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Last Updated: Monday, 4 September 2006, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
New name for Chechnya suggested
Local residents walk past destroyed buildings in Grozny. Photo: May 2001
Chechnya has been devastated by two recent wars
Chechen President Alu Alkhanov has proposed renaming the Russian republic in an apparent bid to help clean up its image after years of devastating wars.

The pro-Moscow leader said he had asked experts to examine the issue.

He said Chechens never referred to their republic by its current name, adding that one option was to adopt the name used by the locals - Nokhchiyn.

The name Chechnya is Russian in origin, dating from the times of Moscow's imperial expansion, correspondents say.

"The term of Chechnya is not at all understood by the republic's residents," Mr Alkhanov said.

"This is some kind of a curtailed phrase. This is especially so because... the name for the Chechens in the Chechen language is somewhat different.

"If one proceeds from the name for the people, then we are Nokhchi, and then, of course, there should have been a different name here," he said.

'Threatening'

The area was called Chechnya because of a misunderstanding between colonising troops and local inhabitants during the time of Russian imperial expansion in the 19th Century, the BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow says.

The name of the regional capital, Grozny, also has negative associations.

It means "threatening" in Russian and is used to described one of the cruellest characters in Russia's history - Ivan the Terrible.

Thousands of people have died during the two devastating wars between Russian troops and Chechen separatist rebels over the past 12 years.

Large-scale fighting has recently died down, as the rebels have switched instead to guerrilla tactics of hit-an-run attacks.


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