August 13, 2015:
Russian police recently announced that they had identified and are investigating three young Chechen women for Internet based crime. In this case the three ladies were in need of some cash for vacations and found that ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) had an active recruiting program online looking for young Moslem women willing to move to the new “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq and marry holy warriors (for a while, anyway, few of these guys last more than a few years). The three women had apparently scammed ISIL a few times already when the Russian Internet police came upon them. The question is whether the three women will be punished or given medals.
The scam required a good knowledge of Islam and being from Chechnya (and knowing what was going on there) was a big plus because Chechens are among the most respected ISIL fighters. What ISIL missed was that this same fearlessness, ingenuity and can-do attitude has also made Chechens the most successful and feared members of organized crime in Russia. The three women scamming ISIL recruiters found ways to get the ISIL men to send them money to travel from Chechnya to Syria. One the money was received the three ISIL brides suddenly disappeared, along with the cash, from the Internet. The three then invested new online identities and did it again. The Chechens were using those same qualities that made Chechens feared warriors and gangsters against victims who were often Moslems living in the West or oil-rich Persian Gulf countries. These ISIL fanboys were way outmatched. It is expected that the three Chechen women will be able to bargain their way out of trouble by providing Russian intelligence with lots of details on how ISIL recruiting works.
For the people of the Caucasus in general and those of Chechnya in particular scamming Islamic terrorists via the Internet is just another day at work. Outlaw behavior had been endemic to the region for centuries, especially among the Chechens. The region is similar to Afghanistan, in that for thousands of years survival was a matter of hiding (from armies moving between the Middle East and the great plans of Eurasia) in the mountain valleys, depending on clan organizations for survival, and doing whatever it took to make a living. Russia has controlled the region (or most of it) for nearly two centuries now and the locals (especially the Chechens) developed new traditions that are based on ripping off the Russians. This always made the Russians nervous because the Chechens were quite good at conning the czar's officials, and their communist successors, and the Russians never came up with a way to avoid being taken advantage of.
While the media likes to play up "terrorism in Chechnya," the main problem is that the Chechens (and their fellow Caucasians) have always been difficult to rule, much less control. This "Chechen Problem" has been on Russia's agenda since the 18th century, and nothing has really worked. Even Stalin deporting most of the Chechen population to Central Asia during World War II (when it was feared the approaching Nazis would find welcome allies among the Chechens) didn't fix the problem. This merely gave Chechens opportunities (usually criminal) throughout Russia. A decade later, the Chechens were allowed to return to Chechnya, where they did not get along with the Russians, and others, who replaced them after the removal. Chechnya is not a new problem, it's an old one that won't go away. What is going away is the non-native population of the Caucasus, which makes it even more difficult to keep the peace in the region.