North Caucasus

North Caucasus
   Geographically, the North Caucasus, or Ciscaucasia, includes the foothills and mountains north of the Greater Caucasus Range’s watershed, and is bounded by the Black Sea in the west and the Caspian Sea in the east. Politically, the area denotes extreme southern European Russia, and specifically refers to the ethnic republics of Adygeya, Karachay-Cherkessiya, KabardinoBalkariya, North Ossetiya, Ingushetiya, Chechnya, and Dagestan, as well as the krais of Krasnodar and Stavropol. These federal subjects border the southern Caucasian—and thus geographically Asian—states of Georgia and Azerbaijan, as well as the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (though the latter two are sometimes included in the North Caucasus for political purposes). Along with Rostov Oblast, these territories comprise the North Caucasus Economic Region. The area has a long history of civilizational conflict, particularly during imperial conquest (1817–1864) when forced conversion to Christianity and ethnic cleansing created endemic resentments among the indigenous Turkic and Caucasian peoples against their ethnic Russian and Cossack conquerors. During the early Soviet period, the region was briefly united as the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus before being delimited into its constituent ethnic elements during the 1920s. Joseph Stalin’s World War II–era deportations of the Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, and Karachay to Siberia and Central Asia severely disrupted the social fabric of the region and sowed the seeds of future ethnic friction. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the region became a hotbed of conflict and strife.
   In 1989, ethnic violence flared between Orthodox Ossetians and Muslim Ingush, resulting in a three-year, low-intensity conflict. The region was the site of the formation of the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus, a paramilitary organization that intervened in the Abkhaz-Georgian conflict, resulting in accusations of war crimes. In 1991, Chechnya declared independence from the Russian Federation, setting the stage for the first Chechen War in 1994, which proved detrimental to the region as a whole. During the second Yeltsin administration, the North Caucasus was afflicted by increasing Islamist terrorist attacks coordinated by Shamil Basayev. Hoping to create a regional caliphate, Basayev ultimately attempted an invasion of Dagestan, precipitating the second Chechen War in 1999.
   Vladimir Putin used federal troops to crush Chechen insurgents and urged the regional governors to crack down on Wahhabism (vakhabizm). Terror attacks and some guerilla actions, most notably the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis and the 2005 siege on Nalchik, continued until 2005 when the level of violence across the region dropped dramatically. Despite the relative calm, the regional economy remains in shambles and tourism is almost nonexistent. As a result, the North Caucasus remains one of Russia’s most underdeveloped and politically unstable regions.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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