Conundrum In The Caucasus

Administrative map of Caucasus in USSR, 1957-1991

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March 9, 2012: In Russia the Islamic terrorism problem in the North Caucasus (Dagestan. Chechnya, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia) continues to fester. Widespread government corruption and unemployment provides a growing supply of new recruits. It all began in Chechnya back in the 1990s, and has spread to neighboring areas as it became obvious that the corruption did not disappear when the old Soviet government did in 1991. The Soviets had allowed locals to run things, pretty much any way they wanted, as long as they kept thing quiet and did not do anything that embarrassed the central government. With Soviets gone, people, especially the young, expected change. It didn’t come.

The Chechens tried, throughout the 1990s, to maintain their self-declared independence from Russia. But the Chechens could not govern themselves, and the place became a hideout for numerous criminal gangs. These guys started a kidnapping, robbery and extortion crime wave all over southern Russia. In 1999, Russia invaded again, to reassert its authority and halt the crime wave. Several years of bloody fighting followed, until a majority of the population agreed to shut down the gangsters. Ever since, Chechnya has been at peace, at least by local standards. But many of the criminals and Islamic militants fled to neighboring “republics” (as the semi-autonomous ethnic enclaves in Russia are called), mainly Ingushetia to the west, and Dagestan to the east.

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