Daghestan and Chechnya: The Wahhabi Challenge to the State

Abstract: The contrasts and relationships between the Daghestani and Chechen Wahhabi groups are crucial to describing the circumstances that produced the present war in Chechnya. During the 1990s, Daghestan adopted increasingly repressive legislation against the adherents of the minority Salafi (or Wahhabi) strain of Islam. In 1998, due to unrest in Daghestan, several hundred Wahhabis left for Chechnya where they combined forces with rogue Chechen gangs. This exacerbated internal Chechen struggles that turned violent in the summer of 1998. By the following summer, the Wahhabis had openly challenged Chechen President Maskhadov and had staged several attempts to assassinate him. In August 1999, the Wahhabis' return to Daghestan with the avowed aim of overthrowing the Daghestani republican government triggered the second Russian-Chechen war.