Soldiers file into a building bearing Arabic script.

The Coming Of The Russian Jihad: Part I

September 23, 2016
Leon Aron
This article originally appeared on the War on the Rocks blog.

On June 28, three suicide bombers entered the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, where they killed 45 people and injured 229. Although only one of the terrorist was from Russia (the other two were Uzbek and Kyrgyz), it is almost certain that that their last words to one another were in Russian. 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.

The Changing Demographics

That Russian should be the lingua franca of jihadists from the former Soviet territory is surprising. Many, perhaps most, younger Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Uzbeks (judging by the gastarbeiters from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan) do not know Russian well or even at all. That Russia is becoming widely-spoken is indicative of the explosive internationalization and the vastly expanded recruitment patterns of what might be called the Russian Jihad based in Russia and former Soviet Central Asia.

Continue reading at War on the Rocks. 


Leon Aron

Leon Aron is a resident scholar and the director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Photo credit: Flickr photo by Israel Defense Forces shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC 2.0) license.