Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 55

An estimated 8,000 Chechen-Kistins, one of Chechnya’s ethnic minorities, are living in regions of Georgia which border Chechnya, and Georgian authorities have become alarmed at what is going on in these regions. “Chechnya has become one of the main sources of narcotics in Georgia. The Georgian border guards cannot stop the flow of contraband; as a result, narcotics are already being sold openly in the Chechen villages of Georgia. Chechen criminal groups are also involved in hostage-taking on Georgian territory. Thus seven Georgian citizens are being held captive in Chechnya at the current moment,” Mamuka Areshidze, a deputy in the Georgian parliament and the head of its committee for cooperation between Caucasian peoples, told the Monitor’s correspondent.

But what appears to worry Georgia most is that Chechnya will export “Islamic revolution.” “Already today in the Akhmet region of Georgia, which is populated by Chechen-Kistins, some fifty people have become followers of Wahabbi Islam. While this number seems small at first glance, our local Wahabbis have very close ties to their counterparts in Chechnya, and we are worried that this will become a new ‘hot spot,'” one Georgian parliamentary deputy, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Monitor. This same source said that rebel Chechen field commander Salman Raduev ordered one his close friends, Aleksei Kavtarashvili, a Chechen-Kistin, to work up a plan for uniting with Chechnya those territories of Dagestan and Georgia where their ethnic brethren live. This has forced Tbilisi, in defiance of pressure from the Chechen side, to stall and, under various pretexts, put off the construction of its part of the Djohar-Tbilisi highway. Official Djohar views the road, which connects Chechnya and Georgia, as having great significance, given that it is the republic’s only connection to the outside world which circumvents Russia.