Chechnya and its neighbor to the west, Ingushetia, are small and poor Muslim-majority regions in the North Caucasus of the Russian Federation. Although technically part of Europe, both seems more culturally attuned with the Middle East than the European heartland. Each is closer to Baghdad than Moscow. Since Chechnya was absorbed into the Russian Empire in the late 1700s, it has frequently tried to break away at times when Moscow’s grip was considered weak. During World War II, Stalin ordered the entire populations of Chechnya and Ingushetia deported to central Asia after he became convinced they had sympathized with invading Nazi German forces. Half the populations died in exile of hunger, cold and disease before the survivors were eventually permitted to return 13 years later. Chechnya’s most recent attempts at independence began in 1990s and triggered two Russo-Chechen wars that left an estimated 300,000 dead and nearly three-quarters of a million displaced, the majority of them in Ingushetia and Dagestan.
International Medical Corps has been working in the North Caucasus since 2000, providing primary health care, mother child health and psychosocial and mental health support to a corner of Russia emerging from the ruins of wars that have left poverty levels and maternal and child mortality rates all abnormally high. We also support programs to prevent gender-based violence and conduct public health outreach on tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse and smoking prevention as international assistance begins to transition from emergency relief to longer-term development programs.