Russia’s Northern Caucasus Problem

Yesterday there was another terrorist attack in Moskow. This time it hit the Domodedovo airport. 35 people died, after a suicide bomber pulled the detonator. (It is not the actual subject of this blog, but since I have my bachelor in Russian studies, I have some special interest for Russian affairs.)

Russian government is already speaking of North-Caucasian terrorists being responsible for the assault. Although it may be true (it is even very probable), there is no certainty. Since at least 1999, when the second Chechen war began, there is a strong assumption in Russia that whenever a terrorist attack occurs, the terrorists must come from the Northern Caucasus. In many cases they did (Dubrovka, Beslan, the Moskow metro last year…). Thus the assumption “as a matter of principle” is rather understandable when it comes from the public, from ordinary people. At the same time, it remains unacceptable when it comes from the government.

No matter who the terrorists were – Russians do and will assume that they came from the Northern Caucasus: from Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan… This has a consequence in ever stronger support for Mr Putin’s and Mr Medvedev’s brutal antiterrorist strategies – although these already showed ineffective. Yes, under Mr Kadyrov Chechnya seems peaceful, after years of fighting. But at what cost? People are living in fear. There is no law – except “the law of the stronger” (currently it is Ramzan Kadyrov). There are – consequently – no human rights granted. And: the “Chechen” terrorism has not disappeared. It just moved to the neighbour republics. And it seems as strong as ever.

The strategy chosen by Mr Putin and continued by his successor is probably counter-productive – and it surely hasn’t solved or even alleviated the problem. But with more terrorist assaults the acceptance for it is going to increase. A vicious circle has emerged. And there are no signs that it may break up.


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