Grozny: Nine Cities

A cross-media project on the aftermath of two Chechen wars: a book, a web-documentary, an exhibition

In the Russian imagination, Chechnya, a thousand miles south of Moscow on the edge of the Caucasus mountains, is a place of violence, home to a people who are to be feared and ultimately subjugated, yet awarded the respect one gives to a valiant enemy.

Two wars over the span of a decade inflicted costly and traumatic wounds on both sides—Chechen and Russian—and in the end, Vladimir Putin decided to solve the conflict by installing a local proxy to lord over the republic. Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of an influential Chechen mufti, has fashioned Chechnya in his own image. The republic is now governed by diktats inspired by Sharia jurisprudence and Kadyrov’s personal interpretation of adat, a traditional Chechen code of behavior. His security forces operate with impunity, keeping a lid on terrorism and extremism with brutal and often indiscriminate methods. Kadyrov’s rule may be entirely illiberal, and far from purely faithful to Islamic or even Chechen tradition, but, given the sense of trauma and dislocation after twenty years of conflict, it has many elements that are welcomed by the population.

Hardly a day passes in Grozny without a dance performance by a local troupe or an athletic competition featuring Chechen sportsmen. Yet ultimately, Chechnya is most telling for what it says about Russia as a whole. After more than a decade of Kadyrov’s rule, Chechnya has become Russia in miniature, a concentrated tincture of all its habits and instincts and pathologies, with Kadyrov worshiping Putin and consistently enacting the darker urges and impulses of the system that Putin has created.

By Joshua Yaffa, a correspondent for The New Yorker

Order online in English or French

The book is published by Filigranes (FR) and Dewi Lewis (UK)
ISBN: 978-1-911306-34-4 (English)
ISBN : 978-2-35046-447-3 (French)

Watch the web-doc:

The web-documentary (ENG, FR, RUS) is produced by Chewbahat Storytelling Lab

Selected exhibitions

2018 Les Rencontres de la photographie, Arles, France
2016 Bourse du Talent, National Library, Paris, France
2015 Docudays UA film festival, Visual Culture Research Center, Kiev, Ukraine
2014 Reminders Photography Stronghold, Tokyo, Japan
2014 Prix Bayeux-Calvados pour les correspondants de guerre, Le Radar, Bayeux, France
2014 Warm festival, National Gallery, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
2013 Browse festival, STATION-Berlin, Berlin, Germany
2013 Tbilisi Photo Festival, Tbilisi, Georgia