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Aslan Maskhadov

Aslan Maskhadov (born 1951) is a Chechen general and chief of staff during the 1994-1996 war against Russia. Maskhadov is a silent, organized military leader whom many credit with the Chechen victory in the mid-1990s. In January 1997, Maskhadov was elected President of Chechnya on a platform including demands for independence from Moscow.

Maskhadov was born to Chechens in exile in Kazakhstan; his family returned to Chechnya in 1957. He soon joined the Soviet army, serving in both Hungary and Lithuania. After helping to end the Lithuanian nationalist movement in 1991, Maskhadov became the Chief of Staff for the Chechen army. After fighting the war with Russia, which did not result in independence in spite of multiple victories, Maskhadov became a candidate for President, running against Shamil Basayev, a field commander with a popular following. After Maskhadov's victory, he worked with Basayev until 1998, when the rival established a network of military officers which soon devolved into territorial warlords scattered around Chechnya. With the arrival of this opposition, Maskhadov found himself the target of assassination attempts and his country suffered through multiple terrorist attacks which reduced his popular support. Maskhadov's attempts to stifle Wahhabism and other fundamentalist Muslim groups, coupled with his inability to keep Chechens from trying to drive Russians out of neighboring Dagestan, made him appear incompetent and incapable of controlling his country.