Islam in Chechnya: The Roots of Conflict


The Islamic religion in present day Chechnya is merely an aspect of Chechen nationalism, which serves as an object of unity among a diverse and often intraconflictual Chechen population. Throughout the short history of the presence of Islam within Chechnya its importance within the society has fluctuated depending upon the social conditions both from within and internationally. For the purposes of this research I have focused on the impact of Russian expansion into Chechnya upon the role of Islam within that nation. I have found that Islam in Chechnya takes an increasingly prominent position as a result of Russia's continued attempts to exert pressure upon the population to Russianize and concede to its authority, thus confirming my hypothesis.

Through my research I have followed the relationship between Russia and Chechnya beginning with their earliest contacts, focusing on the changing nature of the Chechen people and culture as Islam becomes more ingrained into the beliefs and values of the entire society. There are four dominant time periods of relevance to Chechen history: 1. Pre-Russia; 2. Tsarist Russia; 3. Soviet Russia; 4. Post- Soviet Russia. In the different time periods Islam serves different rolls, ranging from uniting the Chechen people in military struggles against Tsarist occupation, to preserving the Chechens' distinct cultural heritage after Stalin's implementation of likvidatsia; the period of Chechen deportation from 1944-1953. One must be especially mindful of my conclusions when analyzing the current conflicts between Chechnya and Russia where the internal landscape of Chechen culture as been altered with the infiltration of Wahhabi Muslims into Sufi dominated Chechnya.

These outsiders represent a faction of mujahedin who view the struggle in Chechnya as one of lslam against the west, completely discounting the nationalistic elements of the struggle. These trespassers into the domain of Sufism have clouded the nature of the conflict, allowing the Russian leadership to legitimately portray the Chechen rebels as terrorists. Though strides have been made on both sides to initiate talks, it seems as though much time will pass before this conflict can be brought to a head. For as long as the Russians have been present in the North Caucasus region, blood has continued to spill. This trend will continue unless both sides of this conflict can come to an understanding of one another's culture and belief system. The case study I present here does not provide evidence for a clash of civilizations, with Islam pitted against the west, as many would hope to believe. The conflict represents a throw back to the imperialistic struggles of the nineteenth century preserved into the twenty-first. The Chechens maintain the simple desire for self-determination, which has been decreed as a legitimate cause for rebellion. The conflict will not end until this fact is realized.


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Thesis Completion





Sadri, Houman A.


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program

Political Science


Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences; Chechnia (Russia) -- Religion; Islam and state -- Russia (Federation) -- Chechnia







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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