Perspectives on Terrorism have published a special edition dedicated to the North Caucasus. The entire edition can be found here. Julie Wilhelmsen and myself have written the introduction to the special edition, ‘Violent Mobilization and Non-Mobilization in the North Caucasus,’ and this can be found here.
Ideology has fallen badly out of fashion. In the study of political violence in particular, it is often pushed to the margins, and there is considerable scepticism over its importance. Yet violent political actors often devote substantial effort to shaping interpretations of their activities, and explanatory models that neglect ideology typically rely on a narrow understanding of the concept and leave important questions about its role unanswered. This thesis interrogates ideology’s role in political violence through a rich empirical study of the insurgency that operated in Russia’s North Caucasus between 2007 and 2015. It applies Social Movement Theory to unique datasets to understand how movement actors defined the conflicts they were engaged in and sought to persuade others to participate, and how internal and external contexts influenced these ideas. In doing so, it establishes the insurgency as ideologically shallow and weakly integrated, and argues that identity and pragmatism were more central to its ideological vision than specific grievances or goals. This thesis significantly advances our understanding of the insurgency and generates important insights into the role of ideology in political violence more broadly. At the same time, it contributes important methodological innovations to the study of clandestine social movements.
Click here to read this PhD thesis (open access).
Since September 2015, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for 26 attacks in Russia. As much as these attacks illustrate the serious threat IS activity poses to Russia, they also highlight important limitations. Continue reading “An Overview of IS-Claimed Attacks in Russia”
Despite its early and spectacular successes in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State (IS) has, over the last year, suffered repeated setbacks that have weakened its ability to control captured territory and implement its state-building agenda. A key aspect of IS’s strategy has been the mobilisation of supporters across Russia and the former Soviet Union. Other rebel groups in Syria have also attracted support from these areas, illustrating the need for a proper understanding of the Russian-speaking militant milieu, beyond IS’s territorial claims. Continue reading “New Report On Russian-Speaking Foreign Fighters”
Although violence has declined significantly in recent years, foreign fighters and ideologues continue to reference “jihad” in Chechnya and many Russian-speaking fighters in Syria have previous experience of the North Caucasus conflict. In this article, Dr Cerwyn Moore and Mark Youngman outline the evolution of those conflicts.
Click here to read the rest of the article for Radicalisation Research.
The decision by the Islamic State group to proclaim a ‘caliphate’ in June 2014 was a watershed moment in the history of jihadism, but it was far from the first attempt at jihadist state-building. Examining the reasons for the failure of one such project, the Caucasus Emirate (IK) in Russia’s North Caucasus, and the demise of the regional insurgency under the banners of both IK and IS can help us better understand the relationship between a group’s ideology and its composition and operating environment.
Click here to view the rest of the article for CREST Security Review.
We can learn a great deal from the ideologies of groups engaged in terrorism and other forms of political violence: how they shape perceptions of the problems facing their societies; what solutions and methods for implementing them they advocate; and how they mobilise supporters behind these solutions. However, ideologies do not exist in a vacuum, but instead adapt to specific contexts and cultures. They both influence, and are influenced by, their environment and the composition of the groups themselves. My PhD research seeks to explain ideological variance and change by examining this interactive process in the context of the insurgency in Russia’s North Caucasus. Through this, I aim to develop a richer understanding of what we can learn from the ideological statements of groups, beyond simply taking them at face value.
Click here to view the rest of the article for CREST.
Earlier today, I posted a series of tweets reflecting on a claim by the allegedly Al-Qaeda-linked “Katibat Imam Shamil,” posted to Ani.mr, claiming responsibility for the 3 April terrorist attack on the St Petersburg metro. I’ve compiled the text of tweets below for convenience, although obviously the issue requires more detailed reflection.
The investigation into the 3 April terrorist attack on the St Petersburg metro has focused on a man of Central Asian origin with possible ties to Syrian rebel groups. The attack raises concerns about the threat posed both by Daesh and extremists within Russia’s sizeable Central Asian community.
Click here to view the rest of this article for RUSI.
The April 3 bombing on the St Petersburg metro was the highest-profile terror attack on Russian soil since a suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport in January 2011. According to Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee, at least 14 people were killed and 49 injured by an improvised explosive device; further casualties were prevented when a second device was disarmed at another station. Days later, another bomb was found and defused in a residential building.
Click here to view the rest of this article for The Conversation.