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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More