Videos on the Present and Past of Chechnya

Here are some videos for Saturday viewing that give a sense of the recent tragic history of Chechnya and of Russian policy toward it today.

Also for print sources, see this brief history of Daghestan and Chechnya from the Smithsonian Magazine.

A reader sent in this insightful comment yesterday, which I’m moving up here:

” Andrew B
04/19/2013 at 5:44 pm (Edit)

… Another important thing to realize is the diversity of the religious Muslims in Chechnya and Dagestan. You have the radical Salafis, but also a rich tradition of Sufism, particularly of the Qadiri and Naqshbandi orders in both places. The former mufti there supported the first rebellion which briefly earned Chechnya independence [in 1990s]. That was a struggle for their rights and to have their own state, it wasn’t for Islamic fundamentalism.

The mufti changed his position during the second rebellion [began 1999] when foreign “mujahideen” fighters flooded the country. He was assassinated via a bomb by the extremists. A leading sheikh in Dagestan was killed a suicide bomber in August as well. A lot of Muslims in Chechnya and Dagestan are active in trying to stop the extremists. They face prejudice from the Arabs that go there to fight. This is part of what makes this situation sad. I hope my fellow Americans don’t start attacking Chechens. As the uncle said Chechens really do have a peaceful culture.”

I know this Russia Today report on how nice Grozny is now is propagandistic, but I try to look at an issue from various points of view, and this is the government one. And, it has the virtue of giving a sense of what Grozny is physically like as a city nowadays. The report isn’t very different on the substance than a similar, shorter Aljazeera documentary from a couple of years ago, which lays more emphasis on the lack of human rights.

For how the radicals haven’t been completely defeated (though they have mostly), here is a video of Salafi Chechen young men using paintball to shoot at women they consider to be dressed too daringly. The video is accompanied by an article in The Daily Beast on how the Kadyrev government may be contributing to continued radicalization of Chechen youth.

For the human rights issues, here is a Human Rights Watch report from a few years ago addressing unresolved issues growing out of the two brutal wars of the 1990s, into the early twenty-first century:

And here is a documentary on Youtube (don’t know its ultimate origin) about Russia’s dirty war against separatists.

3 Responses

  1. Please delete my previous two comments. It looks like the documentary was a product of the BBC and was re-broadcast on the CBC in the series ‘Correspondent’. It might have been co-produced with the CBC, since the narrator (at about the 1.44 mark) refers to a ‘dispatches’ team. ‘Dispatches’ was a CBC documentary series that ran from 2000 until 2012. The documentary was a 2-part production. The other part is at link to youtu.be

  2. The fascinating book “Black Earth a journey through Russia after the fall” by Andrew Meier,
    contains a substantial section describing the author Andrew Meier’s trip to Chechnya.

    One reader’s comment: “At great risk to himself – unescorted and unapproved journalists in Chechnya were forbidden and kidnapping is a common local occupation – Meier toured Chechnya. Meier wrote of the zachistka, Russian for a “little cleanup” or a mopping up operation, a routine of the operations during Putin’s War, which generally meant a house-to-house search for members of the Chechen opposition, though some have compared them to Stalin’s purges, the chiski. Sometimes these operations resulted in civilian deaths, such as occurred in the village of Aldy on February 5, 2000, recognized (eventually) by even the Russian government as a war crime, when civilians were slaughtered and people were summarily executed.”

    “That Black Earth is an extraordinary work is, for anyone who has known Russia, beyond question.”—George Kennan”

  3. I think we should make a distinction here, these guys were not Chechen youth, they were American youth of Chechen ethnicity.

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