Russian Prosecutors Claim Terrorism in Dagestan Is Increasing, Governor Says It Is Declining

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 16 Issue: 18

While the governor of Dagestan, Ramazan Abdulatipov, has boasted of a drastic reduction in the number of attacks by insurgents in the republic, the Russian authorities’ statistics indicate that attacks in Dagestan are, in fact, increasing. At a recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow, Abdulatipov claimed that “2014 was the first year that we lived through without terrorist attacks.” He said Dagestan today is 3.2 times safer than the national average in the country: “Some people do not even believe me when I give them these figures, but these are the official figures” (, August 13).

In an earlier interview with the newspaper Izvestia, Abdulatipov said that “in 2010 we had about 300 terrorism related crimes; in 2014, we had only 12. Last year [2014] was the first year we did not have terror [sic] attacks” (Izvestia, July 23). According to Kavkazsky Uzel, eight terrorist attacks took place in Dagestan in 2014, which was a significant drop from the 48 attacks that took place in 2013. The number of casualties in the republic also dropped more than 50 percent in 2014, as compared to 2013 (Kavkazsky Uzel, January 30). Evidently, the problem in counting terrorism-related crimes is at least in part related to differing definitions—that is, what should be considered a “terrorism-related crime” (prestuplenie terroristicheskoi napravlennosti) and what should be considered a “terror attack” (terakt).

Dagestani experts point to a number of irregularities in Abdulatipov’s blissful reports. First, they say that the general level of crime in Dagestan has always been quite low. At the same time, the statistics provided by the Russian prosecutor general’s office indicate that the number of terrorism-related crimes have steadily grown in Dagestan over the past several years, and the republic has been at the top of the list in this regard in Russia at least since 2011. In 2011, prosecutors recorded 220 such crimes in the republic; in 2012, the number grew to 295; in 2013, the number of terrorism-related crimes reached 365; in 2014, that number hit 472. In the first six months of 2015, 352 terrorism-related crimes were already recorded (Kavkazskaya Politika, September 4).

Abdulatipov was picked to replace Magomedsalam Magomedov as Dagestan’s governor in January 2013. Moscow dispatched Abdulatipov to the republic on the premise that he would improve the security situation in the republic. Indeed, at his meeting with President Putin last month, Abdulatipov began his report by saying: “First of all, the main concern and why I was dispatched there [to Dagestan] was to provide the security of the state and the people in the Republic of Dagestan” (, August 13). Not surprisingly, Abdulatipov often talks about the improvement in security in Dagestan because that is primarily what his bosses in Moscow judge him by. The levels of rebel attacks may have subsided recently in Dagestan, but security in the republic is still far from acceptable by any standards.

On September 15, unidentified attackers killed a woman fortuneteller and two men in the village of Rubas, in Dagestan’s Derbent district (Kavkazsky Uzel, September 15). That same day, the authorities introduced a counterterrorism operation regime in Dagestan’s mountainous Gunib district (Kavkazsky Uzel, September 15). Earlier, on September 9, unidentified individuals shot and killed Magomed Khidirov, the imam of the mosque in the village of Novy Kurush, in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district, when he stepped outside the mosque (Kavkazsky Uzel, September 9).

Since Abdulatipov himself says he was sent to Dagestan to improve the security situation in the republic, his apparatchik adversaries may target him for not delivering on his promise, especially given that the republic still lacks stability. The discrepancy between Abdulatipov’s words and the official figures may also be explained by improved statistics, although Russian government agencies have not been known for accurate public reports about insurgent activities.

A more important question is what will happen if Abdulatipov actually succeeds in bringing down the violence in Dagestan to acceptable levels. It remains unclear whether the Islamic State will make significant gains in the republic or whether the Caucasus Emirate, whose leaders were decimated by government forces, will revive itself. If the insurgency in Dagestan does not regroup and continue its operations, Abdulatipov will be able to claim success. Recent attacks in the republic, however, indicate that violence is continuing even without it being explicitly attributed to either the Caucasus Emirate or the Islamic State’s branch in the North Caucasus. Abdulatipov’s “success” may result in the rise of unstructured violence carried out by small groups of insurgents without an overarching organization. The demise of the Caucasus Emirate may also have been the result of an internal crisis that had nothing to do with Abdulatipov. If so, the insurgents are likely to regroup and resume attacks on the same scale as before.