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Terrorism in Russia has a long history starting from the times of the Russian Empire. Terrorism, in the modern sense, means violence against civilians to achieve political or ideological objectives by creating fear. Terrorism tactics, such as hostage-taking, were widely used by the Soviet secret agencies, most notably during the Red Terror and Great Terror campaigns, against the population of their own country, according to Karl Kautsky and other historians of Bolshevism.
Starting from the end of the 20th century, significant terrorist activity has taken place in Moscow, most notably apartment bombings and the Moscow theater hostage crisis. Many more acts of terrorism have been committed in Chechnya, Dagestan, and other parts of the country. Some of them became a matter of significant controversy, since journalists and scholars claimed them to be directed by the Russian secret services, often through their Chechen agent provocateurs.
German Social Democrat Karl Kautsky, Dylan Richards, and other authors trace the origins of Russian terrorism to the "Reign of Terror" of the French Revolution. Others emphasize the role of Russian revolutionary movements of the 19th century, and especially Narodnaya Volya ("People's Will") and the Nihilist movement, which included several thousand followers. "People's Will" organized one of the first political terrorism campaigns in history. In March 1881, it assassinated the Emperor of Russia Alexander II, who twenty years earlier had emancipated the Russian serfs.
Important ideologists of these groups were Mikhail Bakunin and Sergey Nechayev, who was described in Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel The Possessed. Nechaev argued that the purpose of revolutionary terror is not to gain a support of masses, but to the contrary, inflict misery and fear on the common population. According to Nechayev, a revolutionary must terrorize civilians to incite rebellions. He wrote:
Terrorism, both political and agrarian, was central to the strategy of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. The "SR Combat Organization", responsible for assassinating government officials, was led by Grigory Gershuni and operated separately from the party so as not to jeopardize its political actions. SRCO agents assassinated two Ministers of the Interior, Dmitry Sipyagin and V. K. von Plehve, Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich, the Governor of Ufa N. M. Bogdanovich, and many other high-ranking officials.
The policy of Red terror in Soviet Russia served to frighten the civilian population and exterminate certain social groups considered as "ruling classes" or enemies of the people. Karl Kautsky said about Red Terror: "Among the phenomena for which Bolshevism has been responsible, Terrorism, which begins with the abolition of every form of freedom of the Press, and ends in a system of wholesale execution, is certainly the most striking and the most repellent of all.. Kautsky recognized that Red Terror represented a variety of terrorism because it was indiscriminate, intended to frighten the civilian population, and included taking and executing hostages ". Martin Latsis, chief of the Ukrainian Cheka emphasized that Red terror was an extrajudicial punishment:
One of the most common terrorist practices was hostage-taking. A typical report from a Cheka department stated: "Yaroslavl Province, 23 June 1919. The uprising of deserters in the Petropavlovskaya volost has been put down. The families of the deserters have been taken as hostages. When we started to shoot one person from each family, the Greens began to come out of the woods and surrender. Thirty-four deserters were shot as an example".
Islamic terrorism is considered a major threat to the security of the nation with most terrorist activity taking place in Chechnya and Dagestan. Since October 2007, the Caucasus Emirate has withdrawn its nationalist goals of creating a sovereign state in Chechnya. It has since fully adopted the Islamic fundamentalist ideology of Salafist-takfiri jihadism  whose enemies not only include Russia and its citizens, but all non-Muslims, including the local Sufi population, and foreign countries such as the United States, France, United Kingdom, and Israel. They have made numerous references in their speeches that they have declared war on "anyone who wages war against Muslims." The Russian government has banned seventeen terrorist organizations; the Highest Military Majlisul Shura of the United Forces of the Mujahedeen of the Caucasus, the Congress of the Peoples of Ichkeria and Daghestan, Al Qaeda, Asbat an-Ansar, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Al-Jamaa al-Islami, Jamaat-e-Islami, Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Taliban, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Society of Social Reforms (Jamiat al-Islah al-Ijtimai), Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage (Jamiat Ihya at-Turaz al-Islami), al-Haramain Foundation, Junj ash-Sham (Army of the Great Syria), and the Islamic Jihad - jamaat of the mujahedeen.
The Russian apartment bombings were a series of bombings in Russia that killed nearly 300 people and, together with the Dagestan War, led the country into the Second Chechen War. The five bombings took place in Moscow and two other Russian towns during ten days of September 1999. None of the Chechen field commanders accepted the responsibility for the bombing. Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov denied involvement of his government.
The bombings had stopped after a controversial episode when a similar bomb was found and defused in an apartment block in the Russian city of Ryazan on 23 September. Later in the evening, Vladimir Putin praised the vigilance of the Ryzanians and ordered the air bombing of Grozny, which marked the beginning of the Second Chechen War.
Former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, Johns Hopkins University and Hoover Institute scholar David Satter, Russian lawmaker Sergei Yushenkov, historian Felshtinsky, and political scientist Pribylovsky asserted that the bombings were in fact a "false flag" attack perpetrated by the FSB (successor to the KGB) in order to legitimize the resumption of military activities in Chechnya and bring Vladimir Putin and the FSB to power. Researchers such as Gordon Bennett, Robert Bruce Ware, Vlad Sobell, Peter Reddaway and Richard Sakwa have criticized the conspiracy theories, pointing out that the theories' proponents have provided little evidence to support them, and also that the theory ignores the history of Chechen terrorism and threats made by the militants before the bombings.
An official investigation of the bombings was completed only three years later, in 2002. It was conducted by the Russian FSB agency. Seven suspects were killed, six have been convicted on terrorism-related charges, and one remains a fugitive. According to the investigation, all bombings were organized and led by Achemez Gochiyaev - who as of 2007 remained at large.
The Russian Duma rejected two motions for parliamentary investigation of the Ryazan incident. An independent public commission to investigate the bombings chaired by Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev was rendered ineffective because of government refusal to respond to its inquiries. Two key members of the Kovalev Commission, Sergei Yushenkov and Yuri Shchekochikhin, both Duma members, have since died in apparent assassinations in April 2003 and July 2003 respectively. The Commission's lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin has been arrested in October 2003 to become one of the better-known political prisoners in Russia.
|This section's representation of one or more viewpoints about a controversial issue may be unbalanced or inaccurate. (November 2009)|
In order to discredit Russia's government, a former FSB officer Aleksander Litvinenko and investigator Mikhail Trepashkin alleged that a Chechen FSB agent directed the Moscow theater hostage crisis in 2002. Many[quantify] international and Russian journalists accused the FSB of staging many terrorism acts, such as a market-place bombing in the city of Astrakhan in 2001, bus-stop bombings in the city of Voronezh, and the blowing up the Moscow-Grozny train, whereas innocent people were convicted or killed. In an effort to get publicity, journalist Boris Stomakhin claimed that a bombing in Moscow metro in 2004 was probably organized by FSB agents rather than by the unknown man who called the Kavkaz Center and claimed his responsibility. Stomakin was arrested and imprisoned to five years of prison for inciting hatred and defamatory statements aimed at groups and persons of particular religious and ethnic background and for promoting violent change of constitutional regime and violation of territorial integrity of Russian Federation (articles 280 and 282 of the Russian Criminal Code).
Many journalists and workers of international NGOs were reported to be kidnapped by FSB-affiliated forces in Chechnya who pretended to be Chechen terrorists: Andrei Babitsky from Radio Free Europe, Arjan Erkel and Kenneth Glack from Doctors Without Borders, and others.