Chechen Republic: the spirit of unconquered people

Main facts:

  • Administrative center: Grozny

  • Federal District: Caucasus region

  • Language(s): Chechen, Russian

  • Population: 1,436,000

  • Timezone: UTC+3

  • Main religion: Islam (Sunni)

Top 10 attractions:

Sights map of Chechen Republic

Travel around Chechen Republic

Chechen Republic, Chechnya. Probably, there is not a single person in Russia who has never heard of this region. As many people, as many opinions about what kind of place is it. From many of my friends, I have often heard negative words about Chechnya. They say that Chechnya is a very dangerous place, where only Muslims recognize and they love only Chechens, that there are weapons and extortion in everyday life, and even that this region is not at all part of Russia, but is a separate country! But I am not one of those people who believe others by their word without evidence, and also love to explore new places and study cultures on their own, so I decided to visit this republic and see everything with my own eyes! I was never regretted it.

For all travelers and tourists it is important to know a few things about the Chechen Republic. The first is that the norms of Islam and the Koran are highly honored here, which imposes a number of restrictions on the type of clothing, alcohol consumption in general (not only in public places) and insults to people (everyone without exception). Also, according to the traditions of the Muslim faith, there are a number of special rules for men and women, the relations between the sexes are regulated and, in general, it is accepted to observe the norms and traditions of Muslim culture. This is important to keep in mind in order not to get into misunderstandings with the locals. In other words, "when in Rome do as the Romans do". If you follow these simple settings, be tolerant and open, the Chechen Republic will open for you from a completely unexpected, pleasant and hospitable side.

Coming to Chechnya, it is important to know several features of local tourism. The first point: it is very bad with public transport. And it's not even that it is sometimes absent at all, or it does not go on schedule, but that you never know for sure where it comes from and where it will go. I personally encountered “excellent” public transport system in Grozny, where only route taxis are presented, traveling along the routes only they know. For reasons that are not clear to me, there are almost no public transport stops in the city, and therefore you will never know for sure where the route taxi will stop, you must always “vote”. Another point is that you should always declare about stopping in mouth, because there are stops here wherever you need them, not where they formally are. And one more aspect: if you are thinking of visiting other cities or settlements in the republic, I sincerely recommend to rent a car, or better to come on your own. This will save you from a huge number of logistical problems and headaches associated with finding directions, schedules, and frequent loss of time and money. But with housing in Grozny everything is fine - every tourist will be met as a dear guest, everyone will be jentle and told you everything you need. It is also important to take into account that everyone here speaks only Chechen, you even rarely meet Russian speech; here's almost nobody who can speak in English - there are no signs or announcements on it, and the local population hardly knows it. Therefore, if you do not speak Russian or Chechen (maybe?), then immediately look for a guide for the entire period of being here.

My trip to the Chechen Republic was rather spontaneous and short, and therefore I visited only Argun and the capital city of Grozny. His magnificent cathedral mosque "Heart of Chechnya" is among the top most beautiful places in Russia, towers against the backdrop of the complex "Grozny City Towers" perfectly complement the architectural ensemble, and several new museums are ready to receive visitors and tell about history of the republic. Unfortunately, many of them are quite poor at the exposition, and it is difficult for me to judge for certain what this is connected with: it is possible that there are few works of art and valuable artifacts of historical value in the republic, and perhaps much of it was destroyed during the deportation of Chechen people in 1944, as well as the First and Second Chechen wars with Russia. Today in the main museums of Grozny - the National Museum and the Akhmat-Khadzhi Kadyrov Museum - there are relatively young exhibits with a little history, that cannot describe the culture of the Chechen people as a whole. I hope that the museums will be replenished with more ancient artifacts in the future and will allow to reconstruct the entire history of the Chechen people, as it was done, for example, in the Stavropol region. If my memory is clear, the current president of the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, has set the task of making Grozny (no less) the cultural capital of the Caucasus and attracting many Russian and foreign tourists here. I hope that sooner or later this will happen, because the Chechen Republic is a completely unique region of Russia.

Its uniqueness lies not only in the ancient Chechen folk, who have preserved their traditions and culture for centuries, but also in beautiful natural landscapes. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to get to most of the settlements, where the old way of life is still preserved and where you can find many old architectural structures (for example, watchtowers, crypts or the ruins of ancient cities) by public transport, and therefore I recommend doing it with your car. Then you can easily discover all the beauty and national traits of the Republic. According to reviews of my acquaintances who were there, you should definitely visit the Kh.A. Isaev museum of local history in Itum-Kale; today it is one of several museums where history of the Chechen people is best represented. Among other things, a trip to Itum-Kale is also an opportunity to see the high mountains of the Caucasus, to plunge into the harsh beauty of Mountain Chechnya, and also to see one of the oldest settlements in the Caucasus - Tsoy Pede. Also by car it is the easiest way to visit the pearl of the natural beauty of Chechnya - the mountain Lake Kezenoyam, which in terms of water color and beauty is similar to Lake Ritsa in Abkhazia.

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If you are interested in modern architectural masterpieces, then after seeing the "Heart of Chechnya" and "Grozny City", go to the neighboring town of Argun, where you will be amazed by the sophisticated design of the Aymani Kadyrova Mosque and Argun City complex towering over its background. Still not far from Grozny is the town of Shali, which has recently become the object of a grand construction, not inferior in scale to Grozny - "Shali City" and Akhmat Kadyrov Mosque nearby. By the way - all these objects in Grozny, Argun and Shali are very beautifully illuminated at night, and therefore I recommend to see them at both times of the day.

 

Here we come to the very subtle, but important issue of the Chechen Republic - the lack of historical objects. You will practically find nothing here that is somehow related to the ancient history of the republic, apart from the detached Vainakh military towers and some ruins in remote mountain settlements. And this contributed to the sad events of the distant and relatively recent past, which partly formed a negative image of the republic in the minds of a large number of Russians.

The territory of modern Chechnya was inhabited hundreds of centuries before our era - there is evidence of this in the form of rock art found in the mountains. These places were part of the Kingdom of Alans, and after the devastating invasions of the Tatar-Mongols and Timurids, they almost completely fell under the control of the Dagestan and Kabardian feudal lords. As a result, the people of Nokhcho, the ancestors of modern Chechens, were forced to survive in the distant mountain villages, experiencing hunger and constant deprivation. This continued until the 16th century, when the Chechens in every way sought to populate the flat lands near their tribal teips. So they gradually took possession of the flat part, and in this moment they met with the Russian troops, who at that time were expanding into the Caucasus after the defeat of the Astrakhan Khanate. On the one hand, Russian troops strongly pressed Kabardians and Dagestan folks, which weakened their influence on the territory of the Chechens, but on the other - the latter had to get along for a long time with the Cossacks and Terts who settled these lands. Ultimately, the Chechens, along with neighboring nations, came under Russian rule during its military confrontation with the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Khanate, during which the Azov-Mozdok line of defense was formed. But this did not suit the Chechens, who were striving at all costs to become an independent people and win their “place under the sun”, as a result, they put up the most massive resistance to Russian troops in the Caucasus, which lasted throughout the 18th century.  At the same time, calls for an uprising against Russian domination in the Caucasus are becoming more frequent, reinforced by the ideas of the Islamic sharia as the only true law among the Chechen mountain teips, which by that time had finally adopted Islam. As a result, by the end of the 18th century, the entire territory of the Chechen people became extremely Islamized, a large number of mosques were built, sharia laws were adopted, and even gazavat was declared - "godly war" against "infidel" Russian troops. This war was supported by radical Chechen teips and found support from other Caucasian peoples, and great military support from the Ottoman Empire gave strength and fighting spirit in the battles against Russia. However, several successful Russian victories and the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire led to the death of Imam Mansur, the leader of the insurgent mountain peoples, and a relative lull was established on the territory of Chechnya.

However, no one and nothing is forgotten. Already at the beginning of the 19th century, an armed uprising of Chechens, Ingushes and several other nations took place against Russia, which later turned into a large-scale Caucasian War. It led to great losses among the Russians and the peoples of the Caucasus, and the majority of Chechens were forced to relocate (or flee) to Turkey and neighboring countries. But the remaining Chechens did not give up in their desire to win back fertile lands for living and to leave the protection of Russia, in the end they organized several more major uprisings during the 19th and 20th centuries. After the collapse of the Russian Empire, the city of Grozny became a stronghold of White Guard troops and opposing to Bolsheviks Cossack authorities, and numerous Chechen soldiers fiercely defended their right to independence and thus supported the White Army. There were attempts to form independent states (the North Caucasus Emirate, the Gorsky ASSR, etc.), but they were not succeed — the repeated military operations of the Russian troops eventually led to the complete defeat of the revolutionaries. However (it became the tradition), the Chechen people did not accept the rules of governing the Soviet republics imposed on them, as a result, repeatedly boycotted the elections and organized armed uprisings, which were brutally suppressed by Soviet troops. And then there was the Second World War, during which the Chechens were deported to Central Asia along with the Ingush and some other Caucasian peoples for "anti-Soviet activities and aiding the fascists".  The only problem is that on the territory of Chechnya there have never been fascists. Anyway, the territory of Chechnya was almost cleared of the Chechen people, who could return to it only after Stalin’s death in 1957 (the memorial of memory and glory was built in memory of this tragic event in Nazran). But when all the other Caucasian peoples accepted the fate of being part of the USSR and Russia, the Chechens did not accept the dependence and the way the authorities acted with them throughout history.

After the collapse of the USSR, the Chechen-Ingush ASSR was also eliminated, as a result of which Ingushetia ceded to Russia, and Chechnya declared its sovereignty and declared in 1992 the creation of an independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which was supported by a majority of the people. In fact, the republic held at the expense of charisma and the power of its ideological leader, Dzhokhar Dudayev, because social and political chaos actually began in the republic: power was criminalized, mass ethnic cleansing began (as a result only Chechens remained in the republic), hostage-taking and murders. This situation did not last long, and already in 1993, opposition to the Dudayev regime was formed. Attempts to regain control of Chechnya into the hands of the opposition (which supports Russia) ended in failure, and as a result, in 1994, Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree, effectively signifying a declaration of war to Chechnya. Thus began the First Chechen War, during which the regular Russian army was introduced into the republic, and the cities of Grozny, Gudermes and Argun were completely destroyed by tanks and aircrafts. But thanks to the actions of the Chechen troops, the captured territories of Chechnya were returned to the Chechen people, and the federal troops were withdrawn from the republic. But the brewing discord among the Chechens themselves led to the strengthening of the radical Islamic trend - wahhabism, which, with the support of the leadership, formed a system of Sharia courts, its own guard and actively created an army for war with "infidel" Russia. In parallel with this, Wahhabism in the face of Chechen armed groups penetrated the territory of neighboring Dagestan, which served as the beginning of armed clashes between Chechen militants and Dagestan defense forces. Russia again had to use troops, and in result Chechen fighters were driven back from Dagestan to the mountainous regions of Chechnya. And since the current government in Chechnya was shaky, the Russian leadership decided to have a new military operation to return Chechnya, which led to the start of the Second Chechen War. It led to the final defeat of the Chechen troops and the introduction of full Russian control over the republic. It was only in 2001 that military actions on the territory of Chechnya ceased, and since then they have only been manifested in rare terrorist acts. The presidential post was taken by the leader of the Chechen people, Akhmat Kadyrov, who was actively working to return the situation in the republic to a peaceful course, condemned Wahhabism and sought dialogue with Russia. In 2003, after peoples' referendum, the majority spoke in favor of returning the republic to Russia, and since then the republic has legitimately been a part of Russia. Although in 2004 Akhmat Kadyrov died tragically during a terrorist act, his policy of peaceful coexistence with Russia and the development of the republic was continued; in 2007, the son of Akhmat-haji Ramzan Kadyrov became the president of the republic, who maintains his post to this day. During his reign, the republic was heavily restored, the cities of Grozny, Argun and Shali were rebuilt, roads and factory centers were repaired. Life in the Chechen Republic is entering a peaceful course, and today there is little that reminds of its difficult military history.

 

This brings us back to where the story began: in the cities of the republic you will not see historical monuments, since hundreds of years of conflict have destroyed them to the ground. Restoration of the history of Chechnya means the recognition of all its merits and achievements, all stages of formation and (including) recognition of the struggle for independence, which ended in joining Russia. Not encouraging all the robbery and creepy actions of radical people, I sincerely admire the perseverance with which the Chechen people defended their freedom and with what courage they advocated for their ideals. I believe that even today the Chechen people are truly an unconquered people, distinctive and eager to preserve their identity, so strong that I have not seen anything like it in any other region of Russia.

 

Overcome your fears (often unfounded), come here and learn about this identity of the Chechen people, I invite each of you!

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