ISSN 2330-717X

FSB Tactics Now Getting In Way Of Fighting Spread Of Islamist Extremism – OpEd


Many more Muslims in Russia are being exposed to Islamist radicalization because of the tactics the FSB is now using to fight that trend, Aleksey Grishin of the Religion and Society Analytic Center says, because jihadists have figured out how to use the FSB’s approach against it for their own purposes.

He tells Artur Priimak of NG-Religii that “junior officers of the special services recruit their own network of agents in the cells of the extremists but the extremists have their instruction: the first time [the FSB approaches] don’t agree, but on the second or third, one can and must” (

By allowing himself to be recruited by the FSB, Grishin says, the extremist can “pursue the goals of his organization on a legal basis under the protection of the special services and count on being defended. When the police catch this extremist ‘red handed,’ the FSB says: ‘Stop, this is our agent!’ Or the reverse.”

“And while the siloviki are questioning one another as to which of the extremists is whose agent, these extremists lead astray loyalists in the Islamist community. They make false reports which allow the officers to gain promotion.” And because a lot of federal money is involved, there is room for corruption.

According to Grishin, at present, “the central apparatus of the Islamic State has as its chief task organizing cooperation with the Federal Penal System, the ministry of internal affairs, and the army who are fighting terrorism.” And that puts both regional officials and loyal Muslims in a difficult position.

“Now,” he says, “a governor cannot telephone the Presidential Administration and ask which imam is pro-Russian or not,” unlike the situation when Vladislav Surkov was the curator for domestic affairs. But that system has collapsed and been replaced by one in which the FSB and its officers in the Presidential Administration run everything.

According to Grishin, at the regional levels, officials are mostly responsible for ensuring that governors look good in Moscow. That means not challenging the FSB officers there, and those are the officers whose tactics are creating conditions for the spread of Islamist radicalism rather than its suppression.

Priimyak quotes Grishin in the course of an article about the decision of officials in the Yamal to retrain local Muslim leaders this fall in an effort to stem the spread of Islamist violence. The NG-Religii reporter also interviews Aleksandr Yarkov, a specialist on Islam at Tyumen State University.

Yarkov suggests there are other reasons for the deteriorating situation in the Yamal as far as extremism is concerned, including the increasing prevalence of imams from Central Asia and the Caucasus instead of natives of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan who better understand “Siberian Islam.”

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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