OSW Studies

The ‘Tribal Areas’ of the Caucasus. The North Caucasus – an enclave of ‘alien civilisation’ within the Russian Federation

Militant Islam is currently the greatest threat to security and stability in the Russian part of the Caucasus. However, even though the armed Islamic underground is capable of organising terrorist attacks and carrying out actions of sabotage, it seems too weak to bring about any change in the Caucasus’s political status quo. Besides, militant Islam is merely a symptom (albeit the most radical and spectacular) of a much wider process, namely the widening civilisational gap between Russia and the North Caucasus, initiated by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The key elements of this process are as follows: the spontaneous re-Islamisation of social life and the dynamic growth of Islam's political influence; the de-Russification of the region; and the ongoing marginalisation of secular intellectuals. As a result, the North Caucasus, and principally Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, are turning into an enclave separated from the rest of the Russian Federation by a growing civilisational gap, and becoming increasingly different from the rest of Russia. This situation may recall the tribal areas of Pakistan inhabited by Pashtuns (FATA) along the Afghan border.