The Coming Russian Jihad

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

It is estimated that between 5,000 to 7,000 Russian-speaking jihadists have made Russian the second most popular language of ISIL, after Arabic:

With an estimated 2,400 of its citizens fighting with ISIL, Russia is surpassed only by Tunisia and Saudi Arabia in the number of its nationals in the extremist group’s ranks. It is far ahead of the top four European suppliers of ISIL soldiers: France with 1,800 fighters, Britain and Germany with 760 each, and Belgium with 470.


With an estimated 20 million Muslims (14 percent of the population), Russia is the largest Muslim country in Europe outside of Turkey both in absolute terms and as a share of the population. In 2002, the numbers were 14.5 million and 10 percent respectively. The 40 percent increase since 2002 is due mostly to migrants laborers from Central Asia and Azerbaijan: an estimated 6.5 million migrants in Russian today compared to 360,000 in 2002. Between 1.5 and 2 million migrants have also made Moscow the second largest Muslim city in Europe behind Istanbul.

Often without work permits, marginalized, subjected to abuse and extortion as well as not infrequently racist violence, many of these guest workers understandably turn to their faith as a means to sustain dignity. A Tajik, Kyrgyz, or Uzbek who would not have known the way to the nearest mosque in Dushanbe, Bishkek, or Tashkent becomes a practicing Muslim in Moscow, with at least some falling under the influence of hardline clerics. There are only four mosques in Moscow, and the shortage of space forces thousands of believers to gather in private apartments, where radical preachers feel more secure than in public.

The result: With an estimated 300 to 500 ISIL recruiters in the Russian capital, Moscow has become a key hub and a way station to Syria for fighters from Russia and the former Soviet Union. Between 80 to 90 percent of ISIL fighters from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan have been radicalized and recruited while in Russia as migrant workers. According to Russian sources, all of the 300 ethnic Uzbeks who are members of ISIL were recruited during work stints in Russia — as were 80 percent of the ethnic Tajik fighters, including their leader, Nusrat Nazarov. In response, in January of this year, Russia’s Migration Service issued a list of 333,391 Tajiks barred from entering the country. According to the National Security Council of Tajikistan, 700 Tajiks have left for Syria and 300 have been killed there. Nazarov has claimed that there were 2,000 Tajiks with ISIL.

(Hat tip to T. Greer, who says that he “genuinely learned a great deal” from it.)


  1. Adar says:

    Primarily the Chechen boys but not limited to just them.

    One significant feature of the ISIL combatants is the incorporation of foreign fighters in significant numbers. Not since the time of the Spanish Civil War has such a thing occurred.

  2. Lu An Li says:

    Not really Russians, Frenchmen, Swedes, Belgians as those words and terms understood.

    From those places but not of those places.

    “Being born in a barn does not necessarily make one a horse.”

  3. Mike in Boston says:

    Russian, appropriately, has two different adjectives reflecting the distinction Lu An Li draws:

    Rossiiski — of or pertaining to Russia, the country (which includes many non-Russians)
    Russki — of or pertaining to the Russian ethnicity

    The English language misses the distinction, though there is at least the dichotomy “British” vs. “English”.

  4. UKer says:

    Holding a passport of a nation does not mean the holder is that nationality, nor does it even remotely mean the holder (assuming the passport was not forged or illegally obtained) agrees with the current political, social and cultural values of the country that issued the passport.

    There are people in the UK who utterly support ISIS or one of its associated criminal organisations, who do not speak English. They will take the free money and obey the minimum of British law but their interests and loyalty lie with another place or ideals.

    They are free to go and support ISIS but many people who are British in outlook (and who speak English and cleave to the values of these islands) do not want these non-Brits to return to these shores once they have left. Good luck to them in their new home.

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