Chechnya is right on the border of Georgia. This borderland of the former Soviet Union/USSR has been embroiled in conflict for the past while. Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Chechnya all occupy the Caucus between the Caspian and Black Seas. The proximity of all these regions, their wars, and continued disputes is important when considering the state of Chechnya. Since there is a lot going on, I've broken it down by the conflicted region. There is a lot going on here, so I've broken it down into 3 post, culminating in Chechnya. But let's start with Abkhazia, to the far west, bordering the Black Sea.
AbkhaziaAbkhazia is on the northeasterly border of Georgia on the Black Sea. It's early beginnings were during the Georgian kingdom of Kolkha, which was later absorbed in the Kingdom of Egrisi (or Lazica), that served as a vassal kingdom for the Byzantine Empire. During this time, the region's modern day capital of Sukhumi became critical to trade with the Greeks. By 780 AD, it became the Kingdom of Abkhazia and even included Georgia's modern day capital of Tbilisi. Abkhazia included parts of modern Georgia until the kingdom broke up in the 16th century. Then it became the Principality of Abkhazia and came under Ottomon influence, which changed the region from Christian to Muslim. However, in the early 1800s, there was a push and pull between Russia and the Ottomans. There was a brief courting of Russia when eastern Georgia joined the Csarist empire, but the population was pro-Ottoman and this won out until Russian marines replaced their ruler with a Christian who went by the name "George". Abkhazia became part of the empire and then during the Crimean War of 1853-1856, the prince of Abkhazia went pro-Ottoman as the country was emptied out. This worked out because Russia needed a buffer zone between them and the troublesome western Caucus, but once Russia squashed that, Abkhazia once again got pulled into their ambit, though as an autonomous region. Most Muslim Abkhazians then emigrated to the Ottoman Empire and Armenians, Georgians, and Russians moved into the fill up the empty space. Fast forwad to the Russian Revolution of 1917, which created an independent Abkhazia. During the USSR, it was an Autonomous Soviet State Republic (Abkhazia ASSR), but was downgraded, at Stalin's behest, to an autonomous region within the Georgia SSR (Soviet State Republic). It wanted to join the Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, meaning it would no longer be an independent entity within Georgia, but autonomous from them. They were subject to the federal government and Beria and Stalin closed Abkhaz schools and forced children to learn in Georgian; however, this was alleviated after the death of both men.
As the Soviet Union was breaking apart, Abkhazians were threatened by Georgians moving towards independence, fearing it would eliminate their own autonomy. They began to push for their own independence. Ethnic tensions came to a peak on July 16th, 1989 in Sukhumi (modern day capital). Georgians were attacked for enrolling in a Georgian University instead of an Abkhaz one. In March 1990, Georgian declared independence from the USSR and boycotted the all-Union referendem with Gorbachev, which Abkhazia attended and voted to preserve the Union. (This is why it's important to note that Abkhazia was an ASSR within a SSR!) Georgia officially declared their independence on April 9th, 1991 under Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who managed to keep some peace and order with a power-sharing agreement guaranteeing some overrepresentation of Abkhazians. A military coup under Eduard Shevardnadze then marked the beginning of a hard-line Georgian nationalist rule of law. It abolished the 1921 constitution, which contained the declaration of Abkhazian autonomy, and this sparked the Abkhaz faction of the Supreme Council to declare independence in 1992. No one paid it any mind, so Abkhazians violently removed Georgians from office in their territory and Vladislav Ardzinba teamed up with Russia to begin war. The War of Abkhazia lasted from 1992 until 1993, but displaced nearly about 200,000 Georgians by forcibly emptying out regions and killed, in the name of ethnic cleansing, thousands of Georgians. After the war, 60,000 Georgians returned to the region of Gali, which became violent again in 1998. There is still some seasonal (based on agricultural cycles) migration, as well as daily commutes, between Georgia and Abkhazia at the cease-fire line, as Gali remains a point of tension. In 2004, during the first presidential elections, Russia backed a candidate that lost the election. The republic was incredibly tense over it, so the Supreme Court ruled that Bagapsh (Prime Minister during the war) and Raul Khadjimba (the Russian backed candidate) should jointly run, with Bagapsh as president and Khadjimba as vice president. Since the new election was essentially the two heavyweights running together, it was not a surprising victory.
In 2006, Georgia launched an operation against the leader of a region in Abkhazia called Kadari Gorge and successfully gained control of the region. Russia had supported Abkhazia during the 1992 war, and continued to do so. Sporadic violence continued throughout the post-war years as Russia supplied Abkhazians with money (the ruble soon became the de fact currency), passports, and weapons. Georgian president Sakaashvilli proposed the broadest autonomy possible within the Georgian state, which Abkhazia officially labeled "propaganda," leading Sakaashvilli to accuse Russia of influencing the statement instead of the mood of the Abkhazians. Then in August 2008, Kodori Gorge was full of gunfire from the Abkhazians.
2008: The Russia-Georgia WarThis war is also known as the Five-Day War, 2008 South Ossetia Conflict, or August War. Russia joined sides with both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, with Georgia opposing them. Since these were two simultaneous conflicts, they are separated for clarity.
AbkhaziaAugust 9th, 2008, Russians and Abkhazians began shooting in the Battle of Kodori Gorge with a 2 day bombardment, damaging one of Georgia's bases and wounding soldiers. As Russia continued to assert they were not at war with Georgia, the Black Sea Fleet and 3 landing ships from Russia showed up on the maritime border of Georgia on August 10th, ostensibly to provide help for the refugees and not a naval blockade. A naval skirmish ensued and Russia claimed they were defending their security zone (protected by international law), effectively causing the withdrawal of Georgian ships back to the harbor. The next day, paratroopers left Abkhazia and attacked bases deep within Georgia territory, capturing four tanks. The reconnaissance mission resulted in two shot-down Georgian helicopters and the following day (August 12th), Abkhazia declared a military offensive in the Kodori Gorge just as the Georgian government said they were pulling out as a sign of goodwill. The fighting continued until August 13th, when Georgian troops pulled out entirely.
A peace agreement was reached between Medvedev and Sakaashvili under the supervision of Sarkozy, who was the President-in-Office of the European Union, on the 12th of August and was signed by Kokoity and Bagapsh in the 14th. It must be noted that this did not end the violence and skirmishes did happen past the date of agreement. There is still dispute over Russia's presence and their political involvement in the region.
[NOTE: A reader, Metin Sönmez, has commented below with a plethora of resources. Check them out!]