The region has been extremely volatile since the break-up of the Soviet Union two decades ago. Violence was worst in Chechnya, a republic that suffered two all-out wars and where the official counter-terrorist operation ended only in 2009. But conflict has been expanding and deepening across the region, spreading to parts that until recently were relatively peaceful. The spread of the insurgency from Chechnya throughout the North Caucasus was largely completed by 2005. In the last three years, violence has dramatically increased in Dagestan, with almost daily attacks and explosions.  

“The concept of countering terrorism in the Russian Federation”was approved by the Russian President, 5 October 2009. This concept argues that terrorism is caused by existing “inter-ethnic, inter-confessional and other social cleavages”, but its implementation has mostly been heavy-handed, further fuelling conflict.

Unsettled conflicts in the Prigorodny district of North Ossetia and the Kazbekovsky district of Dagestan, in Kabardino-Balkaria and in Stavropol Krai – are not causing many deaths today. But the parties are frustrated by how land has been distributed or territorial issues resolved. National movements experiencing a revival over the past few years seek redress from the state and justice system, which are often ill equipped to address their demands and grievances.