These two autonomous Caucasian republics have a history of unresolved rivalry that resurfaced immediately after the fall of the Soviet empire in a conflict that ended in 1992. The threat to their stability originated in the Islamic extremism that spread from Chechnya to the whole Northern Caucasus. The Moscow-backed security forces had carte blanche: kidnappings, illegal detentions, and executions blamed on death squads were the order of the day in 2009, when these photographs were taken. In the same year, the people of Beslan, North Ossetia, commemorated the 326 victims, mostly children, of the siege of School no. 1 in 2004. The Russian special forces’ operation to free the hostages had ended in a bloodbath. Moscow declared that the kidnappers were international terrorists affiliated with Chechen separatists.