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(emphas.is) Grozny, the capital of war-torn Chechnya, is a melting pot for changing Caucasus society that is trying to overcome a trauma of two recent wars and find its own way of life in between traditional Chechen values, Muslim traditions, and globalization. Our project is inspired by Thornton Wilder's book Theophilus North. It centers on the idea of nine cities being hidden in one. We applied this concept to Grozny as nine "levels of existence" hidden within the city.
1 - The city that has ceased to exist: a memory of Soviet multicultural Grozny that was bombed and burned down. We've been following the places that were dear and important for people of Grozny and recorded their memoirs. This will be the most abstract and lyrical part of the project.
2 - The city of war: the cause of all the changes. The last, so-called counter-terrorism operation officially ended in 2009. But in 2010 there were 37 explosions and terror attacks across the republic, and already 19 by June 2011 that took the lives of 7 civilians. In Grozny we witnessed and photographed the major terror attack since the start of our project - the storm of the Chechen parliament by three suicide bombers in October 2010.
3 - The city of religion: Chechnya under Kadyrov is undergoing total Islamization. Huge mosques are being built, women are ordered to wear scarves, men must wear traditional Muslim outfits on Friday. People have to be religious. While shooting in Grozny we've captured the most significant events and rituals to cover this trend, including the Sufi practice Dhikr, widespread in Chechnya, and exorcism, now supported by the local government as the way to cure people.
4 - The city of women: With the collapse of all the values after wars women must once again find their role in Chechen society. It is neither a role of a Western woman yet, nor a role of a traditional Muslim woman anymore.
5 - The city of men: It is important for a Chechen man nowadays to demonstrate his status with a gun or his car. At the same time he has to be responsible not only for the immediate family, but for members of his clan, not to impose the threat of the blood feud onto any of the relatives. We followed men to many "macho" events in Grozny, such as football games, street racing and meetings of clans for the blood feud ceremonies.
6 - The city of the nation's servants as they call themselves: Cult of personality is seeing its revival in today's Chechnya with Kadyrov's portraits hanging everywhere. Some people use them for their gain, some - trying to use them as "insurance". While Kadyrov's inner circle is trying to please him with money and business opportunities, the ordinary people believe he does not solve their problems because there is nobody to tell him about them. We followed Chechnya's dictator and his people on a number of events, and Oksana Yushko photographed him in his official residence as well.
7 - The city of oil production: Rosneft, the powerful pro-Kremlin monopoly that owns all the oil drills, enforced the end of second war in Chechnya to get hold of the country's resources. At the same time, oil reservoirs burning during the first Chechen war caused many health problems for Grozny inhabitants, according to the scholars in the Grozny oil institute and doctors in the cancer hospital.
8 - The city of strangers in a mono-ethnic society: In Grozny you find ethnic Russians and Turkish construction workers building skyscrapers. The soldiers we interviewed stress that for them Chechnya is still not Russia, while Turks, mostly working for Bora Insaat company, enjoy the possibility of making money out of Chechnya's passion for Gigantomania.
9 - The city of ordinary people: shows people's passion for normalcy after 15 years of war. These are people who collect vinyl records, kept their puppets throughout the war, saved the libraries and carried on with their lives.
The result of the project will be shown in an installation consisting of a two and three screen multimedia essay and prints, a web-documentary, and a book.