THE ISLAMIST MOVEMENT IN THE NORTHERN CAUCASUS: TRENDS, POSSIBLE DEVELOPMENTS, AND HOW TO OPPOSE IT

Igor DOBAEV


Igor Dobaev, D.Sc. (Philos.), head, Sector of Geopolitics and Information Analysis, Southern Scientific Center, Russian Academy of Sciences (Rostov-on-Don, Russia)


Unfolding in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the religious revival that involved all the traditional confessions, including Islam, existing in Russia spread to the Northern Caucasus. In fact, it added a political dimension to the local forms of Islam and, by the same token, made it more radical.

Centrifugal factors caused disunity in North Caucasian Islam on the institutional level when seven independent spiritual administrations replaced the single Spiritual Administration of the North Caucasian Muslims in the early 1990s. On top of this, new actors appeared on the formerly homogeneous Muslim field. I have in mind numerous Islamic political parties and movements, as well as national/nationalist organizations fond of Islamic rhetoric and symbols. After reaching their peak in the mid-1990s, they went downhilltoday they are practically invisible.

At the same time, Salafi groups (wrongly called Wahhabi in academic publications and the press), aided and encouraged from abroad, appeared in the Northern Caucasus and became the major opponent of traditional and official Islam. Practically until the end of the decade, they were locally (as elsewhere in the Islamic world) represented by two wings: moderate radical and ultra-radical or extremist. The events of 1994-1996 in Chechnia added an international dimension to the local Salafi movement. The interval between the first and second Chechen campaigns (1996-1999) turned Chechnia into a testing ground of.


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