Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ISIS Launches Internet Channel in Russian Directed at Post-Soviet States

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – The Islamic State has set up a division which is distributing materials in Russian not only on a website – which the Russian authorities have already blocked -- but also via Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks – which some of them have removed -- in order to reach residents of the Russian Federation and other post-Soviet states.

            Nonetheless, much of its content is getting through both via screenshot and the multitude of personal pages that various ISIS supporters maintain, thus limiting the impact of the blocking and removal of such sites and increasing the nervousness of officials in post-Soviet capitals about these channels.

            This is a matter of particular concern in Russia where many of the Muslims whom ISIS may hope to recruit do not know Arabic, the language in which most ISIS propaganda appears. Consequently, such a site or postings on social networks may attract people who otherwise would not know about the Islamic State’s message.

            In today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Vladimir Skosyrev describes how the ISIS Russian language effort came into existence. The first such materials appeared at the end of 2012 and were directed almost exclusively at Russian-speaking militants already fighting in Syria.  At that time, there were from 2,000 to 4,000 of such people (

            Many of those, the journalist says, were recruited by ISIS in Moscow from among gastarbeiters there. They were also reached by another predecessor site that was founded by Chechen militants in that country. Headed by Omar ash-Shishani, that site became part of the ISIS stable when the Chechen declared his allegiance to the Islamic state.

            “The main goal” of this ISIS program, Skosyrev continues, is “to build bridges between the militants in Syria and Iraq and those residents of the North Caucasus” who may be sympathetic to it.  But a second goal is to reach Russian speakers from elsewhere in the former Soviet space as well as ethnic Russians.

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