Policy Memos

The Kabardino-Balkaria Insurgency: A Comparative Analysis of Ideological Trends in the North Caucasus

Policy Memo:


Publication Date:




In recent years, the North Caucasus has experienced an upsurge of violence and terrorist acts. After the Beslan hostage crisis and its backlash on the Chechen movement’s international legitimacy, there was a decrease in terrorist acts and indiscriminate violence between 2004 and 2008. Insurgency strategies in the North Caucasus changed after the establishment of the Caucasus Emirate (CE) in 2007. After Moscow’s announcement of the end of counterterrorist operations in Chechnya in 2009, the situation rapidly deteriorated, leading to an increase of suicide bombings and attacks against siloviki (power ministry) targets in Ingushetia, Dagestan, and Chechnya. In 2010, while Ingushetia and Chechnya experienced a significant decrease in the number of violent incidents, the level of violence reached new levels in Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan.

An important change in insurgent ideology can partially explain the upsurge in violence and terrorist attacks across Russia. During the First Chechen War, the insurgents fought against the Russian state mainly for political and nationalist reasons. The establishment of the CE crystallized and made official a radical religious trend among insurgents that existed since the end of the first Chechen war. In fact, we can identify four competing ideologies in the North Caucasus—a nationalist trend, as well as traditional, moderate, and radical forms of Islam. Our memo first presents a genealogy of CE and its new ideology. Then we describe these four different ideologies and assess how they interact and influence the religious and political situation in Kabardino-Balkaria. Finally, we focus on the main problems that should be addressed to deal with the upsurge of violence in the republic. [...]

More (PDF)

About the author

Associate Research Professor
George Washington University