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Other Social and Behavioral Sciences | Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


Chapter seven in Issues of the Post-Communist Transition: Structure, Culture, and Justice. Edited by Stephen R. Bowers and Marion T. Doss, Jr., 2001. Monograph of the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies Monograph Series number 29. For the William R. Nelson Institute for Public Affairs. James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.


Religious diversity has had a dramatic impact on the development of the North Caucasus region. People do not indentify primarily with either a national or international Islamic community. The fundamentalist Vakhabite community has become a major regional force during the past decade in spite of numerous efforts to suppress its influence. Official suppression of the Vakhabites has resulted in the emergence of a clandestine Vakhabite network supported from abroad. Islamic radicals throughout the regions (mostly Saudi and North African Arabs) have joined with the Khattab group in order to receive military training in camps which are operated to support Arab terrorists. Khattab was born in Saudi Arabia.

The Chechen diaspora that has placed a major supporting role in the modern Middle East, especially in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is returning its children to Chechnya. And now, the return of Chechen Jordanians such as Shamil Bassayev and Ipak Fath has helped to radicalize many young Chechens who became active combatants in the Chechen wars. Money, armaments, and soldiers (mujahideen) provided by radical Islamic groups from abroad have played a major role in strengthening the Chechen resistance movement.

After the First Chechen war (1994-1996), religious differences between the Sufi movements and the Vakhabite movement began to have a deleterious political impact in the region. While Sufi Muslims called for creation of a secular state that would preserve traditional social patterns, the Vakhabites have demanded a purification of Islam and eradication of local customs that have tainted and undermined pure Islam.