By Vladimir Gujanicic – After twenty minutes of flying over pastures and hills, we landed at the not-so-large airport of Chechnya’s capital, Grozny. As we left the airport, we were greeted by our hosts, who from the very first moment tried their best to leave the best impression. After a short trip, we found ourselves in a hotel in the center of the city. The first impression when looking out the car window is the construction cranes everywhere along the road we passed and the impeccable cleanliness of the public spaces. In the hotel where we are located the service is at the highest level. The Chechen hosts started showing us the architecture of the city from the terrace and compared to its previous state, eleven years ago, we could not wait to see the city up close.
The first thing they showed us was the pride of Grozny, a large mosque in the city center, right next to the “Heart of Chechnya” hotel, where we are staying. The mosque was modeled after the “Blue Mosque” in Istanbul and it is obvious the Chechens are very proud when talking about it. Across from the mosque is the largest shopping mall in the Caucasus, and only a few hundred meters from the mall cranes used in building new residential areas can be seen. I do not remember seeing such a massive building effort in such a small area. Grozny is developing rapidly and it is visible at every turn.
In the central square, we could see a memorial dedicated to members of Chechnya’s internal forces who had died in the war against Wahhabi terrorism. The inscriptions show that there are hundreds of names, the memories of the wars are still fresh here, but it is also visible that the new reality is healing those wounds. At the entrance of one of the largest boulevards in Grozny, seen from the main square stands a picture of that same boulevard from the time of the 1995 war, compared to the dazzling splendor of new constructions which completely erased all traces of the war. The guides explained to us that almost everything had been built intensively in the last 10 to 12 years and that Grozny does not stop developing and that new infrastructure is being built. They see the future in continuing the same trend.
Grozny is predominantly inhabited by Chechens, but it is evident that many Russians, Ingush, Tatars and other ethnic groups also live in the city. Different physiognomies suggest that people of neighboring regions from all over the Caucasus are coming to Grozny. Our guides point out that Grozny is one of the cleanest cities and least affected by bad influences (drugs, alcohol), so people from all over the Caucasus often send their children to Grozny for schooling. Individualism among Chechens is subordinated to family and tribal connections. Guide Aslan is proud to point out that Grozny has no orphanages because there are no abandoned children. If children are left without parental care, other family members are obliged to take care of them.
Walking through the boulevard, you can see college students enjoying their time in cafes. The architecture of the city is predominantly Muslim and Oriental-style, but the influences of Western culture can also be seen.
In addition to the flags of Russia and Chechnya, important buildings in the city are dominated by portraits of Vladimir Putin, Ahmad Kadyrov and the current President of the Republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. Guides point out that there is only one avenue in Grozny with the name of Vladimir Putin in all of Russia.
There is no doubt that Grozny, if it continues at this pace, will soon reach its population maximum of 400,000 inhabitants from 1991, as it has already reached 300,000. The first day in Grozny gives positive impressions, of which hospitality is certainly in the first place.