Grozny: Nine Cities

By Olga Kravets


 

A cross-media project on the aftermath of two Chechen wars between 2009 and 2018: a book, a web-documentary, an exhibition. This is a collaborative project with photographers and filmmakers Maria Morina, Oksana Yushko, Olga Kravets, and curator Anna Shpakova

 
 
Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 9 May 2010. Ramzan Kadyrov greets the widow of a policeman killed in clashes with rebels during a parade celebrating the 65th anniversary of Soviet victory in World War II

Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 9 May 2010. Ramzan Kadyrov greets the widow of a policeman killed in clashes with rebels during a parade celebrating the 65th anniversary of Soviet victory in World War II

 
 

In the Russian imagination, Chechnya, a thousand miles south of Moscow on the edge of the Caucasus mountains, is a place of violence, home to a people who are to be feared and ultimately subjugated, yet awarded the respect one gives to a valiant enemy. Two wars over the span of a decade inflicted costly and traumatic wounds on both sides—Chechen and Russian—and in the end, Vladimir Putin decided to solve the conflict by installing a local proxy to lord over the republic.


Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 9 May 2010. Women waiting to check people’s bags as they go through a metal detector at the boundary of central Grozny, just before a Victory Day parade marking the end of World War II.

Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 9 May 2010. Women waiting to check people’s bags as they go through a metal detector at the boundary of central Grozny, just before a Victory Day parade marking the end of World War II.

 
Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 17 October 2010. A ceremony to bring a long-running blood feud between two teips, or tribes, to an end, outside Grozny

Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 17 October 2010. A ceremony to bring a long-running blood feud between two teips, or tribes, to an end, outside Grozny

Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 10 May 2013. A choir of schoolgirls singing a song dedicated to Akhmad Kadyrov, next to a train carriage commemorating Stalin’s forced deportation of Chechens to Central Asia in 1944. In 1957 Nikita Khrushchev reversed the process.

Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 10 May 2013. A choir of schoolgirls singing a song dedicated to Akhmad Kadyrov, next to a train carriage commemorating Stalin’s forced deportation of Chechens to Central Asia in 1944. In 1957 Nikita Khrushchev reversed the process.

Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 19 October 2010. Outside the Chechen parliament during a terrorist attack on October 19, 2010 in which four suicide bombers detonated explosives, killing three people

Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 19 October 2010. Outside the Chechen parliament during a terrorist attack on October 19, 2010 in which four suicide bombers detonated explosives, killing three people

 
 

Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of an influential Chechen mufti, has fashioned Chechnya in his own image. The republic is now governed by diktats inspired by Sharia jurisprudence and Kadyrov’s personal interpretation of adat, a traditional Chechen code of behavior. His security forces operate with impunity, keeping a lid on terrorism and extremism with brutal and often indiscriminate methods. Kadyrov’s rule may be entirely illiberal, and far from purely faithful to Islamic or even Chechen tradition, but, given the sense of trauma and dislocation after twenty years of conflict, it has many elements that are welcomed by the population.

Olga’s book ‘Grozny: Nine Cities’.

Olga’s book ‘Grozny: Nine Cities’.

 
 Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 29 February 2012

A Soviet-era photograph from the family archive of Taisa Titieva. Rephotographed in 2013


Olga Kravets/NOOR
 Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 29 February 2012

A Soviet-era photograph from the family archive of Taisa Titieva. Rephotographed in 2013

Olga Kravets/NOOR
 Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 29 February 2012

A Soviet-era photograph from the family archive of Taisa Titieva. Rephotographed in 2013


Olga Kravets/NOOR
 

Hardly a day passes in Grozny without a dance performance by a local troupe or an athletic competition featuring Chechen sportsmen. Yet ultimately, Chechnya is most telling for what it says about Russia as a whole. After more than a decade of Kadyrov’s rule, Chechnya has become Russia in miniature, a concentrated tincture of all its habits and instincts and pathologies, with Kadyrov worshiping Putin and consistently enacting the darker urges and impulses of the system that Putin has created.

Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 9 March 2010. Roza Vakayeva in her room in a dormitory for refugees

Russia, Chechnya, Grozny, 9 March 2010. Roza Vakayeva in her room in a dormitory for refugees