Further confirmation of the transformation of the Chechen war into a wider Chechen-Ingush war came last week as a Chechen extremist website reported the proclamation by Ingush rebels of a jihad extending over the entire territory of Ingushetia. The proclamation, summarized by the Newsru.com website on July 8, proclaimed that violent struggle against the “occupiers” of the republic is “a direct obligation for each adult, right-thinking Muslim man until Ingush soil is cleansed of occupation, infidelity and injustice.”
The statement accused federal troops in Ingushetia of “the most unbelievable crimes,” which it linked to the territorial quarrel between Ingushetia and North Ossetia: “Russian troops together with Ossetian forces took part in the theft of Ingush territories and expelled Ingush from their homes.” Thus it carried the implicit threat of widening the war still further—calling for “the liberation of all the territories which have been seized [by the ‘occupiers’], including the foothills district [the area which the federal center transferred from Ingushetia to Northern Ossetia]. The statement also called for the establishment of an explicitly Islamic state in Ingushetia, and for the execution of any Ingush who cooperate with the federal forces.
In a Radio Liberty talk show broadcast on July 9, a former Minister of Information in Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration, Ruslan Martagov, made it clear that in his view the current expansion of the war is an inevitable result of the federal government’s policies. “In the center,” he said, “are forces interested in the further escalation of tension not only in Chechnya and Ingushetia, but across the entire North Caucasus. Just consider: In spite of years of war, with expenses in the billions and thousands of deaths, not one military officer or civilian official has been punished either for his misdoings or for his failing to do what he should have been doing.” He accused the authorities of “conducting massive, unjustified repression against peaceful residents under the banner of fighting terrorism—and by arousing them to rebellion by means of that very repression. That is precisely what we saw in Chechnya, in both the first war and the second.”
Russian ethnographer Sergei Arutiunov expressed a somewhat different view on the same broadcast. He told Radio Liberty’s listeners that the new, “very serious” declaration of jihad in Ingushetia should be seen primarily not as an appeal to religious beliefs but as “a political, national-liberation document.” He denied that Wahhabi beliefs had sunk deep roots in Ingushetia, but suggested that the republic’s past loyalty to Russia had been based on the belief that the foothills district would be returned from Northern Ossetia. Now that it is clear that this is not going to happen as long as Vladimir Putin is president, the Ingush “have decided that they have nothing further to lose—that they have already lost as much as they will.” He called the jihad declaration “a call to a nationalist, anti-Russian uprising.”
Even more seriously, Arutiunov suggested that this call might be popular even beyond the borders of Chechnya and Ingushetia. In Dagestan, for example, the “consensual democracy” which has balanced the republic’s various ethnic groups is now “being short-sightedly broken up” and replaced with a centralized “vertical” executive headed by “an Avar-Dagestani elite which is thoroughly corrupt and thoroughly hated by most of the populace.” The ethnographer also saw fertile soil for an uprising to the west of Ingushetia, in the republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, where the Karachai still remember the trauma of their own forced exile under Stalin.