Sergey Berezhnoy, Ph.D. (Political Science), doctoral student at Rostov State University (Rostov-on-Don, Russia)

Today extremism and terrorism are seen as the two worst threats in the south of Russia; terrorists who exploit Islamic fundamentalist ideology for their own aims add even more tension. Indeed, some of the Muslim communities were tempted to embrace a more extremist, jihad-related version of their faith. This all started in the Northern Caucasus in the first half of the 1990s, while in Chechnia, the sociopolitical crisis aggravated by fighting accelerated the process.

The first communities of radical Islamic fundamentalists were less concerned with the revival of true Islam as with the terrorist ideas that inspired them: terrorist missionaries came to the region on the crest of the wave raised by the collapse of the old social and economic system and protest feelings caused by rampant crime. In 1996-1999, people in Chechnia shed their last illusions about the Sharia, the ruling principle of the so-called Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. However, by the beginning of the 1999 counterterrorist operation, the genie had been let out of the bottle. Indeed, by the mid-1990s experts had already registered religious intolerance and radicalism among the local Muslims throughout most Russian southern regions. These sentiments might have developed into a supra-ethnic ultra-radical ideology toward which destructive forces of

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