- While the Soviet Union escaped the wave of terror that gripped Europe from the late 1960s until the early 1980s, the Russian Federation has not been so lucky. During the first Chechen War, Chechen nationalism and radical Islamism combined, resulting in a homegrown terrorist threat to Russia, both in the North Caucasus and the capital, Moscow.On Boris Yeltsin’s watch, the guerilla leader Shamil Basayev began a terror campaign that would span more than a decade. In 1995, he took 1,500 hostages at a hospital in Budyonnovsk, Stavropol Krai; 166 people died during fighting to free the captives. The following year, 2,000 people were taken captive in Kizylar, Dagestan, resulting in the deaths of two dozen civilians. In 1999, a series of apartment bombings in Moscow killed roughly 300 people just a few months before Vladimir Putin took office as president. Two years later, a bomb blast in Moscow’s Byelorusskaya metro station wounded 15 people. In 2002, Victory Day (9 May) celebrations in the Dagestani city of Kaspiisk were marred by a bomb explosion that killed 42 and injured more than 130 people. On 19 October 2002, a bomb killed one person outside a Moscow McDonald’s restaurant. Four days later, 42 heavily armed men under the leadership of the Chechen guerilla leader Movsar Barayev took over the Dubrovka theater where the play Nord-Ost was being staged. In the ensuing gas attack on the Moscow theater and raid by Russian Special Forces (Spetsnaz), all the terrorists were killed, along with 130 hostages. 2003 was a particularly bloody year; in May, dozens died in bombings in Chechnya. On 5 July, 15 people were killed by a bomb attack on a Moscow rock concert by female suicide bombers, an event that was dubbed the “Black Widow” bombings by the Russian press. Later that summer, explosions killed more than 50 people in a North Ossetiya hospital and seven people on a train in southern Russia. In December, another train bombing in the south claimed nearly 50 lives and a blast in Moscow killed six. On 6 February 2004, a bomb in the Moscow metro left 41 dead. The bombings of two domestic flights claimed 90 lives on 24 August, and on the last day of the month a suicide bomber killed 10 and injured 30 at a northern Moscow metro station.The next morning, the Beslan hostage crisis began when terrorists stormed School Number One during opening day celebrations; when it was over, 344 civilians were dead, the majority of whom were children. In 2005, Chechen rebels attacked federal buildings and police stations in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkariya; the conflict took the lives of 137, including 92 guerillas. Since 2005, however, Russia’s counterterrorism efforts, aided by the de facto end to the second Chechen War, have paid off. In recent years, there have been few terrorist attacks, with the exception of several minor bombings in Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympiad.As president, Putin took dramatic steps to eliminate the terrorist threat, including putting severe restraints on media coverage of ongoing terror-related events, increasing federal security personnel in the North Caucasus, and instituting the appointment, rather than election, of regional governors to strengthen the vertical of power. Putin also increased security precautions in Moscow, particularly in the metro, tourist sites, and shopping areas, and in the vicinity of government buildings. Despite the deaths of nearly 1,000 Russian citizens from terror attacks during his administration, Putin retained the support of the people due to his tough talk and drastic measures to combat the threat of Islamic radicalism.See also Electoral reforms of 2004–2005.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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