The Russian Caucasus, in particular the provinces (or "republics") of Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan, have been a violent backwater of Russia for centuries. Things are still a mess down there. The three republics have a population of 4.1 million, yet over the Summer, the security forces suffered over 400 casualties fighting terrorists, rebels and locals upset at the corruption, poverty and generally poor government. Last year, the three months of Summer fighting left 250 soldiers and police dead or wounded. In 2007 it was 197, 293 in 2006 and 367 in 2005. For every security force casualty, there are usually two or more among the rebels, or innocent civilians.
The upsurge in violence has several causes. Dozens of Chechen Islamic radicals have returned from defeat in Iraq (some went to Afghanistan). This has resulted in an upsurge of "religious violence" (attacks against non-Moslems and places that sell alcohol or video entertainment.) But there is more anger directed at the government. The Russians have, for a long time, achieved a kind of peace by appointing the strongest local faction or coalition (usually a collection of clan based organizations) to run a republic, and hope for the best. Peace returns for a while, sometimes a long while, but eventually the group in power gets greedy and sloppy, and starts taking a beating. Eventually, the Russians reshuffle the leadership deck, in an attempt to quiet things down.