2 October 2003, Volume 4, Number 26
IN FOCUS'WHY ISN'T THE WHOLE WORLD CRYING?' The Chechnya Film Festival, timed for Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech last week at the United Nations and his meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush, was the largest public event of its type since the Soviet era to be jointly organized by prominent Russian emigres in tandem with American human rights organizations and their counterparts in Russia.
Normally, the subject of Chechnya attracts only a few specialists and nongovernmental groups devoted to monitoring war crimes, and is generally ignored in favor of other more publicized tragedies around the world. But with the prominent newspaper ads and the heavily advertised films, which played to overflowing houses on opening night, Chechnya could be said to have "arrived" on the U.S. intellectual scene. "Hard-core Chechnya watchers have seen their ranks swelled overnight by movie stars, senators and big-name human rights groups," Matt Bivens wrote in "The St. Petersburg Times" on 26 September
The images delivered to Western audiences of the little-known war were startling even for those familiar with the subject. In introductory remarks at the openings, organizers said they strove to provide a balanced picture of the conflict by including films from both the Russian and Chechen perspectives, but sympathies for the side bearing the brunt of overwhelming military force seemed to shine through. Most of the films had already appeared in Russia or Europe, and a few had appeared on American public television. But all concentrated together in three days of showings and related public events such as a photo exhibit and panel discussions, they carried a powerful message about a forgotten war.
In "Greetings from Grozny," directed by Paul Mitchell and Tatyana Rahmanova and filmed last year (PBS Wide Angle/Wilton Films), the camera pans over sprawling graveyards in village after village, some containing characteristic tall spires and signs in Arabic script that signify those who died fighting in the Chechen resistance. The scenes moved many in the audience to tears. A woman in the PBS film with a careworn, lined face, who looked about 60, talked about her two-year old daughter -- that instance alone spoke volumes about the toll the war has taken on civilians. Later, the same woman, arms akimbo on a dirt road, scolds a journalist who asks her about her connections with Al-Qaeda. "What would Bin Laden be doing here?" she cries. For this woman and many other civilians, the issue has not been the connection to international terrorism to be found among some Chechen rebels, but the lack of attention from the international community to the conflict. "The whole world should stand up for us," said the woman. "Why isn't the whole world crying?"
When the camera crew gets permission to follow Russian soldiers on a security sweep, the officers politely tell anguished family members that they have mothers and children themselves, as they lead away a man in his 40s, promising to bring him back soon. When the same crew happens to be in a village under cover when the Russian troops search the area without knowing they are there, there is much more indiscriminate gunfire, swearing, and abuse. When they confront some soldiers leading away a teenage boy screaming for mercy, a voice-over expresses the hope that they have saved his life...for a while. Later, the narrator describes that a man filmed being shoved into an army vehicle during one such sweep was never seen again, and like some 2,000 other Chechens, is on a list of missing persons acknowledged by the authorities. Bodies occasionally show up in mass graves or dumps near army bases.
Tensely watching the scene of his teenage brother being led away is a little boy of about six, his clean, white pressed shirt a testimony to his mother's care even in the midst of war. Not uttering a sound, he trots behind the soldiers, holding himself proudly upright. The war has had a terribly disproportionate effect on children, who make up most of the displaced population, and whose bodies, as young as 12, can be found in the graveyards tended by weeping women. One boy in a tent camp shyly shows a reporter a crate with books in it, tucked behind a ragged curtain pulled over his modest cot. It turns out he is learning English by reading "Kidnapped" by Robert Louis Stevenson and dreams of someday becoming a lawyer and defending human rights. A look at the demolished schools and homes of Chechen cities perhaps indicate his dream might take a while in coming true.
At a panel discussion after the festival's opening in New York, speakers noted that the amount of atrocities in Chechnya has surpassed those committed in Bosnia or Israel and Palestine and has yet failed to command the world's attention. Maureen Greenwood of the human rights group Amnesty International told the audience that telling the story, as effectively as it had been done by the films, was not enough to sway world opinion. Therefore her organization, she said, was focusing on the plight of displaced persons in Ingushetia now being forced back to Chechnya, to try to get the attention of indifferent governments at the opening of the General Assembly and the U.S.-Russian summit.
"It's a very good example of the ineffectiveness of the international system, that this outrage can go on," another panelist, Aaron Rhodes of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, said of such indifference. The Council of Europe has passed several resolutions on Chechnya and suspended the parliamentary delegation, but had no response, Rhodes said. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) seems powerless because it is run by consensus, and therefore the Russians will not even let the OSCE have a mission in Chechnya, commented Rhodes. He said that faced with such indifference from official institutions, coalitions of NGOs and concerned politicians should consolidate their efforts to support those inside Russia who oppose the war. He said recent polls in Russia indicated nearly 50 percent of people oppose the conflict, and yet Europeans hew to a stereotype about Russians that they are callous and brutal about the war in Chechnya, and cannot be held to the same standards as the rest of Europe. He and other speakers said the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on 11 September 2001 made it much more difficult to push the Chechen issue with the Russians.
During question and answer sessions after the films, a number of viewers asked about the so-called Black Widows -- women clad in black who said they had lost their relatives in the war, who have led dramatic terrorist attacks in recent months on civilian targets in Moscow, including the theater where an entire audience was taken hostage and scores died in the rescue attempt, and a rock concert attended by thousands in an airfield in Moscow where 16 were killed. Andrei Babitskii, an RFE/RL reporter who recently returned from the region, and who himself was once held in captivity in Chechnya, said that the Black Widows had become a very popular topic on Russian television talk shows. Expert psychologists have claimed that the women are drugged or brainwashed by cult-like Chechen resistance leaders who force them to sacrifice themselves. Babitskii cited a distinguished Moscow professor of psychology who explained the phenomenon more simply with the comment, "You can't humiliate people."
Aset Chadaeva, a nurse who witnessed the massacre of civilians at Aldy on 5 February 2000, said the female suicide bombers "had no reason to live anymore" after losing their relatives. "They are women who were raped -- they were deeply psychologically terrorized, and that is the only reason for their crime," she commented. Amnesty International's representative is campaigning for further investigation into a case of suspected rape and killing of Chechen women, and says the practice is widespread, but could not tie the victims of rape to those who later turned to terrorism.
Babitskii, too, commented that rape was very widespread and is a taboo topic among Chechens for cultural and religious reasons. A woman who is raped cannot become a wife or mother in this society and is essentially ostracized. Possibly such victims of rape, on the margins of their own society and suffering the loss of husbands or fathers, feel they have nothing to lose.
A different picture is painted by a reporter for the Russian daily "Novaya Gazeta," who published an account of her trip to remote Chechen mountain villages on 15 September. There she encountered recruits to the Black Widows who described being victims of both raids by Russian soldiers and attacks by masked intruders related to the armed resistance, who coerced them into joining training camps where they could be launched as human weapons.
As Putin spoke at the UN on 25 September, members of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) picketed behind police lines across the street. Holding up signs saying "Where's the Accountability?" they continued to ask questions about the abduction of their colleague, Arjan Erkel, who has spent more than a year in captivity in the North Caucasus. No fresh proof of whether the humanitarian worker is alive has been received by MSF since July, and the group has complained that Russian investigators have not followed up sufficiently on the case. Such demonstrations against Russia are extremely rare at the UN and did not have as many participants as pickets against the war in Iraq. The doctors ensured that many delegates got their message by hiring a large boat and, with a police permit, sailing past UN headquarters on the East River during the lunch hour with a 40-foot banner spelling out "Free Arjan."
BEREZOVSKII SUPPORTS 'LAST BASTION' AGAINST 'OMNIPOTENT STATE.' The Foundation for Civil Liberties, sponsored by Russian tycoon Boris Berezovskii, was the main funder behind the Chechnya Film Festival, which played in London, Washington, and New York in September. Berezovskii also paid for half-page ads that ran in the major U.S. and British dailies, posing seven questions about ongoing atrocities in Chechnya and the failure to bring about peace talks that President Bush should ask President Putin during the U.S.-Russian summit. The budget for the New York part of the festival ran to $100,000. Some $90,000 went on ads in "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal," Alexander Goldfarb, an adviser to Berezovskii and director of the foundation, told "(Un)Civil Societies." Ads were also placed in the British-based "Financial Times" and "The Washington Post."
The expenditures on newspaper ads, film screenings, and related actions were well worth it, say emigres, because it considerably raised the profile of the Chechen issue in the U.S. "Chechnya has not been on America's radar screen but should be," said one film-goer during the coffee break. "Does our government know about this?" asked another. After the packed opening nights, showings later in the week were more sparsely attended, but the audience was made up not of specialists and human rights activists, but readers of "The Village Voice" or listeners to National Public Radio who saw or heard the film ads. Some brought pages printed out from the Internet as program notes to try to follow the complexities of the cast of Russian characters and sides to the conflict. They remained bewildered, but at least more concerned after the showings. The material -- graphic by the standards of even regular war documentary viewers -- left some in the audience shocked that more was not being done to end the war.
The Foundation for Civil Liberties, now in its third year of operations, originally set out not so much to affect American public opinion, but to support Russian NGOs in making their critique of the Putin government's increasing crackdown on basic human rights. The foundation sparked some controversy when it began funding long-established Russian human rights groups, including a $3 million endowment to the Andrei Sakharov Foundation in the U.S. to support the Sakharov Museum in Moscow. Some Russian groups refused to take money they felt was tainted by Berezovskii's controversial business practices and political maneuvering in Russia. As NGOs sought ways to find more diverse funding sources and depend less on the West, however, many swallowed their pride and applied to Berezovskii's fund because it did not appear that the foundation attached any conditions to the grants.
"Over the past six months we are witnessing a kind of rehabilitation or vindication of Mr. Berezovskii in the community," says Goldfarb. "This is clearly seen by the fact that established human rights groups worked with us here and human rights groups worked in Moscow. If you look at the cover story in 'Business Week' [on 4 August] it starts with the phrase, 'It seems Berezovsky was right...'"
While co-sponsoring the festival, groups like the New York-based Human Rights Watch and Memorial Society of Russia stayed away from involvement with the newspaper ads, although they were signed by prominent Russian human rights campaigners such as Elena Bonner, widow of veteran human rights campaigner Andrei Sakharov, and Vladimir Bukovskii, a biologist and former political prisoner. The ads contained language that some activists felt was intemperate, alleging that the security services were connected with the 1999 apartment bombings, which were used as a justification for the launch of the second Chechen war, and explicitly accusing Russian troops of genocide in Chechnya.
The U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington coordinated its own separate program of speakers on Chechnya with festival organizers the day before the opening. The Holocaust Museum has placed Chechnya on its "Genocide Watch," although it has not defined war crimes in Chechnya as deliberate genocide under the terms of international law. Nevertheless, speakers at the panel said that the carpet bombing of civilians, and the detention and disappearance of numerous young men, were practices "bearing the signs of genocide." Most speakers and people interviewed in the films agreed that only a political settlement could bring an end to the hostilities, and only external pressure more consistently applied might get the Kremlin's attention.
Goldfarb says the purpose of the newspaper ads was not just to build attendance at the film showings, but to ensure that a message about war crimes would be splashed across newspapers on the days that Putin would be in New York speaking at the UN and Columbia University. While he could not be certain of Putin's personal responsibility for war crimes, Goldfarb and other activists felt the volume and persistence of such acts were at the level of those found in Bosnia or Iraq. "When the dust settles and history will judge these things, Russia will be in the same line as Milosevic in Bosnia or Hussein with the Kurds and other massive war crimes and genocide, and sooner or later these people should be brought to justice," Goldfarb told "(Un)Civil Societies."
The Russian mission to the UN had no comment on the festival or related events, say organizers, although three officials from the embassy sat silently at a viewing in Washington. The impact the ads had on the Russian delegation is hard to measure. Activists said that the fact that President Putin had brought Chechen administrator Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov along with him to Camp David in a demonstrative show of support on the eve of elections was indicative that he expected some tough questioning. Human rights groups were uncertain if he got such challenges at the White House, but one official, Amb. Steven Pifer, who had testified on atrocities in Chechnya on the eve of the U.S.-Russian summit at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Congress, seems to have provoked Putin's ire. Asked about Pifer's comments by journalists, Putin used a blunt Russian proverb to dismiss the mid-level official: "Every family has its misfits."
Meanwhile, at home in Moscow, the films sparked a furor. The day before the films were to be shown in Moscow, a major commercial movie theater hired for the occasion cancelled the festival, deeming the films "anti-Russian," AP and Russian media reported on 1 October. Yurii Samodurov, executive director of the Sakharov Foundation in Moscow, said that he believed the theater had come under pressure from the Federal Security Service (FSB). The theater's spokesman denied there was any pressure, but acknowledged that he did not want to show political films that might spoil relations with the powers-that-be. Samodurov, whose institution has featured exhibits about the Chechens as one of the "punished peoples" of the Soviet Union and has sponsored various Russian-Chechen dialogues, planned to show the films in a much smaller hall on the premises of the Sakharov Museum. Officials were most likely angered at the inclusion of "Assassination of Russia," a film alleging the FSB's involvement in the apartment bombings, as well as critical footage of the Moscow hostage crisis at the theater. Scenes such as the unceremonious dumping of the bodies of Russian soldiers and the taunting of a Russian prisoner of war, shown in "Babitsky's War," are unlikely to have gone down well with Russian officials.
Berezovskii's foundation, registered in the U.S. and operating for three years, has already given some $15 million to the cause of promoting democracy and human rights in Russia, not all of which has been spent inside Russia. At least $1 million has gone to groups such as the Soldier's Mothers and programs to provide legal counsel to recruits attempting to deal with abuse within the armed forces. Goldfarb says that the foundation remains committed to the human rights movement for the next five years. Now that Berezovskii has received political asylum in the United Kingdom, after years of living in exile and being threatened with extradition to Russia on charges related to his automobile business, Goldfarb expects his boss will become even more active in supporting Russian civil society -- not merely out of compassion for Russia's disenfranchised and downtrodden. "His goal is not that of abstract charity for the advancement of the human rights cause per se but his goal is a political one: to put Mr. Putin and his regime, including its criminal elements out of office," Goldfarb says. He also says that Berezovskii's political party, Liberal Russia, which recently lost a court battle to be allowed registration for parliamentary elections, is entirely separate from his philanthropic work. "While Putin and this regime is in office, he will continue to support the broad spectrum of civil society because quite properly he considers civil society to be the last bastion of resistance to an omnipotent state," says Goldfarb.
CHECHENS SPLIT ON EVE OF ELECTIONS. On the eve of elections in Chechnya, the public appears to be split in their attitudes toward the resistance and Moscow's efforts to pacify them, says Andrei Babitskii, a war correspondent for RFE/RL, who attended the Chechnya Film Festival in New York. The resistance is also radicalizing, the journalist told "(Un)Civil Societies" in an interview last week. No reporters, foreign or Russian, have gone to the mountains in Chechnya since about May 2001, says Babitskii, because of the dangers and the difficulties.
In August, Babitskii made the arduous trip to interview both fighters and villagers in the mountains, and people living in the capital Grozny. This was the first time Babitskii had returned to Chechnya since his capture in 2000 by Russian forces and his release after international outcry. His trip came at a time when the Kremlin has stifled most efforts to examine the war critically and journalists avoid the area due to Russian restrictions and a wave of kidnappings by Chechen fighters. Looking at the situation firsthand after some time, Babitskii says he finds the mood of some Chechens has radicalized even as others have grown resigned to the reality of the Russian presence. Russian authorities and, to some extent the international community, have endeavored to show that the Chechen rebels have links to international terrorists and are inspired by radical Islamist movements abroad. Attacks against civilians and terrorist attacks were not characteristic features of the last Chechen war, and have increased dramatically in recent months.
In special reports on RFE/RL's Russian-language (http://www.svoboda.org/programs/sp/2003/sp.091203.asp), Babitskii paints a portrait of a new generation of fighters, drawn from those who have suffered in the war. They represent a new rotation from the generation under Shamil Basaev, who launched the invasion of Daghestan in 1999. Of those fighting today, 90 percent were not involved in that incursion, say rebels interviewed by Babitskii. The original impulse for the resistance was to demand secession from Russia and defend their homeland. While resistance groups have not entirely turned into terrorist organizations, there are the basic signs of this trend, says Babitskii.
Documentaries shown at the Chechnya Film Festival portray a dispirited and traumatized population, thousands of whom have spent several winters in tent cities in Ingushetia, or who have lived in the bombed-out rubble of their former homes, without electricity, water, or other basic services. "Greetings from Grozny" and "Dance, Grozny, Dance," two films with footage taken in Chechnya, also portrayed citizens trying to return to normal life. Students are shown outside Grozny's university and the dean takes a film crew on a tour of his demolished laboratory and library, fingering the charred pages of his own dissertation. Somehow, without malice, he talks about his hopes for educating young people. Girls and boys in their best clothes talk animatedly about their plans for careers in medicine or education, and distinguish their own religious beliefs, sources of private strength, from the very public and fanatical convictions held among extremists that led to jihad. Yet such young people -- not more than 3,000-4,000 -- are only a small segment of Chechen society, says Babitskii. They are an elite with a chance for a better life that will be denied to most.
As displaced persons are forced to return to Chechnya, will young people who fled their homes as children, now, as teenagers, go up into the mountains to join the armed struggle? Very few are likely to do so, says Babitskii. "The mountains aren't made of rubber," he says, alluding to the harsh conditions of alpine life as well as the physical restraints of the resistance's hideouts. The area can only hold so many armed people. There are no more than 1,500-3,000 fighters at any one time, with many less in the winter, as most of them suffer respiratory diseases and frozen limbs.
Babitskii did not see any child soldiers among the fighters, and from his interviews during this and past trips, does not believe the practice of recruiting teenagers is very widespread. The fighters, who call themselves mujahedin, are mainly in their 20s, with a few commanders around the age of 30. Teenagers cannot handle the weapons, they are untrained, and cannot survive life in the rough. The fighters live under plastic sheets, often soaked through from frequent rainfall. They survive on watermelons and Snickers bars. Lately they have purchased ample supplies from abroad: their waterproof camouflaged fatigues were somehow obtained from NATO's stocks.
Many young men in the surrounding villages do not go into combat directly, but they run small businesses either supplying the rebels with food delivered over the precarious mountain paths or by buying arms from Russian soldiers and re-selling them at a higher price to the resistance. The culture of those directly in and around the armed struggle hiding in the mountains is increasingly one of very harsh discipline and ideology, says Babitskii, by contrast with those on the flatlands who are preoccupied with daily struggles for survival and who are increasingly turning exclusively to their own personal family matters and the task of educating their children.
In one film shown at the festival, a Russian Army officer said villagers provide them with very precise intelligence about militants residing in their village and they are able to arrest them with "as few people as possible getting hurt." Such tip-offs do occur, sometimes as a business transaction, and sometimes out of concern for the safety of the whole village's population. For this and other reasons, some combatants are opting to leave Chechnya and disappear into Russia proper, sometimes by paying bribes at military checkpoints, a practice widely documented in the films. The relentless sweeps of Chechen villages therefore have only succeeded in enraging the populace while not really making a dent in the number of fighters in the hills.
For those young men and women who chose to fight in the resistance, a new form of control and discipline seems to have evolved as the war drags on and the conditions of life grow worse. "Generally, nothing remains of that Chechen anarchy that was characteristic of the first war," says Babitskii. "They are totally submissive to the orders of the 'amir,'" or commander, he says. The discipline is part of a whole culture of morality and religion some say is being inculcated with help from abroad, running against the grain of old habits. When a young fighter borrowed his radio one night, Babitskii thought he could kiss it goodbye, or at least would have to fight to get it back in the morning. To his surprise, the Chechen politely returned it the next day. The fighters call each other "brother" and avoid swearing, fighting, and drinking. Women in the villages, although they are "the most emancipated women throughout the whole North Caucasus," says Babitskii, support the armed extremists in the mountains and are politically active precisely because they have borne the brunt of the Russian "cleansings," or security sweeps.
In the war years, the system of "taipy," or clans, has virtually disintegrated. The clan system was unraveling even in the first war, as younger people killed elders who told them to leave villages alone and not endanger people. Before, it would have been taboo. A code of precepts, "adat," also known as "mountain law" or "pre-Islamic custom," establishes the respect of elders but also lays down the foundation of vendettas, which have fueled the blood feuds in the mountains for centuries. While adopting a form of radical Islam that makes all people equal, the fighters demonstrate their continued adherence to "adat" with customs such as wearing a kind of knee-length black skirt.
Some of the men Babitskii interviewed expressed dismay at the tactics of the suicide bombers, saying that it was not their way and uncharacteristic of Chechen culture. Still, most had no sympathy with civilian victims of terrorism because they felt they had been victimized themselves. And as they have become more hardened and radicalized, a new, harsher technique has been developed to deal with them by the pro-Moscow authorities. Increasingly, instead of pursuing Chechens themselves, the Russian federal troops have handed the job of security over to the forces of Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, the current Moscow-appointed administrator of Chechnya who is likely to emerge as the victor of elections on 5 October. "Winding up in the hands of the federals is like going to a wedding," one Chechen fighter told Babitskii, in contrast with worse treatment at the hands of Kadyrov's forces. Local observers say the "Kadyrovites" are now going into villages and rounding up suspects. Sometimes, witnesses say, the suspects are murdered to avoid eye-witness reports of their crimes.
"I am not inclined to give major significance to Chechen terrorism," says Babitskii, in the sense of an specific terrorist organization with conscious terrorist tactics as distinct from a local armed struggle for independence. "If there will be an opportunity for some kind of legalization of this underground, if there will be some kind of possibility of a legal political battle, then life will adapt all these ideas, it will correct them," says Babitskii.
Meanwhile, there is a serious split in Chechen society, engendered by the war and various manipulative tactics of the Russian forces. Outsiders may point to such phenomenon as empty streets during the referendum, despite official claims of a high turnout, and conclude that Kadyrov and his supporters serve Moscow's interests for their own gain, but without popular support. "There is now an educated class in Chechnya that thinks Chechnya has no future outside of Russia, that outside of Russia, there is only catastrophe," says Babitskii. Many ordinary people feel the same way. The social support for former Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, who continues to lead elements of the resistance, is not so much based on slogans or beliefs, but on a local conception of the armed resistance as a kind of homegrown militia force that can both restrain abuse and bring justice, says Babitskii. It is not that people expect these forces to protect them from the Russian Army. But they do expect that it will perform the service, expected in this society, of carrying out revenge in vendettas. Chechens have deliberately joined Moscow-formed police and security forces so that they can have a base from which to launch various personal vendettas accumulated through two wars.
As for the level of support for fanaticism in the cities and villages, Babitskii observed that it was superficial at best for some. Noticing a group of Chechens playing dominoes one day below a slogan painted on the wall, "Our Constitution Is Sharia, Our Home Is Paradise," the reporter asked the men for their thoughts. They replied sarcastically, "Well, if our home is paradise, how come we don't live in it yet? What are we doing here?"
Babitskii cautions that it is a profound mistake to treat Chechen society, dislocated so terribly from two wars, as some kind of monolithic whole. During the Soviet deportations in the 1940s, Chechens went through radical modernization and an urban culture developed, cutting across the old lines of "adat" and dividing Chechens by the principles of territory, education, or property. "The fragmentation of Chechens was going on even before the beginning of any wars," he says. The wars have only deepened these divisions and they are growing wider today.
The most important factor in this split, says Babitskii, is profound disillusionment in the leaders they have entrusted with their struggle -- even allowing for the resistance they knew they could expect from Russia. The Chechen public has watched as two widely touted projects have failed before their eyes. The first was that of Djokhar Dudaev, the leader of Chechnya's secular independence movement after the fall of the Soviet Union, which was essentially a national liberation movement. The second project they saw collapse was the attempt to impose Sharia law, which is associated with Maskhadov and Zelimkhan Yandarbiev. And now there is what might be dubbed the "Russian project," which has been very bloody in its implementation, but for some may have some future.
Validat, a Chechnya-based polling firm, has discovered that about 70-75 percent of Chechens would opt to remain within the Russian Federation if able to choose. The polling agency is made up of people connected with Grozny University, so they tend to be very anti-Dudaev, anti- Maskhadov, and pro-Russian in sentiment, and find respondents who correspond to their views, says Babitskii. Still, the numbers indicate a fairly large support for the "Russian project." On the other hand, in looking at the 25 percent who very resolutely oppose cooperation with Russia, the split in society becomes quite evident. In reality, however, there are hundreds of thousands of Chechens who disagree with the "Russian project" and who remain outside of Chechnya precisely because they do not consent to Chechnya remaining within Russia and do not agree with what is going on in Chechnya today. "We can judge the status of Chechen society only by putting together these two groups," says Babitskii.
People who remain in Chechnya are figuring out how they can rebuild their lives. "Just as we couldn't imagine our lives in the Soviet Union without communism, so ordinary Chechens can't imagine their lives without Russians," Babitskii says. The large percentage of those voting for Russia at home belies another large group, difficult to count, of the Chechen diaspora who oppose Russia. They are in other Russian provinces outside the Caucasus, in Kazakhstan, Moldova, Ukraine, Turkey, and Western Europe. They are radically anti-Russian, they could not find any common language with those remaining in Chechnya, so they were forced to leave.
"These are the very people who have doomed themselves to exile because they do not want to reconcile to what is going on there," says Babitskii. Those in the camps in Ingushetia being forced to return now do not want to go home, in part for fear for personal security, but more because they do not want to accept the reality. "It's a Russian reality which has no place for them," observes Babitskii. Chechens often try to send their children outside of Chechnya to Russia; there are very few opportunities to send them even to Poland, let alone Germany or the U.K. or the United States. Such a child, after he becomes a doctor or a builder, might remain in Russia, or might return home, but he will be a Chechen who has to think about how to coexist with Russia. He will not be like Aset Chadaeva, a Chechen nurse now residing in the United States, who ripped up her Russian passport at a demonstration in front of the UN headquarters last week, saying she could not remain a citizen of a country that did not punish such war crimes.
RECOMMENDED NEWS LINKSRUSSIA/CHECHNYA The website of the Chechnya Film Festival shown in London, New York, and Washington, but banned in Moscow. http://www.chechnyafilmfestival.org
The Foundation for Civil Liberties, funded by Russian businessman Boris Berezovskii, sponsored the Chechnya Film Festival and is funding a number of nongovernmental initiatives in Russia to improve civil rights. http://www.kolokol.org
The U.S. Holocaust Museum's Committee of Conscience has placed Chechnya on its "Genocide Watch." http://www.ushmm.org/conscience/index.utp?content=chechnya/chechnya.php
A two-part series, "Legislation According to Jihad," featuring reporting from Andrei Babitskii's trip to Chechnya in August 2003. (Russian language only). http://www.svoboda.org/programs/sp/2003/sp.091203.asp http://www.svoboda.org/programs/sp/2003/sp.082903.asp
Amnesty International has launched a campaign focusing on justice in Russia. http://www.amnesty.org/russia/