Chechnya and Dagestan are two key autonomous republics in the North Caucasus. These two republics have the largest populations among the autonomous republics in the region, and have a strong tradition of (political) Islam and extensive experience with religion-driven insurgency flavored by separatist overtones that has been underway in the area since the beginning of the previous decade. Occupying a strategic location on the
southernmost frontier of the Russian Federation and bordering Georgia and Azerbaijan, two independent nations of the post-Soviet South Caucasus, the developments in these neighboring autonomous republics have been regarded as crucial for the prospects of the Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus. Should the self-proclaimed Caucasus Emirate, the leading group of the Islamist insurgency in the region, establish a firm presence in Chechnya and Dagestan, the chances of the federal authorities to successfully address the ongoing political violence in its southern provinces would decrease dramatically.
This would pave the way for a considerable deterioration of the security situation in the whole of the North Caucasus, with possible repercussions in Russia’s other regions with significant Muslim populations. In mid-March 2012, a massive redeployment of military personnel from Chechnya to
Dagestan took place. According to unofficial sources from Dagestan, between 20–25,000 troops from Chechnya (primarily troops belonging to the Ministry of Interior) were moved to the neighboring republic.1 A military column including large numbers of armored fighting vehicles set out from Khankala, a military base east of Grozny, to the Karabudakhkent district of Dagestan on the outskirts of the capital city of Makhachkala.
Vyacheslav Makhmudov, a spokesman for Dagestan’s regional Interior Ministry, claimed that “[w]e are talking about a temporary deployment and coordination to prevent and counter terrorism and extremism across the whole territory of Dagestan.” Dagestani President Magomedsalam Magomedov further stated that this addition of troops would “enable us to maintain law and order and fight extremism and terrorism more effectively.” Rationalized by the authorities as another means of improving the deteriorating situation in the Caspian republic, this move has caused serious concern both within and outside of Dagestan. The number of troops recently redeployed to Dagestan is staggeringly high, leading to concern over whether Russia’s intentions in this area may go beyond a mere attempt to stabilize Dagestan. There is further concern over the ethnic composition of the troops.
Broadly speaking, this article is an attempt to reveal the potential of Chechen-Dagestani conflict, the likelihood of which has increased recently due to the redeployment of Chechen (and Chechnya-based) troops from Chechnya to Dagestan. In particular, we seek to discern the significance of the redeployment of these troops to Dagestan. We shall initially provide some background for Chechen-Dagestani tensions in the region, the growth of the Islamist insurgency in Dagestan, and the instigation and expansion of “Kadyrovization” in the scope of the fight against the insurgency. We shall then introduce some possible rationales behind Moscow’s troop redeployment to Dagestan as well as address some of the likely implications, both locally and regionally. Our aim shall be achieved by analyzing the motivations and repercussions of this decision.