Today’s Islamist terrorist attack in the North Caucasus represents a further advance by the Chechen terrorists and their allies in southern Russia.
|NALCHIK, Russia — Chechen rebel forces took responsibility Thursday for a coordinated attack on the southern Russian city of Nalchik, and regional President Arsen Kanokov said about 50 militants had been killed in the fighting, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.|
|The Kavkaz-Center Web site, seen as a voice for rebels loyal to Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, said it had received a short message on behalf of the Caucasus Front. It said the group is part of the Chechen rebel armed forces and includes Yarmuk, an alleged militant Islamic group based in Kabardino-Balkariya.|
|Kabardino-Balkaria is comprised of two ethnic territories, Kabardino (whose citizens are primarily Muslim and speak a Caucasian language) and Balkaria (whose citizens speak a Turkic language.) Russians also comprise a large percentage of the population. The territory known as Kabardino has been under one kind of Russian control or another since 1557, and Russia annexed Balkaria in 1827.|
|Kabardino and Balkaria struggle to maintain peaceful relations for several reasons. First, Balkaria strongly desires independence from Kabardino. In 1992 the Balkars voted for secession and while their 1996 proclamation that Balkaria is its own Republic fell on deaf ears, war-ravaged Chechnya (where people no doubt understand the struggles experienced by an underdog republic fighting for its freedom) supported them. After the Balkar claim to independence was refuted, the situation within the republic nearly disintegrated into civil war. Resentment of the deportation the Balkars experienced runs deep within their culture and tensions within the republic were only assuaged once the leader of the Balkar National Congress was appointed to senior governmental office. This move helped assure the people that federal compensation would be made to the families of those Balkar people who suffered during the deportment. Also, an agreement was made that the president of the republic would be Kabardian, while the prime minister would always be a Balkar.|
|One of the reasons there is so much dissent regarding Balkaria’s bid for independence is that the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria is one of the most prosperous in the North Caucasus. The republic boasts three state-funded higher educational institutions including Kabardino-Balkaria State University, the State Agricultural Academy, and the North Caucasus State Institute of Fine Arts, plus an excellent school system, several fine vocational schools, and many private institutions. The republic is also a hotbed of industry and agriculture, producing wheat, corn, and lumber among other products, in addition to attracting tourists, business people, and resort-goers.|
Nalchik is the capital of Kabardino-Balkariya. A look at this Moscow News map shows how the Chechen Islamists have moved their struggle out of Chechnya, through North Ossetia (where the Beslan attack took place) and have now staged a co-ordinated attack in Kabardino-Balkariya.
According to an article in Eurasia Daily on August 11,
|Observers, security officials, and journalists across Russia are all talking about the possibility of another big war in the North Caucasus. This conflict is already known as “the third Caucasus war,” as there have been already two military campaigns in Chechnya.|
|This year Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev, the new separatist leader after Aslan Maskhadov’s death in March, has taken specific steps to trigger war across the Caucasus. Specifically, Sadulaev ordered the insurgents to establish a new front in the North Caucasus. According to his decree, the insurgents’ “Caucasus Front” will consist of four republics west of Chechnya (Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachaevo-Cherkessia), and two provinces populated mostly by ethnic Russians: Krasnodar krai and Stavropol krai (Kavkazcenter, May 16).|