Russia's Caucasian flashpoints
A factfile on the troubled Caucasus republics of southern Russia:
CHECHNYA: Chechnya unilaterally proclaimed independence from Russia in late 1991, just before the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia fought two wars to crush separatist rebels in the 1990s and continues to have sporadic clashes with them even after imposing a pro-Moscow regional government. Chechen rebel forces led a fierce independence fight in which as many as 100,000 civilians -- about 10 percent of the population -- are feared to have been killed since 1994.
DAGESTAN: The biggest of Russia's Caucasus republics, mainly-Muslim Dagestan has been the scene since 1999 of incursions by Chechen rebels, in which several hundred people have been killed. Dagestan kept out of the first Chechen war though it was used by the Chechens as a supply corridor. In 1999, homegrown Muslim radicals were joined by guerrillas from Chechnya in an attempt to establish an Islamic state that was quickly stamped out by the Russian army.
INGUSHETIA: Ingushetia, a sister republic to Chechnya inhabited by a related ethnic group, is one of Russia's poorest regions. There has been some spillover from the Chechen conflict, and members of the military and police are regularly targeted in Ingushetia amid frequent clashes between security forces and pro-Chechen rebels. Ingushetia's president Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, was seriously injured in June 2009 in an assassination attempt.
NORTH OSSETIA: North Ossetia, one of the smallest Russian republics, hosts the main Russian military base in the Caucasus and has historically had closer ties to Moscow than any other republic in the region. In 1992, more than 500 people died in a brief ethnic conflict pitting North Ossetia against Ingushetia over a disputed region. In 2004, armed rebels seized a school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan and 334 hostages, mostly children, were killed in the ensuing bloodbath.
KABARDINO-BALKARIA: In July militants burst into a hydroelectric plant in Kabardino-Balkaria, killing two people and setting the power plant on fire with a string of blasts.
On October 15, 2005 137 were killed, including 92 rebels when the regional capital Nalchik came under attack by rebels from nearby Chechnya.
© 2010 AFP