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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 December, 2004, 20:08 GMT
Chechnya forum: Ask a panel
Grozny panel

What is life like in Grozny, the Chechen capital devastated by 10 years of war?

A panel of Grozny residents gathered in the offices of a local newspaper, Groznensky Rabochy, to answer your questions on Wednesday.

BBCRussian.com brought together people of various professions and social backgrounds, who do not represent any of the warring parties.

This event is part of a BBCRussian.com series marking the 10th anniversary of Russia's massive military intervention in Chechnya.

Click on the topics below to read the answers to your questions.


What is life like for a child there? How do your children go to school? What do you do for a weekend with them? Do you send them to the store to buy the milk for breakfast?
Edgard Aguilar
Los Cabos, Mexico

Milana Abuyeva, foreign languages student:

The war has been treating children as adults. After the Beslan siege, there were many reports about the psychological rehabilitation of children who had suffered this ordeal. But my 10-year-old brother asked me: "Don't we need psychological rehabilitation, or have we just got used to it all?" I didn't know what to say.

There are no shops yet, so we send children to buy milk at the market. And during weekends we visit friends.

In the years of conflict, how have the fighting and day-to-day privations of many people affected the views of Chechen children about their lives and the world?
Stephen Dempsey, Kendal

Selima Gapayeva, real estate agent:

In the last 10 years of conflict, many children were born in Chechnya. They have known all about war and privations since birth. We call them the children of the war.

They didn't have a real childhood, they had to become adults straight away. They think, speak and live like adults. They are deprived of everything normal children have in normal families. Their families are facing persecution and poverty. They have a disturbed psyche, and they are troubled when they see on TV or hear from other people how kids of their age live in places that have no war.

They feel handicapped, deprived of a normal childhood, and this provokes resentment. Their unhappy life full of troubles leaves a scar on them. Every second child in Chechnya is chronically ill.

This makes them yearn to leave Russia. For them the outside world is like a fairytale. The only bad place is their own land.

What do you feel your children's future will be like?
S. K. Rezai, Houston
USA and Teheran, Iran

Badrudi Eldarov, pensioner:

We are very worried about our children's future, and we are doing our best. We build kindergartens, reconstruct destroyed schools and hospitals. Only a healthy and educated generation can be of use for human society.


What is the life of young people like?
Denis Prokofyev
St Petersburg and Houston

Askhab Saralapov, medical student:

You could divide young people in Chechnya into two groups - students and everybody else. Students study, get together, share ideas and goals. Others wander on the streets, do nothing, drink or just sit at home.

For all young people life is difficult, and they are facing similar problems - where to find a job and how to survive. But living standards depend on the wealth of the family.

They make plans, hope for a better future and will always rely on nobody but themselves.

Do youths have a chance to get an education?

Ali Ortsuyev, chemistry and biology student:

Yes, young people have access to education, that is - they can study at a university. But this is not education in the full sense of the word. For instance, none of the natural science departments at the three Grozny universities has a functioning science laboratory. So we are getting all the knowledge from textbooks.


How did the role of women change in Chechen society due to the war?
Alice Szczepanikova
Cesky Tesin, Czech Republic

Aminat Abumuslimova, journalist:

It has changed completely. The war has removed men from ordinary life, so most traditional men's activities became the women's burden.

How do young Chechen women build their lives?

Selima Gapayeva, property agent:

Many Chechen men died or went missing during this war. It is hard to calculate the total. As a result of bombings, mopping-up operations and forced migration, according to unofficial estimates, there is only one man per 20 women in the republic.

So the first problem for a girl, who is looking for a partner, is the lack of choice. So there are many marriages in Chechnya when girls become the second or even the third wife of a man.

Many young women lost their husbands during Russia's last campaign on Chechen territory. Many of them are left alone with children. It is more difficult for them to marry, because there are many young girls around.

There are many cases of Chechen woman marrying men from another ethnic group, which used to be completely impossible in Chechen society.

But there are also girls who only dream about education and a career, and leave the matter of marriage for future. It is difficult for a married Chechen woman to study and work, because of family duties.


How do the people of Grozny get by day-to-day?

Ali Salgiriyev, law student:

Everyday life in Chechnya is completely different from what you find in other Russian regions and the rest of the world for that matter. There are 400,000 unemployed.

People are receiving compensation for lost property, but in 99% of cases they have to bribe corrupt officials to get their money.

Polls conducted by Grozny University students show that 95% of the population in Chechnya lives below the subsistence level. So, you can draw your own conclusions.

Are basic amenities such as water, electricity and sewers, up to standard?
rafael caraballo
pennsauken,n.j .u.s.a

Adam Khanukayev, builder:

Water supplies are very hard to maintain, because pipes are worn out and do not sustain pressure. There many interruptions, because of blackouts or bursting pipes. The sewage system is choking, purification facilities are destroyed and looted.

The entire system should be replaced. There are many blackouts because of the lack of substations. To restore it all we need huge funds from the federal centre and an enormous workforce.

Can people appear on the streets after dark?

Osrudi Lorsanov, policeman:

Yes, they can. The situation is getting better, and new leisure and entertainment venues are appearing.

What is driving the economy?
Indianapolis, USA

Isa Tisayev, businessman:

The only really active branch of economy is oil extraction, which has reached pre-war levels of 1.7m tons. Compensation payments have stimulated construction and the production of building materials.

I read about a sport/amusement park the authorities want built in Chechnya. What do you think about this project, considering the dire state of the region?
Adam Richardson
West Palm Beach, FL

Magomed-Emi Shamsuyev, law student:

In Chechnya child benefit is 70 roubles ($2.5) per month. The infant mortality rate is double the average in Russia. More than 70% of people are unemployed. Crime is rampant. So one can't really talk about any sort of entertainment.

I was born in Grozny near the bus station on Derbentskaya Street. We left in 1992. I want to come back and spend a few days in the city of my childhood. Has the area around the bus station changed a lot? Did it survive the bombing? I am afraid that I will not be able to recognise a thing...
Yulia Vorotnikova
Somerset, United Kingdom

Asrudi Lorsanov, policeman:

Compared with other parts of Grozny, the bus station area is in good shape. It hasn't changed beyond recognition. Sure you can come. We'll greet you.

How isolated as a community do you feel?
Hasan, Wollongong

Apti Tepsayev, philosopher:

Chechnya is in some way isolated from the outer world. For example, Chechens still can't get passports for foreign travel. Travel is also difficult for them in Russia. The world community is not terribly worried about us. You can't go anywhere from Grozny by plane, and trains go only once in four days.

Are civilian Chechens packing up and leaving to pursue life elsewhere?
Patrick Breiding
Washington, DC-USA

Adam Khanukayev, builder:

Everyone who could has left already. Only those who have no money or opportunity to leave Russia have stayed. And of course those who benefit from this war are still here.

Are you optimistic about the future for Chechnya?
Martyn Howie, Aberdeen Scotland

Milana Abuyeva, foreign languages student:

Yes. Pessimists are usually those who feel they have had enough after yet another crime against themselves or their relatives. But pessimism is not prevailing.

Are you aware that many, many people throughout the world care for you and would like to help, but don't know how?
Bo Lutoslawski
Cambridge, UK

Selima Gapayeva, property agent:

People in Chechnya have no doubt that the entire world is sympathetic to them. Many Chechens are giving their lives for peace and the future of Chechnya.

They will be glad to meet and work together with those, who care about their problems. We can do many things together. Internet access was recently established in Chechnya.

There is also a mobile phone network, although it is of poor quality. Write to groznen_rabochiy@mail.ru and we can start working together.

What kind of international assistance do the Chechen people need the most this winter?
Huey Armstrong

Badrudi Eldarov, pensioner:

Winter is winter: we need heat and we need food. We also need warm clothes.

What educational materials do your schools need most?
Anne Hasiuk

Ali Salgiriyev, student:

Chechen schools lack textbooks, all kinds of equipment and rooms. In some places there are not enough schools. In recent years teachers have become less and less professional, hence the children are not so well-educated.

Who do you trust least: the Russian military, the Russian-sponsored Chechen security forces or the Chechen rebel forces?
Boston, USA

Ali Ortsuyev, biology and chemistry student:

My personal opinion: I trust none of them. But of all the three evils least of all do I trust the pro-Russian Chechen security forces, because these people switch sides all the time.

Who do you want to win this war: Russia, the Chechen rebels, or does it not matter so long as the war ends soon?
St Petersburg

Magomed-Emi Shamsuyev, student:

People have been driven to such a state of despair, that they don't care who wins. They only want peace.

Who do you feel is more to blame for the current situation - Russia, or the Chechen rebels?
Moscow, Russia

Magomed-Emi Shamsuyev, student:

The war was started by Russia, and Russia is to blame for what happens in Chechnya now.

Have you changed your attitude to [Shamil] Basayev, especially after he took responsibility for Beslan?
Missouri, USA

Askhab Saralapov, medical student:

Those who hated and despised him didn't change their opinion, and those who supported him will continue to support him.

Is there any link between common people and the Chechen guerrillas?
Ivan Menjivar
San Salvador, El Salvador

Isa Tisayev, businessman:

There is, and a direct one. Without moral and material support from the population, no resistance can last long. The Chechen resistance is no exception.

What should Europe (and people living in Europe) do to stop the war, illegal arrests, executions with no trial torture and repressions against peaceful residents in Chechnya?
Florence (Italy)

Ali Ortusyev, biology and chemistry student:

Look at the Chechen issue from the point of view of ordinary residents of Chechnya, not from the point of view of the Kremlin or Chechen administration. Make Russian extradite war criminals to the international tribunal.

Do Chechens feel that the West is turning a blind eye and ignoring this conflict?
Stephen Bincarowsky
New York, USA

Ali Salgiriyev, law student:

Ordinary people have no hopes in the West or especially the US. I don't really understand the attitude of the West to Chechnya. It seems that the West understands what is going on in Chechnya (executions, kidnappings and mass killing), but nothing is done except for a lot of talking.

I think the West is not interested in resolving this problem. Chechnya is just a way for the US to discredit Russia.

There are so many misconceptions in the West about what life in your country is like. Which of them angers you the most?
Adam Tatek
Bilbao, Spain

Ali Ortsuyev, student:

It angers me most that the world believes in the image of Chechen terrorists created by Russian politicians. Nobody in the West is really trying to debunk this myth.

How are your relations with ethnic Russians living in Chechnya?
Muhammad Bilal Aslam
Philadelphia, USA

Aminat Abumuslimova, journalist:

We have always had good feelings towards them. The Russian-speaking population of Chechnya has never had bad feelings about Chechens either. Our relations have always been based on solidarity and mutual respect. When I meet Russians, I always say hello.

If Chechnya succeeds in becoming independent of Russia, can it also succeed in becoming truly democratic, that is, without interference from tribal gangs?
Margaret Reardon
Ottawa, Canada

Asrudi Lorsanov, policeman:

To achieve this, people should be allowed to elect their government. Both the Ichkeria [Chechen rebel] and Russian-backed governments have been forced upon them.

Do the vast majority of Chechens really think they will live in peace and prosperity if only they become an independent country?
chris akudo
enugu, nigeria

Apti Tepsayev, philosopher:

It is difficult to speak on behalf of all Chechens. Judging from the personal experiences of living in Chechnya as a part of Russia, and from what people think, it transpires that only independence will give the Chechens a chance to survive.

You can't assume that independent Chechnya will be beautiful and prosperous from the start. But without independence, there will be no life at all. However, it seems preferable to live in a large democratic state, which Russia will never be.

Do people in Chechnya believe that talks between the Russian "Soldiers' Mothers" and people of the [separatist] Maskhadov government can help bring peace closer?
Greet Lust
Tielt Belgium

Apti Tepsayev, philosopher:

They won't help much. The Kremlin will never recognise the legitimacy of such negotiations. Only powerful pressure from the international community may force the Kremlin to take steps aimed at stabilising the situation in Chechnya.

Do you feel that participating in government is the best way to return Chechnya to normality or do you think that the armed uprising is the only real solution?
Stephan Larose
Kelowna, Canada

Asrudi Lorsanov, policeman:

Neither will do any good. Of course one should co-operate with the authorities, but only with those elected by the people.

Do you believe that the only hope for a better Chechnya is through more intervention by the United Nations and/or the United States?
Nick Hurzeler, New York, United States

Apti Tepsayev, philosopher:

This should be done. Without the West there will be no order in Chechnya.

Who or what is the main obstacle to the development of the economy and normalisation in Chechnya?
Kyzyl-orda, Kazakhstan

Selima Gapayeva, property agent:

Corrupt Russian officials are laundering large amounts of money in the Chechen Republic. Most of the money sent to Chechnya never reaches its destination. One half remains in the federal centre, the other is embezzled by corrupt local officials in Chechnya. Chechnya's economic problems will last for a long time, if a corrupt government remains in Russia.

As a Chechen resident, do you see a religious dimension to this conflict?
Muhammad Bilal Aslam
Philadelphia, USA

Isa Tisayev, businessman:

There is a religious component in this conflict. Those whom people call Wahhabis, while they call themselves true Muslims, currently form the backbone of the resistance.

Are there any Mosques for the Muslims, or have they all been destroyed or have some been rebuilt?
Osam Manzoor
Burton-Upon-Trent, Staffords

Isa Tisayev, businessman:

There are about 400 mosques in the republic. Many of them were damaged during the hostilities.

Do you Chechens believe an Islamic state will resolve the problems of Chechnya?
london uk

Isa Tisayev, businessman:

Most Chechens, I am sure, support the democratic model of development for their state. Only some radical young people link their hopes to a caliphate. I think they form no more than 1-3% of the population.

Do you have any close family members or friends who have been killed and how common is this among the civilian population of Grozny?
Wollongong, Australia

Ali Ortsuyev, biology and chemistry student:

Yes, I lost a brother in the hostilities that began in 1999. We went all over the country looking for him. Several times we wrote to the Russian president, but we still haven't heard anything.

What will you do first, when the war is over?
Bristol, UK

Askhab Saralapov, student of medicine:

First of all I will go into the street to congratulate everybody.

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