The region's capital city is Grozny. There are several excellent maps available online through the University of Texas at Austin's Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection.
For centuries the Chechen people have been recognized as a distinct ethnic group, with an indigenous language that is unrelated to any language outside the Caucasus region. The Caucasus region is one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world, and conflicts have been an integral part of the people's history.
In the 15th Century, the Chechen people fought against the invading Ottoman Turks. The majority of the population eventually converted to Islam, but conflicts continued with the Christian Georgians and Cossacks. By the late 18th Century the people of Chechnya were under Russian rule and the struggle for independence had begun already by the early 19th Century.
There have been uprisings in the area coinciding with the greater conflicts within Russia, and later, within the Soviet Union. In the mid-thirties the Chechen and Ingushetia areas were united as an autonomous republic. However, during the Second World War, Russia accused the Chechen and Ingush soldiers of collaborating with the Germans and Stalin exiled much of the population to Siberia and Central Asia.
When Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchyov became Premier of the Soviet Union, the Chechen people were allowed to return to their homeland and the union was reestablished with the Ingush.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria declared itself an independent state and elected a President, Dzhokhar Dudaev. However, Boris Yelsin argued that the area had historically been a part of Russia and did not have a claim to independence and sent troops into the region.
The First Chechen War broke out in 1994 and, while as many as 80,000 Chechens were killed, by 1996 the Russians withdrew in defeat.
In 1995 the Chechen President Dudaev was killed, and Zemlikhan Yandarbiyev took office. In May of 1996 Yandarbiyev signed a peace agreement with Boris Yeltsin, but fighting resumed already in June of the same year.
In 1997 Aslan Maskhadov was elected President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeri and Russia officially recognized the new government. However, there were internal conflicts, and by 1999 Maskhadov implemented Islamic law (sharia). Despite the withdrawal of Russian troops, separatist factions continued with kidnappings and other terrorist actions. Moscow accused the Chechen government was supporting Islamic extremists and reclaimed control of the region. This began the Second Chechen War.
While the war officially ended in 2000, fighting continues to this day. Russian forces and the Chechnyan separatists are both accused of human rights violations.
Today no state recognizes the Chechen government's sovereignty over the battered region.
For more information and details of the current situation and key figures: