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Grozny

By Timoty Adder

It is probable the first association when mentioning Chechnya is war and the horrific images of the 1990s. But the moment you first set foot to the Chechen Republic will break all stereotypes about this beautiful country. Just exiting the airport leaves the impression of a newly built infrastructure everywhere. The wartime Grozny no longer exists. Cranes, new construction is all around. You must remember one thing before stepping on Chechen soil. The Chechens are very hospitable, but they are also very traditional and religious. If you show respect for their faith and customs, you will come across hospitality that is rarely encountered anywhere else.
The center of Grozny radiates with new infrastructure, cranes are everywhere, everything is new. I haven’t experienced anything similar in my own country. Chechen guides first took us to a hotel that is an icon of the Grozny. Not far from it is the “Heart of Chechnya” mosque, which they are very proud of. The building is monumental, physically most reminiscent of the Haghia Sophia in Istanbul. After that, we went to the center of the Grozny. At the entrance to the main boulevard, there is a picture showing what Grozny looked like in 1995 and how it looks today. There are virtually no traces of war. Just memories. The pace of construction is such that many capitals in developed European countries would be ashamed. People from all over the Caucasus are sending their children to Grozny. Grozny is known for not having problems with drugs and alcohol. What the Chechens are really proud of is the absence of nursing homes and orphanages. Leaving your parents in a nursing home is considered a great shame. If a child is left without a parent, someone in the family adopts it. The construction style is a mixture of modern construction, Soviet-style, and oriental style. At night, Grozny is filled with illuminated objects that look like any modern Western European city.
The next day our hosts took us to the hills of Chechnya. Unlike in Grozny, the hills are the place where one can see the essence of Chechens and their way of life. Chechens are highlanders. Our destination was the remote village of Nikaroi. Chechnya is full of the so-called dead villages where Chechens once lived. Going to the mountainous parts of Chechnya is a true mini-adventure. The villages are over 1500 years old, but the buildings are still in very good condition. The materials used to cement the stones have not been properly identified. It is assumed that the sticky mixture is made of chicken eggs. The area is difficult to access and at a high altitude, so it’s no wonder the Chechens are physically strong. This part of Chechnya is close to the border with Georgia. The presence of Russian federal forces is visible here at several checkpoints.

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Nikaroy

On the next, third day, of our visit to Chechnya, our hosts took us to the beautiful Kezenoyam Lake. Access to the lake is exquisite, and the first view of the lake is breathtaking. Our guides have told us that this complex used to serve the purpose of preparations for rowing teams from the Soviet Union. We arrived just in time to socialize with children from the Caucasus. Guests from Dagestan and North Ossetia arrived.

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Kazenoy Am

The children performed national dances and exchanged experiences. The hotel is also a museum where exhibits in the form of weapons and traditional Chechen costumes can be seen. Chechen food is very tasty and rich in calories. Chechens are Muslims, so they do not eat pork or drink alcohol. We were served with homemade fruit juice and Chechen pies. Most of the meat is mutton, which is very tasty. Also, fatty juice similar to a soup which is drunk and dipped in meat is present everywhere. After a good meal and listening to traditional Chechen music, we headed back to Grozny.
Along the way, we visited two places that the Chechens are very proud of. The great mosque in the city of Shali, dedicated to Prophet Muhammad and the so-called “women’s mosque”, built at the request of Ramzan Kadirov’s mother. Some people also consider it a direction of feminism in Islam because women are mostly praying there. The mosque itself is made in the form of mother’s breasts.
After arriving at the hotel, we were surprised. It turned out that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov was visiting the hotel, so we used the opportunity to take pictures with him. It was a great honor.
Leaving Chechnya, I thought about how the war had once raged in this country. Since that war, there is little left to remember. Chechens are amazing hosts, and Chechnya is a must-visit country.