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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Chechnya needs a new name, president says

After years of making headlines for violent warfare, kidnappings and corruption, Chechnya needs a name change as part of an image makeover, the republic's president says.

Speaking on television during a visit to St. Petersburg on Tuesday, Alu Alkhanov said he believes Chechnya should be renamed the Republic of Nokhchiin.

In the Chechen language, "Nokhchii" is the word Chechens use to describe themselves.

"This is the way Chechens called their republic previously. I think it would be reasonable to give this name sole legitimate status," he was quoted as saying by the RIA-Novosti agency.

"Chechnya" is a Russian word that is associated with crime and has no legal basis, said Alkhanov.

He said he had instructed public servants to begin researching the name change.

During a short period of independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chechen leaders referred to the region as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

Chechnya now exists as a republic within Russia. Its name has a pejorative connotation for Russians, not only because of the wars and the terrorist attacks by Chechen separatists, but because many Russians regard Chechens as unscrupulous in business.

After the two devastating wars between Russian forces and separatist rebels over the past 12 years, large-scale fighting has died down, although rebel fighters continue to carry out small-scale, hit-and-run attacks.

Associated Press

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