In October 2007, veteran Chechen field commander Dokka Umarov proclaimed the formation of the Caucasus Emirate (IK), formalizing the victory of the North Caucasus insurgency’s Islamist wing over its nationalist separatists. Despite the importance of this decision, however, the IK’s ideology and Umarov’s role in shaping it remain understudied. By analyzing Umarov’s statements throughout his lengthy tenure as leader, it is possible to identify three distinct phases to Umarov’s ideological positioning of the insurgency: nationalist-jihadist (June 2006-October 2007); Khattabist (October 2007-late 2010); and partially hybridized (late 2010-September 2013). Understanding these phases helps us gain a clear picture of the IK’s ideological transformation and the limits of its engagement with external actors, and suggests that weakness was a key factor driving that transformation. Continue reading “Broader, Vaguer, Weaker: The Evolving Ideology of the Caucasus Emirate Leadership”
In December 2014, several high-ranking field commanders from the Caucasus Emirate (Imarat Kavkaz, IK) pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS). Following the defection of many of the IK’s remaining commanders, IS in July 2015 established a formal branch, the Caucasus Wilayah (IS/CW), and is now the main insurgent grouping in the North Caucasus. This article argues that there are clear ideological differences in the positions adopted by the competing IK and IS/CW factions, but ideology is potentially more important in explaining the decisions of those leaders who remained loyal to the IK than those who defected – and the ideological divide was exacerbated by the communication difficulties facing groups.
Continue reading “Between Caucasus and Caliphate: Understanding the Splintering of the North Caucasus Insurgency”
Since the involvement of fighters of North Caucasian origin in the Syrian conflict was first confirmed in August 2012, the official websites of the Caucasus Emirate (IK) have struggled to balance competing interests in their reporting on Syria. In line with the movement’s alignment of insurgents in Russia’s troubled southern region with the global jihadist movement, IK websites have reported extensively on events in Syria and on the activities of groups that ethnic North Caucasians are fighting with. However, statements by the IK’s leader, Dokka Umarov, and material published to IK websites suggest concerns that the Syrian conflict could have a detrimental effect on the North Caucasus insurgency. Multiple articles have insisted that North Caucasians are obliged to fight at home and may only travel to other jihadist “fronts” if unable to do so. Judging by regional variations in IK coverage, these concerns are most acute within the Ingushetian and, possibly, Chechen sectors of the insurgency. Continue reading “The North Caucasus Insurgency’s Syrian Balancing Act”