The Trade-Offs between Security and Civil Liberties in Russia's War on Terror: The Regional Dimension

By Abdullaev, Nabi; Saradzhyan, Simon | Demokratizatsiya, July 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

The Trade-Offs between Security and Civil Liberties in Russia's War on Terror: The Regional Dimension


Abdullaev, Nabi, Saradzhyan, Simon, Demokratizatsiya


This article begins by outlining our methodology, including an explanation of the criteria used to select the research period and the regions3 to be studied, as well as a list of the watch points used to evaluate the scale of terrorist threats, the effectiveness of authorities' responses to these threats, and the impact on civil liberties.

This article has an overview of the horizontal escalation of the terrorist threat in Russia, the authorities' responses to this escalation, and the impact of their responses on liberties in 2000-04. The empirical data covering the regions in question-the Chechen Republic (Chechnya), the Republic of Dagestan, Moscow, and St. Petersburg-came not only from open sources, but also from interviews with experts and officials, inquiries with relevant government agencies, and extensive field research.

This article explains why official antiterrorist efforts largely failed in three of the four regions over the researched period, and has policy recommendations on what authorities should do to break the vicious circle of suppression and resentment. The recommendations are followed by appendixes that list and describe the most significant terrorist attacks in the Chechen Republic, the Republic of Dagestan, Moscow, and St. Petersburg in 2000-04.

Methodology

Definition of Terrorist Attack

There are differences in the expert and academic communities as to what constitutes a terrorist attack. This article uses the definition that is common among experts on this subject: an act of political violence that inflicts harm on noncombatants, but is designed to intimidate broader audiences, including official authorities, and is an instrument of achieving certain political or other goals.

Researched Period

The terrorism threat in Russia made a qualitative leap in 1999, when a wave of apartment building bombings rocked three Russian cities, including the capital. We chose, however, to analyze the period of 2000-04, because it coincides with President Vladimir Putin's first term in office.4 Although Putin formulated the executive branch's antiterror policy after becoming director of the Federal security Service (FSB) in 1998, he did not have the opportunity to implement his vision until he was elected president in the spring of 2000.

During his first term, Putin slowly reversed the policies of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin preferred a decentralized administrative model for ruling the country, giving broad powers to the regions, while largely avoiding the suppression of civil liberties-except in Chechnya-even during the first Chechen war. Putin, by contrast, believes that only a highly centralized government can prevent the disintegration of Russia at the hands of North Caucasian separatists and terrorists. He continues to act on this belief, staunchly implementing a national security model for fighting terrorism that suppresses civil liberties for the collective good.

Researched Regions

The research in this article focuses on two Russian territories-the Chechen Republic and the Republic of Dagestan-and two cities-Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Dagestan and Chechnya are paired together because both suffer from terrorism and a suppression of civil liberties. Both republics are largely Muslim and their political, economic, and social realities are shaped by clan rivalries. Both are behind the majority of other Russian regions in terms of economic and social developments and both have a mountainous terrain that is advantageous for terrorists.

Moscow and St. Petersburg are paired together because these cities are the largest business, cultural, and administrative centers in Russia. They outperform other territories in terms of economic and social developments. Their residents enjoy a relatively high level of freedom. Both cities have a large community of people from the North Caucasus, but only in Moscow have people from this community assisted in organizing terrorist attacks. …

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