MOSCOW (Reuters) - The bloodiest bombing in years in Russias North Caucasus shows that the Afghanisation of the mainly Muslim region is proceeding apace, fuelled by poverty, corruption, clan wars and brutal law enforcement. Analysts said the suicide bombing at a police headquarters in the southern republic of Ingushetia, which claimed at least 20 lives, was the latest blow to the Kremlins dreams of taming violence and buying peace with oil revenues. Across the poor republics which make up the North Caucasus, violence this summer has hit levels unseen for years. Bombings, shootings and kidnappings have blighted in particular southeastern Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan. Svante Cornell, research director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Washington DCs John Hopkins University, said he first coined the Afghan-isation phrase 10 years ago to describe the deterioration of the North Caucasus. Theres a whole mixture of issues that combine to create a very unstable situation similar to Afghanistan in the 1990s, he said. These included the growth of radicals, rampant unemployment and the ineffectiveness of regional government. During Russias economic boom earlier this decade the best the government achieved, he said, was to slow the decline of the situation thanks to liberal use of oil money to boost spending but it did not resolve any of the regions fundamental problems. Now, with less money available and the country in the grip of economic crisis, matters have got worse. The Kremlin had trumpeted Chechnya as a success earlier this year, claiming that normality had been restored thanks to a tough crackdown on rebels pursued by its strongman president Ramzan Kadyrov and a big Moscow-funded rebuilding programme. A suspected attempt on Kadyrovs life followed, along with a spate of killings of human rights activists, Kadyrov enemies and rebels, ruining the image of normality. Unfortunately, Kadyrovs so-called normality was only achieved by mowing down anybody who looked like they might disagree with him; and that just created more violence, one diplomat commented. Kadyrov has denied suggestions that he is behind any of the killings, saying such talk is invented to discredit him. In neighbouring Ingushetia, the Kremlin has pursued a diametrically opposite policy to that in Chechnya. Last October it fired the republics hardline president and installed a new leader, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who won plaudits for a more conciliatory line and a crackdown on corruption. The outcome was no better. Yevkurov himself was almost killed in a suicide bomb attack on his convoy on June 22. He was just about to leave hospital and return to work after weeks of treatment when the latest bomb blast hit Ingushetia. While he was in hospital, his construction minister was shot dead in his office. President Dmitry Medvedev, irritated at the worsening violence, may now scrap Yevkurovs policy of dialogue because of its lack of results and revert to a harder line in Ingushetia. This, say Caucasus analysts, would be a fatal mistake since Yevkurov is pursuing fundamentally sound policies. Some say the recent upsurge in violence in Ingushetia, far from showing failure, is partly a result of Yevkurovs success in cracking down on corruption, which has upset local elites. In fact a civil war is going on in Ingushetia, said Grigory Shvedov, editor of the online journal Caucasianknot.info which tracks violence in the region. The strategy there is a very long-term one that will only succeed with time and support from the centre. Shvedov pointed to what he termed the relative success of conciliatory policies in the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. The situation there is better because those in power tried from the start to build a different model which did not rely on repression, he said. Alexei Malashenko, a Caucasus expert at the Moscow Carnegie Centre think-tank, agreed that it would be a mistake to go down the Chechnya route of repression in Ingushetia. There is no point toughening the policy, this has been tried more than once as a response and never worked, he said. Things need to be changed fundamentally in the Caucasus, but it appears to be too late, things are simply out of control. As long as the violence is confined to the North Caucasus, which has a long history of ethnic strife and bloodshed, a relatively small population and matters little economically, most Russians are unlikely to be overly concerned. But if militants start a campaign of terror attacks in Moscow such as the apartment bombings which swept the city in the 1990s that could all change. Shvedov saw a three in 10 chance of that happening. The Kremlin will also pay a price overseas if it fails in the North Caucasus. Where the North Caucasus really matters is as a barometer of the strength of the Russian state, said Cornell. If Russia is unable to control its own territory, then global respect for Russia as a great power will diminish. (Additional reporting by Oleg Shchedrov; Editing by Jon Hemming)