Islamism in Chechnya

In the aftermath of last Sunday’s suicide bombing in central Grozny, Ramzan Kadyrov has blamed a Russian citizen, Alexander Tikhomirov, who goes by the name of “Said Buryatsky”. According to Kadyrov, Tikhomirov’s  father was a Buddhist and his mother a Christian, while Tikhomirov himself is now a Muslim convert and preacher whose ideas are alleged to be widely circulated in the Chechen Islamist “underground”. The suicide bomber, a young man called Rustam Mukhadiyev, is supposed to have come under the influence of Tikhomirov’s Islamist preaching.

In this new televised public statement about the bombing, Kadyrov declares that the terrorists “have made it their aim to spill the blood of the Chechen people, but their days are numbered… The police and other law enforcement agencies are on their trail, and the most severe punishment awaits them, the most severe punishment that is envisaged by Russian laws.”

Kadyrov is also reported as saying about the relatives of wanted insurgents: “Either let them go out and destroy their dogs themselves, or let them give them to us!” Among many Chechens this has led to fears of collective retribution.


  1. About Buryatsky, from Jamestown’s North Caucasus Weekly:

    The rebels in the North Caucasus recently gained an important ally—the famous Russian Muslim preacher Said Buryatsky.

    Half ethnic Russian, half Buryat (the Buryats are a minority in Siberia very close to the Mongols), Sheik Said Buryatsky graduated from an Islamic Institute in Egypt several years ago. According to Jamestown’s sources among Moscow Muslims, Buryatsky’s main spiritual teacher in Egypt was Sheikh Mukhammad Khasan, an Egyptian scholar who issued his own fatwa (religious ruling) concerning defensive and offensive Jihad (holy war). According to his fatwa, a defensive Jihad requires every Muslim to defend any Muslim land against infidel aggression while an offensive Jihad is not obligatory.

    Some people say that while studying in Egypt, Said Buryatsky was arrested once by the Egyptian police on charges of extremism. Despite this fact, Buryatsky became one of the leading young Muslim preachers after his return to Russia. Russia’s Muslim community lacks good preachers and Buryatsky has demonstrated good skills as a religious missionary. His emotional sermons are well-constructed, and his knowledge of the Koran and religious literature in general is exceptional. He also speaks fluent Arabic.

    Said Buryatsky used to preach on Radio Islam (which is controlled by the Spiritual Directorate of Russian Muslims and is the main source of propaganda for Islam in Russia). It is astonishing that the Russian authorities allowed Said to preach on the radio for such a long time because some of his sermons sounded clearly Salafi-like. In his sermons, Buryatsky targeted Shias as well as Sufis, calling them people who distort the true Islam. The official Muslim clerics probably overlooked this simply because they needed a preacher as brilliant as Said Buryatsky.

    However, Buryatsky suddenly appeared in Chechnya accompanied by two top rebel leaders of the Caucasian insurgency: Dokka Umarov and Supyan Abdulaev. In a video posted by the rebel Kavkaz-Center website on June 19, Buryatsky stated that after the declaration of a Caucasian Emirate (see Chechnya Weekly, November 1 and 8, 2007) it became clear that the Emirate is what Russian Muslims really need and that all Muslims should support it. Buryatsky called Dokka Umarov “our amir”—meaning “our leader.”

    Buryatsky’s appearance in Chechnya and the recent conference of Sufis in Guderemes demonstrate the important role that religion has started to play in the Chechen conflict, which back in the early 1990s appeared to be simply a political dispute between the federal center and one of Russia’s regions.

  2. The famous Russian Muslim preacher’s real name is Alexander Tikhomirov, though? The Jamestown article doesn’t appear to mention that, or give much information on Mr. Tikhomirov’s pre-Muslim existence…

  3. I suppose that is his real passport name, also confirmed by Kavkazcenter ( Further, some sources on Internet tells that Shaykh Said Buryatskiy (Саид Бурятский) also is known as Said Abu Saad. Anyway, most people know him from the radio as Buryatsky.
    My intention in writing a comment was primarily to present some “objective” facts about the person who now has become the target of Kadyrov’s criticism.

  4. I doubt whether the article is much more “objective” than Kadyrov. At all events, the preacher seems to be a man of many parts, having passed through conversions to Buddhism and Christianity before he arrived at Islam…

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