Caucasus Emirate Central Asia Islamism Jihadism North Caucasus Russia

Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report (IIPER) 49

Photo russian_mosque

30 December 2011

Gordon M. Hahn, Senior Associate, Russia and Eurasia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies 






* IIPER is written and edited by Dr. Gordon M. Hahn unless otherwise noted.  Research assistance is provided by Yelena Altman, Sara Amstutz, Mark Archibald, Michelle Enriquez, Seth Gray, John Andrew Jones, Casey Mahoney, Anna Nevo, Daniel Painter, and Elizabeth Wolcott.  IIPER accepts outside submissions.



The first nine months of 2011 saw approximately 444 jihadi insurgent and terrorist attacks and jihad-related violent incidents in Russia driven by the Caucasus Emirate network mujahedin (see Table 1). This is 38 (or 8 percent) fewer attacks than during the same period last year. This marks a small setback for the CE,


Table 1. Estimated Number of Jihadi Terrorist Incidents and Casualties in Russia during the First Nine Months of 2011. Estimate is Based on Average of the Jihadi-Reported Figures and the Average Between the Minimum and Maximum Figures from the Non-Jihadi Reports, from Data Compiled by the Author.  IIPER’s data for the first six months of 2011 are in parentheses.

Region  Attacks/ Violent Incidents State Agents Killed State Agents Wounded Civilians Killed Civilians Wounded Jihadists Killed Jihadists Wounded Jihadists Captured/ Surrendered
Chechnya    54(40)    30(15)     66(35)     6(6)      3(2)  45(24)     2(2)   55(no data)
Ingushetia    58(36)     17(6)     27(12)     7(5)      4(3)  42(22)     7(7)     13(8)
Dagestan 256(208)   115(78)   204(110)   72(44)    88(55)  148(87)     4(3)    90(49)
Kabardino-Balkaria    65(51)    32(23)     43(38)   15(8)      6(2)  53(38)     2(2)    61(60)
Karachaevo-Cherkessia     2(1)      3(3)        0(0)     0(0)      0(0)    5(0)     0(0)      4(0)
Adygeya     0(0)      0(0)        0(0)     0(0)      0(0)     0(0)      0(0)      0(0)
North Ossetia     1(0)      0(0)        1(0)     1(0)      0(0)     1(0)      0(0)      4(0)
Stavropol, Krasnodar, and Rostov     4(2)      5(4)       1(1)      0(0)       0(0)     4(3)      1(1)      3(3)
North Caucasus Total    440(340)              200(129)    342(199)            104(64)          101(62)    296(180)             16(15)                           230(202)
Tatarstan      0(0)       0(0)


      0(0)      0(0)      0(0)      0(0)       0(0)      0(0)
Bashkiria      1(1)       0(0)       0(0)      0(0)      0(0)      0(0)       0(0)      4(4)
Astrakhan**      0(0)       0(0)       0(0)      0(0)      0(0)      2(2)       0(0)      0(0)
Rest of Russia***      3(1)       0(0)       0(00    38(37) 180(180)      1(1)       0(0)      0(0)
Total 444(344)   200(129)   342(199) 142(101) 281(242) 299(183)   16(15)   304(206)


* The data that forms the base for this table’s figures were researched by Gordon M. Hahn as well as Seth Gray, Leonid Naboishchikov, Anna Nevo, and Daniel Painter.

** It remains somewhat unclear whether the incidents in Astrakhan this year are connected to the CE.

*** We have included the assassination of Col. Yurii Budanov but retain reservations about CE amir Dokku Umarov’s claim of responsibility. The mujahed killed in Moscow was the January 24th Moscow Domodedovo Airport suicide bomber. We removed the would-be suicide bomber who died on New Year’s Eve when she was preparing her suicide vest for the failed plot targeting Moscow’s holiday celebrations because her death occurred before midnight. Also included is an explosion in Volgograd carried out by Chechen and ethnic Russian jihadists tied to the Astrakhan Jamaat. See Vladislav Mal’tsev, “Vtoroi front terroristicheskoi voiny,” Nezavisimaya gazeta – Religiya, 6 July 2011,

Methodology: The data in this table are estimates. The estimates represent where possible the average of the minimum jihadi-reported figures and of the average of the minimum and maximum figures from non-jihadi sources. The logic behind this methodology is based on the tendency of Russian and local government and non-jihadi Russian and local media (often tied to or dependent on government reporting) to underreport the number of terrorist incidents and their resulting casualties as well as the tendency of jihadist sources to exaggerate the jihadists’ capacity by sometimes claiming responsibility for attacks carried out by others for criminal, ethnic, or clan purposes and exaggerating the numbers of casualties caused by their own attacks. Data for mujahedin killed comes from averaging figures reported by the CE-affiliated IslamUmma website and the human rights organization Memorial’s website Data for mujahedin captured and surrendered typically come from non-jihadi sources (“Vooruzhennyi konflikt na Severnom Kavkaze: 656 zhertv za yanvar’ – iyun’ 2011 goda,” Kavkaz uzel, 4 August 2011, 16:44, Incidents include not only attacks carried out, but also counter-terrorist operations and successful and attempted arrests. They do not include prevented attacks (deactivated bombs, etc.). The estimated number of CE attacks and jihadi-related violent incidents was derived from an average between the number of attacks/incidents as reported individually on CE websites (178) and’s summary count (220) equaling 199 attacks/incidents, according to jihadi sources. An average between this number from jihadi sources and the number of attacks as reported in non-jihadi sources was used to derive our estimated number of CE attacks and jihadi-related violent incidents. Where possible a similar methodology is used to derive the figure for the number of mujahedin killed, wounded, and captured.

Sources: The jihadi sources’ data for attacks in the North Caucasus comes from monthly figures reported by the CE-affiliated website as well as reports and claims of responsibility for individual attacks appearing on the CE websites Kavkaz tsentr (, (, (, and (, and (  Non-jihadi sources include official statements and independent reporting, especially that of the oppositional Russian human rights organization ‘Memorial’ and its website Kavkaz-uzel, including “Vooruzhennyi konflikt na Severnom Kavkaze: 656 zhertv za yanvar’ – iyun’ 2011 goda,” Kavkaz uzel, 4 August 2011, 16:44,  Other non-jihadi sources used include:,,, and For the Moscow Domodedovo Airport attack see “V osushchestvlenii terakta v aeroportu Domodedovo uchastvovali, kak minimum, 5 chelovek,” Ekho Moskvy, 8 February 2011, 21:00, and “Terakt v Domodedove podgotovili i proveli, kak minimum, 5 chelovek,” Ekho Moskvy, 8 February 2011, 22:03,


since three months prior, at the half-year mark, the jihad had produced an unprecedented number of attacks for that period of the year.  At that point, it had carried out approximately 342 attacks which nearly equaled IIPER’s estimate of 373 such violent incidents for the entire year of 2008. For further comparison, during the first six months of 2010 and 2009, IIPER estimated there were approximately 213 and 236 attacks/incidents, respectively. Thus, the half-year mark represented a more than 50 percent increase over IIPER’s estimated number of attacks/incidents in 2009 and 2010 each. However, the CE’s 2011 nine-month production of 444 attacks is its second best for that time period since its 2007 founding, exceeding the numbers for 2009 and 2008 handily.

This year’s 444 attacks/incidents include some 85 special counter-terrorist operations undertaken by law enforcement that led to the killing, wounding, or capture of mujahedin or of security forces. Some 67 of these operations occurred in Dagestan, which remains the epicenter of the Caucasus jihad. These same 444 attacks/incidents led to some 200 state agents (civilian officials and military, police and intelligence personnel) being killed and 342 wounded, for a total of 543 casualties among state agents. For comparison, the 482 attacks/incidents during the first nine months of last year killed approximately 228 state agents and wounded 431 wounded, for a total of 659 casualties among state agents. This year’s first nine months have seen 423 civilian casualties (142 killed and 281 wounded), while there were 594 civilian casualties (112 killed and 482 wounded) in the first nine months last year. Thus, the first nine months of 2011 saw the jihad inflict 966 casualties (342 killed and 623 wounded) as compared with 1,253 casualties (340 killed and 913 wounded) in the same period in 2010. This marks another, more significant decline form 2010 to 2011 of some 12 percent.

Looking at the individual regions for this year, the CE’s Dagestan Vilaiyat (DV) and mujahedin continue, as it has since spring 2010, to be the jihad’s center of gravity. Its 256 attacks comprise some 57 percent of the jihadists’ 444 attacks in the first nine months of 2011. The Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria (KBR) is still seeing the second highest level of jihadi violence with approximately 65 attacks/incidents from January through September 2011. There have been only some two attacks so far this year in Karachai-Cherkesia (KChR), which along with the KBR, is considered by the CE mujahedin to be the territory of their United Vilaiyat of Kabardiya, Balkariya, and Karachai (OVKBK).

Ingushetiya and Chechnya continue to be the laggards. Ingushetia’s mujahedin of the so-called Galgaiche Vilaiyat (GV) network have been responsible for only some 59 attacks/incidents (58 in Ingushetiya and perhaps 1 in North Ossetiya). After moving ahead of the GV mujahedin as of the half-year mark for the first time in many months, Chechnya’s jihadi network, the Nokchicho Vilaiyat (NV), slipped back and again bring up the rear among the four CE vilaiyats, despite having patched up its differences with Umarov and returned to the CE fold in late July (see IIPER, No. 44).

Dagestan is by far the most dangerous and deadly North Caucasus republic for state agents and civilians alike. Only Moscow, with the high casualty rate from the January Moscow Domodedovo Airport suicide bombing, approaches Dagestan in terms of jihadi-inflicted casualties. Approximately 115 state agents were killed and 204 were wounded in Dagestan through September of this year, for a total of 319 state agent casualties. Thus, the Dagestani mujahedin outpaced the some 69 state agents killed and 136 wounded by the OVKBK, Chechen NV, and Ingush GV taken together. Civilian casualties have been highest in Dagestan as well (except for Moscow as a result of January’s Moscow Domodedovo Airport suicide bombing), with approximately 276 (204 killed, 72 wounded) in the first nine months of this year, followed in descending order by 21 civilian casualties in the KBR (15 killed, 6 wounded), 11 in Ingushetiya (7 killed, 4 wounded) and 8 in Chechnya (6 killed and 2 wounded). Overall casualties also remain highest in Dagestan with approximately 595 (319 killed and 276 wounded), followed by 105 in Chechnya (36 killed, 69 wounded), 96 in the KBR (47 killed, 49 wounded), and 55 in Ingushetia (24 killed, 31 wounded). Dagestan is now experiencing 70 percent (595 out of 851) of the overall number of casualties in the four main Muslim republics (Dagestan, Chechnya, the KBR, and Ingushetiya) where almost all jihadi activity occurs.

In terms of efficiency, the DV mujahedin’s attacks are the most efficient, causing 2.3 casualties per attack followed by the Chechen NV producing 2.0 per attack, the OVKBK – 1.4, and 1.0 in Ingushetiya. This marks a change from earlier in the year when the NV’s attacks were the most efficient, producing approximately 1.45 casualties per attack in the first half of the year, declining from nearly 2 casualties per attack in the first quarter of the year. The OVKBK was inflicting 1.39 casualties per attack in the first half of 2011; the DV – 1.38 casualties per attack. Ingushetia’s GV mujahedin remains the least efficient in their attacks, but showing some improvement from the first half when it was inflicting less than one (.72) casualty per attack.

Mujahedin Losses

Losses among the mujahedin remain high. Almost all losses are the result of death or capture, as the Table above shows. Using the data of ‘Kavkaz uzel,’ a North Caucasus-focused website project of the Russian human rights organization ‘Memorial’, there were 603 mujahedin neutralized – 299 mujahedin killed and 304 captured – during the first nine months of 2011. Dagestan’s DV mujahedin suffered the most losses – 238 (148 killed and 90 captured). The OVKBK lost the second largest number of mujahedin – 123 – including 58 killed and 65 wounded, if one includes not only the losses in the KBR but assumes loyalty to the CE of those 5 mujahedin killed and 4 captured in the KChR. Chechnya lost 100: 45 killed and 55 captured. The GV lost 60, with 42 killed and 13 captured in Ingushetiya and, assuming loyalty to the CE, 1 killed and 4 captured in North Ossetiya.

Suicide Attacks

Despite CE amir Dokku ‘Abu Usman’ Umarov’s threats earlier this year to raise hundreds of suicide bombers and some recent Russian media reports regarding a supposed cadre of some 50 or 60 suicide bombers trained and ready to be deployed, 2011 remains on a pace to fall short of the 14 suicide bombings of 2009 and the 16 of 2010. There have been but six successful suicide bombings in the first nine months of 2011. There were three successful suicide bombings in the first quarter of 2011: the January 24th suicide attack carried out by the 20-year old ethnic Ingush Magomed Yevloev at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport which killed 37 and wounded 180 and the two February 14th suicide bombings by the ethnic Russian couple and mujahedin Vitalii Razdobudko and Maria Khorosheva in Gubden, Dagestan hours apart. The former killed 1 and wounded 22; the latter killed 1 MVD police and wounded 5 MVD police. The fourth suicide attack of 2011 occurred on March 4th when 30-year old Khamzat Korigov exploded a bomb when police tried to check his documents. The explosion only wounded one officer.[1] These 4 successful attacks left 5 suicide bombers dead and killed 39 (2 state agents and 37 civilians) and wounded 207, at least 6 of which were state agents. Thus, after the four suicide attacks carried out by CE-tied jihadists during the first quarter of this year compared to just one in the same period in 2010, it seemed that Umarov might be in a position to realize his threats.

The fifth successful suicide attack of this year occurred on May 10th when 32-year old Abakar Aitperov detonated a bomb as he apparently tried to enter a military hospital in Dagestan’s capitol Makhachkala. Russia’s MVD chief Ruslan Nurgaliev was there at the time visiting with police and soldiers wounded in a recent battle with mujahedin in Kizlyar, Dagestan. The attack killed the policeman who stopped Aitperov to check his papers as he tried to enter the hospital and wounded another and several a passers-by.[2] The sixth and most recent successful suicide attack occurred almost four full months later on August 30th, when three suicide bombers detonated bombs in the Lenin district of downtown Grozny, the capitol of the Republic of Chechnya, killing 9 and wounding 22. According to police, the first explosion occurred when police attempted to detain a suspicious man. Two more suicide bombers then detonated their bombs when police rushed to the scene of the first detonation. Among the 9 killed were 7 police, 1 Emergency Ministry worker, and 1 civilian. Both police personnel and civilians were among the 22 wounded.[3]

This was the third time in Grozny this year that mujahedin detonated grenades, IEDS, or suicide belts when police or security forces attempted to apprehend mujahedin. There have been two such cases this year in Ingushetiya as well: one successful as mentioned above and one unsuccessful, producing no casualties other than that of the bomber himself. In Grozny, on February 15th two mujahedin detonated bombs when security forces attempted to apprehend them in one of the mujahedin’s homes. On April 25th, two fighters did the same when they reportedly ran out of ammunition in a firefight with security forces during a special counter-terrorist operation against them. No one was injured in either of these cases.[4] Another mujahed blew himself up to avoid capture when he was interdicted in Galashki, Ingushetiya on July 12.  The mujahed tried to plant a bomb, was stopped by police, and detonated a grenade killing himself.[5]

This year’s six successful and several interdicted suicide bombing attacks have expended the lives of 12 suicide bombers: 11 men and one woman. Chechnya has seen 1 successful attack and 8 suicide bombers in 2011. Dagestan has seen 3 successful attacks and 3 suicide bombers. Ingushetia has seen 1 successful attack and 1 suicide bomber. Moscow has seen 1 successful attack (the January 24th Domodedovo Airport attack) utilizing a single suicide bomber from Ingushetiya. Excluding the 22 wounded in the recent Grozny attack for which we have no breakdown between state agents and civilians, the six successful attacks have killed 11 and wounded at least 28 state agents and killed 38 and wounded at least 184 civilians. Counting the 22 wounded in the recent Grozny attack, there have been a total of 283 casualties, including 234 wounded.

The geography of jihadi suicide bombing in the first half of 2011 looks as follows. As in the case of conventional attacks this and last year as well as in the case of suicide bombings last year, Dagestan continued to lead in suicide bombings in the first half of 2011. Three of the six suicide attacks were perpetrated in Dagestan by one Dagestani and two ethnic Russians that had ties to Stavropol and perhaps Dagestan who carried out the February attacks in Gubden. A fourth occurred in Ingushetiya involving an apparently unplanned attack. A fifth occurred in Chechnya and involved three Chechen suicide bombers. A sixth occurred in Moscow and was committed by an ethnic Ingush recruited by Ingushetiya’s GV and was deployed by the CE’s Riyadus-Salikhiin Martyrs’ Brigade and CE amir Umarov. There still has never been a suicide bombing in any Russian region other than the four regions mentioned above.



Although the amir of the CE’s Ingushetiya network, the Galgaiche Vilaiyat has been silent this year, the GV’s qadi Abu Dudzhan (Dujan) has made a few noises in the form of two videotaped theo-ideological statements. The first was made in late August but posted on the GV’s website only on 12 September 2011 and was never transcribed into text.[6] The most recent was posted on November 30th and was transcribed by[7]

In the August video, GV qadi Abu Dudzhan is seen alone, masked, and sitting with a Kalashnikov on cross-legged lap in front of a camping tent with the black-and-white global jihadi banner laid upon it. He spoke mostly in Arabic but occasionally switches very briefly into broken Russian and perhaps some Ingush.[8] In the second, for which a Russian language transcript has been provided, he elaborates on the standard exculpatory self-justification made by jihadists across the globe for the actions undertaken by mujahedin: that everything that occurs in the world happens because Allah wills that it should happen. He also emphasizes that everyone will die and face Allah and with the judgment day coming each should hurry and join the jihad.[9]

Whether these appearances signal any future revival for the GV is difficult to ascertain. As we detailed in a recent IIPER, the GV has been decimated since 2010 with the capture of its amir and CE military amir ‘Magas’ Ali Taziyev (Magomed Yevloev) in June 2010 and the killing of Sheikh Said Abu Saad Buryatskii in March of the same year. The GV amir has been absent at the wheel with a lack of clarity whether Adam Ganishev remains alive and continues to be the amir.



Putting aside the ongoing civil war within the Muslim communities in Dagestan and other North Caucasus republics between Salafists and CE jihadists, on the one hand, and the region’s traditional Sufi tariqats, on the other hand, as well as the tensions and conflict within between the various Sufi tariqats and virds themselves, this year has seen growing divisions and polarization within Russia’s non-Sufi traditional Muslim community, in particular between various official Muslim organizations.

On the supra-regional level, some new divisions appeared within and between the traditional official Muslim clerical or spiritual umbrella organizations, which typically subsume several DUMs or regional Muslim spiritual administrations (see Table below). The Council of Muftis of Russia (SMR), headed by its neo-jadidist




Council of Muftis of Russia – Chairman and Chief Mufti: Ravil Gainutdin

Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims – Chairman/Chief Mufti: Talgat Tadzhuddin

Coordinating Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus – Chairman/Chief Mufti: Ismail Berdiev

Russian Association of Islamic Harmony (All-Russian Muftiate) – Chairman/Mufti: Mukhammad-Hajii      Rakhimov

Islamic United Center of Muslim Organizations of Russia – Chairman: Shavkat Hajii Avyasov

Russian Islamic Heritage – Chairman: Shavkat Hajii Avyasov

Muslim Spiritual Administration of Tatarstan – Chairman and Mufti: Ildus-khazrat Faizov


or reformist chairman and chief mufti Ravil Gainutdin, an ethnic Tatar, has been the most powerful of these organizations for about a decade.  More recently, however, it has been losing ground to, and been surpassed by its long-time competitor the Central Muslim Spiritual Administration (TsDUM) and challenged by several new multi-regional umbrella organizations.

Since Tatarstan and the North Caucasus, especially Dagestan, have the largest number of Muslims, the Muslim Spiritual Administration of Tatarstan (DUMT) and the Coordinating Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus (KTsMSK, led by chairman and chief mufti Ismail Berdiev) each control some 27 percent of Russia’s Muslim communities. Thus, the remaining four umbrella organizations listed in the Table above compete for the remaining 46 percent of Muslim communities in Russia, which are concentrated mostly in the Volga and Urals areas as well as Moscow, St. Petersburg and Siberia. The TsDUM controls some 25 percent (i.e., most of the 46 percent remaining), the SMR – 15 percent, and the newly created Russian Association of Islamic Harmony or All-Russian Muftiate (RAIS/VM) with 150 communities of some 7,500 total Muslim communities in Russia or some 2 percent. According to Roman Silantev, the number of autonomous regional DUMs is increasing and include those of Altai Krai, Komi Republic, Kemerovo and Irkutsk Oblasts, and of course Tatarstan’s powerful DUMT, the only regional DUM to equal or in some cases exceed the power of the leading umbrella organizations.[10]

A further split within the SMR was consolidated this year when Gainutdin’s former ally in the SMR, the chairman of the Russian Islamic Heritage group Shavkat Avyasov, formed his own umbrella organization the Moscow-based Islamic United Center of Muslim Organizations of Russia (IOTsMOR or simply IOTs). Avyasov is 64 years old and is also an ethnic Tatar. IOTs now has its own leadership structure and administrative apparatus, a website (, and an estimated 54 Muslim communities under its wing; that is, less than one percent of those in Russia.[11] Most of the IOTS’s Muslim communities seem to be based in the Volga and Urals areas. Thus, IOTs is likely set to compete with both the SMR and the Central Muslim Spiritual Administration (TsDUM) based in Ufa, Bashkortostan and led by ethnic Tatar Talgat Tadzhuddin.

The SMR’s Decline

The SMR suffered two regional losses this year. In Penza Oblast (PO), where Muslim communities were already divided approximately in half between SMR-loyal and TsDUM-loyal muftiates, led by Abbas Bibarsov and Adlesh Yunkin, respectively. Now the pro-SMR DUMPO underwent a split, when its elderly chairman/mufti Abbas Bibarsov retired and transferred power to Adurrauf Zabirov, sparking a power struggle within the SMR leadership. The latter sent a delegation led by Saratov Oblast DUM (DUMSO) chairman/mufti Mukaddas Bibarsov (Abbas’s son) and Republic of Mordovia DUM (DUMM) chairman/mufti Rashit Khalikov to put another candidate, Islam Dashkin, in Zabirov’s place. However, another delegation arrived in support of Bibarsov senior and his candidate Zabirov. This group was led by Mordovia Republic mufti Fagim Shagiev, who is loyal to the Russian Association of Islamic Harmony or All-Russian Muftiate (RAIS/VM) created in November 2010 and led by Mukhammad-Hajii Rakhimov, the chairman/mufti of the DUM of Stavropol Krai (DUMSK). The other leader of the group represented not just a split within Mordovia but with the Bibarsov family itself; that leader is Abbas’s other son, Ayub, who is deputy chairman/mufti of the pro-SMR half of the split Bashkortostan Muslim community. The contest ended in a split of the pro-SMR DUMPO, with Islam Dashkin heading an SMR-loyal DUMPO and Zabirov heading a more independent DUMPO that might join with the RAIS/VM. According to expert Roman Silantev, Dashkin’s pro-SMR muftiate is the weakest of the three.[12]

At the same time, the SMR lost some of its position in the DUM of Bashkortostan (DUMB) as well. The DUMB is said to have moved closer to the TsDUM and might join it or assume an autonomous position. This adds to recent gains by the TsDUM at the SMR’s expense in Kurgan and Chelyabinsk Oblasts and in the Khassiya, Chuvashiya and Yakutiya Republics.[13]

The SMR’s decline and divisions among Muslims in Tatarstan and Russia at large have been driven this year in good part by the SMR’s failure to save Moscow’s Central Mosque from destruction and eventual replacement by a new mosque, which has been criticized by many Muslims and blamed on SMR chief Gainutdin. City authorities claim the mosque was in bad condition and no longer safe for public use and is promising to build a new one to replace it. Even Rafael Khakimov – the head of Tatarstan’s Institute of History and Institute for the Study of Federalism, former advisor to former Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, and chief Tatarstan ideologist of neo-jadidism Tatarstan’s pro-federative policies in the 1990s and 2000s – came out and criticized Gainutdin’s failure to save the mosque. He also blamed former DUMT Iskhakov, arguing that it was Tatar Muslims’ responsibility to save the mosque and proposing that Tatar communities form national parishes in Moscow and accept only true imams to head them.[14]

To the extent that, Gainutdin has been a champion of reformist ‘Euro-Islam’ or neo-jadidism, his loss of authority could play into the hands of the more conservative traditional ‘qadimist’ orientation among Russia’s Muslims or even radical, Salafist elements.

Polarization Among Tatarstan’s Traditional Muslims

There are reports that the Muslim community in Tatarstan is being divided and polarized, driving some underground and away from the official traditional Islam dominated by the Muslim Spritual Administration of Tatarstan (DUMT) and its Hanafi and neo-jadidist teachings, according to the Russian daily Nezavisimaya gazeta.[15] One current estimate is that 10-15 percent of Muslim communities in Tatarstan are not registered with the state.[16] The DUMT’s decision under its new chairman and chief mufti Ildus-khazrat Faizov to move against alleged ‘Wahhabis’ or more accurately Salafis, including cessation of the use of Saudi Arabian textbooks in its madrassahs has led to the growth of a network of “underground” or independent madrassahs and mosques in the republic, marking a new wave in the return of the Soviet era practice of khudzhrat or ‘kitchen Islam’ similar to that which has occurred in Central Asian states like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The DUMT has instituted a uniform Islamic educational curriculum based on Tatars’ traditional orientation towards the more moderate and flexible Hanafi School of Islamic jurisprudence and teaching. After Dagestan, Tatarstan has the largest number of Islamic educational institutions in Russia, and among those 11 institutions, two are higher university-level institutions – the Russian Islamic University and the Mukhamaddiya Madrassah, both located in Tatarstan’s capital of Kazan.[17]

According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, there are as many as 20 underground madrassahs – six based in separate private homes and some 12 in apartments. Each has anywhere from 10-12 students. Those based in separate homes have been transformed into ‘kitchen mosques’ as well. Such ‘kitchen’ Islamic institutions are often frequented by Salafists, including, the paper notes, members of radical Islamist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir Islami (HTI).[18] Chairman of the Council of Ulema of RAIS/VM and Director of the Center for the Study of the Koran and Sunna of Tatarstan Farid Salman notes that among the khudzhratisty are representatives of numerous trends in Islam including Salafists, Wahhabis, Turkish sects (Nurists), takfirists, Kardawi’s Muslim Brothers, Tabligh Jamaat, and Hizb ut-Tahrir Islami.[19]

The author of the article, Gleb Postnov, reports that during his visit to one kitchen madrassah, the teacher was one Al-Zant Kamal Abdul Rakhman from Lebanon, where he received his religious education. Rakhman moved to Kazan in 1992, entered its medical institute, and now works at a republic-run hospital. He is well known both as a doctor and hafiz (one who has memorized the Koran), and he preaches in many of Kazan’s mosques. Rakhman’s book Tell Me About Faith (Rasskazhi mne o vere) was approved by the DUMT’s previous mufti Gusman Iskhakov, but Iskhakov’s successor recommended banning the use of Rakhman’s book in the republic’s mosques because it supposedly does not conform to the Tatars’ traditional Hanafi teaching. According to Rais Suleimanov, the director of the Volga Center of Religious and Ethno-Religious Studies under the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, the “pillar of the system of underground Muslim education” in the republic is the Rashid Center opened by Iskhakov and located in a settlement just outside of Kazan called Voznesenie. Some of the leaders of this center were sent to study in Persian Gulf states, including Kuwait, and received grants to proselytize “pure” or Salafist versions of Islam in Russia, according to Suleimanov.[20] Iskhakov is accused by many in the republic of having been permissive towards, and even supportive of, ‘Wahhabis’ and other underground radicals during his tenure atop the DUMT and is sometimes accused of being one himself.[21]

The DUMT is aware of the problem of underground Islam but notes as others do that it existed under Iskhakov’s tenure at DUMT as well and is not a new phenomenon.[22] DUMT Department of Information and Propaganda head Rishat Akhtyamov notes that the security organs “are already informed” of the situation but have not taken any actions, emphasizing that the DUMT’s only responsibility is to teach the Hanafi brand of jurisprudence and inform about who is teaching more radical Islamic trends.[23]

From Khudzhratism to Legal Wahhabism

Whether one accepts the interpretation that former DUMT mufti Iskhakov is involved in backing radical teachings, it is clear that there is a severe split within the traditional Tatarstan Muslim community between those who back former mufti Iskhakov and his new successor Faizov. While it is unlikely that Iskhakov would go underground in opposition to the authorities, it cannot be excluded that Iskhakov will try to form his own muftiate and join one of the umbrella organizations. If so, then Russia’s leading Muslim region will have gone the way of Bashkortostan and non-Muslim regions like Penza Oblast and Mordovia Republic, the latter two of which are divided between three competing muftiates tied to competing umbrella organizations or standing independently.

Warnings continue to emerge from Tatarstan and elsewhere that Salafism is gaining more and more adherents in this key republic. Given the recent increase in the number of ethnic Russian converts to Islam, Salafism, jihadism, and suicide bombings (see IIPER, No. 46), the possibility that Muslim Tatars would not produce jihadists would seem to be a naïve assumption. Traditional Tatar theologist Farid Salman pinpoints several centers of ‘Wahhabism’ in Tatarstan, including publisher and imam of a mosque in Tatarstan’s second city (Naberezhnyi Chelny) Idras Galyautdinov, former DUMT mufti Iskhakov’s mother Rashida Iskhakova and two of her son-in-laws – imam of a mosque in the Petrov settlement in Kazan’s suburbs, Suleiman Zaripov, and former imam-mukhtasib of a mosque in Almetevsk, Nail Sakhibyazanov – both who are also involved in publishing Salafi literature.  He claims that Iskhakov is currently studying in Kuwait and his network receives funding from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar.[24]

Rais Suleimanov also reports the emergence of opposition and even Wahhabbi tendencies among Tatarstan’s Muslims. He relays incidents of Salafists seizing the microphone during Friday prayers in a mosque not far from the Kazan Kremlin and screaming so it could be heard out on the street that the FSB is “Islam’s enemy” and is spying on Muslims. The Salafists then passed around a hat for collection of the zakyat (Muslim poll tax) for their “brothers” in prison. Salafists are also reportedly collecting the zakyat from vendors in local open-air markets. According to well-known Tatarstan theolgist Valiulla Yakupov, ‘Wahhabis’ are said to establishing “Wahhabi holding companies” in business and even state structures where they are finding protectors, sponsors, and sympathizers willing to fund their activities. In addition, according to Suleimanov, district and republic bureaucrats are ostensibly resisting Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov’s and DUMT mufti Faizov’s policies to block the Salafis’ efforts. In particular, he notes the protection offered by the mayor of Vysokie Gory District, Rustam Kalimullin, to the allegedly Salafist imam ‘sheikh Umar’ Airat Shakirov, who was warned by the security organs in the 1990s for disseminating a banned Islamic book and preaching jihad. Reportedly, an Islamic center funded by the Muslim Brotherhood is to be opened soon in Vysokie Gory.[25]

Salman predicts that underground radicals will step up their opposition as Faizov attempts to preserve traditional Tatar Islam and does not exclude “the Dagestani scenario” in Tatarstan, attributing great weight to the emergence of greater numbers of Salafist youth on the Volga, to foreign educated youths, Salafi websites, and foreign-funded, Salafi-influenced preachers. Reportedly, some 20 Tatarstan youths went abroad to study Islam this year alone.[26] IIPER readers are well aware of the rise of the CE’s Dagestan Vilaiyat (DV) in the ongoing low-intensity jihad in the North Caucasus and the role of foreign-educated amirs like ‘Seifullah Gubdenskii’ Magomed Vagabov in the rise of the DV. Salman recommends new legislation banning Wahhabism in the republic,[27] perhaps forgetting that a similar ban was instituted in Dagestan in 1999 to little or no avail.

It needs to be noted in connection with Salman’s charges against former mufti Iskhakov that the charge is often waged between Islamic actors in order to discredit competitors during power struggles. On the other hand, foreign-influenced but seemingly non-Salafist underground preachers played a role in Soviet-era Central Asia, some say, in laying the ground for the rise radical Islamism there, leading to the rise of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the mid-1990s. Finally, it is not absolutely necessary that fervent Muslims would not move into opposition against the regime without converting to Wahhabi, Salafi or other forms of Islamic radicalism.

In closing, there seems to be some reason to believe that Salafi elements are growing in number and/or stridency in Tatarstan. This and the divisions and competition with and between the DUMs and their various umbrella organizations could provide an opening for radicals. This could be especially true if some official Islamic factions recruit the state’s security organs to crackdown before radical elements have actually ripened, thereby ensuring their radicalization and raising the prospects for jihadism in the region. Thus, last year’s first jihadi jamaat and attack might not be the last, and the self-declared Idel-Ural Vilaiyat (still unrecognized by CE amir Dokku ‘Abu Usman’ Umarov at least publicly) could be in a position to gain recruits. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The official website of the CE’s Dagestani network, the Dagestan Vilaiyat, published a Russian translation of the late Al Qa`ida leader Osama bin Laden’s letter praising the Jordanian jihadi terrorist Ibn al-Khattab issued by the former after the latter’s killing as a result of poisoning organized by Russia’s security forces in 2003. In the letter, bin Laden offered the highest praise for “our Hero Khattab,” lauding his willingness to carry forth jihad to Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Dagestan, and Chechnya again, referring to him as the “Khalid of Chechnya,” likely a reference to Mohammed’s companion and great Islamic warrior Khalid Ibn Walid.[28]


CENTRAL ASIA by Yelena Altman and Gordon M. Hahn


With the arrival of jihadism to Kazakhstan this year, comes videotapes featuring Kazakhstani mujahedin. The North Caucasus mujahedin of the Caucasus Emirate (CE) jihadi network posted two videos in November featuring Kazkhstani mujahedin. One was an inspirational videotape produced by Badr al-Tawhid, the media arm of the Pakistan-based Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Like the CE, both organizations are allied with the global jihadi revolutionary movement and Al Qa`ida. The video introduces some 10-15 mujahedin, some identified as shakhids. Most are identified by film subtitles as coming from Kazakhstan. Others came from Uzbekistan, Turkey, and “East Turkestan” (Uighuristan or Xingjiang).

The video shows the mujahedin in what appears to be the mountains of northern Waziristan firing and showing off weapons and attacking unidentified troops with the customary jihadi cry of ‘Allakhu Akbar.’ The other video is an appeal (obrashchenie) to the Muslims of Kazakhstan. It shows six mujahedin surrounding the traditional black jihadi banner. The presumed amir speaks first in Arabic in a salutation and then speaks in Russian saying that the jamaat takes part in military operations in Afghanistan but that its main sphere of interest is Central Asia, in particular Kazakhstan, for which they are preparing mujahedin and the Muslims of which are obliged to join the jihad. He extends a special greeting to the mujahedin of the CE, noting that they have chosen an amir and fight on the path of Allah. He emphasizes that although the CE mujahedin hail from different North Caucasus republics, they have united ideologically. He then asks why the mujahedin of Central Asia have not been able to do the same. He also refers to a lecture by the deceased Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) ideologist and leader Anwar al-Awlaki in which he discussed the geographical pillars of the coming caliphate.

The second mujahed to speak notes that they came from Kazakhstan to join the jihad and that after victory in Afghanistan their “goal” is Central Asia. He also urges that if they cannot directly participate in the jihad then they must support it by donating the property, a theme he further elaborates upon. Having spoken in Russian, he closes by praising the CE and condemns America and Russia in Arabic.

The third mujahed says that jihad is ongoing there in Waziristan and Afghanistan and Muslims should avoid divisions and dissent (he uses the word ‘fitna’ in Arabic) and join the jihad. He asks Muslims to pray for them and support them by all means. The fourth speaker, raising his voice numerous times, talks about his Muslim family members back in Kazakhstan now coming out against the mujahedin. He asks them to look around and see how the infidels live and how real Muslims are imprisoned. To those who cannot travel to Waziristan, then they should go to the North Caucasus or Yemen, which are easier to reach and have sincere mujahedin. He addresses the infidels and their experts, saying they know the end is coming for the non-Muslim world. He closes saying that many Kazakhs have spilled their blood and become martyrs in Waziristan and Afghanistan fighting on the path of jihad, and the easiest road to Paradise is jihad. Thus, Muslims must wake up, not become desperate, and join the jihad, as the most advanced believers go to jihad. He reminds them that Allah said there will be a caliphate and it will be ruled by Muslims according to the Sunna.

Both videos are combined in a single video titled ‘Appeal of the Kazakh Mujahedin Taking Part in the Jihad to the Muslims of Kazakhstan’ (Obrashchenie Kazakskikh mudzhakhidov, uchastvuyushikh v Dzhikhade, k musul’manam Kazakhstana). The video of the obrashchenie disappeared from the right-hand video bar on the CE’s main website Kavkaz tsentr before it could be downloaded by IIPER.

A third video is included in the combined video as well and is identified as an excerpt from a Badr al-Tawhid film titled ‘Zhannat oshiqlari 2’ with a website given ( It shows what appears to be a Central Asian, perhaps Kazakhstani, or ethnic Uighur mujahed kneeling down near some weapons with another mujahed and speaking about jihad and the mujahedin in what sounds like a Turkish-based language. It then switches to another inspirational review of various mujahedin-shakhids from the same film, including one young Central Asian-looking mujahed who says that the Muslim who smokes is better than the Muslim who sits in his room and cries for the jihad. He says jihad is now obligatory (farz a’in) for Muslims, including women.

This is followed by another section in which three mujahedin, including one Kazakh-looking shakhid identified as Abdullakh, speaking in 2009, talks about jihad. The video closes in a manner to portray poignancy, with Abdullakh reading verses of a song or Koranic verses in the dark superimposed over images of armed mujahedin hugging other mujahedin as they appear to depart for battle against the hated infidel.



[1] “Zhitel’ Ingushetii sovershil samopodryv pri zaderzhanii,” Kavkaz uzel, 5 March 2011, 02:57,

[2] “MVD: samopodryv v Makhachkale sovershil zhitel’ goroda Abakar Aitperov,” Kavkaz uzel,

[3] “Chislo pogibshikh ot vzryvov v Groznom uvelichilos’ do devyati chelovek,” Kavkaz uzel, 31 August 2011, 14:22,  See also “V Dzhokare provedena krupnaya Shakhidskaya spetsoperatsiya,” Kavkaz tsentr, 31 August 2011, 09:21,

[4] “Chislo pogibshikh ot vzryvov v Groznom uvelichilos’ do devyati chelovek,” Kavkaz uzel, 31 August 2011, 14:22, and “Vlasti Chechni soobshcayut o podryve dvukh smertnikov pri popytke ikh zaderzhaniya v Grosnom,” Kavkaz uzel, 15 February 2011, 15:55,

[5] “V Ingushetii vo vremya terakta pogib tol’ko smertnik,” Kavkaz uzel, 12 July 2011, 17:55,

[6] “Obrashchenie Kadiya Vilaiyata G’alg’aiche Abu Dudzhanu,”, 31 August 2011,

[7] “Obrashchenie kadiya Vilaiyata G’alg’aiche. Zu-l’-Khidzha 1432 g,”, 25 November 2011, 10:10, and “Obrashchenie kadiya Vilaiyata G’alg’aiche: Vse, chto proiskhodit, sluchaetsya tol’ko po vole Allakha,” Kavkaz tsentr, 30 November 2011, 01:01,

[8] “Obrashchenie Kadiya Vilaiyata G’alg’aiche Abu Dudzhanu,”, 31 August 2011,

[9] “Obrashchenie kadiya Vilaiyata G’alg’aiche. Zu-l’-Khidzha 1432 g,”, 25 November 2011, 10:10, and “Obrashchenie kadiya Vilaiyata G’alg’aiche: Vse,chto proiskhodit, sluchaetsya tol’ko po vole Allakha,” Kavkaz tsentr, 30 November 2011, 01:01,

[10] See the interview with Roman Silantev in Gyuzel Maksyutova, “Rossiiskaya umma. Vzglyad pravoslavnogo,”, 18 November 2011, 11:17,  Silantev is an expert on Russian Islam, a doctoral candidate in history, a lecturer at Moscow State University, Executive Director of the Legal defense Center of the Global Russian People’s Assembly (Sobor), a member of the Expert Council or advisory council under Russia’s Justice Ministry. As such, Silantev is regarded by some secular and Muslim activists as too pro-Christian orthodox and antagonistic to even some moderate trends in Islam.

[11] Roman Silant’ev, “Zharkoe leto pod polumesyatsem,” Nezavisimaya gazeta – Religiya, 3 August 2011, p. 4 and

[12] Silant’ev, “Zharkoe leto pod polumesyatsem.”

[13] Silant’ev, “Zharkoe leto pod polumesyatsem.”

[14] “Kazanskii ideolog yevroislama vystupil s kritikoi Ravilya Gainutdina,”, 18 November 2011, 15:32,

[15] Gleb Postnov, “Tatarskie brat’ya-musul’mane ukhodyat v podpol’e,” Nezavisimaya gazeta, 15 November 2011,

[16] Maksyutova, “Rossiiskaya umma. Vzglyad pravoslavnogo.”

[17] Postnov, “Tatarskie brat’ya-musul’mane ukhodyat v podpol’e.”

[18] Postnov, “Tatarskie brat’ya-musul’mane ukhodyat v podpol’e.”

[19] “Farid Salman: ‘V Tatarstane nel’zya isklyuchat’ revansha bakhkhabitov’,”, 18 November 2011, 14:49,

[20] Postnov, “Tatarskie brat’ya-musul’mane ukhodyat v podpol’e.”

[21] Chairman of the Council of Ulema of RAIS/VM and Director of the Center for the Study of the Koran and Sunna of Tatarstan, theologist Farid Salman, recently referred to Iskhakov as a Wahhabi. “Farid Salman: ‘V Tatarstane nel’zya isklyuchat’ revansha bakhkhabitov’.”

[22] Postnov, “Tatarskie brat’ya-musul’mane ukhodyat v podpol’e” and “Farid Salman: ‘V Tatarstane nel’zya isklyuchat’ revansha bakhkhabitov’.”

[23] Postnov, “Tatarskie brat’ya-musul’mane ukhodyat v podpol’e.”

[24] “Farid Salman: ‘V Tatarstane nel’zya isklyuchat’ revansha bakhkhabitov’.”

[25] Rais Suleimanov, “Vakhkhabizm n byurokratiya v Tatarstane: na puti oB”edineniya?” Novoe Vostochnoe Obozrenie, 18 November 2011,

[26] “Farid Salman: ‘V Tatarstane nel’zya isklyuchat’ revansha bakhkhabitov’.”

[27] “Farid Salman: ‘V Tatarstane nel’zya isklyuchat’ revansha bakhkhabitov’.”

[28] “Pis’mo Sheikha Usamy bin Ladena v svyazi s Shakhadoi (inshaa-Llakh) Amira Khattaba,”, 26 November 2011,



CSIS’s and IIPER’s Dr. Gordon M. Hahn was interviewed by the leading Russian democratic opposition newspaper Novaya gazeta. It can be read at

Dr. Hahn also was interviewed by the Russian website Terra Amerika on the Russian election results, demonstrations, and the reaction by the siloviki to any transition to democracy or revolution in Russia. The interview in Russian can be read at

Dr. Hahn also has written a series of articles on the Russian election results, post-election crisis, and their implications for the website Russia – other Points of View, for which he is an analyst and consultant. See “The Thaw at the Polls – Tandem’s Liberalization Policy Rocks the Vote,” Russia – Other points of View, 8 December 2011,; “The National Republics as Administrative Resource in Russia’s Election,” Russia – Other points of View, 8 December 2011, /2011/12/the-national-republics-as-administrative-resource-in-russias-elections-.html; and “1991 and 2011: Russia’s Second Revolutionary Wave,” forthcoming in Russia – Other Points of View, December 2011,

The CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program published a special report in August by Dr. Gordon M. Hahn, “Getting the Caucasus Emirate Right” which IIPER readers may find of interest. It can be downloaded at



Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report (IIPER) is a project of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  It focuses on all politically relevant issues involving or bearing on Islam, Islamism, and Jihadism in Russia and Eurasia writ large. All issues of IIPER will soon be permanently archived at All back issues temporarily remain archived at:

IIPER is compiled, edited, and, unless indicated otherwise, written by Dr. Gordon M. Hahn.  Dr. Hahn is a Senior Associate (Non-Resident) in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor at the Monterey Terrorism Research and Education Program (MonTREP), Monterey, California. He is also a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group and an Analyst and Consultant for Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch, He teaches courses on both politics and terrorism in Russia and Eurasia at MonTREP. Dr. Hahn is the author of two well-received books, Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007) and Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002) as well as numerous articles on Russian, Eurasian and international politics. 

IIPER welcomes submissions on any aspect of Islamic, Islamist, or Jihadist politics in Eurasia as well as financial contributions to support the project. For related inquiries or to request to be included on IIPER’s mailing list, please contact: 

Dr. Gordon M. Hahn

Tel: (831) 647-3535 Fax: (831) 647-6522

Email: or

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