Guest warriors: The phenomenon of post-soviet fighters in the Syrian conflict

Azamat Sakiev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


A puzzling aspect of the Syrian war has been the seemingly endless infusion of foreign fighters who have fueled and sustained the conflict. Unique among these are the militants from former Soviet regions such as Northern Caucasus in Russia and republics of Central Asia. In the evolving complexity of a layered and multifaceted conflict, it is easy to overlook the incongruousness of their presence in the conflict. Unlike most other foreign fighters, including those joining from Western Europe and North America, the post-Soviet militants lack the ethno-linguistic ties to the region. Rather, they hail from areas steeped in comparatively secular traditions and largely detached from the central tenants of the Syrian war. This makes their presence among extremist groups, such as the Islamic State, somewhat intriguing and anomalous. A key question, therefore, is why would these individuals join what to them in many ways is an alien war with extremely prohibitive costs? This articles proposes, as complementary to the dominant religious-ideological accounts, an explanation rooted in the enabling effect of marginalization processes in militants’ domestic settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-200
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Eurasian Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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