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ICG: The North Caucasus: The Challenges of Integration

January 31, 2014

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"Recent attacks, including two in Volgograd, suggest that Islamist terrorists may try to strike across the country and embarrass Moscow during the Olympics, the preparations of which have been beset by allegations of abuses against the local populace. Beyond the immediate risk, they underline the urgent need to achieve a comprehensive political solution to the North Caucasus conflicts before rolling out fully an ambitious tourism project in republics that still have active insurgencies or have been seriously affected by conflict."

Armed conflict in the North Caucasus is the most violent in Europe today. At least 1,225 people were its victims in 2012 (700 killed, 525 wounded), and at least 242 were killed and 253 wounded in the first six months of 2013. The violence is greatest in Dagestan, then in Chechnya and Ingushetia, and the latter situation deteriorated in 2012. Unresolved disputes over territory, administrative boundaries, land and resources are important root causes of the violence, along with ethnic and religious tensions, the state's incapacity to ensure fair political representation, rule of law, governance and economic growth. The region's internal fragmentation and insufficient integration with the rest of the Russian Federation contribute to the political and social alienation of its residents.

Since first coming to power in 1999, Vladimir Putin has rolled back the un-prec­e­dented autonomy Russia's regions secured after the Soviet Union's collapse and created a highly centralised state. Many residents of the North Caucasus feel estranged from decisions made and carried out by federal institutions based in Moscow. Large-scale local violations and questionable practices during the 2011 parliamentary and 2012 presidential elections further undercut the state's popular legitimacy.

I. Ethnicity and Conflict

II. Islam, the Insurgency, and Counterinsurgency

III. Governance, Elections, Rule of Law

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