Saturday, January 20, 2018

Times for hope, with a bitter note. The Wandering Writer in Chechnya

Welcome to this new Saturday story; another week means another journey. This time I bring you something that goes back to the reason that brings me on the road, discovering facts and history. Far from the mere touristic places, I bring you to the Republic of Chechnya, and precisely to Grozny.
Everybody surely remembers the name of the country by the recent history facts, the two Chechen wars (1994-1996 and 1999-2000). We all remember the dramatic images of a city torn down, the people forced to flee as refugees to other countries, the death, and destruction that followed the declaration of independence of the Republic of Chechnya. As a small reminder of the facts, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Chechnya, likewise many other countries declared its own independence from Mother Russia.
The reaction was almost immediate, and Russia planned a massive military action to suppress the separatist movement. The result was the complete destruction of lives and cities and the reintegration of Chechnya to the Russian Federation.
The lucky ones who could flee found shelter in Europe and many of them returned once the conflict was over. The others had to suffer a brutal war, which scars will never be healed or lost their lives.
The first misconception people have about conflict areas is that once the war is over, terrorism, crime, and violence is what is left. Ignoring or not understanding fully that, perhaps people who survived the conflict aim to peace, and to a normal life.
One of my colleagues at work, when I told her that I was going to Chechnya during the Christmas period, looked at me like I was crazy. That is a dangerous place; the crime rate is very high, and they might kidnap you.
Whether this sort of chances might happen, and not just in conflict areas, but also in rather peaceful countries, I had the strong feeling that this was not quite corresponding to the reality of the facts, and the best way to find it out was to go there and see it by my own eyes.
Eighteen years have passed from the end of the Chechen war, and you will be surprised of the changes between the war images and the nowadays life.
Our connection (and guide) was the brother of a guy who knew a friend of my husband (connections are everything in this world!). He told us about the history of the city and guided to visit the surrounding natural beauties. Unfortunately, our time was quite limited so we could not visit everything we wanted, but we tried to make the best out of our stay.
Grozny, as it is today, is a lovely city, which despite being rather small has a lot to offer to the curious eye.

The view of the city from our hotel was impressive, and from tat vantage point we could spot the places we would have visited during our stay. Our connection offered to stay guide us for a couple of afternoons, which gave us a big deal of free time to explore the city on our own.
Just under our hotel, there is the Central Mosque, a great example of the finest Arabic architecture.
Grozny is a city that reminds you about the fact that despite the religion, we are all human beings, and a belief should never be a divide but a personal choice. Just behind the mosque, as you can notice, there was a big Christmas tree, to celebrate the Christmas for the orthodox minority living in the city.
Indeed the majority of the population is Muslim, but they are not very strict and girls wearing a headscarf but also a short skirt are not infrequent.
We were lodged in the best hotel in town, not to show off, but because to enter the Russian Federation you need to have a letter of invitation. In Grozny, unless you have friends there that can guarantee for you, you will have to rely on hotels who offer this sort of invitation service, which means that this was our only choice.
The cuisine you can find is very international, from pizzerias, to hamburger places, sandwich bars, and traditional cuisine restaurants. The traditional cuisine is generally basic, but full of flavors and I truly recommend it, as much as I recommend visiting Grozny.
The place I liked the most was the mountain lake. Although it was very snowy and rather cold, I was fascinated with its beauty. The silence in the area was broken only by the whistling of a gentle breeze.
It is a place for introspection, and to connect with the greatness of nature, compared to which we are nothing but insignificant spots.

With this spectacular view of the Caucasus Mountains, I wish you a great weekend, and I hope you enjoyed this small introduction to the beauty of Chechnya.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The long road of writing a book.

Publishing a book is a journey on a rocky path that involves several stages, from writing and pre-editing to editing, formatting, selecting ...