After that, he turned his brief career as a guerrilla into a seamless Internet narrative. He admitted his initial apprehension toward joining the guerrillas. Would he be up to it? Was it a trap? In the end, he apparently didn't hesitate long and quickly emerged as a key face in the movement -- "the main ideologue," as Russian officials called him. Buryatsky continued his Internet preaching and groomed suicide bombers. Last June, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, president of Ingushetia, a federal republic in southwestern Russia, was badly injured by a suicide bomber said to have been trained by Buryatsky. In a talk a few months later, Buryatsky disdainfully referred to what he called Yevkurov's low IQ and "provincialness." In August, more than 20 policemen died when another Buryatsky disciple drove a minibus filled with explosives into a police compound in the Ingush city of Nazran. Buryatsky, wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans with a large handgun tucked into them, contributed an introduction to the film of the attack. His later videos had a more frenetic edge: As he talked of jihad, Buryatsky simultaneously loaded weapons for some unexplained combat.
Now that he is gone, Buryatsky is quickly becoming an online legend, reinforced by his letters, now being selectively released by guerrilla websites. They depict his hatred for "dying Russia" and the "pigs" who serve it, and his own growing obsession -- a "wild hunger" as he called it in one letter -- to become a shahid, or martyr. It would not be surprising if his last message -- the one filmed on his phone and later confiscated by the FSB -- surfaces on some guerrilla website, leaked by sympathizers inside the local police.
Even with the absence of what he said in his final moments, however, Buryatsky's story catches the profound changes that have taken place in the North Caucasus in the past decade. The first Chechen war, from 1994 to 1996, was largely a secular struggle waged by people who wanted to live independently from Russia. The current conflict is being fought for an Islamist state across the North Caucasus, and ultimately beyond. The soldiers this time are fighters who, like Buryatsky, dream of dying a martyr's death. Perhaps for this reason, no one on the Russian side -- not even those with a personal score to settle -- showed much relief at Buryatsky's death. His old nemesis Yevkurov remarked that another ideologue is bound to emerge to take his place. Maybe next time, he said, it will be "some Said the Chinese." Unfortunately, for the Ingush president, Buryatsky's message of jihad may well have traveled that far.