‘Russian-Speaking’ Fighters in Syria, Iraq and at Home: Consequences and Context (Full report)

‘Russian-Speaking’ Fighters in Syria, Iraq and at Home: Consequences and Context

This substantive report on Russian-speaking foreign fighters and Islamic State’s influence in the North Caucasus has been written by CREST Researcher Cerwyn Moore and ESRC-funded PhD Student Mark Youngman.

Russian speaking fighters full report
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Despite its early and spectacular successes in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State (IS) has, over the last year, suffered repeated setbacks that have weakened its ability to control captured territory and implement its state-building agenda. A key aspect of IS’s strategy has been the mobilisation of supporters across Russia and the former Soviet Union. Other rebel groups in Syria have also attracted support from these areas, illustrating the need for a proper understanding of the Russian-speaking militant milieu, beyond IS’s territorial claims.

The report shows that:

  • Islamic State has established a patchy toehold in Russia, in particular by linking up with a much-weakened domestic insurgency
  • This has lead to a wave of incidents, including an attack in Derbent, Dagestan in December 2015, and an attack in December 2016 in Grozny, Chechnya.
  • Whilst other incidents have been attributed to IS, many of these have been rudimentary attacks
  • The terrorist threat facing Russia is not reducible to IS.

To read the the full report download it here.


This report is available to download in a variety of formats. This page links to the full report. The executive summary can be found here, and a one-page policy brief here.

Russian speaking fighters full reportMark Youngman is an ESRC-funded doctoral student based in the Centre for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Birmingham.

Dr Cerwyn Moore is a CREST-funded researcher and a senior lecturer in International Relations, in the Department of Political Science and International Studies University of Birmingham. He leads CREST’s Actors and Narratives programme.

This report is produced under a Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC-SA licence. For more information on how you can use our content read our copyright page.