Volgograd terror: revenge of ‘Caucasus Emirate’?

At least 34 people were killed in apparent suicide bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd—the first at the central commuter station Dec. 29, the next the following day on a trolley-bus in a market district. Moscow is stepping up security throughout the country, fearing an effort to disrupt the 2014 winter Olympic Games slated for the Black Sea coastal city of Sochi in February. Police have detained dozens in a sweep of terror suspects in Volgograd, with hundreds more searched or questioned. Reports did not make clear if the detained are Chechens, but did note a threat in a video statement released by Chechen resistance leader Doku Umarov earlier in the year to use "maximum force" to stop the Sochi Olympics. On the day of the first Volgograd blast, Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee boasted that FSB troops had killed a close aide to Umarov in a raid on a safe house in Dagestan. (CNN, Dec. 31; BBC News, The Guardian, Dec. 30; RT, Dec. 29)

The Kavkaz Center website, voice of the Chechen jihadist resistance, did not explicitly take credit for the Volgograd blasts, but called them "a Martyrdom bomb attack" (upper case in original), while referring to Volgograd as "Sara Chin, in Idel Ural near the border with the Caucasus Emirate." Idel-Ural was a short-lived Muslim republic that emerged in the chaos of revolutionary Russia in 1918, before being crushed by the Red Army. Its capital was Kazan, in the contemporary Russian autonomous region of Tatarstan, but the Chechen resistance apparently includes Volgograd in the territory of the Idel-Ural that it hopes to revive, along with the "Caucasus Emirate," a resurrection of the insurgent state established by Muslim rebels in Chechnya and Dagestan the 19th century.

Umarov in his threat against the Olympics, likened holding the Games in Sochi to performing "Satanic dances" on the graves of Muslims killed fighting Russian forces there in the 19th century. (VOA, July 3) Sochi changed from Ottoman to Russian rule in the Russo-Turkish War of 1828, and the Muslim inhabitants of the city put up resistance for years to come. (See Planet Sochi)

The Center for Eastern Studies notes that in the wake of the Volgograd attacks, President Vladimir Putin has ordered his security forces to step up "elimination of militant groups in Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Stavropol Krai." Of course, escalated repression has a habit of merely spurring further attacks—in fact, an aim of such attacks is precisely to unleash repression and fuel the insurgency.

After the 2011 Moscow airport blasts, one of the suspects, a Chechen woman, was arrested in Volgograd, perhaps indicating an underground jihadist network in the city.

Of course the requisite conspiranoia about "false flag" attacks is already emerging. The ever-predictable Kurt Nimmo on InfoWars hyperventilates: "CIA's Chechen Assets Attack Russia Ahead of Winter Olympics." In Russia, however, theorizing is more likely to target Putin himself than the American competition. Readers will recall that the 1999 apartment block bombings in Moscow and two other Russian cities did for Putin what 9-11 did for Bush, igniting a new war with Chechnya, propelling the hardline Putin into the Kremlin—and sparking a frenzy of conspiracy theories.