by Chechens.
In North Ossetia–Alania, during the East Prigorodny Conflict of the 1990s, ethnic Ossetian militia groups, many supported by the Russian government, committed ethnic cleansing of Ingush, a close relative of the Chechens, as well as the Chechens, due to Chechen support for Ingush against Ossetians.
Pankisi Gorge is home to a large Chechen population within Georgia, and the region has suffered from poverty and xenophobia due to increasing radical Islamism within the gorge. In addition, the Pankisi Gorge crisis in the early 2000s led to a stereotype of Chechens as terrorists and jihadists.
In South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia, Chechens have generally supported Georgia against the separatist movement in South Ossetia. This also led to ethnic cleansing against Chechens in 1990s by South Ossetian forces, and was soon escalated by the Russo-Georgian War in 2008. Today there are virtually no Chechen communities left in South Ossetia.
Anti-Chechen sentiment occurred in Armenia due to the support of certain Chechens for Azerbaijan, the arch-foe of Armenia in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, with Chechen forces under Shamil Basayev participating directly in the conflict. Chechens had also been accused of fighting against Armenia on the side of Azerbaijan during the recent 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Kazakhstan has a large Chechen community, which has been repeatedly subjected to violence by local residents and Kazakh nationalists. An example of this was the 1951 anti-Chechen pogrom in Eastern Kazakhstan and Kazakh-Chechen conflict in the Almaty region.
Poland welcomed Chechen refugees during the 1990s in support of the Chechen quest to regain freedom from Russia. However, since the 2010s, especially with the rise of the far-right wing party Law and Justice and increasing Islamic terrorism in Europe, the Polish attitude toward Chechens had become increasingly negative, with some blaming Chechens for inflaming terrorist attacks due to their Islamic belief, notably by the Polish interior minister Mariusz Błaszczak in 2016, who accused the Chechens of being terrorists. This was followed by the increasing denial of Chechen asylum seekers, with over 20–80,000 Chechens fleeing Russia forcibly sent back by Polish authorities. The anti-Chechen policy by the Polish government has been criticized by the European Union, of which Poland is a member, and the European Court of Human Rights, which in 2020 ruled against Poland for perceived Chechenophobia by the Polish authorities.
In 2017, Azamat Baiduyev, son of a former bodyguard to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev in 1990s, was forcibly deported from Belgium to Poland due to an uncertain connection to terrorist activities, after which later Poland deported him back to Russia despite outcries in 2018. In 2019, a Chechen refugee who was granted asylum in Poland, Nurmagomed Nurmagomedov, had his asylum right revoked and faced charges of terrorism, and was about to be deported back to Russia before a Polish Lawyer from the Border organization intervened. Nurmagomed himself was unaware before he was surprisingly arrested by the Polish authorities.
German far-right radicals and skinheads often attacked Chechen immigrants because of their origin, and after the mass brawl between Germans and Chechens in Reinsberg, the mayor of Reinsberg, a Frank Shwokhov, admitted that the German integration policy had failed.
Inter-ethnic clashes also took place between Kurds and Chechens
After the murder of British specialists in Chechnya, the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, described the murders as "repugnant" and pledged to discover exactly what led to the tragedy. Paul Keetch, the MP for the constituency where victim Peter Kennedy lived, blamed the Chechen security forces for bungling a rescue attempt.
In 2017, Azamat Baiduyev, the son of a former bodyguard of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev in the 1990s, was forcibly deported from Belgium to Poland due to speculated connections to terrorist activities, after which Poland later deported him back to Russia despite outcries in 2018. Belgium had been criticized for its anti-Chechen policies given that the country is home to the European Union headquarters, and due to Belgium's unwillingness to confront Russia as Brussels sought Moscow's support to counter Islamic terrorism.
As in Germany, the Chechen diaspora in Belgium was exposed to violence by Kurdish immigrants.
Following the Boston Marathon bombing by two Chechen immigrants, anti-Chechen sentiment intermingled with Islamophobia grew in the United States, as the majority of Chechens are Muslims. Many Chechen-Americans had expressed fear of reprisals and racism by American nationalists.
The United States Senate, in May 2013, amended laws to tighten visa requirements, which was thought to be deliberately anti-Chechen.
Historically, Azerbaijan has been seen as welcoming to Chechens, and during 1990s there was a strong mutual respect between Chechens and Azerbaijanis. The Chechens volunteered to fight for Azerbaijan against Armenia in Karabakh, while Azerbaijan welcomed Chechen refugees fleeing war in their homeland. However, increasing adherence to the Salafi movement by Chechens, Chechen involvement in kidnapping and mass murder, as well as its terrorist tendencies, led to a sharp rise of Chechen Islamic radicalism, which caused the Chechen image in Azerbaijan to deteriorate.
Chechens have been largely able to integrate within Syrian society. However, due to the alliance between the al-Assad family and Russia, antagonism against Chechens started to increase in 2011, following Chechen participation with the opposition forces against the al-Assad government. Chechens have also endured repression by the Ba'athist regime due to cultural differences, and has been largely less successful in preserving its original heritage.
As Chechens mostly sympathize with Palestinians due to common Islamic beliefs, there is a significant hostility against Chechens in Israel. In 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly compared Hamas with the Chechens, stating that they are terrorists, in response to Russia and Turkey's quest to not exclude Hamas in the peace process between Israel and Palestine.
In 2013, after Beitar Jerusalem signed two Chechen Muslim players, Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev, anti-Chechen protest erupted by Beitar Jerusalem's supporters due to their Islamic belief. Beitar fans also showed anti-Chechen sentiment by leaving the stadium on 3 March when Sadayev scored the first goal for the club. In addition, many openly stated that it was not racist to hate Chechens and Muslims.
Meanwhile, Chechen terrorism has also been seen to be on the rise in France. In 2018, a Chechen-born terrorist carried out a knife attack in Paris. In 2020, a Chechen teen beheaded a teacher over Prophet Muhammad's controversy. This has led to increasing Chechenophobia in France.
In 2017, a Chechen man with alleged ties to the FSB, forced a Hungarian activist and rapper to apologize after throwing balloons filled with food coloring at the monument to Soviet Liberators in Freedom Square in the capital city of Budapest. This has led to significant fear and hostility toward Chechens, albeit they are accused of working for Russia since Chechens are not numerous in Hungary. Likewise, Hungary's support for Poland's radical anti-migrant policies, including its deportation of Chechens since 2015, has also been seen as anti-Chechen.