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Author: Maxim Popov

Abstract

At the beginning of the 21st century in the North Caucasus, the processes of depoliticizing ethnicity, which created an opportunity for a democratic restructuring of regional politics, gave way to the process of politicizing religion. A new stage of politicized regional identity, which began in the middle of the 2000s, in contrast to the beginning and the middle of the 1990s, is characterized by an active confessional factor in conflict processes in Russia’s most volatile region. Religious extremism as a protracted threat to regional and global security is becoming the main source of North Caucasian large-scale demodernization and ethnic mobilization. Current approaches to combating terrorism and extremism fuel existing social instability, inequality, disintegration, resentment and discontent with regional and federal authorities. As a result of many years of Russian counter-terrorism strategies (including the strategy of ‘collective responsibility’), the Caucasus Emirate has disintegrated and is almost non-functioning, however, this is also explained by an ideological expansion of ISIS in the region. Today, ISIS propaganda and reemerging Taliban find their audience between North Caucasian youth, agitating them to embark on the path of global jihad in Russia or abroad. Remaining unresolved and unsettled, protracted regional conflicts turn into religious extremism, giving rise to a new round of violence, the likelihood of overcoming which is significantly reduced. The long-term activities of ISIS and the growing role of the Taliban create favorable conditions for the further transformation of the North Caucasus into one of the influential geopolitical centers of contemporary jihadism.

In: Russian Politics