News / Europe

Russia Faces Continuing Problems in the Northern Caucasus

Up to 100,000 Chechens may have died in two wars Russia waged against Chechnya since 1990s, fueling resentment and future suicide bombers

Peter Fedynsky

Authorities in Russia suspect a connection between Monday's subway bombings in Moscow and rebel activity in the country's troubled Northern Caucasus.  The region has a centuries-long history of resistance to Russian rule.

Speaking at a televised Kremlin meeting, the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, Alexander Bortnikov, told President Dmitri Medvedev that terrorist groups from the Northern Caucasus may be behind the subway bombings.  The reason, said Bortnikov, is evidence from body parts of two alleged female suicide bombers found on the scene link them to the region, though he did not give details.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he is convinced Russian law enforcement will do everything to find and punish those responsible.  Terrorists, he warns, will be destroyed.

Mr. Putin says only united effort can help Russia find a solution to the task at hand, the ultimate destruction of the underground and everything tied to what he called that ugly and horrible phenomenon known as terrorism.

The deputy speaker of parliament, Alexander Torshin, told the Interfax News Agency the bombings could be in retaliation for recent killings of two prominent Islamic rebel leaders in the Caucasus.  Both were allegedly linked to Doku Umarov, a militant Islamist leader in Chechnya who recently threatened to strike Moscow.  

Political analyst Nikolai Petrov at the Moscow Carnegie Center told VOA Umarov is one of many rebel leaders fighting for power in the Caucasus.

Petrov says it is difficult to fight Northern Caucasus terrorism, because it has not had a subordinated and centralized structure for a long time.  Instead, it consists of al-Qaida-like terrorist cells, which leads Petrov to conclude that talk about the influence of individual leaders is exaggerated.  As a result, says Petrov, their elimination will not stop terrorism, because each cell is autonomous.

As many as 100,000 Chechens may have died in two wars Russia waged against Chechnya since the 1990s.  Nikolai Petrov says those wars resulted in a huge number of angry people volunteering for suicide bombings.

Among them are so-called Black Widows - women who lost loved ones in violence permeating the Caucasus.  Sergei Arutunyov, head of the Caucasus Department at the Russian Academy of Sciences explains:

Arutunyov says someone may have kidnapped and tortured to death a woman's husband, brother or father, and she lives with dreams of revenge.  

Moscow's last suicide bombing in August 2004 was perpetrated by a woman.

Arutunyov notes Russia has tried to control the Caucasus since the time of Czar Peter the Great in the 18th century.  He says that during Soviet times the people of Chechnya resented such Kremlin policies as collectivization of land, atheism, and above all, the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Chechens after World War II.  

Many consider the Caucasus as Russia's strategic link to Caspian Sea oil and a conduit in influencing policy in the Middle East and Central Asia.  Arutunyov says Moscow cannot retreat from the area for domestic reasons as well.

He says granting independence to one region in the Caucasus will cause a chain reaction not only in such Muslim republics as Tatarstan and Bashkiria [on the Volga River], but could encourage Russian separatists in the Far East.  Arutunyov says Russians there are constantly dissatisfied with central authorities in Moscow and believe they could have better economic relations with China and Japan if they were independent.

Other Caucasus republics, especially Ingushetia and Dagestan, experience frequent violence, including assassinations of politicians and judges.  Prime Minister Putin told regional leaders in January that local bandits, as he put it, had been repulsed and the state must now fight against corruption and poverty that plague the region.  Many of the region's unemployed come to Moscow for work.

Putin's popularity soared during the second Chechen war, which was seen as the way to return order to the Caucasus.  But Nikolai Petrov says the problems there go beyond the personalities of Mr. Putin and President Medvedev.

Petrov says the problems are related to the entire political system, which is based not on institutions, but rather on the extensive personal popularity of the prime minister and president.  He says if that popularity declines, which is to be expected during an economic crisis and now partially because of the Chechen solution proposed by Putin, then the entire political system loses its only basis for stability.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid