2009 - Ongoing
The project is an extensive study into the changes in post-war Chechnya, which spanned over more than six years in fieldwork. The story of the aftermath of two Chechen wars is the story of the institutionalised oppression, with injustice generating new cycles of violence. Having survived 20 years of bloody conflicts with Russia’s military, Chechens now live under a ruthless dictator while pretending that life has gotten back to normal. Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, is a melting pot for changing Caucasus society that is trying to overcome war traumas and find its own way in between traditional Chechen values, Islamisation, and globalization. The body of work itself is inspired by a Thornton Wilder’s book Theophilus North, and centers on the idea of nine cities being hidden in one, which give us a concept to explore specific aspects of the aftermath of two Chechen wars, considering them as ”levels” hidden within the capital of Grozny.
Chechnya has been largely ignored by the mainstream media, since Kremlin declared the war was over in 2009 and made reporting there next to impossible for international journalists. As Russian citizens not limited by the accreditation rules, we thought it was our turn to seize this chance to travel there. We did not see it coming at the time, but right now any kind of reporting without doing harm to your sources has become impossible in Chechnya and essentially the material, gathered by us between 2009 and 2016 will stay as unique source of information for researchers, journalists and general public for at least the years while Ramzan Kadyrov will be in power. Chechnya might be a very small place, but understanding Chechnya is the key to understand the power vertical in Russia, the birth of Islamic radicalism in Europe, the modern dictatorship.
Our project has already been a successful cross-media experience, it has been released as a web documentary in three languages, travelled to five (and counting) countries as an exhibition and installation and has been published by media worldwide. At the moment we are working on making the book, which will be the final stage of the project.