In the early days of the year 1944, Dudayev was born in the Yalkhoroy village of Chechnya. He was just a baby when 500,000 people including his family were forced to deport for Kazakhstan in one of the most brutal acts in the history. Thousands of people lost their lives on the way to Kazakhstan. Dudayev survived thanks to Allah’s permission and become a legendary leader and holy martyr.
Dudayev spent his childhood years in Kazakhstan’s Chimkent province where he faced famine and poverty. Under these difficult circumstances, he grew up with stories of Chechnya his mother was not tired of telling him. At a time when practice of religion was banned, he was raised as a pious Muslim by his family. When he was allowed to return to Chechnya in 1957, Dudayev returned to his homeland with his family. Being an intelligent student, he managed to enter Tambov Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots from which he graduated in 1966. He later entered Gagarin Air Force Academy and then tied the knot with Alla Dudayeva.
When policies of Glastnost and Perestroika were bringing the end of communism, the darkest regime in the history, in 1989, Dudayev was in Estonia as a brigadier general. When he was ordered to suppress riots for independence in Estonia and other Baltic countries, he refused to obey the orders saying he would never bomb people who fight for their homeland. Following this, he was declared a “hero” in Estonia and a “dissident general” in the Russian army.
In the meantime, there were public riots in Chechnya. Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev and his friends became united long ago and launched the Chechen independence struggle. Dudayev was also aware of what was going on. When he was declared “persona non grata” in the Russian army following the crisis in Estonia, Dudayev resigned from his post in the Russian army upon an invitation from Yandarbiyev and returned to his homeland. He became the president of the public council which was established in 1990. When a decision was made to declare independence of Chechnya on 6 Sept., 1991, he entered the first general elections and became the president receiving 85 percent of the vote. One of the biggest dreams of Dudayev was to see the unity of the people of the Caucasus. Sending Chechen fighters led by Shamil Basayev to the war in Abkhazia, which took place between 1992 and 1993, he gave support to the Confederation of Caucasus Peoples.
Moscow was not welcoming these events which were taking place at the heart of the Caucasus. Dudayev was saying that Chechen people would continue their way by separating from Russia and he was giving support to those who talk about the unity of the Caucasus. However, Moscow was determined not to lose the Caucasus.
When the bells of the war began to ring, Dudayev sought ways to negotiate with Russia. They even discussed staying in the Russian Federation in exchange for a status which was higher than the independence status of Tatarstan. Although Dudayev was against a war until the very last moment, Moscow was decided to bring the “dissident general” to the line. Russia first organized the betrayers among Chechens to prevent the country from gaining its independence. The fire of independence lit by Dudayev and his friends already began to scorch Chechnya and was to spread to the entire Caucasus. Then Russian Justice Minister Kalmuk Yura, who was a Circassian, resigned the moment Russia declared a war against Chechen people. He shared the background of this decision with his fellows saying: “The Security Council made a decision in favor of the start of this war. There is no return from this. The members of the council are in agreement that Russia needs to enter this small war which it can easily win in order to maintain certain balances in the domestic politics. In line with this decision, Russian army will enter Chechnya.”
When Russia attacked Chechnya- just to stay for two hours- on 11 December 1994, Dudayev responded to the attacks of the Russian army, which he knew very well, with an unforgettable resistance. He declared jihad saying: “Russians can never take over Chechnya unless the last Chechen gives his life.” “They can kill us, they can roll over us, they can dance over our bodies on their tanks, they can break our bodies into pieces… but they can never eliminate our quest for freedom and independence...”
Dudayev was killed by laser-guided missiles on 21 April 1996 as he was speaking to a Duma deputy on the satellite telephone. He already revealed that he has a heart which is full of faith with his earlier remarks saying: “I aspire to be a martyr. I see martyrdom as the highest rank. I am ready to fight till death for the independence of my country and the freedom of my nation.” His assassination was first confirmed by the United States. There were efforts to create an image that everything ended for Chechnya after Dudayev’s death. However, Dudayev explained a reality to his people which the so-called independent world can never understand. Following the traces of their great leader, Chechens managed to beat Russian at the end of a two-year-long war. 150,000 Chechens were killed in “this small war” Russia launched.
Dudayev was a real leader, he never cared about money or rank. He never accepted offers made to him during the war such as money or maintenance of his security and escape from country. He just relied on his people. When he was asked about the number of his generals by reporters prior to the war, he was so modest to say: “Every Chechen is a general, I am just the one in a million.” When he got a negative response from the countries to which he applied for the recognition of Chechnya’s independence, the answer he gave was the cornerstone of this struggle: “If you don’t recognize us, we won’t recognize you, either.”
Chechnya has never forgotten its great leader. 300,000 Chechens were killed in the war for their independence while thousands of them are still in exiletoday. Even the world has forgotten Chechens, they never forget their leader. If you ask why the war has lasted so long, it is necessary to refer to Dudayev’s words again. “I would prefer living with dignity and honor for one day to living as a slave for 100 years.”