Dondi-Yurt open air museum, Chechnya

Dondi Yurt open air Museum beautiful Chechnya north Caucasus

Dondi-Yurt open air museum of Urus-Martan, Chechnya, is a private museum built by Adam Satuyev, ex-Chechen athlete.

Mister Satuyev, who had been collecting Chechen artifacts for years, decided to exhibit his collection in an open-air museum. Satuyev himself reenacted typical Chechen dwelling (residential) towers on his property in which he exposed his collection. The museum visit is free of charge.

Ikalchu fortress, Chechnya

Ikalchu Chechnya Caucasus mountains beautiful scenery nakh vainakh towers

Ikalchu castle Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Ikalchu is a XIV century fortress complex located in Meshi-Khi River valley, Chechnya. The gorge is heavily fortified as there are dozens of tower complexes along it.

Ikalchu is part of the Argun State History, Architecture and Nature Museum Reserve, which covers hundreds of ancient towers, settlements and fortifications  in southern Chechnya. Many were destroyed during the Caucasian wars, during the Soviet deportations, and again during the 1990’s Chechen-Russian wars. Around 200 structures are still standing today (though none fully intact).

Ikalchu Chechnya north Caucasus mountains

Ikalchu residential towers and fortress complex

Ikalchu Chechnya landscapes north Caucasus mountains

Ikalchu Chechnya Caucasus mountains beautiful landscape

Tower-castle complex

Ichalcu Chechnya tower Chechens North Caucasus mountains Vainakh eastern europe


Ikalchu tower Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Ikalchu battle tower Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Ikalchu watchtower Chechnya Caucasus mountains eastern europe

Ikalchu Chechen Nakh tower Chechnya North Caucasus Vainakh 3

Ikalchu castle fortress Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Ikalchu Chechnya castle Caucasus mountains eastern europe



Residential towers

Residential towers

Ikalchu crypts Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Ikalchu crypt Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Ikalchu fortress Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Ikalchu Chechnya Caucasus mountains landscape

Chechnya landscape Caucasus mountains eastern europe

Neighboring battle tower (the valley is heavily fortified)

Neighboring battle tower (the valley is heavily fortified)

Ikalchu castle tower complex Chechnya Caucasus mountains eastern europe

Ikalchu towers compex Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Ikalchu residential towers from the distance

Ikalchu towers Chechnya Caucasus mountains

river in Ikalchu Chechnya Caucasus mountains


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

Komsomolskoye Chechnya Russia war chechen rebels russian men soldiers fighters

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.

Cheberloy “land of mountain-dwellers” Chechnya

Cheberloy region is situated around Kazenoyam lake, near Cheberloyevsky canyon; it was inhabited by Cheberloy teip, who lived in more than a dozen settlements. After the 1944 deportation of the entire Chechen population, the settlements were destroyed by the Soviets. In present day, only one village (Makazhoy) is inhabited by a handful of residents.

The traditional occupation of Cheberloy people was cattle breeding and bee-keeping – the latter is still practiced by the few residents left.

Most of the settlements belong to the Argun Museum Reserve.

To read a full article on the Cheberloy people, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Cheberloyevsky canyon (click photo to view gallery)

Cheberloyevsky canyon Chechnya North Caucasus mountains

A few km past Kazenoy-am lake is the ancient Khoi village, dating back to the 9th century. Khoi had 7 towers and 350 homes – residential , military and guard towers; religious monuments, mosques , residential buildings, numerous domestic buildings and a cemetery. The village was destroyed by the Soviets, the only structure left almost intact was the cattle/ poultry dwelling.


Caucasus mountains Khoi settlement Chechnya

Khoi village ruins Chechnya Caucasus mountains

North Caucasus Khoi village Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Makazhoy Chechnya North Caucasus 3

Khoi cemetery chechen village Chechnya Chaberloi North Caucasus 1

Caucasus mountains Khoi village Chechnya landscapes

Khoi acient settlement Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Pagan sanctuary

Khoi settlement inscriptions Chechnya Caucasus mountains

North Caucasus Khoi Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Khoi settlement ruins Chechnya Caucasus mountains

North Caucasus Khoi ruins Chechnya Caucasus mountains

North Caucasus Khoi ancient village Chechnya Caucasus mountains

North Caucasus Khoi old house Chechnya Caucasus mountains

North Caucasus Khoi construction Chechnya

inscriptios Khoi settlement Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Makazhoy Chechnya North Caucasus

ancient cattle/ poultry dwellings

ancient cattle/ poultry dwellings

cattle dwellings in Khoi

ancient cattle/ poultry dwellings in Khoi

cattle poultry dwellings Khoi village Chechnya Caucasus mountains

cattle poultry dwellings Khoi Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Khoy dwellings ancient chechen village Chechnya Chaberloi clan

Caucasus mountains ancient Khoi Chechnya

Makazhoy settlement (only structure still standing is one 7 stories-high tower)


Makazhoy Nakh tower Cheberloy clan Chechnya Kazenoyam North Caucasus people

Makazhoy Chechnya Kazenoyam North Caucasus



Caucasus mountains makazhoy Cheberloyevsky canyon Chechnya North Caucasus 9

Makazhoy tower Cheberloy clan Chechnya Kazenoyam

Makazhoy tower Cheberloy clan Nakh peoples Chechnya Kazenoyam north Caucasus

Makazhoy tower Nakh people Cheberloy clan Chechnya Kazenoyam 1

archeologist at Makazhoy Cheberloy clan Chechnya North Caucasus people

archeologist at Makazhoy

architecture Makazhoy Cheberloy Chechnya North Caucasus

Makazhoy Nakh people Cheberloy clan Chechnya Kazenoyam 1

ruins in Makazhoy Chechnya land of Cheberloy Chechen clans

old cemetery Makazhoy Chechnya North Caucasus land of Cheberloy Chechen clans

old cemetery in Makazhoy

old cemetery in Makazhoy Chechnya land of Cheberloy Chechen clans

Makazhoy region Chechnya land of Cheberloy Chechen clans

ruins in Makazhoy Chechnya land of Cheberloy Chechen clans

vacation homes scattered throughout Makazhoy

newly built vacation house Makazhoy Chechnya North Caucasus

The ruins of Kazenoy fortress (almost completely destroyed) are located in the vicinity of Kazenoy-am lake.

Makazhoy ruins Kazenoy fortress Chechnya North Caucasus

Kazenoy fortress

Makazhoy Kazenoy fortress ruins Chechnya North Caucasus mountain road

Chechnya Makazhoy Kazenoy fortress ruins North Caucasus

ruins Kazenoy fortress Chechnya Caucasus

Chechnya Makazhoy Kazenoy fortress ruins North Caucasus mountain road

Makazhoy Kazenoy fortress Chechnya North Caucasus

view from Kazenoy fortress towards the mountains

Chechnya Makazhoy view from Kazenoy fortress North Caucasus mountain road

view from Kazenoy fortress

view from Kazenoy fortress

road near Kazenoy fortress

aerial view of Kazenoy fortress in Makazhoy

aerial view of Kazenoy fortress

near old Makazhoy village Chechnya mountains road

Makazhoy Chechnya North Caucasus

chechen girls in Makazhoy Chechnya North Caucasus people

Local children Makazhoy

Makazhoy Chechnya bee keepers

Makazhoy traditional bee-keeprs

Local children

Local children

Cheberloy “land of mountain-dwellers”

(article from Prague Watchdog)

The history of Chechnya is inextricably linked with the mountains. Almost every Chechen knows his roots and the place from which his teyp, or clan, originates. Though they may spend long years living on the plains, many of Chechens never break their connection with the land of their fathers (Daymohk), which is situated in the mountains.

The homeland of the Cheberloy teyp, one of Chechnya’s many communities, is located in the mountainous part of the south-east of the republic, bordering on Dagestan. Of the Cheberloyans’ once densely inhabited place of residence it may be said that it has become depopulated. Cut off from the outside world, only around ten families now live here.

The road to Cheberloy begins at the village of Kharachoy, near Vedeno, and then rises sharply in a narrow serpentine coil through the mountains. After an hour of travel one is already at cloud level. On this very difficult stretch of the road there were formerly two staging posts for travellers who became waylaid. Here there were small, tent-like huts in which they could wait for bad weather to pass, or spend the night.

The road continues to the very top of the ridge, at times descending, but then once again rising steeply above the clouds. This road is the only one along which it is possible to drive by car, and it leads past Lake Kezenoy-Am, known because of its beauty and uniqueness as “the pearl of the Caucasus”.

After a drive of one and half hours along the mountain, the road diverges in different directions: one fork leads to Dagestan, the other to the neighbouring Shatoysky district. This is the birthplace of the Cheberloy teyp, which some historians consider one of the oldest in contemporary Chechnya. Incidentally, it was along this road that Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev and his forces crossed into Dagestan in 1999.


These localities are now almost empty. A dozen villages are totally deserted. Only a few people continue to live here, and only in one village, Makazhoy. The other villages – Kenkhi, Kiri, Buni, and so on, are now derelict. The mountain folk who remain socialize with residents of the border villages in Dagestan, for they are geographically closer.

The occupations of the Cheberloyans are the ones traditional among mountain-dwellers: cattle breeding and bee-keeping. Fortunately, the climatic conditions allow them. The area is located in alpine meadows. In winter the road is cut off from the outside world. The mountain folk themselves sat that this time of year is the most tedious one, for there isn’t even any one to talk to on the long winter nights. Things liven up in spring, when their relatives travel to the mountains, and there have recently been some visitors who simply want to relax and breathe fresh mountain air for a few days.

56-year-old Adiz has lived in Makazhoy since 1959. He returned here with his family after the authorities gave the Chechens permission to return from their exile in Kazakhstan. Recently he has been based in the village of Petropavlovskaya, but he spends each summer in Makazhoy until the onset of winter. “It used to be good. There was life here,” he says with nostalgia in his voice. “We say bad things about the Soviet times, but in those days there was a road which the services looked after. Nowadays no one wants to have anything to do with these places. In the old days there were 244 families living here. Now there’s practically no one,” Adiz says as he stirs some mutton in a saucepan on the fire.

Adiz discusses the simple concerns of everyday life, but avoids mentioning politics. Politicians he refers to contemptuously as “politickers” [politikany] . “Chechens used to be more friendly. They had respect for one another. Since 1959 there have only been three killings in our village. They were mostly the result of domestic quarrels and blood feuds. Apart from those, there haven’t been any incidents like the ones that happen almost daily down on the plains. Politics is something that should be taken care of by the ‘politickers’ – we’re just ordinary residents,” Adiz comments, sampling the gravy in the saucepan, and nodding as a sign that the mutton is ready to eat.


Three or four kilometres from Makazhoy one comes to the farm of Buni. Former residents say that the name of the locality is derived from the Arabic word bani, meaning “son of”, or “descendant”. The village is now derelict.

Dzhalavdi lived in Buni until 1992. He was the first of his four brothers to truly come down from the mountains to the plains, and he settled in the village of Petropavlovskaya, near Grozny. There were still people living there during the first war and until the outbreak of the second, but the constant “mop-ups” by Russian soldiers and the intolerable living conditions forced them all to change their place of residence.

There is not a single undamaged house in the village. They were all destroyed by explosions. This was done by the Russian soldiers who lived in the village for several years. The traces of their long presence are everywhere. In every corner of the houses there are large piles of rubbish, thousands of empty tin cans that once contained butter or canned meat, and cartridge boxes. In a corner of one house there are even two intact artillery shells, which the locals call “landmines” [fugasy].

Dzhalavdi takes a long look at what is left of his home. “If there was electricity and gas, I’d be happy to come back here. It wouldn’t be any harder to live here than going to school was when I was a boy,” says, recalling the years of his childhood, when every day he had to walk five kilometres across mountain slopes.

Near his house there is a large amount of agricultural machinery. “That’s a potato planter, and that’s a potato digger,” says, pointing to the rusty trailers for the tractors. Potato-growing is one of the most lucrative occupations in these mountains. The potatoes are exported to Russia and sold.

“The land here is fertile. If you treat it as a living being, it gives you a good return. If you put a wooden walking stick in the ground here, it will grow into a tree after a couple of years,” Dzhalavdi says jokingly about the quality of the soil.

The Polygon

In Makazhoy and the other villages there are many reminders of antiquity. It is easy enough to destroy the house of a mountain-dweller, but the soldiers have not managed to get rid of the cattle sheds, some of which are a hundred years old, or more. They could have done so with dynamite, of course, but either they grudged it or their consciences were pricked. So these sheds, which can be classed as architectural relics, still stand. They were built of unhewn blocks of stone which were fitted together so that their ceilings formed an arch. In this design is so solid that stand the roof and heavy tank and truck.

Each village has a local cemetery beside it. Many of these cemeteries are derelict. In Makazhoy an old one has survived in good condition. Some of the grave markers, which have grown crooked with age and resemble arrows stuck in the ground, are more than 150 years old. On many of them, next to the Arabic script, a Star of David can be seen. The large lumps of rock which served as gravestones were made in such a way that everything superfluous was scraped off the surface, leaving only the essential symbols and quotations from the Koran. The modern craftsmen have an easier task: they simply clean the symbols and Arabic script out of the stone.

The derelict Cheberloysky district has become a favourite haunt of the neighbouring Dagestanis. Mostly they are Andis and Avars who live in two villages, Ansalt and Rakhat. They often spend whol summers in the Chechen villages, where they graze their cattle and keep bees..The Cheberloyans take a cautious view this of this quiet expansion by their neighbours. After all, a neighbour is closer than a distant relative. So unless one doesn’t show them that there are owners of this land, they may come and live here permanently, they reason.

While it is possible to settle most issues with the neighbouring Dagestanis, it is far more difficult to do this with the Russian soldiers. The Russian army’s top brass, having observed that few people live in the district, have decided to use it for an artillery training polygon, or target site. The fact that all around there are historic tower structures, many of which are hundreds of years old, causes them little concern.


Lake Kezenoy-Am was once famous for its unique beauty and its tourist centre at Benoy. The water in the lake is brilliantly transparent and eternally icy. The Soviet academic rowing team used to train on the lake. The fact of the matter remains unverified, but some particularly advanced mountain dwellers maintain that there are only two lakes in the world that are suitable for such training. One is in Switzerland and the other is Kezenoy-Am. The height of more than 1800 metres above sea level gives the water sufficient density to provide the rowers with increased strain during training.

There are several legends about how the lake came into being. The most common of these says that this was originally the site of a village where nearly all the inhabitants had refused an old man a bed for the night. Only one lonely old woman took him in. In the morning, when he left, the old man, who was a visionary, warned of a future flood. Thus all the villagers drowned, while the old woman managed to climb a hill and watch the village being swept away.

At present the Benoy tourist centre is in a state of complete ruin. Its restoration forms part of the plans for the development of tourism in Chechnya. The mountain dwellers hope this will happen soon. “If they make this place attractive to tourists again, it will be nice for us as well. We don’t care how they do it, as long as they restore the district to how it used to be.”

Abuses 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 video contains disturbing content 

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.

In the last 25 years, the abuse in the Russian army has risen to human rights violations.

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

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus lost boys

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

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus wars

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldiers boys table

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldiers war

Russian soldiers boys mother

Russian soldier mother

Russian soldier in Chechnya war North Caucasus checkpoint

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


Read more in Torture and atrocitiesIn 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 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.

Read more in Chechnya veterans – How Russia treats its ‘heroes’Orders given under the 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 poverty, social rejection and humiliation.

Russian teen soldier in Grozny, Chechnya - first war

Russian teen soldier in Grozny, Chechnya – first war


Russian conscript soldier

Nakh towers, Chechnya

Historical organization of Chechen society – Chechnya (like Ingushetia) didn’t have social classes or feudalism. It was governed by council of elders and practiced a pagan religion centered around the solar cult.

Chechen Nakh towers Chechnya North Caucasus Vainakh 2


Nakh people were organized in “teips” (family clans). Each family clan had their own defensive structure, mostly represented by Nakh towers. The villages and regional subdivisions of today still hold the names of their “teip” (ex. Sharoy, Chatou etc).

In times of danger, the family clans united under a “tukum” (political-military union), lead by a chosen military chief .

The towers had different purposes (combat, residential tower etc) and were around 7 stories high.

The typical Chechen/ Ingush towers (Nakh towers) developed as response to repeated foreign invasions, especially the Mongol invasion of the XII century.

Hacharoy Chechnya tower Chechens North Caucasus Vainakh Nakh

The teip had a few common features:
* The right of communal land tenure
* Common revenge for murder of a teip member
* Exogamy (marrying a member outside the clan was mandatory)
* Election of a Council of Elders and equal right of all members
* The right of the teip to depose its representatives
* Representation of women by male relatives
* The right of the adoption of outside people
* The transfer of property of departed to members of the teips
* The teip has a defined territory and a traditional mountain
* The teip had its own Godhead (pagan beliefs before the adoption of Islam)
* The teip had specific festivities, customs, traditions and habits
* The teip had its own cemetery
* A common teip hospitality (hospitality in general is highly regarded in the Caucasus)

chenty merk Chechen Nakh tower Chechnya North Caucasus mountains


Chanty Mohk Chechnya tower Chechens North Caucasus mountains Vainakh Nakh

Here are a few of the Nakh-Chechen towers which survived the XIX century wars, the Soviet destruction and the recent Russian-Chechen conflicts.

During the 1990’s wars, dozens of ancient Chechen towers were attacked by Mi-24. 


Pankisi gorge

pankisi-georgia-kist-chechen-girls-children-north-caucasus-people chechens

“Amid the spectacular natural beauty of the Pankisi Gorge; among all the quick smiles and sudden humor and endless generosity of spirit; in spite of the incredible bounty of the autumn harvest; nestled next to the dreams of children; lying just beneath the surface of a warm hello; carried on the winds between the notes of a haunting polyphonic melody; momentarily illuminated by a thunderstorm’s lightning flash; rarely talked about but omnipresent, lies the stark reality of relentless poverty, crushing hardship, stinging prejudice, and the yearning for a better life. It blankets 2 little boys, who live in a cowshed, offering no comfort or warmth. It makes fighting a jihad in Syria seem attractive to more than 100 of our young men, 4 of whom died there this summer. It makes our girls not question teenage marriage and motherhood, or dropping out of school. It crushes creativity and dreams of a better life by offering no means of realizing hopes for the future. It makes it difficult to see the value of education when there are no jobs. Or if one does have a job, and only 10% here do, it pays next to nothing. It fosters hopelessness, often misidentified as boredom and laziness. It breeds illness and disease that are preventable but remain untreated. It is so big.”
–Suze Rutherford

Pankisi valley Georgia North Caucasus mountains Kist people

Pankisi is a region situated in the North of Georgia near the border with Chechnya. Pankisi valley harbors 8 villages, and further out is the Pankisi gorge, cut in between the high peaks of the Caucasus mountains.

The population of around 15.000 people, with 75% of them having Chechen ethnic background. They are either Kist people, or recent Chechen refugees.

The Kist people are a Chechen tribe that arrived in Pankisi between 1830-1870. It is believed they originate from southern Chechnya’s beautiful Meiste region.

In the early 20th century, many received Georgian citizenship and Georgian surnames, a fact which spared them from deportation in 1944. Despite receiving a certain Georgian influence, the Kist community is bilingual and still preserves the Chechen language dialect, culture and traditions.


During the second Chechen war, several thousands Chechens found refuge  in Pankisi. After the end of the war many left, but a few have remained in the valley.

The second Chechen war greatly altered the economic and social structure in the region; until 2009, UNCHR was assisting locals. Small steps were attempted at developing tourism but additional support is needed.

The small Roddy Scott foundation helps children with english/computer lessons.  Set up in the memory of British journalist Roddy Scott, who was killed by Russian snipers along Chechen rebels near Pankisi in 2002.

Roddy Scott

Roddy Scott, killed alongside Chechen rebels

In the memory of their only son, his elderly parents decided to help the children of Pankisi. The children recently set up a local “newspaper” – – informational travel website created in 2008 with the help of the Polish Foundation for Intercultural Education

Pankisi valley gorge Georgia North Caucasus

Despite being Muslims, the locals produce (and consume) home-made red wine, which is a tradition in Georgia.

Batsara Nature Reserve lies near Pankisi – w240 hectares of yew-tree woodlands – which are 1000 years old and older. It represents a unique and unspoiled part of the world.

Pankisi gorge valley Georgia North Caucasus mountains






















































In 2002, British journalist Roddy Scott went to Pankisi to research the conflict from the Chechen side (which was often neglected by the media). After gaining the trust of both locals and fighters, he departed with a unit belonging to Ruslan Gelayev. They were all killed in Ingushetia not far from Pankisi.

Roddy Scott’s body was never returned to his family by the Russian authorities. His video footage was confiscated, though BBC managed to obtain a few of Roddy’s last photos – see gallery below. After a visit to Pankisi, Roddy’s parents set up a small foundation to help the disadvantaged children of the region.

BBC news report Killed reporter’s Chechen rebel pictures

Roddy’s last pictures before they were all killed (click on photo to view gallery)


Roddy's parents set up a foundation to help the disadvantaged children of Pankisi in the memory of their son

Roddy Scott in 2001 – After his death, Roddy’s parents set up a foundation to help the disadvantaged children of Pankisi in the memory of their son

Children of Pankisi

Children of Pankisi

chechen girl in Pankisi gorge Georgia North Caucasus chechen people

children in Pankisi valley Georgia North Caucasus mountains Kist chechen people

children Pankisi Georgia North Caucasus people

Pankisi gorge Georgia North Caucasus mountains Kist chechen people boy

child Pankisi Georgia North Caucasus mountains Kist chechen people

Pankisi gorge Georgia North Caucasus mountains Kist chechen people

Pankisi Georgia kist chechen children North Caucasus people

chechen girls in Pankisi Georgia North Caucasus mountains Kist chechen people

Pankisi gorge Georgia North Caucasus mountains Kist chechen people kids

Local kids enjoying their new computers. These 6 computers were kindly donated by the Estonian Embassy, the staff of the Embassy also spent their weekends redecorating the classroom (the Estonian ambassador himself painted the walls). source: Roddy Scott Foundation – the local “newspaper” set up by the Pankisi children who are learning English at the Roddy Scott foundation. The project is run by Roddy’s parents and a handful of good-willing volunteers. New funds are being raised every year to keep the classes going, if you want to help donate here

One of the founders speaks about the children and the project

Chechen refugee children from the Pankisi Valley perform a traditional dance to celebrate World Refugee day in Mtatsminda Amusement Park, in Tbilisi, Georgia

Chechen refugee children from the Pankisi Valley perform a traditional dance to celebrate World Refugee day in Tbilisi, Georgia

In 2002, when Roddy Scott was trying to document the war, another young Chechen director was shooting a movie in Pankisi gorge. At the time, along Chechen refugees – the Chechen guerillas were settled in the region, under the command of Ruslan Gelayev (who married a local woman).

Ruslan Gelayev with his forces

Ruslan Gelayev with his forces

With his first film, a young director tries to do nothing less than explain his people’s agony to an uncomprehending world  ‘Terrorist” With a Camera

Murad Mazaev, young Chechen director


The following pictures and text belong to journalist Derek Henry Floods.

An elderly refugee from southern Chechnya’s Itum-Kale district sits in the home of a Kist host family in Duisi, Georgia. I was struck by how incredibly hospitable these people relentlessly vilified by the FSB were. They told me of the horrors of Putin’s onslaught on their villages while offering endless cups of tea and bread me. I felt powerless, having nothing to givein return but a sympathetic ear. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

An elderly refugee from southern Chechnya’s Itum-Kale district sits in the home of a Kist host family in Duisi, Georgia. I was struck by how incredibly hospitable these people relentlessly vilified by the FSB were. They told me of the horrors of Putin’s onslaught on their villages while offering endless cups of tea and bread to me. I felt powerless, having nothing to give in return but a sympathetic ear. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

Ismail with his scruffy cat in the village of Birkiani. He was a young refugee living in limbo like thousands of others. Though there was condemnation of all-out war in Chechnya at the time, there was no real action to back it up. Or should I say nothing ‘actionable’ was ever done. Challenging so-called tin pot regimes in weak states was acceptable and even fashionable for a time among liberal internationalist and neoconservative circles for a time but challenging Russian neo-imperialism directly has never been on the table. One could even draw a continuity between inaction on the Caucasus then and Crimea now. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

Ismail with his scruffy cat in the village of Birkiani. He was a young refugee living in limbo like thousands of others. Though there was condemnation of all-out war in Chechnya at the time, there was no real action to back it up. Or should I say nothing ‘actionable’ was ever done. Challenging so-called tin pot regimes in weak states was acceptable and even fashionable for a time among liberal internationalist and neoconservative circles for a time but challenging Russian neo-imperialism directly has never been on the table. One could even draw a continuity between inaction on the Caucasus then and Crimea now. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

An effusive Chechen elder I met at sundown in the village of Birkiani where I stayed in 2002. What a cool guy! A random Westerner shows up at his gate and he immediately offers warm, old school Chechen hospitality. ©2013 Derek Henry Flood

An effusive Chechen elder I met at sundown in the village of Birkiani where I stayed in 2002. What a cool guy! A random Westerner shows up at his gate and he immediately offers warm, old school Chechen hospitality. ©2013 Derek Henry Flood

A boy and his horse between Duisi and Jokolo. ©2013 Derek Henry Flood

A boy and his horse between Duisi and Jokolo. ©2013 Derek Henry Flood

In 2009, when the guerillas were long gone and many of the refugees had left to resettle elsewhere, the Russian ministry was still bringing accusations of  “terrorism activity” in Pankisi.

Georgian journalist Lizaveta Zhahanina went to search for “terrorists” in Pankisi after the Russian allegations. In 2010, the U.S. Department of State released an annual country report on terrorism, saying that “Russia’s claims of Georgian support for Chechen terrorist and harboring of such individuals in the Pankisi gorge were unsubstantiated”.

Click on link to read the Lizaveta’s story

Pankisi Valley: “The Chechens are the Bravest Men”

Pankisi dancers

Georgian song about the love for a Kist-Chechen woman… Kavkasiuri Balada (Caucasian balad)