Today, the ideology of the Caucasus Emirate is a subject of controversy mixed with delusion. Gone are the days of the nationalist guerrilla insurgency which sought to establish an independent Islamic state in Chechnya and Dagestan. Even during the early 1990s, the nationalist banner struggled with radical Salafism propagated from Saudi Arabia, introduced by foreign fighters such as Ibn al Khattab and Abu Umar al-Saif, and then adopted by local jihadist leaders including Shamil Basayev, Anzor Astemirov and later by Said Buryatsky and Doku Umarov. As the 1990s and early 2000s progressed, the rise of Salafist ideology within the Caucasus insurgency became more apparent while secular nationalism was increasingly decaying.
The explicit transformation occurred on October 7, 2007 when leader of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), Doku Umarov, disbanded the ChRI to establish the Caucasus Emirate, shifting its objective to create an Islamic State based on Sharia law within the entire North Caucasus between the Black and Caspian Seas. However, many security scholars and experts have failed to acknowledge the conversion. It became readily apparent after the terrorist attacks in Boston in April 2013 committed by the Tsarnaev brothers of ethnic-Chechen background, when expert and lay person alike questioned, “Why do Chechens want to attack the United States?” University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, an expert on jihad in Chechnya, who corresponded with Jokhar Tsarnaev via email before the attacks, continues to argue that the Caucasus Emirate is not a Salafist group linked with al Qaeda, but instead that the movement has fallen victim to “years of Russian disinformation, 9/11, and a sloppy American media.” Many in the media acknowledge that the Caucasus Emirate is an Islamist radical group but do not make a distinction as to what school of Islamist thought they observe. Some analysts have defined the Caucasus Emirate as Salafist but have not engaged in thorough analysis to present solid evidence based on ideological precepts. This gap between labelling and a wealth of conclusive evidence readily available to those interested on learning about the Caucasus Emirate and the insurgency in the North Caucasus has only led to the confusion and delusion that is spoken of today by experts and the general public. Welcome and beneficial efforts have been made by a few experts on insurgency in the North Caucasus who have correctly identified the metamorphosis of the jihad in the North Caucasus, such as Pavel Baev, Gordon Hahn, Alexander Knysh, Sergey Markedonov and Emil Souleimanov as one that adheres to Salafist-takfiri jihadist ideology.
The aim of this paper is to firmly conclude why the Caucasus Emirate is a Salafist-takfiri jihadist terrorist group by analyzing speeches made by the leaders of the Caucasus Emirate and the messages promoted on their many websites and internet-based propaganda platforms. Their rhetoric will be matched with the core tenets of this ideology. Furthermore, this paper will underline why the Caucasus Emirate has long been a threat to international security interests and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.