The Baddest Town in Russia

I ask my driver about the “bandits” who hide out in the mountains and attack the police. “The bandits are in Moscow,” he replies. “The boys in the woods are just regular guys. They don’t touch us. They’re against Russia.”

Read More

Proxy Warlord Interview

“You’ll be forced to write what’s expected,” Alvi Karimov says. “If it’s raining, you’ll write the sun is shining. Who wants to know that it’s peaceful in Grozny and that women don’t wear headscarves?”

Read More

Fables of the Reconstruction

The ambitions of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow ruler Ramzan Kadyrov, inflated by billions of rubles from Kremlin coffers, have transformed Grozny into a glittering monument of hero worship and mass amnesia.

Read More

In the Name of the Father

Nobody I meet in Grozny believes that Islamist insurgents killed Akhmad Kadyrov, the first Kremlin-backed president of Chechnya. Here it’s taken for granted that Russian security agencies were behind the assassination.

Read More

Resurrection Day in a Graveyard

Few Russians remain in Grozny. On Easter Sunday they drive down from neighboring Stavropol region to lay some flowers on their relatives’ graves – and then quickly leave again.

Read More

Self-Censored Blog Post

I meet with a Chechen who asks me just to call him “a public figure.” I’m going to censor myself by redacting any other identifying clues. Even if the fighting is over, fear still inhabits the neat and tidy streets of Grozny.

Read More

On Putin Street, Need Beer

The couple of women I see are extravagantly done up, wearing high, high heels as if they were out in Moscow. But there isn’t a drop of alcohol, not in the Café Muskat and not in the convenience store around the corner.

Read More

Chechnya or Bust

We arrive in Argun, on the outskirts of Grozny. Days after the Russian assault, Tagir Gadzhiyev escorted English and American journalists along the same highway. They had to turn around here because of an air raid.

Read More

Mothers of the Disappeared

“Here’s a future suicide bomber,” Gasan mutters under his breath so the woman can’t hear. “If she doesn’t get anywhere, she’ll blow herself up in front of a government building.”

Read More

Russia’s Highlanders Explained

“We may share a common language with Russians, but our ethno-psychology is different,” says Zaur Gaziyev. “The free spirit lives on in the people. We didn’t have 600 years of serfdom like Russia did.”

Read More