News out of Boston today has focused attention on the increasing extremist violence in Russia’s North Caucasus region, as two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings have been identified as Chechnya natives.
Russia’s Northern Caucasus is one of the most volatile, lawless regions in the world and a hotbed of international terrorism, according to Heritage Foundation policy expert Ariel Cohen.
Eugene Chausovsky, a Eurasia analyst with Stratfor Global Intelligence, breaks down the history of the North Caucasus’ instability in the video above.
In the 1990s, Russia fought two wars in Chechnya. Both began out of nationalist and separatist aspirations, but eventually took on a religious element because of Chechnya’s high Islamic population.
According to Chausovsky, wars with orthodox Russians budded into growing religiosity and extremism, attracting participation from local and foreign jihadists and ideological support from outside powers like Saudi Arabia.
Orthodox Russians tried exploiting internal divisions in Chechnya between nationalists and Muslims by installing nationalist clans into power.
“However, this did not eliminate violence within Chechnya nor its neighboring republics,” Chausovsky said. Islamic groups combined their resources by using “insurgent terrorist tactics in the region and Russia proper.”
Heritage’s Cohen wrote in March 2012:
Islamist terrorists from the self-proclaimed Caucasus Emirate have already attacked energy infrastructure, trains, planes, theaters, and hospitals. They are increasingly involved in terrorist activities in Western Europe and Central Asia, including Afghanistan. North Caucasus Islamist insurgency is part of the global radical Islamist movement, which is deeply and implacably inimical to the West and the United States.
While separatists groups have been sidelined in last decade by a Russian security crackdown on their leaders, violence continues to flourish.
“Islamist militancy, regional tensions, and clan feuds are not easily addressed in a region difficult to control,” Chausovsky said.
Watch the full video above from Stratfor Global Intelligence for a history of Chechnya’s volatility.