For a few brief years after the October revolution of 1917, relations between Chechens and Russians changed dramatically.
Lenin and Trotsky, the leaders of the revolution, set out to apply in practice Marx’s motto that “a nation that oppresses another nation cannot itself be free”.
The principle of national self determination was a beacon for the colonial peoples of the former empire.
After a century of resistance to Russian rule, the Chechens joined hands with the Bolsheviks in 1919 to defeat the counter-revolutionary armies threatening the revolution.
Ali Mataev, head of the powerful Bammat Giray tariqat—a Sufi Muslim organisation—led the Chechen Revolutionary Committee.
The Bolsheviks helped the Chechens kick the Cossack settlers off their land and establish an autonomous republic.
Full religious freedom was restored to the overwhelmingly Muslim population of Chechnya.
For the first time ever, publishing began in the Chechen language and literacy rates soared.
But the dream of liberation began to fade after just a few years.
The failure of the revolution abroad left Russia isolated and still economically backward.
This isolation created a situation where the Soviet bureaucracy could tighten its grip.
From 1923, expressions of non-Russian culture were labelled a “deviation” by the regime.
And in the early 1930s all minority national freedoms were swept away.