The city of Ordinary People
The city of Religion
The city of Men
The city of Oil
The city of Women
The city of Strangers
The city that Ceased to Exist
The city of War
The city of Servants

An interactive documentary by
Olga Kravets, Maria Morina and Oksana Yoshenko. 

An interactive production by
Chewbahat Storytelling Lab 

Photographs and video production
Verso Images

Picture Editor & Curator
Anna Shpakova

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Music and Sound design by
José Bautista - Kanseisound

Narrative Structure and Design
Gerald Holubowicz

English and Russian voice over
Maria Morina





About the project

Grozny, the capital of war-torn Chechnya, is a melting pot for changing Сaucasus society that is trying to overcome a post-trauma shock of two recent wars and find its own way of life in between traditional Сhechen values, Muslim traditions, and globalization, to cope with rapidly changing role of women, increasing contrast between rich and poor and political games. 

Our project Grozny: Nine Cities is inspired by a Thornton Wilder book, Theophilus North, and centers on the idea of nine cities being hidden in one, which gives us a concept to explore specific aspects of the aftermath of two Chechen wars considering them as ”cities” hidden within Grozny.


Play video
Vakha Khashkhanov, Director of the Center for Spiritual and Moral Education.  

It is precisely thanks to the head of our republic, Ramzan Akhmatovich Kadyrov, who pays so much attention to the spiritual and moral education of the growing generation, that we, in our republic, manage… if I say so, maybe not everybody will be able to understand… to isolate the minds of our young people from the aggressive phenomena that today affect them through all kinds of, say, internet channels and various mass media. In the West, the notion of freedom has been replaced with permissiveness. The notion of culture has been replaced with a ‘subculture’.

Today in our republic, you can ask any young boy or girl what their values are, say, what’s good and proper. They will answer right away. Nowadays it’s happening not only in the Chechen republic, but to all the people of our country who have a rich culture of their own: they are trying to superimpose on us some ideas and some, as it were, culture from Paris, from London or from Washington – well, it’s totally absurd. We respect their culture and treat it with tolerance, if it’s really a culture. But we do need to define the terms: what is a culture and what is a subculture? What is democracy? What is freedom and what is permissiveness?

The things we see on some Western private TV channels, and particularly what is on the Internet – these are just inhuman values. Not to speak about religion, there’s nothing human in such phenomena as advertising alcohol or advertising, say, promiscuity – all human values get perverted. Today, western mass media show us movies where cool guys are casually doing drugs. Our children watch these movies.

That means certain training is going on. Say, they show us people committing acts of promiscuity. The result is that our country and our youth suffer heavily. Unfortunately, today we have terrifying statistics on drug addicts and AIDS patients in our country. Here, unfortunately, the statistics are horrible as well: be it drug users, be it people with AIDS or alcoholism. And it is necessary to fight all this. We are fighting this with means based on religious values. We succeed with preventative actions.

This approach meets our society’s expectations; it’s the most effective of all. I’d also like to mention one more thing: even though the communists prosecuted religious people, there were still some cultural values: you had to be 16 years of age before you came into contact with anything that might be morally corrupting. There was such a thing. And today it’s all about freedom, freedom and freedom… everybody speaks about it, but nobody really knows what freedom means. It doesn’t mean permissiveness, does it?

Today the notion of freedom has been replaced with permissiveness. Anything goes, whatever comes to one’s mind… Like this one – same sex marriage, or those weird gay clubs. All these things have been invented by the enemies of our enormous country in order to ruin our country, to corrupt it from the inside by destroying our spiritual values and our national values. I think that thanks to the politics of the government of our huge country and in particular thanks to the head of our republic Ramzan Akhmatovich – we here, in Northern Caucasus, will be fighting those phenomena.

Knowing that today’s youth is facing globalization and has so much information, we must approach this problem with wisdom. That is, if we are going to cite some religious dogma and return to the time of the Quran's creation – the situation of that time was different.

Today the situation is different. Our society has to prioritise the problems. We have to approach these matters with wisdom and poetic arguments. That’s how it is. Faith, faith… A believer lives a healthy lifestyle. It is through faith that we will save our youth.
A., a 23-year-old, tried various career paths before turning to religion. He hates Kadyrov’s “immoral” interpretation of Islam, as he describes it, and thinks he can only be a good Muslim abroad. Thus he is making plans to emigrate.    

Why does Putin talk about Islam? Why does Barbara Walters talk about Islam? Why does nobody ask a Muslim woman how it feels to be a Muslim woman? How can non-Muslims talk about what Muslims feel?  

I am open to a dialogue with people who want to overcome their prejudices, if just for a while, and try to find the truth.  

I pray in a simple mosque, away from all this splendour and diamonds and pearls and Mercedes-Benzes, where I can think about life. In Islam there is no such thing as being very rich or very poor, for we Muslims must pay zakat to aid the poor. Islam is a positive religion that teaches people to help those who are in need and not to be ostentatiously boastful of this help at the same time.  

Nowadays, those people who see their wives being raped and their friends being killed and who say nothing are considered good Muslims, while those who try stand up against these outrages and assassinations committed by powerful criminals are called extremists, terrorists and religious fanatics. I mean, we have all been waiting for the one who is called Dajal in Islam [Antichrist in the Christian religion], a sign of future disasters, when black will become white and vice versa.  

Look at young people. Because of the lack of knowledge they are mostly driven by their own emotions. They don’t want to tolerate all this… the President of the Russian Federation talks a lot about the right things, but he doesn’t seem to practice what he preaches. I think nowadays both Russians and Chechens have the rulers that they deserve, for Allah says that you will get what you deserve. That’s what happens these days.