In Russian, "Grozny" means "fearsome", or "redoubtable", the same word as in Ivan Grozny or Ivan the Terrible. While the official name in Chechen is the same, informally the city is known as "Соьлжа-Гӏала, Sölƶa-Ġala", which literally means "the city (гӏала) on the Sunzha River (Соьлжа)".
In 1996, during the First Chechen War, the Chechen separatists renamed the city Dzhokhar-Ghala (Chechen: Джовхар-Гӏала, Dƶovxar-Ġala), or Dzhokhar/Djohar for short, after Dzhokhar Dudayev, the first President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. In December 2005, the Chechen parliament voted to rename the city "Akhmadkala" (after Akhmad Kadyrov)—a proposition which was rejected by his son Ramzan Kadyrov, the prime minister and later President of the republic.
The fortress of Groznaya (Гро́зная; lit. fearsome) was founded in 1818 as a Russian military outpost on the Sunzha River by general Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov. As the fort was being built the workers were fired upon by the Chechens. The Russians solved the problem by placing a cannon at a carefully chosen point outside the walls. When night fell and the Chechens came out of their hiding places to drag the gun away all the other guns opened up with grapeshot. When the Chechens recovered their senses and began to carry away the bodies the guns fired again. When it was over 200 dead were counted. Thus did the 'terrible' fort receive its baptism of fire. It was a prominent defense center during the Caucasian War. After the annexation of the region by the Russian Empire, the military use of the old fortress was obsolete and in December 1869 it was renamed Grozny and granted town status. As most of the residents there were Terek Cossacks, the town grew slowly until the development of oil reserves in the early 20th century. This encouraged the rapid development of industry and petrochemical production. In addition to the oil drilled in the city itself, the city became a geographical center of Russia's network of oil fields, and in 1893 became part of the Transcaucasia — Russia Proper railway. The result was the population almost doubled from 15,600 in 1897 to 30,400 in 1913.
One day after the October Revolution, on November 8, 1917, the Bolsheviks headed by N. Anisimov seized Grozny. As the Russian Civil War escalated, the Proletariat formed the 12th Red Army, and the garrison held out against numerous attacks by Terek Cossacks from August 11 to November 12, 1918. However, with the arrival of Denikin's armies, the Bolsheviks were forced to withdraw and Grozny was captured on February 4, 1919 by the White Army. Underground operations were carried out, but only the arrival of the Caucasus front of the Red Army in 1920 allowed the city to permanently end up with the Russian SFSR on March 17. Simultaneously it became part of the Soviet Mountain Republic, which was formed on January 20, 1921, and was the capital of the Chechen National Okrug inside it.
On November 30, 1922, the mountain republic was dissolved, and the national okrug became the Chechen Autonomous Oblast (Chechen AO) with Grozny as the administrative center. At this time most of the population was still Russian, but of Cossack descent. As Cossacks were viewed as a potential threat to the Soviet nation, Moscow actively encouraged the migration of Chechens into the city from the mountains. In 1934 the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Oblast was formed, becoming the Chechen-Ingush ASSR in 1936.