BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Saturday, 26 October, 2002, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Moscow's Chechens fear siege fall-out
Police lorries on a central Moscow street
A police patrol is never far away on Moscow's streets

After years living under strain from the bitter war in Chechnya, the Chechen community in Moscow is waiting in fear for the fall-out from the hostage crisis.

"I am very worried about the hostages [in the theatre], caught between life and death and living in constant fear," Said-Usman Yakiev, a Moscow-based Chechen journalist and commentator on religious affairs, told BBC News Online.

"But at the same time, every minute, every second, I am aware of the 1,080,000 people in Chechnya living under the threat of death."

The past decade has seen Moscow's Chechens swell in numbers from about 20,000 in the Soviet period to an estimated 80,000 today.

The Russian media create an image of Chechens as gangsters and criminals

Said-Usman Yakiev

In a city of some nine million, it is not a large group but, along with Armenians and other communities from the Caucasus, Chechens say they are routinely singled out by the authorities for discriminatory treatment.

Mr Yakiev says he is stopped by police three or four times a day, whether in his car or on foot, and asked to show his identity papers.

ID 'hell'

Russia has an international commitment to doing away with the Soviet police-state system of registering citizens in their place of residence but the practice still exists in the capital, albeit by a different name.

Police can still slap a fine on anyone lacking the magic stamp, or "propiska", in their "internal passport", or ID card.

Russians from outside Moscow have difficulty in obtaining it - the key to state health care, education and other basic rights - but for Chechens, it is almost impossible to come by.

Moscow's Chechens
80,000 out of a population of 9m
Chechens dominate mosque congregations despite being a minority among the city's Muslims
90% of Chechens employed in business
Figures provided by Said-Usman Yakiev
Mr Yakiev and many like him are regularly hauled off to police stations to be questioned about their documents and fined.

At best, they are given a three-day "pass" with a warning to get registered - but they find they cannot extract the registration from the bureaucrats and the vicious circle continues.

Having no Moscow "propiska" - a situation he likens to "the torments of hell" - means that Mr Yakiev has had particular difficulty in getting an education for his three children.

He does, however, have a "propiska" from a town near the capital, Kashira, where the authorities are more liberal.

When he recently tried to place his children in a school in Moscow - where he lives and works and where his children went to kindergarten - the authorities said he needed special permission from the Russian Ministry of Education.

He managed to get it and his children went off to classes.

But there was a sting in the tail: he is now asked to contribute towards the cost of security guards at the school - apparently to defend it against "the Chechens".

Money talks

Chechen landscape (photo: Sapiyat Dakhshukaeva)
His homeland is never far from Said-Usman Yakiev's thoughts
Mr Yakiev says that they do occasionally encounter trouble in the street from skinheads but, in general, get along alright in a city where money talks loudest.

"The Russian media," he adds, "create an image of Chechens as gangsters and criminals."

He believes 90% of Chechens working in Moscow are involved in business, whether by desire or necessity - other professions are largely closed to them whatever degrees they may hold or jobs they may have had in Soviet times.

Mr Yakiev cannot see peace in Russia and Chechnya as long as Moscow's troops remain in his homeland.

Open in new window : In pictures
Images of life amid Chechnya's war
Asked about the potential effect of the Moscow hostage-taking on the city's Chechen community, he recalls the apartment block bombings of 1999 - widely blamed on Chechen rebels.

So great was the wave of hostility which passed through Moscow that year, many Chechens chose to move away temporarily to weather the storm.

The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"Why didn't anyone notice that 50 members of this group had disappeared?"
The BBC's Steven Eke
"Law and order in many parts of this small territory in southern Russia seem distant"
Strategic Studies Centre's Andrey Piontkovsky
"The rebels have rather undermined their cause"

Siege reports

Key stories

Chechen conflict



Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |