Chechen traditional costumes

Source – “The Chechens”  here (pdf format)

On Amazon The Chechens: A Handbook

The Chechens are an ethnic group of the Nakh people; the Nakh  (Chechen, Ingush and Kist) belong to the Northeast Caucasian family.

The Chechen population counts 1.500.000 people; up to 500.000 were displaced to Europe after the second war (in Germany, France, Scandinavia, Poland, Belgium).

Chechens refer to themselves as “Noxchi”.

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1870 Chechen woman

1870 Chechen woman

1870 Chechen woman – traditional Chechen headscarf/ veil was simple, made of cotton. The main materials used were woolen fabrics and animal skin. More sophisticated fabricss appeared after year 1900.

Modern Chechen dress was heavily influenced by Circassian costumes in the XIX century.

North Caucasus Chechnya dancers chechen men women chechens

 

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Customs originate in most ancient times. They define “checheness”, very important in the identity of Chechens. Society was not stratified and had no social classes, instead it was organized in tribes. Therefore the code of Chechen morals were the backbone of  Chechen society.

Women were considered for marriage from mid to late teens, whereas men started married later. Men and women met at dance parties and communication was made through family members.

It was taboo for men to touch women in public (available to this day). Touching a woman meant defilement and the culprit was executed by the family of the woman.

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North Caucasus Chechnya people chechen girls chechens

North Caucasus Chechnya people chechen men traditional costume

Chechnya chechen men North Caucasus people chechens

Wedding is the way of celebration for the new family acquisition. Only the groom’s family celebrates while the bride and her family stay away from main wedding ceremonies. The bride’s family is considered to have no reason for celebration since they “lose” a member.

Chechens consider pride and affection as weakness and do not openly show joy at the birth of children or show affection in public towards partner or children.

Chechens only marry within their own ethnic group. Chechen women are held in high esteem, however if a woman is raped, she will be considered tainted and no one will marry her. Although during the Soviet period, mixed Russian-Chechen couples were common (between Russian women and Chechen men, never the opposite), the fact that one may be ethnically mixed (especially with Russian) is frowned upon.

North Caucasus Chechnya people chechen men women chechens.

Chechen wedding – the bride and groom make their vows separately. While the groom celebrates at home with his friends, the bride arrives at the main party but doesnt participate. She sits aside quietly in what translates as “modesty” in Chechen customs.

*Numerous youtube videos show sumptuous Chechen weddings which usually belong to Chechen president Kadyrov’s circle. Regular Chechens are modest.

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North Caucasus Chechnya people chechen men traditional outfit

Itum Kali Chechnya national costume chechen children dance

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Hospitality was a sacred institution prevalent all over the Caucasus and respect for guests was a source of pride for all Caucasian peoples. A guest was lodged in the best quarters of the house and special provisions were set aside for guests. On the other hand, travelers with no bona fide hosts were considered as hostile and were usually taken as prisoners or slaves.

At social or family gatherings (parties, dinners, weddings etc), men and women never sit together, but at separate tables.

Though women are held in high esteem, they must show a certain respect to men. Women always stand up when a man walks in, and they never speak over a man.

North Caucasus Chechnya chechen women

Chechen woman 1897

Chechen woman 1897

North Caucasus Chechnya men old photo archives

North Caucasus dress Chechnya people chechen men chechens archive photos

North Caucasus outfit Chechnya chechen men Caucasian kama dagger shalt

 

Chechen Shalt Kama traditional dagger North Caucasus people nakh Vainakh

 

Nakh towers, typical of Chechnya and Ingushetia. Built to stand as solid refure not only from invaders, but also from each other during their deadly tribal feuds.

Nakh towers, typical of Chechnya and Ingushetia. Built to stand as solid refuge not only from invaders, but also from each other during their deadly tribal feuds.

Nakh towers, typical of Chechnya and Ingushetia. Built to stand as solid refuge not only from invaders, but also from each other during their deadly tribal feuds.

 

North Caucasus Chechnya chechen men traditional outfit chechens

North Caucasus Chechnya people chechens

North Caucasus dancers Chechnya chechen women

North Caucasus dance Chechnya chechen men women traditional outfit

Chechnya chechen dancer North Caucasus

Chechen men traditional dance North Caucasus people nakh Vainakh

Chechnya chechen dancers North Caucasus people

North Caucasus Chechnya dance chechen men women chechens

Chechnya chechen men dance North Caucasus people nakh Vainakh

Chechnya chechen men traditional North Caucasus people nakh Vainakh

Chechnya chechen men traditional costume North Caucasus people nakh Vainakh

Caucasus Chechnya national costume chechen boys Itum Kali chechens

Chechen men traditional dressing North Caucasus people nakh Vainakh

 

North Caucasus Chechnya national costume chechens

 

Chechnya chechen men drummer traditional music North Caucasus people Vainakh

Chechnya chechen men traditional drums music North Caucasus people nakh

CHECHNYA 2013

 

 

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North Caucasus people Chechnya chechen dancers Vainakh

Children dressed in national costumes dance in central Grozny during celebrations of the lifting of security regime

Chechen girls traditional dressing North Caucasus people nakh Vainakh

Chechen girl traditional dressing North Caucasus people nakh Vainakh

 

Chechen men traditional dressing North Caucasus people nakh

 

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Chechen men women traditional dance North Caucasus people nakh Vainakh chechens

Chechnya chechen men women traditional costumes North Caucasus people nakh Vainakh chechens

Shamkhan Hadji Khamadov, 56, the Kharachoi clan, Grozny, Chechnya

 

Chechnya chechen men Caucasus people nakh

Chechnya chechen men traditional costumes North Caucasus people nakh Vainakh chechens

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Lezginka Chechnya chechen men women dancers painting

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“Secular” women are becoming more ad more Islamic in their customs and dressing. While the Chechen leader Kadyrov is allegedly forcing certain women to wear Hijab, more and more young people are willingly adopting it was a way of life, as Sunni Islam is seducing the youth (as opposed to Sufi Islam, practiced by old people).

chechnya chechen women girls chechnya caucasus people chechens

Regular dressing involved long dress (short dresses are forbidden and see as degrading), and the traditional chechen scarf (which covers head only partially).

Chechnya, Russia, Chechen insurgents’ wife arrangers her scarf on a mountain base. Chechen women fighting in war was common until radical Islam took over and they were excluded from all activities.

Chechen insurgents’ wife arrangers her scarf on a mountain base. Chechen women fighting in war was common until radical Islam took over and they were excluded from all activities.

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The Hijab (covers all hair) is becoming a normal occurrence, included even in traditional full costume

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Chechen girls in front of central Grozny mosque.

chechnya chechen women girls caucasus people chechens

Chechen women walking in downtown Grozny.

 

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Caucasus culture – Vainakh architecture

A detailed description of Nakh architecture which includes both Chechen and Ingush structures

 

Ingushetia

Chechnya watchtower

Hundreds of stone towers, some nearly 1000 years old, are spread across the Caucasus mountains. However, what we see today is only a fraction of the thousands of edifices that had existed well into the XVIII century, which stretched all the way to (today’s) Grozny and beyond. The craftsmanship of the builders reached its peak in the XIII to XVI centuries after the devastating Mongol invasion. The last towers were built in the early XIX century.

A (combat) tower was one of the symbols of the taip (clan). The towers also functioned as dwellings and sanctuaries. Traditional tower settlements in the mountains were located on slopes or in deep gorges.

The first known mention of the towers is in an Arabic manuscript dating from the Xth century AD. Pre-Islamic edifices have pagan markings which make them important sources in the reconstruction of ancient Chechen culture. The most intact collection of towers is located in the Argun Valley or the ‘Tower Gorge’, as it is also known. Two military towers stood at the entrance and many hundreds more stood along its perimeter up to the Georgian border.

 

Dwelling (residential) towers

The dwelling tower was a residential structure where families lived. It consisted of 2 to 3 floors, reached heights of up to 12 meters and usually had rectangular bases of 8–10-m sides. The thickness of the wall at the base was about 1 meter. Their walls are made of rough stone blocks with a small amount of mortar. The flat earthen roof was stacked with stones for reinforcement. A central column of large stone blocks served to anchor the inter-floor ceilings. The central pillar, also of thoroughly dressed stone, supported the ceiling rafters.
Each floor of the residential tower had a separate door. A ladder was used to reach to the second or third floor.

Residential towers

The two lower stories were intended for livestock. The floor was made of boards or stone slabs.
The family lived in the second floor, where they also kept their possessions in tin-plated wooden chests (carpets, dishes, clothes, etc). Dishes and kitchen utensils were arranged on wooden shelves along the walls. There was usually an arrangement of weaponry on the wall above the master’s bed. It was a necessity in wartime, and mere custom in times of peace.
Household utensils and food stock were kept in the top floor, which also had the guestroom and the nuptial chamber. The top was the family citadel when the tower was attacked. The latter residential towers became wider and had more rooms.

There were outside stairs for access to the upper floors, and inner ladders made of tree trunks with jutting branches or notched footholds for use in emergencies. First floor usually had no windows, but only small air holes which served for good ventilation. The vaults always remained cool even during summer. Heating was done by fireplace. Shelves were built to store different things. The center of life was the fireplace which was surrounded by wooden benches covered with carvings, where the family and their guests would sit.

 

Pagan symbols

There were engravings on door-posts and sometimes on the walls. Doors and windows were made of stone and had a semicircular arched form. These arched stones were often decorated with carved petroglyphs, which were decorative or reflected religious beliefs. The swastika was a widely used symbol in the Caucasus and the rest of the world, as it represented eternal life. Other symbols reflected beliefs in the cult of the sun which the Nakh shared for centuries.

 

Combat towers

The first combat towers to be built were usually 4 stories high, had heights of 12–17 meters and had a base of 4 meters sides. They had roofs in the shape of step-pyramids with protruding sharpened white stones. The entrance on the second floor, which had a single stone block (kor-kkheera=window-stone) as a keystone, was accessed by a ladder. The inter floor ceilings were made from stone and wood. Top floors had protected loop-holes and overhanging floorless balconies (mashikul) for shooting and for pouring noxious materials on the attackers. The Golgotha cross found on towers, served as a protection sign.

 

Built on mountain slopes, in inaccessible locations

Classical combat towers of the XIV- XVII centuries had 5 or 6 floors, reached heights of 25–30 meters and had square bases of 6 meter sides. In general, combat towers were built among a number of residence towers. According to B.Plaetschke (1929), combat towers were not inhabited in normal conditions but were only used during an attack. While dwelling towers were private properties, combat towers belonged to the whole community.

An elaborate warning system was set in place in the mountains. As soon as invaders made their appearance in the valleys, fires were lit on top of the towers which were at visible distances from one another, and the danger signal was transmitted from one watchtower to the next. The cry ‘Ortsa daala’ (literally: ‘raise the alarm’) alerted people to the impending danger and exhorted women, children and old men to seek shelter and able-bodied men to take up arms in defense of the land.

 

During Russia’s colonial wars in the Caucasus, tsarist soldiers willfully destroyed hundreds of towers and dismantled many more in order to use the stones to build forts. During and after the 1944 Chechen-Ingush deportation, the secret police blew up towers and carted away many priceless tower artifacts. More damage was brought upon the towers in the last decade. These symbols of Chechen identity and culture remain under real threat of obliteration.

 

Sadly, various Russian sources have tried to discredit the merit of the Natives in their architectural mastership . Alexander Ippolitov wrote in his “Ethnographic Sketches of the Argun District” that the towers of the Argun Gorge were built by a nation much more civilized than the indigenous population. P. Golovinsky makes a similar assumption in his essay “The Mountain Chechens”, where he ascribes tower construction to so-called “forebears”. Proceeding from genealogical legends, he considered them strangers – Georgians, Greeks, Jews or West Europeans.

Upon deeper study it was revealed that the architectural style was unique and couldn’t be found anywhere else, therefore it was undoubtedly a merit of the Caucasus native populations.

 

Europe and refugees

source: rfel.org, Humanity in Action, European Commissioner of Human Rights
Chechen woman in Grozny Chechnya 1994 war civilian victims Russia

Grozny Chechnya 1994

After the second Chechen war, the number of Chechen refugees in Europe sky-rocketed. Dozens of thousands of Chechens fleeing the war found refuge in Europe. In 2003 a new regulation was introduced by the European Union called Dublin II Regulation, according to which asylum seekers are heavily restricted once they enter European Union’s borders. The regulation forbids them to apply for refugee status in any other country than the first one they entered – which in most cases is a Southern or Eastern European country.

 

Lack of EU solidarity

Countries situated at the EU border have been flooded by asylum seekers. The repercussions were felt directly by both host countries and by the refugees themselves.

No appropriate financial or material support was offered once the EU countries were given this legal responsibility.

Children play outside an asylum-seekers' center in Bialystok.

Children play outside an asylum-seekers’ center

Norway was criticized for its abuses during the deportation process –  Norway To Asylum Seekers: Go Home.

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Chechen refugees

There are 2 types of refugees: those who escape oppression and violence and those who seek a better life.

According to international law, a country has the obligation to accept asylum requests when there is proof that a person fears torture or death in their country (war, political oppression etc).

After the end of the second Chechen war, Russia has gone to great lengths to convince the rest of the world that violence has subsided and peace was fully restored in Chechnya. It went as far as trying to convince refugees to return to Chechnya and even blocking the access of those trying to flee.

Read more – Russia blocks Chechen refugees (BBC)

Forced Return of Displaced People to Chechnya (Human Rights Watch)

Chechen refugees 02

RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Chechen refugees in a formely chicken factory camp. The conflict in Chechnya has forced some 30,000 people, the majority of them women and children to flee their homes. Many are living in camps that are overcrowded and in sanitary (source: DJIGIT).

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RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Chechen refugees in a formely chicken factory camp. The conflict in Chechnya has forced some 30,000 people, the majority of them women and children to flee their homes. Many are living in camps that are overcrowded and in sanitary (source: DJIGIT).

Human Rights organizations have continuously pressed the alarm on human rights violations such as kidnapping (forced disappearances), illegal detention, torture and murder of thousands of civilians since the end of the war.

To read on human rights issues, click the following links 

Chechnya today – “worse than war”

Missing in North Caucasus,

Cleansing operations,

Journalism in N. Caucasus – executions and censorship .

Photo report on Chechen refugees in Poland

Copyright: Swen Connrad / YumeVision

Chechen woman, use to be a lawyer before, in Chechnya, alone, with her two children, outside the URiC Moszna Center. On the background – the former Moszna Workers’ Hotel, rented by URiC for the Center of Asylum Seekers

URiC (Office for Repatriation and Aliens) Moszna Center, Poland – Chechen woman with the picture of her parents in Chechnya. She paid $ 5000 to liberate her husband from jail. He was killed soon after by Russian army force. She came to Poland pregnant, with 3 children – 8, 10, 14 years old. She lost the fourth one on the way to a safer land. For security reasons, the face of the adult asylum seeker is not shown and the name has been changed. © Swen Connrad / YumeVision

 

URiC Wola Center in Warsaw, Poland – Chechen man with his sejjadeh (pray carpet), his Muslim rosary and a picture of his four brothers killed by the Russian army. The youngest was 18. Those three objects are the only reminder from Chechnya he managed to save. For security reasons, the face and real name are not shown. © Swen Connrad / YumeVision

 

Chechen Man with a picture of his house in Grozny, destroyed by Russian bombing in 1999. He succeed to survive 10 years of Chechen war, but in September 2005 Russian forces visited him at his place, threatening him and his family life. They arrived in URiC Wola Center in Warsaw in the mid-October. © Swen Connrad / YumeVision

Chechen Man with his 5-years old daughter. He use to live in the bombed house in Grozny for 6 years together with is wife, daughter and aunt. He succeed to survive over 10 years of Chechen war, but in September 2005 the raids of Russian forces put him on a flight to Poland. They arrived in URiC Wola Center in Warsaw in the middle of October. © Swen Connrad / YumeVision

 

A mother holding the picture of her husband, killed at the age of 36 by Russian forces. When her oldest son turned 15, she decided to run away in order to protect her family. In Chechnya, boys from the age of 16 disappear daily, detained by Russian forces. © Swen Connrad / YumeVision

 

Chechen man with a picture of his brother, killed by Russian force at the age of 34. In the background, his daughter in the URiC Radom centre.

Young Chechen boy, praying at the midday Ramadan pray, in the former workers hotel room transformed into a mosque at the URiC Bielany refugee centre

Polish doctor checking a 5 months old chechen baby in the medical clinic of the URiC Bielany Refugee Centre, in Poland

Meeting of Chechens in the Palace of Science and Culture in Warsaw, built at Stalin’s order 50 years ago. The Man talking is Usman Ferzauli, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, who lives in exile in Denmark. The man next to him right is Ali Ramzan Ampukayev, Poland Representative of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI). Second from the right is Adam Borowski, the Head of the Poland-Chechnya Committee. Others present are Polish sympathizers, NGO workers, lawyers, journalists. Three portraits of Chechen presidents are standing on the wall: Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, Dzhokhar Dudayev, Aslan Maskhadov.

 

A classroom made up of 2 boys and 5 girls who are learning polish language in URiC Radom center.

 

Piotr Bystrianin, coordinator at the Ocalenie Foundation, a Polish-based nongovernmental organization:

“We are just losing time and money,” he says, “and these people are losing their lives.”

Under the European Union’s Dublin Regulation, the first EU country of entry is responsible for evaluating the claims of an asylum seeker. For Chechens, whose route typically takes them north to Moscow and then west through Belarus, this usually means Poland.

 

The deportation machine in Europe

 

The French office of the Education Without Borders Network (Réseau Éducation Sans Frontières) has initiated a petition for the Dzhanaralievs, a Chechen family that is facing deportation from France to Poland, the first EU member country that they entered after fleeing the Russian backed oppression that is rampant in their native Chechnya. France’s decision is in accordance with the Dublin II Regulation, a piece of legislation from 2003 that claims to prevent refugees from being shipped around Europe but in reality, is a protection for EU member states against “asylum shopping.”

 

According to the EU, the Dublin II Regulation:

establishes the principle that only one Member State is responsible for examining an asylum application. The objective is to avoid asylum seekers from being sent from one country to another, and also to prevent abuse of the system by the submission of several applications for asylum by one person.

The regulation has been criticized, namely by Thomas Hammarberg, the Swedish diplomat and former Commissioner for Human Rights for the Council of Europe in Strasbourg:

This has not been successful in practice. Countries such as Greece and Malta have, during recent years, been unable to provide adequate protection because the numbers of asylum seekers have exceeded their capacity. This is simply not fair and has, in extreme cases, even put lives at risk. It is now high time to revise the Dublin Regulation.

States in northern Europe, far from the borders in the south and the east, have so far not been co-operative in discussions about resolving this mess. In fact, they have not even been willing to use the possibility under the ‘sovereignty clause’ of the present regulation to avoid transfers to Greece, whose asylum system is clearly experiencing a total collapse.

 

Europe as a whole is not overburdened by asylum applications, at least not in comparison with other parts of the world. In 2009, South Africa alone received almost as many asylum requests as all 27 EU members put together. Some countries in Asia and the Middle East have received even more.

 

Discrimination

After the Boston Marathon bombings in April, allegedly perpetrated by two ethnic Chechens living in the United States, a rumor spread in the North Caucasus that a fearful Europe would soon shut its doors to Chechens.

While the rumor was unfounded and the borders have not closed, the attacks did focus unwanted attention on the Chechen community.

“Some of our politicians try to connect the question of Chechen refugees to terrorism,” says Bernd Mesovic, deputy managing director of Pro Asyl, a Frankfurt-based NGO that advocates for migrants. “Some of them believe the information given by Russian officials, who are always connecting Chechens with terrorism.”

The same is often true of the German media.

“Terrorists Seek Asylum In Germany” read an August 8 headline in the German daily “Die Welt,” which connected the sudden increase with a call by leading Chechen militant Doku Umarov to plan attacks at next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Of the applicants in Germany this year, 82 people have been granted refugee status and 702 have been scheduled for deportation. You can’t just leave [Poland for Germany]. OK, you can get there, but then they’ll just deport you back to Poland,” says Imram Shaptukaev a Chechen refugee.

 

Imran Shaptukaev spent nine months in Germany with his ailing wife before authorities rejected their asylum request.

 Imran Shaptukaev spent nine months in Germany with his ailing wife before authorities rejected their asylum request

Despite the circumstances, they say the worst-case scenario would be deportation back to Russia.

 

Seeking a better life

The most difficult thing for Polish authorities is not only having the sole responsibility of dealing with the refugees, but also having to deal with the negative attitude. Discrimination takes place not only from host countries towards refugees but also from refugees towards host countries. Many Chechens are convinced that Dublin II is a simply a Polish concept and that it is Poland which seeks their return from other EU countries. Such misunderstandings, false beliefs and ungrounded suspicions add to tensions between asylum seekers and Polish social welfare staff.

Read more here For Chechens, Poland is not west enough (UNCHR)

Refugees in Austria

“Adygea” by Ahmed Nagoev

Circassians in photo-session made by photographer Ahmed Nagoev, named “Adygea”

Human Rights NGO’s and Kremlin

https://i2.wp.com/www.davidicke.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/legacy_images/stories/July20126/767dbd7b7b8dc3f745f05caf50be6242.jpg

source: HWR

 Russia: “Foreign Agents” Law Hits Hundreds of NGOs

(foreign agent = spy in Russian vocabulary)

In early March 2013 the Russian government launched an unprecedented, nationwide campaign of inspections of thousands of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to identify advocacy groups the government deems “foreign agents” and force them to register as such. The list below tracks the legal consequences of the law on dozens of NGOs.

Since the beginning of the “foreign agents” campaign, the Ministry of Justice filed 9 administrative cases against NGOs and 5 administrative cases against NGO leaders for failure to register under the “foreign agents” law.

The Ministry of Justice ordered the two NGOs against which it had filed administrative cases (both Golos groups) to suspend their activities for several months.

The prosecutors also filed at least 13 administrative cases against NGOs for refusing to provide documents during the inspection campaign and lost four of them (against the Foundation for Development of Modern Civil Society Institutions in Lipetsk, “Petersburg Aegis” in St. Petersburg and two against the Rainbow Foundation in Moscow).

On May 23 the State Duma adopted new amendments which allow Ministry of Justice to register independent groups as “foreign agents” without their consent.  On May 28 the Council of Federation endorsed the amendments. On June 4, 2014 President Putin signed the amendments into law.

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Moscow Blacklists Russian NGO Office That Announced Soldiers’ Deaths In Ukraine

source: rferl.org

Russia’s Justice Ministry has placed the Saint Petersburg branch of the Soldiers’ Mothers rights group on a blacklist of NGO’s acting as “foreign agents.”

The moves comes a day after Ella Polyakova and Sergei Krivenko, two members of the Russian presidential human rights council, announced more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed in eastern Ukraine on August 13 near Snizhnye while helping pro-Russian separatists fight Ukrainian troops.

Polyakova heads the Soldiers’ Mothers branch in Saint Petersburg.

The Justice Ministry placed the office on the blacklist under a controversial 2012 law requiring many NGOs which receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.”

Under the law, every public statement must be accompanied by a notice that the speaker represents “an organization fulfilling the functions of a foreign agent.”

Russian denies its soldiers are fighting in Ukraine.

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Russia: A year on, Putin’s ‘foreign agents law’ choking freedom

Amnesty International report

The “foreign agents law” is part of a raft of repressive legislation brought in since Putin’s return to the presidency.

The “foreign agents law” is part of a raft of repressive legislation brought in since Putin’s return to the presidency

A restrictive “foreign agents law” adopted a year ago is choking independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia, Amnesty International said today.

“One year after came into force, the record of the foreign agents law is a grim one. More than a thousand NGOs have been inspected and dozens have received warnings. Several of the most prominent human rights groups have been fined and some forced to close,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

The “foreign agents law” is at the center of a raft of repressive legislation that has been brought in since Putin’s return to the presidency.

“The ‘foreign agents law’ was designed to stigmatise and discredit NGOs engaged in human rights, election monitoring and other critical work. It is providing a perfect pretext for fining and closing critical organisations and will cut often vital funding streams,” said John Dalhuisen.

Russian NGOs have unanimously and vocally refused to be branded “foreign agents”. The unannounced mass “inspections” of some 1,000 organizations during the spring and autumn of 2013 were widely publicized by media aligned with the Russian authorities.

The “inspections” were followed by persecution of several NGOs and their leaders through administrative proceedings and the courts, and more cases are expected to follow.

Since the “foreign agents law” came into being:

•        At least 10 NGOs have been taken to court by the Russian authorities for failing to register as an “organization performing the functions of a foreign agent”.

•        At least five other NGOs across Russia have been taken to court following the “inspections” for purported administrative violations such as the failure to present requested documents.

•        At least 10 Russian NGO leaders have been ordered to comply with the “foreign agents law”.

•        And at least 37 NGOs have been officially warned that they will be in violation of the law if they continue to receive foreign funding and engage in arbitrarily defined “political activities”. This includes publishing online materials on human rights in Russia and not registering as “foreign agents”.

Lev Ponomaryov, leader of the Russia-wide movement “For Human Rights” told Amnesty International: “If we have to close down, thousands of people across Russia will suffer. If other NGOs are forced to close down – tens of thousands will suffer. Civil society will be doomed.”

“The ‘foreign agents law’ violates Russia’s national and international obligations to safeguard the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression.  It should be repealed immediately,” said John Dalhuisen.

Satellites

The Soviet collapse spawned 15 new countries that are now established members of the international community, but also a few far less known – and internationally unrecognized republics.

“Satellites” is a photographic journey by Jonas Bendiksen through the scattered enclaves, unrecognized mini-states, and other isolated communities that straddle the former satellite states of the now defunct USSR.

Transdniester – the breakaway region of Moldova (under Russian de-facto control)

Transdniesterian deputy minister of defense looking lovingly at an Alazan missile in front of a scene from 1992 breakaway war with Moldova. The Alazan missile has been in the media's focus as of late, with a Washington Post article accusing Transdniester of lacing the small missiles with nuclear dirty bomb warheads, something the government strongly denies. 2004

Transdniesterian deputy minister of defense looking lovingly at an Alazan missile in front of a scene from 1992 breakaway war with Moldova. The Alazan missile has been in the media’s focus as of late, with a Washington Post article accusing Transdniester of lacing the small missiles with nuclear dirty bomb warheads, something the government strongly denies. 2004

Crows circle a statue of Lenin in front of the Supreme Soviet building. Transdniester is in many ways one of the last bastions of communist nostalgia in the former USSR.

Crows circle a statue of Lenin in front of the Supreme Soviet building. Transdniester is in many ways one of the last bastions of communist nostalgia in the former USSR.

People on a bus commuting to a factory in the cold winter morning.

People on a bus commuting to a factory in the cold winter morning.

Patrons of "Red Heat", a local bar, drinking under banners with the Soviet hammer & sickle. In Transdniester, nostalgia for the USSR runs very high.

Patrons of “Red Heat”, a local bar, drinking under banners with the Soviet hammer & sickle. In Transdniester, nostalgia for the USSR runs very high.

Steel mill. Despite the nationalist rethoric of the breakaway war with Moldova in 1992, critics of Transdniester see their quest for independence as a power grab by factory chiefs and economic elite of the region. Nearly all of Moldova's heavy industry was located in the Transdniester region, and Transdniestrian independence is catastrophic for Moldova.

Steel mill. Despite the nationalist rethoric of the breakaway war with Moldova in 1992, critics of Transdniester see their quest for independence as a power grab by factory chiefs and economic elite of the region. Nearly all of Moldova’s heavy industry was located in the Transdniester region, and Transdniestrian independence is catastrophic for Moldova.

Streetscene during a snowstorm

Streetscene during a snowstorm

The population of Transdniester is mainly ethnic Russians, and the main religion is Russian Orthodox Christianity. Here a priest gives his blessings before a christening in the icy waters of January.

The population of Transdniester is mainly ethnic Russians, and the main religion is Russian Orthodox Christianity. Here a priest gives his blessings before a christening in the icy waters of January.

Russian stripper in a nightclub.

Russian stripper in a nightclub.

Steel mill. Despite the nationalist rethoric of the breakaway war with Moldova in 1992, critics of Transdniester see their quest for independence as a power grab by factory chiefs and economic elite of the region. Nearly all of Moldova's heavy industry was located in the Transdniester region, and Transdniestrian independence is catastrophic for Moldova.

Steel mill. Despite the nationalist rethoric of the breakaway war with Moldova in 1992, critics of Transdniester see their quest for independence as a power grab by factory chiefs and economic elite of the region. Nearly all of Moldova’s heavy industry was located in the Transdniester region, and Transdniestrian independence is catastrophic for Moldova.

People headed to work in the morning.

People headed to work in the morning.

Outside the underground bar Prokhlada, a sign warns of the clubs conditions: No hand grenades, guns, knives, syringes, bottles, gas canisters or fighting allowed

Outside the underground bar Prokhlada, a sign warns of the clubs conditions: No hand grenades, guns, knives, syringes, bottles, gas canisters or fighting allowed

People attending a church-run soup kitchen. Most Transdniestrians are poor, and a large portion of the population are pensioneers longing for the better times of the USSR.

People attending a church-run soup kitchen. Most Transdniestrians are poor, and a large portion of the population are pensioneers longing for the better times of the USSR.

 

*In 2013, Moldova (together with Ukraine) seeked to strengthen economic and political relations with Europe. As a result, a Russian envoy was sent to Moldova’s capital Chisinau: “Energy supplies are important in the run-up to winter. I hope you won’t freeze”, suggesting Russia will cut off gas supplies to Moldova for its pro-Europe stance. (source)

The Other Moldova – Investigating illegal arms trafficking and accusations of possession of weapons of mass destruction

The breakaway Republic of Transnistria looks set to be the cause of more tensions between Russia and Moldova.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Eastern Moldova broke away from the rest of the country and moved closer to Russia. The self styled Republic of Transnistria is recognized by no other nation. It relies on 1,200 stationed Russian troops for protection and its criminal gangs have moved into Moldova. Now Moldova is pushing for a Russia withdrawal from Transnistria. “Transnistria is a festering criminal sore which is infecting all its neighbors,” states expert Dr Galeotti.

 Documentary analyzes the corruption and Russian connections

 The danger Transnistria presents as weapon smuggling haven

 

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Abkhazia, South Ossetia – breakaway regions of Georgia (under Russian de-facto control)

Although Abkhazia is isolated, half-abandoned and still suffering war wounds due to its unrecognized status, both locals and Russian tourists are drawn to the warm waters of the Black Sea. This unrecognized country, on a lush stretch of Black Sea coast, won its independence from the former Soviet republic of Georgia after a fierce war in 1993.

Although Abkhazia is isolated, half-abandoned and still suffering war wounds due to its unrecognized status, both locals and Russian tourists are drawn to the warm waters of the Black Sea. This unrecognized country, on a lush stretch of Black Sea coast, won its independence from the former Soviet republic of Georgia after a fierce war in 1993.

With its lush Black Sea location, Abkhazia is trying to attract Russian tourists. Here, at a road stop on the tour bus route, an entrepreneur, who charges tourists 10 rubles to photograph his bear, catches his breath between busloads.

With its lush Black Sea location, Abkhazia is trying to attract Russian tourists. Here, at a road stop on the tour bus route, an entrepreneur, who charges tourists 10 rubles to photograph his bear, catches his breath between busloads.

Babushka "Tanya," an elderly ethnic Russian woman, heads back to her bombed out apartment building after walking her dog. Despite the damages, three apartments remain occupied in the building

Babushka “Tanya,” an elderly ethnic Russian woman, heads back to her bombed out apartment building after walking her dog. Despite the damages, three apartments remain occupied in the building

Babushka Tanya's run down apartment. Her building was on the front line between Abkhazian and Georgian forces during the 1993 war.

Babushka Tanya’s run down apartment. Her building was on the front line between Abkhazian and Georgian forces during the 1993 war.

People sailing out on the Black Sea.

People sailing out on the Black Sea.

Russian tourist girl in a Soviet-era resort "Pensionat Energetik," on the coast of Gagra.

Russian tourist girl in a Soviet-era resort “Pensionat Energetik,” on the coast of Gagra.

Damaged apartment building on the outskirts of Sukhum. Some of the apartments are still occupied.

Damaged apartment building on the outskirts of Sukhum. Some of the apartments are still occupied.

A man with Tuberculosis. Abkhazia has high rates of TB. "Doctors Without Borders" supply the DOTS treatment in this hospital.

A man with Tuberculosis. Abkhazia has high rates of TB. “Doctors Without Borders” supply the DOTS treatment in this hospital.

Pentecostals listen to preacher in a cellar of former synagogue. Tshinvali, South Ossetia, 2009

Pentecostals listen to preacher in a cellar of former synagogue. Tshinvali, South Ossetia, 2009

Burnt school in one of the Georgian enclaves. South Ossetia, 2009

Burnt school in one of the Georgian enclaves. South Ossetia, 2009

Municipal orphanage, Tshinvali, South Ossetia, 2009

Municipal orphanage, Tshinvali, South Ossetia

Andrei Nekrasov’s documentary “Russian Lessons” focused on the two breakaway regions of Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The following are 2 extracts

Abkhazia

South Ossetia

BBC documentary

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Nagorno-Karabakh – breakaway region of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh

Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh

AZERBAIJAN. Nagorno-Karabakh NYC51118

AZERBAIJAN. Nagorno-Karabakh

AZERBAIJAN. Nagorno-Karabakh 1

AZERBAIJAN. Nagorno-Karabakh 2

How the conflict began (Ferghana valley and its involvement mentioned at 20:30)

Nagorno Karabakh conflict thoroughly explained, including the Russian involvement

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Uzbekistan – Ferghana Valley

The most complicated border negotiations in the Central Asia region involve the Fergana Valley, where multiple enclaves struggle to exist. Three countries share in the tangled border region; Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan all have historic and economic claims to the regions transport routes and natural resources.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, border negotiations left substantial Uzbek populations stranded outside of Uzbekistan. In south-western Kyrgyzstan, a conflict over land between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks exploded in 1990 into large-scale ethnic violence (reoccurring in 2010). By establishing political units on a mono-ethnic basis in a region where various peoples have historically lived side by side, the Soviet process of national delimitation sowed the seeds of today’s inter-ethnic tensions.

Uzbekistan Ferghana Valley 2002 An Uzbek border patrol surveys one of the valley's seven territorial enclaves. The myriad borders of the valley make it hard to control and ideal for smugglers.

An Uzbek border patrol surveys one of the valley’s seven territorial enclaves. The myriad borders of the valley make it hard to control and ideal for smugglers.

Uzbekistan Ferghana Valley The government crackdown on Islam is forcing religion underground, into secret schools and mosques such as this one.

The government crackdown on Islam is forcing religion underground, into secret schools and mosques such as this one.

Uzbekistan Ferghana Valley A father who has three sons in jail for unsanctioned religious activity.

A father who has three sons in jail for unsanctioned religious activity.

Uzbekistan Ferghana Valley A woman who has lost most of the men in her family tp religious persecution. She has also been accused of religious crimes.

A woman who has lost most of the men in her family to religious persecution. She has also been accused of religious crimes.

Uzbekistan Ferghana Valley Here in the center of the underground religious movement, nearly all men keep a close shave to avoid government suspicion

Here in the center of the underground religious movement, nearly all men keep a close shave to avoid government suspicion.

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Kazakhstan – the toxic Russian rocket fuel issue

Toxic Russian Rocket Fuel Target of Kazakh Anger 

A nationalist political party in Kazakhstan has called on the government to ban future launches of Russian Proton-M carrier rockets from the Baikonur Cosmodrome over concerns that they spew a particularly toxic form of rocket fuel into the Kazakh steppe.

Also at play are issues of sovereignty arising from the intergovernmental agreements governing Russia’s use of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which the NSDP views as an affront to “the concept of sovereignty of Kazakhstan!” READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Kazakhstan A band of scrap metal dealers scan while waiting for a rocket to crash.

A band of scrap metal dealers scan while waiting for a rocket to crash.

Kazakhstan The flaming wreck of the same rocket after it crashed during the night.

The flaming wreck of the same rocket after it crashed during the night.

Kazakhstan The fiery wreck of a rocket after it crashed during the night.

The fiery wreck of a rocket after it crashed during the night.

Kazakhstan A Soyuz rocket fuel tank lies on the steppe.

A Soyuz rocket fuel tank lies on the steppe.

Kazakhstan Villagers collecting scrap from a crashed spacecraft, surrounded by thousands of white butterflies. Environmentalists fear for the region's future due to the toxic rocket fuel.

Villagers collecting scrap from a crashed spacecraft, surrounded by thousands of white butterflies. Environmentalists fear for the region’s future due to the toxic rocket fuel.

Kazakhstan Altai Dead cows lying on a cliff. The local population claim whole herds of cattle and sheep regularly die as a result of rocket fuel poisoned soil

Dead cows lying on a cliff. The local population claim whole herds of cattle and sheep regularly die as a result of rocket fuel poisoned soil.

Karachay and Balkars – Turkik people of the Caucasus

The Balkars and Karachay are a Turkik people who arrived and settled in Central Caucasus around the XII century. Although having their own Turkik languages, they adapted to local Caucasian culture – dressing, dance, customs; also, values like hospitality and honor, prevalent throughout the Caucasus, are essential part of Karachay-Balkar culture.

Karachay-Balkar language is divided in 2 dialects: Karachay-Baksan-Chegem and Balkar. The Kumyks, their ethnic cousins who speak the same language live in today’s Dagestan.

 The Balkars live in Kabardino-Balkaria republic, mostly in the high mountainous regions which are also some of the highest in the world.

The Karachay live in neighboring Karachay-Cherkessia, at the foothills of the Caucasus mountains.

The Karachays and Balkars are followers of Islam.

Deportation

Both the  Karachay and Balkars were deported in 1943-1944 at Stalin’s order, together with the Ingush, Chechens and Digor people (muslim minority of North Ossetia). Like all other deportees, many perished due to unbearable conditions (cold, starvation, hard labor, lack of medical help etc). The survivors were allowed to return in 1957 after Stalin’s death.

A particularly bloody episode took place in 1942, when over 1.500 villagers were killed in Upper Balkaria by NKVD – Stalin’s secret police.

TV report on the Balkar people
Karachay dance called “Abezek”

Karachay song
Dance ensemble “Balkaria” live performance
Balkar dance (couple)