Russia, Chechnya and Terrorism: Two Wars, Not One

The terrorist hostage-taking at Beslan and subsequent carnage was not just an escalation of a Chechen independence struggle, it was part of a division of the conflict into two wars: a nationalist guerrilla campaign fought in the rebel province and a wider Islamist terrorist attempt to destabilise the Russian Caucasus.

The World Today Published 1 November 2004 Updated 19 October 2020 4 minute READ

Mark Galeotti

Director of the Organised Russian & Eurasian Crime Research Unity, Keele University

Two wars have been waged alongside one another for almost a decade, intertwining and feeding off each other, though different in tactics, objectives and, in many cases, combatants.

This helps explain a wide range of seeming contradictions, not least the role of Islamist militant groups. Such groups, perhaps sympathetic to Al Qaeda, are closely involved with an increasingly powerful and active minority within the anti-Russian forces, a faction almost as bitterly opposed to the mainstream rebels and Chechen former president-in- rebellion Aslan Maskhadov as they are to the Russians. Furthermore, the contradictions between the two wars, their ideologies and those waging them are becoming increasingly stark.

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