Friday, June 3, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Radical Islam Again on the Upswing in Russia, Satanovsky Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, June 3 – The liquidation of Osama bin Laden and Moscow’s military successes in the North Caucasus have inflicted “a serious defeat” to radical Islam in Russia, Yevgeny Satanovsky says, but despite these victories, Islamist radicals are regrouping themselves and present an ever greater threat to the Russian Federation.

In an interview published in the current issue of,” the president of the Moscow Institute of the Near East says that this development within Russia parallels but is not the product of the successes he says Islamists have been having across the Middle East in recent months (

Satanovsky says that he looks with concern “at the situation in Kabardino-Balkaria and in Daghestan, in the republics of the Middle Volga and in major Russian cities,” particularly because it appears the Russia is falling “into lethargy” regarding Islamic extremism and appears to be forgetting that “dragons are reborn,” even if there are only a few teeth left.

Given what he sees and given the threat that comes from Muslims of the Russian Federation who have studied abroad, the Russian specialist on the Middle East, said that it would be a good idea to think about building “a kind of ‘iron curtain’ … for particular groups of people returning to Russian from those Arab and Islamic countries” where there is turbulence.

In addition, he argues, the Russian authorities need to conduct “a serious filtration of the muftiats and begin systematic work with the Muslim population in order that there will appear a certain alternative view to those attitudes which are being introduced into Russia from the outside” at the present time.

Satanovsky suggests that it would be a particular mistake to conclude that there is any link between the destruction of Islamist radicals in the North Caucasus and the death of bin Laden. “No connection exists,” he says, adding that “this is simply a war, a war for years and decades, a war on many fronts.”

“And when on one of the fronts a breakthrough takes place, one should not expect that this will immediately have an impact on another front.” Moreover and perhaps most disturbingly, Satanovsky continues, the movements inspired or affected by the Islamists may take a variety of forms, some very different from what one might expect.

“The ‘golden youth’ from the republics of the North Caucasus and the Middle Volga, living on the territory of Russia, studying at the Institute of Oriental Studies, and appearing on television openly say that ‘the Russian project’ is finished. That is, today here is still Russia but tomorrow will be some kind of jamaar, emirate or separate state.”

Other commentators such as Roman Silantyev, the outspoken specialist on Islam in Russia who has close ties to the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian government, share Satanovsky’s view, but other specialists warn against taking such an apocalyptic view on this issue.

Aleksey Malashenko, a Carnegie Moscow Center scholar, for example, calls such suggestions, especially with regard to the Middle Volga an invitation to “a witch hunt.” In his view, there is no extremism of the kind Satanovsky describes. Indeed, he says, “it is silly to talk about a Salafite threat” (

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