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Chechnya Wages War On Gossip

"Drive in silence, you'll go farther," reads the sign in the window of a Chechen taxi.
"Drive in silence, you'll go farther," reads the sign in the window of a Chechen taxi.
Chechnya has come up with an odd initiative to turn its residents into model citizens.

The government's youth committee last week launched a campaign to end rumor-mongering in the small North Caucasus republic, fittingly titled "Land Without Gossip."

The effort has resulted in hundreds of bumper stickers exhorting locals to keep their mouths shut. The slogans include "Drive in silence, you'll go farther," "Open your mouth only to eat," or, on a loftier note, "The Almighty is against gossip."

Organizers have named taxi and bus drivers as their chief targets.

Chechnya's strongman leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, is widely believed to have ordered the campaign to curb the slew of anecdotes about his extravagant lifestyle and unusual habits (including a rumored inclination to slap his ministers).

So far, it appears to have had limited success.

One Grozny resident, who only gave his first name, Suleiman, tells RFE/RL that gossip about local leaders has actually intensified since the signs and bumper stickers appeared.

"This is nothing new," he says. "The same thing happened under Stalin. Authorities at the time also insisted that people be on their guard and listen to their neighbors' conversations. This campaign is in the same vein.

"People are right when they say that history repeats itself twice -- the first time as a tragedy, the second as a farce."

-- Usman Khasimikov and Claire Bigg

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