The North Caucasus: Russia's Volatile Frontier

March 31, 2011 • 5:00 – 6:30 pm EDT

Available Downloads

CSIS Russia & Eurasia Program
An Expert Roundtable on a newly released report:

"The North Caucasus: Russia's Volatile Frontier"



Sergey Markedonov, Visiting Fellow,CSIS 

Andrew Kuchins, Director and Senior Fellow, CSIS
with commentary by:

Thomas de Waal, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment 

Charles King, Professor of Government, Georgetown University 
The continued violence and unrest in the North Caucasus has created a major area of instability for the Russian Federation. While Chechnya is currently relatively more stable under the brutal dictatorship of Ramzan Kadyrov, the neighboring republics of Ingushetia, Dagestan, and Kabardino-Balkaria have experienced significant increases in the frequency of violence.

This roundtable discussion examines factors, including the socio-economic trends in the region; the role of Islam and rise of radicalism throughout the Caucasus; nationalism; and growing ethnic tensions in the regions.


Sergiu Celac, Former Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs (1989 – 1990) and [Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland]: “I listened to the proceedings of the Round Table, and I tend to agree with Professor King’s view that debates of such quality are quite a rare occurrence.”

Armando Marques Guedes, Professor and Political Analyst, Universidad Nova de Lisboa: “[Such discussions] are a must if one wants to understand internal Russian matters, specifically its relations with its southern ‘near abroad.’”

Tigran Martirosyan, Analyst and Visiting Fellow, Fletcher School of International Diplomacy, Tufts University: “[This report] provides some valuable thoughts about the future of the Caucasus. It seems to me that in a decade, we will have a ‘New Middle East’ region in the Caucasus, and the trends in this work give us the opportunity to foresee and deeply analyze oversight future in the region.”

Islam Tekushev, Editor-in-Chief of Caucasus Times and Medium Orient Agency: “Во всем согласен с Сергеем, особенно в той части, где речь идет о ксенофобии и отношению северокавказцев к США. Недавно мы завершили крупный опрос на Северном Кавказе. Выборка 2000 человек. Так вот, в Чечне опрошенные оказались практически единодушны в своем отрицательном отношении к военным акциям США и их союзников в Ираке и в Афганистане. Так, никто из опрошенных жителей чеченской столицы не дал положительной оценки данным акциям.”

[I agree with Sergey on all accounts, particularly the part that considers xenophobia and North Caucasus peoples’ orientation towards the United States. Recently we completed a major survey in the North Caucasus. The poll consisted of 2,000 individuals. The results were such that in Chechnya, the respondents were nearly unanimous in their negative attitude toward U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, none of the surveyed residents in the Chechen capital gave a positive assessment on this front.]

Mitat Celikpala, Professor, Kadir Has University, Istanbul: “I read your report and distributed it to all of the diaspora networks here in Turkey.” 

Dmitry Gorenburg, Harvard University: “I especially like that [the North Caucasus report] does not just assume that all the violence is caused by Islamists, as so many people do, but point out the ethnic nationalist and socioeconomic factors that drive much of the violence.”

Mikhail Mamedov, Georgetown University: “The recent report on “The North Caucasus: Russia’s Volatile Frontier” provides a very interesting and important review of the problems facing Russia in the region today. Terrorist attacks and violence  have taken place in Russia before, but today, the experts agreed, the conflict has already spread from Chechnya to the rest of the region. It is impossible to combat this terrorism by military operations alone.  Besides, the Russian authorities,  often appoint the officials: poorly informed about the peculiarities of the Caucasus like Alexander Khloponin, or corrupt, cruel and immature like Ramzan Kadyrov.
In general, I would like to conclude that Russia indeed needs younger, more motivated and energetic people who would be willing to take the region out of its isolation and to promote cross-cultural exchange. Perhaps they should be people like Mikhail Vorontsov, the mid-nineteenth-century Caucasian viceroy, whose administrative talent and ability to integrate the local aristocracy allowed him to make significant progress in stabilizing the situation in the Caucasus, and only the breakout of the Crimean War disrupted his further plans.” 

Maxim Suchkov, Fulbright Scholar, Georgetown University: “The conference at CSIS on [The North Caucasus] on November 31-December 1, 2010 was one of a few events in Washington that offered a fruitful and profound discussion of Russia's most vulnerable region. At a time when the situation in the North Caucasus once again came under the spotlight, bringing the best expertise of both Russian and American analysts to the roundtable debate promoted a better understanding of the challenges the region poses and ways to address them. Remarkably, the participants moved beyond frequent clichés about the region and offered detailed analyses of a wide range of burning regional issues. Methodologically, the report goes from a wider framework to the specifics: from identifying a major challenge as ethnic nationalism rather than ethnic separatism – a common error many outsiders make – it goes into explaining the dynamics of Islam in the region.” 

Oktay Tanrisever, Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara: “The report on the North Caucasus… [is the] best report that I have read on this topic recently.”

For additional reactions to the report please read an article by Ivan Sukhov, Russian Analyst and regular commentator for (Moskovskie Novosti) at: