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The Rise and Decline of the Caucasus Emirate

Strategic Security Analysis - 2016 n°9

Author(s):

Mr Grazvydas Jasutis

Release Date:

July 2016

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Key Points

  • In October 2007, Dokka Umarov proclaimed the establishment of the Caucasus Emirate (CE), transforming the armed Chechen nationalist resistance into a jihadist movement with a limited pan-Caucasian identity.
  • From 2013 to 2015, the CE underwent substantial changes that dramatically modified its character and its role in regional affairs. Umarov’s death in 2013 sped up the process of conversion and resulted in the decline of the CE.
  • The organisation faced a real schism as a result of CE members joining the so-called Islamic State (IS). The pledge of the bayat (oath of allegiance) to IS by numerous CE field commanders demonstrates that IS will be playing a key role in controlling and financing the insurgency in North Caucasus. Nevertheless, IS will not fully take over armed resistance in the region. 
  • The CE may be considering appointing a new leader to revive its fortunes, re-establish links between the Chechen diaspora and jamaats (autonomous combat formations), and generate the income needed for the insurgency. 
  • The CE is likely searching for a new identity, which might rely on a mixture of pan-Caucasian and jihadist ideas, and which differs from IS. Even with a new leader and fresh ideas, the CE will remain a marginal insurgency, because its offensive capabilities are impaired and because local support for armed resistance is drastically reduced.