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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs