THE RISE OF THE CHECHEN EMIRATE?
By Dr. Dimitry Shlapentokh
In October, 2007, this ideological conflict led to a definitive split when Sheikh Doku (Dokka) Khamatovich Umarov, shadow President of the Chechen Republic, threw his support behind Udugov. Umarov endorsed the dissolution of the republic and its replacement by an Islamist "emirate" and argued that Chechens, as Muslims, cannot live outside Islam and must defend all Muslims. The dispute between Umarov and Zakaev provides insight not only into the future direction of the Chechen movement, but also into the tactics and strategy of global jihadists and the resistance they face from nationalist Muslims.
The jihadist sites also presented Zakaev as an associate of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Putin-appointed Russian viceroy of Chechnya, and, by extension, an ally of Putin himself.
Zakaev supporters, on the other hand, depicted jihadists as Islamist Bolsheviks, fanatics lacking strategy and indifferent to ordinary Chechens. Such an accusation resonates among Russians and those living among them: Vladimir Lenin was indifferent to the outbreak of World War I because, he believed, the misery accompanying that conflict could catalyze revolution.  As Lenin cooperated with anyone — even German Kaiser Wilhelm — to achieve his aims, so too did Zakaev accuse Umarov of striking bargains with his arch foe Putin. After all, both Putin and the Islamists sought political gain at the expense of Chechen blood. Abdul-Malik Isaev, a contributor to Chechenpress, explained:
While Lenin believed that only he could interpret Marxism, Umarov and Udugov –– the "green commissars" –– believed that they alone were the true interpreters of Islam. Many Chechen government officials distanced themselves from Umarov after his October, 2007, declaration of an emirate.  As Foreign Minister, Zakaev declared himself leader of the Chechen government-in-exile and demanded that Chechen representatives abroad should follow his orders.  Umarov's declaration of an emirate took the Chechen Parliament by surprise; and, after receiving no answer from Umarov to the question of how he could occupy a position that does not exist in the Chechen Constitution,  Zhaloud Lema Sarliapov, Chairman of the Chechen Parliament, proclaimed that power in the Chechen Republic should belong to Parliament, and not to the President, who had actually abdicated his position.  Others, such as the Chechen veterans of its Russian wars and a parliamentarian who was also the brother of Chechnya's former Vice President, also took Zakaev's side. Sultan Asaev, a colonel in the resistance army, said that Chechens who had suffered in fighting the "Fascist dictatorship" should protest the creation of an "emirate" that would lead to even greater tragedy.  Salambek Amaev, a former military commandant and representative of the Chechen Republic in Poland, also protested. 
Zakaev also won the support of the Chechen "Elders," who in traditional society are seen as the ultimate moral authorities. Alla Dudaev, widow of the first Chechen President, Dzjokhar Dudaev, argued that the promulgation of the emirate was a betrayal of her martyred husband's life's work.  Chechen Elders in Istanbul, Udugov's city of residence, also flocked to Zakaev's side despite, Udugov's assertions to the contrary.  Zakaev also received considerable support from the approximately half-million strong Chechen diaspora. The consuls of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and representatives of the Chechen diaspora stated that, if Umarov believed he needed more titles to engage in the liberation of the Caucasus, he could just resign from the Presidency of the Chechen Republic and take whatever title he wished. 
While Chechnya has newspapers, most are controlled and do not permit open debate. Most Chechens, especially those in the diaspora, turn to websites for news and to debate ideas. The editorial boards of some Chechen websites dissociated themselves from Umarov. The board of the Daymohk news agency, which had served since the administration of former Chechen President Abdul Khalim Sadulaev (2005-2006) as presidential spokesman, severed its connection with Umarov.  The split divided other Internet papers into two camps. While the Chechentimes adopted a pro-Umarov position, Chechenpress contributor Mairbek Taramov urged readers to be aware that the Chechentimes had nothing to do with the old Chechen Times, which had been "the vehicle of a European-oriented group of Chechens." 
Lastly, the declaration of the emirate antagonized Chechnya's foreign supporters. Adam Borovskii, Consul of the Chechen Republic in Poland, proclaimed that he and "his Polish friends" had done their best to liberate Chechnya. But now, after the promulgation of the emirate, he saw the Chechen leaders identifying themselves with Al-Qa'ida, something with which he wanted no connection.  Zakaev became de facto leader of the Chechen government-in-exile.
Second, Zakaev argued that the declaration of the emirate made it impossible to cooperate with Kadyrov's government. Even before the February, 2007, split, Zakaev had developed the notion that Moscow was losing control over Chechnya and that Kadyrov's regime had become part of the Chechen opposition. For example, he argued that its security forces and militia are perhaps 70 to 80 percent former members of the resistance, who uphold Chechen independence in their heart.  Kadyrov's trend toward independence provided the opportunity, Zakaev suggested, for compromise with the moderate segments of the Chechen resistance. The declaration of the emirate upset any chance at compromise. Udugov and Umarov wanted, Zakaev implied, a war without end. 
Pushing this further, Zakaev put forth a third argument: that Russian intelligence played a role in the declaration of an emirate. He alleged that the FSB had met with and bribed members of the Chechen resistance; rumors spread that about half a billion dollars changed hands.  These Russian agents, Zakaev said, had convinced Umarov to abrogate the Chechen Constitution, abolish the Chechen state and proclaim an emirate, thereby giving Moscow justification for war against the Chechen resistance by arguing that it was fighting against a branch of Al-Qa'ida. 
The corruption argument resonated. Larisa Volodimerova, a contributor to Chechenpress, suggested that Udugov and Putin cynically collaborated to profit at the expense of the Chechen people.  Others noted that many jihadist leaders lived in luxury. Udugov, for example, lived well in Istanbul with his four wives, seemingly with no regard for the families of jihadists killed and wounded in Chechnya.  Chechenpress contributor Turko Dikaev stated, with an air of irony, that it might turn out that the reason for Umarov's promulgation of the emirate was quite personal and quite petty. Beyond profit, the move would enable Umarov to purge Zakaev, since a foreign ministry would no longer be necessary. 
Most of Zakaev's supporters accepted his arguments. Umarov's desire to build an emirate defied logic. One contributor to Ichkeria FR — the Internet publication of the Chechen diaspora in France — said that Umarov justified his plan to create an emirate by arguing it would help Chechens find support for their struggle among the other people of the Caucasus, although a regional emirate based on Islam rather than nationality would require the dissolution of the Chechen state. Absent the emirate declaration, Chechens could preserve their own state and strike alliances with the other people of the Caucasus.  Zakaev's backers countered that idea by noting that Umarov's actions would alienate the Chechen resistance from the major global powers and by suggesting that, even if bribery did not motivate Umarov, he had certainly overestimated the importance of Islam in Chechen life.
Chechenpress contributor Larisa Volodimerova argued that those who proclaimed the emirate repeated mistakes made by past Chechen leaders, such as Shamil, who tried to create a theocratic state: They believed that Islam would solidify the Chechen ranks and make them resolute fighters for independence. But the Islamization of Chechen life and theocratic despotism led to the opposite result: Chechens resent autocracy, theocratic or otherwise, and chose not to fight for it.  El'mira Magometova, another Chechenpress contributor, argued that Chechens had never regarded Islam as an essential aspect of their national identity and noted that Islam only came to Chechnya in the Seventeenth Century. Further, she argued, a major reason for Imam Shamil's defeat in 1859 was Chechens' intolerance toward monarchy; many assumed Shamil had such ambitions. Another contributor stated that he could, of course, be regarded as a heretic, but he did not believe the Qur'an could be used as a detailed guide in present-day society: It could only provide a general outline for behavior.  Vakhi Surko, still another Chechenpress contributor, argued that those who promulgated the emirate and joined the global jihadist movement had alienated the global community.  A certain Iskander, a contributor to Chechenpress, stated that the supporters of the emirate actually said that they intended to engage in a war with the entire world, which he said is sheer madness.  Irchula Shmaiser, another contributor, supported this view. She stated that the jihadists are mocked as insane because they actually propose jihad without end. 
While the emirate's proponents said they were not bothered by the absence of international support — the global community does not care about Chechen suffering, they argued — Surko countered that, however true, needless antagonism of the international community was a misstep, since it drew the world closer to Russia because of international antagonism to Al-Qa'ida and its jihad. But the belief that Putin and Islamists cooperated resonates in the North Caucasus. Chechen writers blame the 1999 war in Dagestan, launched after terrorists blew up apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, on both Putin and the Islamists. Subsequent Islamist terrorist attacks in Dubrovka and Beslan provided the Kremlin with justification to continue its war against Chechen civilians.  In the view of other Chechenpress contributors, events suggest a Putin role.  "There is a clear understanding that Udugov worked together with the FSB,"  one Chechen writer declared.
Not only might the emirate help Putin justify war against the Chechen resistance,  but it could drive a wedge between Chechnya and the West.  The West might be transformed from passive and often sympathetic observers into Chechnya's enemy and Russia's helper. Even after the September, 2004, school massacre in Beslan, many Westerners expressed sympathy toward the Chechen cause.  Since that attack, there have been no major terrorist attacks against civilians. Should there be, however, Moscow would be able to link Chechen resistance with international terrorism. Prior to Udugov's statements, most Americans did not regard the Chechen resistance as part of the global terrorist movement. 
Nor would reliance on global Islamism necessarily help Chechnya. Khanif suggested that the umma, the global community of Muslims who band together for justice and liberty, is an illusion, existing more in the minds of jihadist ideologues than in real life. He questioned the assumption that Muslim people and Muslim governments care about Chechens. The Muslim world is not only disunited, but also corrupt and remains the "old, sinful man." The mythical heroic umma united for the common struggle is similar to the mythical global proletariat whose heroic faculties and sense of solidarity exist only in the minds of believers.  One contributor to Chechenpress proclaimed that the Chechen people are more the victims of Islamists than of Putin. 
The conflict between Islamists and nationalists is irreconcilable and may lead to internecine violence within the Chechen resistance. While Zakaev may entrench himself in Europe as a good, "moderate" nationalist, Islamists will increasingly consolidate the battlefield. Chechnya might be, for them, just a weak link in the global chain of the "worldwide revolution." While Chechens will form the entirety of the moderate nationalists, the jihadists will embrace a variety of ethnic groups connected not just with foreign jihadists but with a network of Islamic — and possibly non-Islamic –– extremists all over Russia. In this way, the Islamist movement in Chechnya parallels the Bolshevik movement in Russia in the years prior to World War I.
What would be the implications of the small, dedicated bands of religious zealots in the Caucasus for Russia and ultimately the world? Here, comparison between Bolsheviks and jihadists is enlightening. Those who study the Bolshevik movement offer many arguments for its victory. Some credit Lenin's political genius; others, Marxist ideology or the centralized structure of the party. These elements played important roles, but there is another aspect of the story, which is the Bolshevik similarity to a religious movement. Bolshevik messianism led the movement to persist, even when Russia's political and social order was stable. For Lenin, as well as for many other radicals in Europe, the revolution was just an abstraction. In fact, Russia had not experienced a mass upheaval since the Pugachev rebellion in the late Eighteenth Century, and Europe had not experienced a major revolution since that of the Paris Commune in 1871. Still, the Bolsheviks faithfully believed both in their providential mission and in the instability of the global order and persisted. So, when they appeared to be right, and the global order collapsed in the wake of World War I, they were quick to take advantage of the opportunity. The same could be said about the jihadists. If Russia remains stable, the jihadists' influence on Russia and global politics most likely will be marginal. But, if a breakdown happens — what Russians call katastroika — the extremists and jihadists, like the Bolsheviks before them, will play an important role in shaping events, at least in the North Caucasus. If this were indeed to happen, the present split in the Chechen resistance would be seen as important as the split between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks more than a hundred years ago.
 Khanif, "Khimera v. Chechne," Chechennews, Oct. 29, 2007.
 Lorenzo Vidino, "How Chechnya Became a Breeding Ground for Terror," Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2005, pp. 57-66.
 Christopher Reed, Lenin: A Revolutionary Life (London: Routledge, 2005), p. 107.
 Abdul-Malik Isaev, "Pritcha pro otrublennuiu golovu," Chechenpress (Tblisi, Georgia), Dec. 1, 2007.
 Amir Dokka, "Declaration of the Caucasian Emirate," Kavkazcenter.com (Grozny, Chechnya; Tblisi, Georgia), Nov. 22, 2007.
 "Press-reliz MID CHRI," Chechenpress, Nov. 1, 2007.
 "Soobshchenie Press—Sluzhby Parlamenta Chechenskoi Respubliki Ichkeriia," Chechenpress, Nov. 5, 2007.
 "Postanovlenie Parlamenta CHRI, No. 1-Bl," Chechenpress, Nov. 6, 2007.
 Sultan Asaev, "Obrashchenie," Chechennews, Oct. 28, 2007.
 "Zaiavlenie Salambeka Amaeva," Chechennews, Oct. 22, 2007.
 Alla Dudaeva, "Obrashchenie k Glave Natsional'noi Sluzhby Informatsii CHRI Movladu Udugovu," Chechennews, Oct. 25, 2007.
 Administratsiia CIA, "Chechenpress ob adnoi Udugovskoi fal'shivke," Chechenpress, Nov. 3, 2007.
 "Gosudarstvennyi suverenitet i nezavisimost Chechenskoi Respubliki nedelimy, nezyblemy," Ichkeria FR (Paris), Oct. 24, 2007.
 "Zaiavlenie Informatsionnogo Agenstva Daymohk," Daymohk (Baku, Azerbaijan), Nov. 3, 2007.
 Mairbek Taramov, "Obrashchenie k redaktoram SMI CHRI," Chechenpress, Nov. 4, 2007.
 Adam Borovskii, "Ia ni khochu byt' predstavitelem Severokavkazskikh Emiratov," Chechennews, Oct. 26, 2007.
 "Zaiavlenie Ministra Inostrannykh Del CHRI," Chechenpress, Oct. 31, 2007.
 Akhmed Zakaev, "Kadyrov prodolzhaet politiku dekolonizatsii Chechni-Akhmed Zakaev," Caucasus Times.com (Prague), Feb. 27, 2007.
 Akhmed Zakaev, "Sdelat' takoe zaiavlenie bylo moim dolgom," Chechenpress, Nov. 1, 2007.
 Rava Prezhnii, "U menia takoe vpechatlenie chto menia lishili Rodiny," Chechenpress, Nov. 5, 2007.
 "Zaiavlenie Ministerstva Inostrannykh Del CHRI," Ichkeria FR, Oct. 21, 2007.
 "Kruglyi stol. Zasedanie pervoe," Chechenpress, Oct. 30, 2007.
 Rubati Mitsaev Laramtsa, "Nas ne nado uchit'," Chechenpress, Nov. 2, 2007.
 Turko Dikaev, "Zabludshie i pribludshie," Chechenpress, Nov. 1, 2007.
 Musa Taipov, "Kakoe gosudarstvo my stroim?" Ichkeria FR, Nov. 5, 2007.
 Larisa Volodimerova, "Sovremennaia istoriia khorosho zabytoe staroe," Chechenpress, Oct. 30, 2007.
 "Kruglyi stol. Zasidanie pervoe," Chechenpress, Oct. 30, 2007.
 Vakhi Surko, "Vrag v mecheti," Chechenpress, Oct. 30, 2007.
 Iskander, "Pis'mo Amiru Chechni," Chechenpress, Nov. 5, 2007.
 Irchula Shmaiser, "Romanticheskoe puteshestvie," Chechenpress, Nov. 1, 2007.
 Prosto Chechenets iz Groznogo, Seichas Zhitel' Strasburga, "Sukiny deti," Chechenpress, Nov. 6, 2007.
 David Kudykov, "Vremia ispytaniia na zrelost'," Chechenpress, Nov. 2, 2007.
 "Kto otdaet prikazy?" Chechenpress, Nov. 6, 2007.
 "Kruglyi stol. Zasedanie pervoe," Chechenpress, Oct. 30, 2007.
 "V itoge k chemu ia prishel?" Daymohk, Nov. 9, 2007.
 See, for example, Richard Pipes, "Give the Chechens a Land of Their Own," The New York Times, Sept. 9, 2004.
 Nadezhda Banchik, "O palachakh i zhertvakh, ili o sukinykh detiakh i sukinykh (krestnykh) ottsakh," Chechenpress, Nov. 9, 2007.
 Khanif, "Khimera v Chechne," Chechennews, Oct. 29, 2007.
 Vladimir Krapivinsky, "Kogo nam vsem blagodarit' za Vtoruiu voiny?" Chechenpress, Nov. 8, 2007.
Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
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A native of Russia, Dr. Dimitry Shlapentokh is a specialist in Russian political history, with particular expertise on the Bolshevik Revolution. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Chicago (1988), an M.A. from Michigan State University (1980), and an M.A. from the University of Moscow (1973). Currently, he is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University, South Bend. In the past, he has served as Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the Hoover Institution, the Hudson Institute, Harvard University, and Columbia University. Dr. Shlapenstokh is the author of The Proto-Totalitarian State (2007), Russia Between East and West (2006), East Against West (2005), and several other books. He is also the author of numerous journal and magazine articles.
The foregoing article by Dr. Shlapenstokh was originally published in the Middle East Quarterly, Summer, 2008, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a foreign policy think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-ŕ-vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat. (Article URL: http://www.meforum.org/article/1931)
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