Russia's Islamic Threat

Article excerpt

RUSSIA'S ISLAMIC THREAT, Gordon M. Hahn, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2007, 368 pages, $35.00.

Russia's Islamic Threat provides meticulously detailed research and analysis about Islamic separatism in Russia, focusing on two particular areas-the Sufi Islamic North Caucasus (with a special emphasis on Chechnya) and Tatarstan/Bashkortostan, where a jihad movement holds sway.

Hahn sees two types of Islamic separatism in the Russian Federation-violent, radical rebellion, supported by a small percentage of the population in the North Caucasus, and a potentially broader-based and more moderate political movement for self-determination in the Tatar/ Bashkortostan region. At the heart of both Islamic separatist movements lie strong nationalist sentiment, distrust of the Russian Government, and a poor (or worsening) economic outlook.

Hahn asserts that the policies of President Vladimir Putin's regime have fueled Islamic separatism, whether in the radical hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism in the North Caucasus, or in more Russified, secular, and moderate Muslim Tatarstan. Another significant cause of discontent is Putin's anti-federalist policies, which have given much more power to the Russian federal government at the expense of individual Russian states/regions.

The net effect is that Putin is dismantling the "asymmetrical fiscal federalism" established by President Boris Yeltsin that made some concessions to state/regional sovereignty and reduced inter-ethnic competition for resources in potentially unstable regions. …