Julia Sweet

Julia Sweet

PhD Candidate,
Rutgers University, NJ

Elena Pokalova. CHECHNYA’S TERRORIST NETWORK: The Evolution of Terrorism in Russia’s North Caucasus. 2015

With the rise of terrorism in the Russian Federation, many scholars try to study the development of jihadi movements in the North Caucasus. Elena Pokalova provides an authoritative and deep analysis on the counterterrorist policy of the Russian government and the evolution of the Russia-Chechnya conflict, which became the only hot spot within the Russian Federation where the authority employed military forces in order to restore the state’s sovereignty. Not only the study presents a valuable overview, but it also considers the conflict in terms of the global scale, showing readers the much bigger perspective for this local conflict.

The red web: the struggle between Russia’s digital dictators and the new online revolutionaries. By Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan. New York: Public Affairs. 2015.

This book is a valuable addition to the growing body of material on the most hidden parts of the history of the Soviet Union and modern Russia such as state surveillance, the control over informational flows, and the history of various technologies.

It is not new that the presence of terrorist groups in cyberspace has increased every year. Almost every terrorist group has its own niche on the Internet, which provides endless opportunities in terms of mobilization, radicalization, the dissemination of radical ideas, training, the gathering of useful information, financing, etc. Nonetheless, the Islamic State’s approach to the use of the Internet has become revolutionary and versatile compared to the online activities of other terrorist groups.

Nowadays, it is almost impossible to find a jihadist organization which does not have its own online niche because the Internet provides endless opportunities for extremists, helping to override many traditional problems. Given this operational shift, counterterrorist policies have to be revised and adjusted in order to successfully prevent terrorist activities. Also, control over the online terrorist activities is of utmost importance because, as the attack of the Chechen Tsarnaev brothers in the Boston Marathon shows, counter terrorist professionals underestimated the significance of cyberspace and information collected there.

Research on the insurgency and the appearance of local jihadist groups within the North Caucasus after the dissolution of the Soviet Union has been dominated by studies of the uneasy history of Islam under Russian rule, the oppressive post-colonial political rhetoric in handling insurgencies, Chechen wars in the 1990s, and the Russian militaristic counterterrorism approach.

In May 2016, Al-Hayat Media Center of the Islamic State released a new issue of Russian magazine “Istok”, which contains an article about so-called Russian secret service spy, Elvira R. Karaeva. Despite the silence of government officials, who refrain from commenting on this situation, it is highly unlikely that Elvira used to be a spy.

The Islamic State has presented to the global community a new extent of cruelty and barbarity with enormous and dangerous destabilizing impacts on regional as well as global levels. This jihadist group is associated with beheadings, the burgeoning of sexual slavery, crucifixions, the annihilation of Christian and Yazidi groups. Its strong reliance on online propaganda and focus on digital technology add power and strength to this organization. Given ISIS’s militant capabilities, limitless brutality, pervasive ideological foundation, and territorial outreach (online and ground), this group is an imminent threat to peace and stability not only within the Middle East, but for every member of the world community. Abdel Bari Atwan’s volume seeks to explain ISIS’s success in terms of its approach to social media.

In recent years, Russian society has increasingly acknowledged terrorism as a national and global threat. Terrorism, with its   significant uncertainty in both the likelihood of occurrence as well as the extent of its consequences, infuses certain public fears and concerns.

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