During the Soviet era, he was a member of the prestigious USSR Writer's Union and while writing on the history of the Caucasus he began to consider the grievances stemming from centuries of conflict.
In the early 1990s, Yandarbiyev was instrumental in establishing independence as the pre-eminent political issue on the Chechen agenda and persuaded Jokhar Dudayev to take on leadership of the movement.
As the USSR weakened in the early 1990s, support for independence grew ever more strong. But Yanderbiyev did not take on the presidency of an independent Chechnya until Dudayev was assassinated in August 1996.
Negotiated Russian withdrawl
When Russian forces were forced to seek a truce, it was Aslan Maskhadov (with Yandarbiyev's support) who negotiated a treaty - the Khasavyurt Accord.
Founds pro-independence Vainakh Democratic Party
Becomes vice president under Dudayev in provisional government
Russia invades Chechnya
Dudayev assassinated, Yandarbiyev becomes president
Loses election to Maskhadov
Russia reinvades Chechnya despite Khasavyurt Accord
Leaves Chechnya, acts as government representative
Resigns and settles in Qatar
13 February 2004
Dies after car bombing
The treaty delayed the question of independence for five years in return for a complete withdrawal - a deal that increased Maskhadov's popularity.
In the region's first ever OSCE-observed independent elections, however, Yandarbiyev lost to Maskhadov and retired from domestic politics to become a roaming ambassador for the Chechen cause.
But his unwillingness to compromise on independence has led to the former president being labelled a hardliner. Differences of opinion over strategy meant that Yandarbiyev resigned from his diplomat role in November 2002.
After he settled in Qatar, Russia first demanded his extradition in February 2003 – though no agreement was ever reached.
Since then, Russia and the US agreed to add his name to the UN list of people connected to al-Qaida – effectively linking the Chechen struggle with international terrorism.