Dagestan is a constituent republic of the Russian Federation lying between Chechnya and the Black Sea. In late-1999 a wave of massive terrorist bombings of apartments for civilians and military personnel followed Muslim rebel incursions into Chechnya from Dagestan. Russian federal forces repulsed the incursionists. Dagestan is one of the homes of the Lezgin who are mostly Sunni Muslims influenced by the Afghan Al Jihad - they are also based in Azerbaijan and their goal, like the Pushtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, isto unify their homeland into one independent Lezgin state. Apart from Dagestan, it has to be remembered that the Chechen conflict had spilt over into neighbouring Ingushetia and North Ossetia. Chechens had also made incursions into Dagestan to try to capture key targets such as power stations.
1999 was a high point from the point of view of Afghan Arabs in Dagestan who were battling against Russian troops in pursuit of their aim of turning Dagestan into an independent Islamic state.
With regard to the criminality of terrorism, there are a number of sources which can be used. Court proceedings leading to the trial of terrorists are an under used but potentially rich source. Local newspapers give ample coverage to court proceedings, but initially one would use first-hand police records and court proceedings, which provide a narrative account of incidents. Psychiatrists and psychologists have shown that interviews with terrorists in prison are also a valuable source if convicted terrorists are willing to talk. However, in this context the interview situation can be seen as more of an interrogation, perhaps even combined with the threat of torture. Therefore on moral grounds this information is often unusable. Interviews in the real-life environment in which terrorists operate perhaps yield more genuine information but are difficult to obtain. Even more useful are the writings of ex-terrorists who have stayed underground and who keep equal distance from former colleagues and adversaries. Some insight into the style of terrorists can be gleaned.
Memoirs of former terrorists are easier to obtain as a data source, but one has to be aware of the degree to which reminiscences are useful and of the element of self-justification. Terrorists are neither born as terrorists nor are condemned to stay terrorists for the rest of their lives. Some become adherents of violence or become statesmen. Most importantly, memoirs can tell us something about when and why terrorists gave up terrorism or switched to another tactic. The study of post-terrorist careers of terrorists can even yield policy results.
Memoirs are personal histories, often more informed but also more biased than other accounts. Indeed the study of past terrorist organisations and movements can increase our understanding of