Play video


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

Powered by

Music and Sound design by
José Bautista - Kanseisound

Interactive Design and Art Direction
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.


Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the republic of Chechnya  

He was born on October 5, 1976 (celebrated in today’s Chechnya as Grozny city day) in the village of Tsentoroi, around 50 km south-east of Grozny. In 1992 he graduated from the local school.  

Between 1996 and 2000, Ramzan Kadyrov served as an aide to his father, the mufti of the Chechen republic, as stated in his official biography. Not mentioned there is that Akhmad Kadyrov was at the time the rebel mufti of the Chechen republic of Ichkeria and switched sides only in 1999. Ramzan also served as the effective head of his father's security team until his father’s death in 2004.  

In 2000 Kadyrov Sr. appointed his son as an intercommunications inspector of special-purpose machinery in a special police unit at the Interior Department of the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation in Chechnya. He has been promoted more than once since then, to police platoon commander in 2002 then to deputy Minister of the Interior in 2004.

Vladimir Putin appointed Ramzan Kadyrov to the post of deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya upon the death of his father in the explosion of May 2004. At the time, the Chechen government filed a petition to Vladimir Putin to let Ramzan, then 28, run for the presidency, even though he was officially too young. However, Putin refused to change the law in favor of Kadyrov.  

On December 29, 2004, Kadyrov was given the rank of Hero of Russia (the highest military honor in Russia) by Vladimir Putin. At various times he has received six further Russian Federation state decorations.  

A year later he became the acting Prime Minister of the Republic after his predecessor, Sergei Abramov, was badly hurt in a car crash. In February 2006, Abramov (who hadn’t completely recovered by then) filed his resignation and Kadyrov became Prime Minister.  

In 2004, Ramzan Kadyrov graduated with distinction from the Makhachkala Business and Law Institute in Dagestan, having secured a law degree. However, when asked by a Novaya Gazeta newspaper journalist about his thesis topic during a 2004 interview, he couldn’t answer their questions.

In 2005 he graduated with a degree in Finance and Credit from the same institution, as recorded in his official biography. He holds a PhD in economics that he obtained in 2006.  

In 2007, Alu Alkhanov, Chechnya’s president at the time, reportedly asked Vladmir Putin to find him another job and was made the deputy Minister of Justice. Kadyrov was then appointed acting president.  

On April 5, 2007, he was inaugurated as the president of Chechnya after being approved by the Chechen parliament. In 2004, following the Beslan school siege, Putin abolished elections for heads of the regions.   In August 2010, Kadyrov appealed to Dmitry Medvedev, who succeeded Putin as the president of Russia, to change his title to ‘the head of the republic’. He was quoted as saying that “in a unified state there could be only one president”.  

Kadyrov has survived numerous assassination attempts and also has been repeatedly accused by human rights activists of extrajudicial killings, of kidnappings, of torturing his opponents and of running private prisons. He was blamed for the murder of one of his more outspoken critics, journalist Anna Politkovskaya, in 2006, and of Grozny-based human rights activist Natalia Estemirova in 2009.  

Upon the death of Estemirova, Oleg Orlov, the head of Memorial (the human rights organization she worked for), said: “I know who is to blame for the killing of Natasha Estemirova. We all know this man. His name is Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the Chechen Republic”. Kadyrov sued Orlov and Memorial for libel, and won.  

Ramzan Kadyrov is married to his former classmate Medni and they have eight children together. Sources in his inner circle attribute a number of other wives to him; this has been repeatedly denied by his press secretary. However, Kadyrov has repeatedly spoken in support of polygamy. He famously told Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper in 2009: “Here in Chechnya, there are more men than women. But they all have to be settled in life. Polygamy is allowed by our customs and our religion. On the contrary, if a young woman or a divorcee sleeps around, then her brother kills her and her man. We have very harsh customs. It’s better for a woman to be a second or a third wife than to be killed”.  

Kadyrov’s biggest hobby is boxing. In 2008, an LA Times writer reported seeing “two former guerrilla fighters wrestle a chained tiger down a muddy slope” at his residence. He is not only reported to keep a lion and tiger as pets, but he has also posed with the tiger for Instagram pictures at @alihan777 (the pictures were later removed). Instagram is his new favorite pastime. His official account, @kadyrov_95 (started on advice from the Russian celebrity Tina Kandelaki), has more than 217,000 followers and is supposed to serve as the most direct channel of communication between him and the people of Chechnya.  

Kadyrov described himself back in 2008: "I am a son of my nation. It does not matter whether I am the prime minister, a soldier or a policeman. The main thing is to be useful to the people so that I can look into people's eyes and people can see that there are real benefits from my activities."   Asked at a press conference in Grozny in 2011 about the cult of personality evolving around him, he said: "I am young, cute and handsome. I have photographs here so that people can look at me!"   

Sources: Lenta.ru, http://www.ramzan-kadyrov.ru/, rg.ru, novayagazeta.ru, Wikipedia.org, bbc.co,uk, nytimes.com, bbc.co.uk, rosbalt.ru, http://www.latimes.com, http://www.independent.co.uk/, mirtv.ru