Cruel amnesty

On 20 March 2000, Russian president Vladimir Putin urged Chechen fighters to take advantage of an amnesty offered by the Russian parliament.  He was speaking after arriving in Chechnya by fighter jet on a surprise trip ahead of this weekend’s presidential elections.

Vladimir Putin flying a jet in Chechnya

Vladimir Putin flying a jet in Chechnya

After a brief tour of parts of the devastated capital Grozny, Mr Putin indicated that Moscow was willing to discuss the republic’s future with rebels who laid down their arms.

He said that those “who have not stained their hands with the blood of Russian nationals, have not killed or robbed, have a choice”.


A Russian pilot taken hostage several months before was freed in Komsomolskoye, a Chechen town captured by federal forces after two weeks of heavy shelling. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Zhukov had been captured in October when his jet went down in Chechnya during a mission. Zhukov was freed in Komsomolskoye on Sunday when rebels there tried to break out of a Russian encirclement. He was said to be in good physical condition.

Not much was left of Komsomolskoye village

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In March of 2000 federal officials announced that 72 rebel guerrillas had surrendered at Komsomolskoye and that all were being amnestied. Two women were also among them, a Chechen woman by the name of Biluyevna Lipa (who appears in the video below) and an ethnic Russian woman who identified herself as wife of one of the Chechen hostages. Ruslan Gelayev, the commander, had escaped 2 days earlier.

The prisoners were taken to Chernokozovo filtration camp, where despite the public declaration of amnesty – they were tortured and killed. Three men survived  – two disappeared (disappearances are a common phenomenon in Chechnya) and one committed suicide, according to Novaya Gazeta.

One of the survivors, Rustam Azizov, told his story to Memorial Human Rights Center before he disappeared.

War in Chechnya: a Chechen militiaman tells his story

He also described the tortures they were subjected to; a short video shot by Russian army captured the treatment described click here for video segment (contains disturbing scenes)


 First part of the video below captures the hostages after the surrender; 2 females are part of the hostages. Russian officer also describes the killing of “snipers’ girls” – it’s unsure if it refers to these 2 females


A different version of the prisoners  footage


Chechen woman by name of Milueva Lipa is being asked to identify herself and admit on video that she was a sniper. She is in a visibly worsened state compared with the previous video


The male hostages captured on a 30 minute film, shortly before they died. The women can no longer be seen.


To read more about Chernokozovo filtration camp, click here Torture. atrocities (Emily Gillian’s excerpts)


The hostage video was made public in 2004 by Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. According to her, making the video public was the idea of the Russian officer who had filmed it, as he hoped it will help “free him from a nightmare which continues to torture him right up to the present.”

The news report and video download link are still available on the newspaper website where Anna Politkovskaya worked.

Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in Moscow in 2006, supposedly for her human rights work and her open criticism of Kremlin’s corruption.


It was only through this video tape that the truth was revealed and the families of the prisoners finally learned of the faith of their missing relatives. It also reinforced declarations of Komsomolskoye witnesses like journalist Owen Matthews, who described seeing bodies with hands tied back and severe signs of torture.

The War in Chechnya had an extreme level of violence. To understand what role “violence” plays in Russian military culture, below is a so-called disciplinary video with young Russian conscript soldiers.

War crimes are a sad reality and a fact of every war. However, this particular event involved a declaration of amnesty from the highest state authority – the Russian president himself and the Parliament, and also involved a public statement from military officials of the prisoners “being amnestied” once they had surrendered.

The fact that the amnesty proved to be a false promise and that the real outcome was purposely disclosed from the public by the authorities – most probably with the knowledge of the President himself, affects the credibility of the authority in the Russian state on the highest level, not only in relation to the Chechens but also on international level.


Chechen traditional costume & culture

Main source – “The Chechens”  HERE (pdf format)

get it 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”.

Chechen society is divided on sexes (conservative Muslim society). Men are seen as sole bread winners in the family household, while women’s main duty is to become a good wife and mother. Women may have a job but the job must not involve socialization with other men.

chechnya girls-chechen-women-costume-north-caucasus-people-nakh

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.

Up until XIX century, traditional Chechen costumes were different but all traditional dress across the Caucasus kept a general resemblance. Modern Chechen dress was heavily influenced by Circassian costumes in the XIX century.

North Caucasus Chechnya dancers chechen men women chechens



Customs originate in most ancient times. They define “checheness”, very important in the identity of proud 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 (this remains available to this day). Touching a woman meant defilement and the culprit was executed by the family of the woman. The culprit could escape punishment by suckling on the breast of the woman’s mother, making him a foster brother.


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 and hidden.

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 – they belong to Chechen president Kadyrov’s circles. Regular Chechens are modest.


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.

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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.

chechnya chechen women girls caucasus people chechens

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 chechen men women dance Caucasus people


North Caucasus chechen men traditional dance chechens

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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



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


“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 Chechen scarf was not always a must-be item.

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

muslim chechnya chechen women girls caucasus people chechens

Chechen girls in front of central Grozny mosque.

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Chechen women walking in downtown Grozny.


Abuse in the Russian army

source: Human Rights Watch, BBC News, English Pravda

Russian soldier boys North Caucasus

Young conscript soldiers being “disciplined” for being deserters or committing other petty crimes. WARNING! the scenes are disturbing, contains extreme violence

Conscription in Russia is a 12 month draft, mandatory for all male citizens age 18–27. The mandatory term of service was reduced from 18 months at the beginning of 2008.

“Dedovshchina” is the subjection of new junior conscripts to brutalization by the conscripts serving their last year of compulsory military service, as well as NCOs and officers. It is often cited as a major source of poor morale in the ranks.

Every army has a certain level of abuse. In the last 25 years, the abuse in the Russian army has risen to level of  “human rights violations”.

Many young men are killed or commit suicide every year because of dedovshchina. Tens of thousands of soldiers run away, while thousands more are left physically and or mentally scarred.
The Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia was created in 1989 in order to protect the rights of young soldiers.

In 2012, a draftee from Chelyabinsk region, Ruslan Aiderkhanov, was raped and tortured to death by his seniors. The lone witness who testified against the alleged perpetrators, Danil Chalkin, was later found shot dead in his military base. A contract soldier, Alikbek Musabekov was later arrested in this incident. (read news report here)


Arkady Babchenko, veteran of the Chechen war:

Russian boy soldier Chechnya

Arkady and his parents before his departure for Chechnya

“It’s no longer a secret in Russia. It’s existed for 30 years. We never talk about it in the media, but nothing has changed. They’re just the rules of the game. If you have a son, you know one day he’ll have to leave for two years to do military service, and that for those two years, he’ll be beaten. The military reflects society, therefore, if society is cruel, the military will be cruel.”


Russian soldier jailed for abuse

Bullying victim Andrei Sychev

The victim, Andrei Sychev, developed gangrene after being told to crouch

A Russian soldier has been sentenced to 4 years in jail for abusing a conscript soldier so badly that his legs and genitals required amputation.

The incident took place at the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy in the Ural Mountains on New Year’s Eve 2005, while Sgt Sivyakov’s unit went on a drinking spree to celebrate the holiday.

The conscript soldier was tied to a chair and beaten, and made to crouch for so long that the blood flow to his legs was cut off and he developed gangrene.

Nine months after the attack, he remains in hospital.

Sivyakov, was convicted of exceeding his authority and using violence. He always denied any wrongdoing.

The prosecution had demanded a penalty of six years in jail. Pte Sychev’s family denounced the punishment – even before it was handed out – as inadequate.

More than 6,000 soldiers were victims of abuse last year, the military has said.

Junior Sgt. Aleksandr V. Sivyakov is charged with abusing Private Sychyov. He has pleaded not guilty.



According to the UN International Panel for Struggle against Sexual Exploitation, the Russian army is plagued with male prostitution. A small amount of money is enough to find a Russian soldier-prostitute in the center of Moscow.

Servicemen may become male prostitutes in the Russian army for various reasons. There are young men who voluntarily offer sexual favors to their homosexual clients; others are forced into prostitution against their own will. Newcomers, especially those who finished higher schools before joining the army, suffer from sexual harassment more often than others. Brave soldiers try to protect their honor and rights, although there is no one to help them: commanders and military officials may often be involved in the sex business too.

“When I was standing on duty, two bullies came up to me and shoved me into the stockroom, a soldier serving at one of Moscow’s military units recollects. “They raped me there in turn. It was very painful and revolting. It didn’t take them much time to finish, but the next day I started noticing other soldiers giving me strange looks. I instantly realized that those bastards let everyone know what they had done to me. An officer came up to me one day and said to me point-blank: “Tomorrow you will to serve two clients.” I knew that if I said “no” then I would spend my last days spitting blood. But still, I told him “no.” When the officer heard that, he pulled out pictures of me being raped in the stockroom. “If you don’t serve the clients, you mother will see these pictures,” said he. I was forced into prostitution,” the soldier said.

Another serviceman, named only as Ilya, became a male prostitute during his second month in the army. The young man received a letter from his girlfriend. “The sergeant told me that day that I would no longer need girls. He and three other men forced me to go behind the barracks to the abandoned construction site. They made me kneel their, tied me up to a lamppost and hit me several times in the groin. The pain was so strong that I lost the will to fight them back. They made me open my mouth and raped me. I don’t remember how long it continued. When I came to my senses I didn’t want to live. I was seriously thinking about committing suicide. I was shocked that the rapists were visiting me regularly afterwards bringing fruit and vodka for me. When it ended they made me a prostitute,” Ilya said.

There were many incidents when soldiers prefer bid farewell to their lives being unable to cope with humiliation. However, military officials mostly say that such stories occur because of the unbalanced state of mind of the soldiers.



  Boys beaten by older officer. The abuse gets gradually worse

International group Human Rights Watch has published a detailed study of what it calls “horrific violence” against new conscripts in the Russian army.

The 86-page report was called “The Wrongs of Passage: Inhuman and Degrading Treatment of New Recruits in the Russian Armed Forces”

The report says organized bullying has not only continued since Soviet times, but has become harsher.

Human Rights Watch says that although the abuse has been known about for several years, Russia’s leadership has done nothing to address the problem.

One conscript, Alexander D, told Human Rights Watch that “the one way to avoid physical abuse was complete submission – turning into a ‘lackey’ who does whatever he is asked no matter how humiliating or senseless”.

He says he was repeatedly beaten for refusing to sew collars on senior soldiers’ jackets. Another time Alexander D’s belongings were taken away and he was sent out, along with others, to beg for money to buy vodka.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that most conscripts are ill-educated and frequently come from backgrounds with severe social problems, the report says.

Many junior officers either do not care about the welfare of their soldiers, or passively encourage the bullying as it gives a certain “discipline” to the barrack block.

First-year conscripts could also be forced to act out an old army joke called “dried crocodile”, he says.

The conscripts had to put their hands and feet on the posts at the head and feet of the bed and remain in push-up position for long periods of time.

“They [the dedy] lie down on the bed [beneath you] and God forbid you fall. They beat you up and then start from scratch. Sometimes they even burn your leg from down there… when they were drunk they could make you hang all night.”



March 1994 – Mass shooting committed by two abuse victims 

MOSCOW — For months, the two young draftees had been subjected to the routine cruelty inflicted on Russian army recruits. Then came a painful, ritualized hazing to mark the completion of basic training.

Such abuse is common throughout Russia’s armed forces. Its teenage victims frequently end up with serious injuries. An alarming number are killed or driven to commit suicide.

Almost always, the mistreatment is ignored or covered up. This time, though, the results were so unusual-and so ghastly-that there was no way the army could keep them secret.

The tragedy unfolded at a remote base on a bleak, impoverished island in the Pacific Ocean. In the wee hours of the morning last Tuesday, the two recruits decided they had had enough. They crept into the room where their tormentors were sleeping and opened fire with machine guns.

When the shooting stopped, 6 soldiers were dead and 3 others were badly wounded, according to official reports. The two recruits, identified only as Beltsov and Agdashev, then held off an army assault, even shooting down a helicopter, before finally surrendering hours later.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the barracks murders on the tiny island of Tanfilyev near Japan is how little they shocked ordinary Russians, who long have accepted vicious brutality as an unavoidable fact of military life.

“The relationship between older and younger soldiers is very primitive, almost on a savage level,” said Vladimir Romanov, a retired army colonel who did five years of research on the physical and psychological abuse of recruits and now teaches at a Moscow military academy.

“The root of the problem lies in the broader society, where people have been dehumanized and denied their rights for such a long time. The situation in the army is just a mirror of this. New recruits are treated like they have no rights. Older soldiers feel they can do whatever they like to them.”

FULL STORY HERE In Russia’s Army, Cruelty A Way Of Life



It is suspected that many reported suicides in the Russian Army are in fact cases where the soldiers were simply “hazed to death”. Read about the case of Ruslan Ayderkhanov here The Ayderkhanov Case.

Official letter from the Human Rights group “Memorial” addressed to the president of the Russian Federation Appeal to President Medvedev by Human Rights Defenders on the Death of Ruslan Ayderkhanov


“The lost boys” – photo series by Heidi Bradner about Russian conscript soldiers in Chechnya, most of them inexperienced 18-19 years olds

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Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus war tank

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldiers boys

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus wounded

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldiers boys North Caucasus

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Russian soldiers boys mother

Russian soldier mother

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Russian soldier stands at checkpoint in Chechnya. Photo by Stanley Greene

The currency of passage at Russian checkpoints in Chechnya was often cigarettes. Sometimes it was food to fight off starvation. The Union of Soldiers’ Mothers Committees of Russia joined with Chechen women in Nazran to find their lost sons, often lacking even basic information such as the regiment name. Critics claimed that the Russian army treated its conscripts as cannon fodder or slave labour for officers. Source:


News report

Two young conscripts humiliated, then physically abused by a larger group in the dorm rooms


In previous posts you can read about the chaos, brutality, corruption and lack of consideration for soldiers’ safety and lives in the Russian Military.

Torture and atrocities – “In Russia, winning wars has always been a matter of quantity, not quality,” said one conscript. “They don’t even count us as losses. We’re just meat.” A few episodes also describe young “poorly-dressed exhausted soldiers” being sent ahead of the infamous mop up operations to check passports. They warn villagers of the massacre that the “bloodhounds” (Special Forces teams and contract soldiers) are being sent to carry on soon.

Chechnya veterans – How Russia treats its ‘heroes’ – Orders given under influence of alcohol lead to unnecessary loss of young conscripts’ lives; neglect by government, authorities and medical staff; for survivors – the return to a life of extreme poverty, social rejection and humiliation, which means young men’ lives destroyed before they even began.

Russian teen soldier in Grozny, Chechnya - first war

Russian teen soldier in Grozny, Chechnya – first war


Russian conscript soldier