Three years ago, Russia believed that it had defeated the Islamic terrorist movement in Chechnya. But the terrorists have not been completely destroyed, and kept trying to organize attacks inside Russia. While the Islamic terrorism is new, unrest in Chechnya isn't.
When Chechnya first tried to separate itself from Russia (after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991), Russia responded with an inept military operation (1994-6) that killed over 35,000 people, and failed. Russia withdrew and left the Chechens to their own devices. In effect, the Chechens could pretend they were independent, while the Russians pretended they weren't. Problem was, the Chechens could not agree on how to form a unified government, and stumbled into a perpetual civil war. Along the way, some factions adopted Islamic radicalism, and tried to spread their "Islamic rule" into adjacent areas, that were still very much under Russian control. Other, less religious, factions, used Chechnya as a safe haven for smuggling and kidnapping operations throughout southern Russia.
In 1999, the Russians came back in, and the second pacification campaign made greater use of commandoes and better trained and led troops in general. This campaign killed about 5,000 people, but succeeded. The main reason for the success was the use of an ancient Russian technique. Basically, the Russians sought out Chechens who would be willing to run Chechnya, under Russian supervision, as long as they could keep the crime and terrorism under control. The Russians didn't care how "their Chechens" did it, as long as there was not a return to the 1994-9 era of rampant criminal activity. And no Islamic terrorism either. Over the last five years, the violence, and Islamic terrorism inside Chechnya, and Russia, declined.
Russia has been periodically pacifying Chechnya for two centuries using these techniques. While the mass media condemned Russia for its brutal tactics, the Russians didn't care. They didn't care in the past, when criticized by foreign governments and media. They don't care, because they know they'll have to do it again in the future. Meanwhile, with the Chechnya problem "solved," Russia sought to improve its relations with Moslem nations, as a way to immunize itself from additional Islamic terrorism. Russia's new Moslem friends were less likely to support Islamic radicals trying to gain a foothold among Russia's growing Moslem population. Russian diplomatic efforts were supported by offers to sell weapons and providing diplomatic support in the UN, and in other international venues. This has worked, and Russia is now much more popular in Moslem nations, despite the defeat of the Moslem people in Chechnya.
When reminded of this, the Russians merely point out that, for the most part, it's Moslems killing Moslems in Chechnya, and that sort of thing is accepted throughout the Moslem world. But bombs going off in Moscow kills non-Moslems, and the government responds savagely to that. The government has announced that the security forces have been ordered to use "more aggressive" tactics against the Islamic terrorist groups in the Caucasus. This will work. Russia will be criticized for using arbitrary arrest and torture of non-Slavs throughout the country. Russia won't care, and will do what it has long done when it felt threatened.
Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia have long been troubled by corruption and crime. This breeds unrest among the population, and with the Internet, it's easier for the angry young men to get organized, and dangerous.
April 1, 2010: In Dagestan, a car bomb went off prematurely, killing two people and wounding another.
March 31, 2010: In Dagestan, two suicide bombers killed twelve people in Dagestan. Chechen terrorist leader Doku Umarov took credit for the recent attacks. Umarov took over leadership of Islamic terrorists in the Caucasus four years ago. Russia had killed a number of Islamic terrorist leaders by that time, and Umarov spent several years getting his organization out of Chechnya (where it was too difficult to operate) and into neighboring areas (Dagestan and Ingushetia).
March 30, 2010: The two Moscow bombers were identified as Chechen women, probably widows. Persuading widows to become suicide bombers is easier in Islamic or Caucasus cultures because windows have a harsh life, and revenge is a big deal. Female suicide bombers have been used before, and came to be called "Black Widows."
March 29, 2010: In Moscow, two suicide bombers detonated their explosives in the subway, killing 43 and wounding nearly a hundred. This was the first major terror attack in Moscow in six years.