An attempt on Russia's life
By Andrei Babitsky, special to Prague Watchdog
“And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah.” (The Cow, 193)
The attempted assassination of Ingushetia’s President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov stands out sharply from the series of sensational and widely publicized series of physical attacks on senior North Caucasus officials in recent months. And the problem here lies not in the victim’s rank, regalia or service record. While it goes without saying that a bomb attack on a regional leader is in itself a scandalous and outrageous incident, an earlier attack carried out on President Murat Zyazikov in 2004 which bore many detailed similarities to this one was a less serious challenge to the power of the Russian state.
The fact is that the government officials fall into two categories, regardless of the posts they occupy. There are simple functionaries, who form the majority, and there are bearers of statehood, who fulfil the role of symbols. Yevkurov is one of the latter. His appointment to the post of the republic’s governor was the Kremlin’s deliberate and long-prepared reply to the threat of a new war which is slowly but surely unfolding in the North Caucasus. It has little to do with ethnic separatism, which though by and large defeated is a fundamentally different phenomenon: a religious war declared by a new breed of Caucasus insurgents who have arrived to replace the respectable fighters for the independence of Ichkeria.
Perhaps because of the explosive increase in the hostilities which have taken place in recent years, Ingushetia has become objectively the epicentre of the North Caucasus jihad. It was not through lack of professionalism, determination or other merits that the republic’s previous leader, Murat Zyazikov, found himself unable to cope with the situation, though this also played a part. For various reasons he was simply unable to assess the extent and character of the events that were unfolding, to identify their true nature. It is also not entirely clear whether today the federal centre really understands the seriousness of what is taking place. The mantras of the “fight against international terrorism and the ideologists of North Caucasus caliphate" which nowadays have been somewhat forgotten, were once used as propaganda tools to fit the criminal war in Chechnya into the worldwide front against global jihadism.
But now these approaches are more relevant than ever. The ideology of the new Caucasus war is potentially disastrous for Russia. The Caucasus mujahedin are not only waging their struggle for the establishment of a Sharia state in the North Caucasus – they deny Russia’s very right to exist, deprecating it as a criminal system of Kufr, and they will not agree to anything less than its complete dismantling. Estimates of the Caucasus Emirate’s military strength and fighting capacity are of no consequence. Today their numbers are in the hundreds, tomorrow they will be in the thousands, and the day after that they will be in the tens of thousands. The area within which the doctrine of "holy war" is spreading has been steadily increasing and has long left the borders of the North Caucasus behind. Not that all the opponents of the current Russian government are able to unite under the green banners of jihad, but many of them now look more favourably on the efforts and struggle of the Islamist underground, believing that they will bring closer the ultimate downfall of the Putin regime. Thus at one time did wealthy Russian industrialists like Savva Morozov sympathize with the fighters against autocracy, gladly supplying them with money. Who at the start of the twentieth century ever thought that the Bolshevik faction of the Social Democratic Party would be able to seize power in Russia, and then hold on to it for seven decades?
It is hard to say whether Vladislav Surkov and his like are aware that in the Caucasus the Russian state is confronted not by a handful of bandits, but by a complex system of views that is rooted in the tradition of many centuries. Perhaps the Kremlin has simply been frightened by the spread of the fighting. At any rate Yevkurov was sent to Ingushetia in order to bring order to a system of government which was riven by discord and had become an object of rejection and ridicule.
The attempt on the life of Ingushetia’s leader can therefore be compared with the assassination of Akhmat-Khadzhi Kadyrov, who at one time was also the personification of Russian power in Chechnya. A Chechen who restores Russia’s territorial integrity – that is not some mechanical reliance on collaboration, it is a concept based on the idea of a happy and centuries-old community of ethnic groups and nations that represent the multi-ethnic people of the Russian Federation. The death of Kadyrov Senior spun the flywheel of domestic Chechen terror that was unleashed by his son Ramzan. It very much looks as though a similar change of strategies and approaches is taking place in Ingushetia. To put it plainly, having survived the attempted assassination, Yevkurov is going to give up playing at democracy and turn into a merciless and unflinching tyrant like his Chechen colleagues. Perhaps the tyrant may not even be Yevkurov himself, but some freshly appointed messenger. Alas, however, the problems that will have to be solved by any emissary of the Kremlin are very different from those that the Russian authorities face in Chechnya.
Kadyrov’s "normalization" has achieved its success not only through repression, as many suppose. The basis of the success has been the fact of the capitulation of the army of Ichkerian fighters, who have laid down their arms in their thousands and gone over to Kadyrov’s side. These astonishing results have been obtained due to the fact that the idea of an independent Ichkeria fell between two stools – true independence on the one hand, and national revival on the other. While the progenitors of the ethno-separatist project were absolutely certain that one was impossible without the other, Kadyrov found it easy to demonstrate to the rank-and-file Ichkerians one simple truth: rampant and aggressive nationalism (for that is how the dream of the revival of the great traditions of the past was sung by the poets and adopted by the man in the street) is also possible within the body of Russia, under the direct supervision and patronage of the Kremlin. Those for whom the value of independence was linked not with a nationalist bacchanalia but with the right to live within the boundaries of a separate state turned out to be a pitiful minority and were either destroyed or left the country altogether.
Yevkurov has none of these components of success, nor can he. The new partisans of the Caucasus do not need military victory, nor do they need the Ingush or any other national idea. They desire no amnesty, for they seek paradise, and love to repeat that they "want to die more than others want to live." The mujahedin want the establishment of the true faith, of Sharia law, of a state that is defined not by a single ethnos, but by the whole of the Ummah, the necessary precondition for the triumph of Islam and a comfortable existence. They believe that when Allah wills it they will be able to overthrow the criminal regime of the kafirs and reduce it to dust. It was one of the representatives of that regime whom they attempted to eliminate in the Vilayat of Ghalghai in the great Pan-Caucasian State of the Caucasus Emirate.
(Translation by DM)