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The Chechen People

The Chechen People

Ethnopolitical Review of the People

Moscow, 1994

Yan V. Chesnov

Draft copy, March, 1995 revisions


This booklet has been edited on behalf of the Government of People's Confidence of the Chechen Republic.

The present review has been implemented by a scientist well-known in Russia and abroad, who has concentrated his research efforts on the peoples of the Caucasus region. In presenting an ethnological analysis of the Chechen people's political ideals, he creates a matrix for greater understanding of their of their aspiration for freedom and justice. He describes the ideals which influence the consciousness of the people and the ethnopolitical conditions of the Chechen nation.

The research has been accomplished with the help of all the existing literary sources and is based on the long-term studies implemented in various regions of Chechenya. It is addressed to the Chechens, to acquaintances and non-acquaintances as well as to all those interested in Chechen affairs.

The Author expresses the hope that this edition to a certain extent assists the world community in achieving an objective and just view of the Chechen nation as part of this community.



1.    The Country and the People.................................................................. 1

2.    Social Traditions................................................................................... 3

3.                    Soviet Period....................................................................... 5

4.  The Present Stage.................................................................................. 7

5.   Avtorkhanov's Opinion                                                                           9

6.    Ethnology and the Chechens                                   ............................. 11

7.    The Detached On-looker's Opinion...................................................... 16

8.    The Chechens Speaking About Themselves.......................................... 21

9.    The Political Culture of the Chechens................................................... 26

10.   The Voice of the Chechen Women in the Discussion
of National Problems........................................................................... 33


Chechenya is situated on the northern slopes of the Great Caucasian mountain ridge and on the adjacent plains. Although the Black Sea is located far to the west, and is separated from Chechenya by various other nations, legend has it that some of the Chechen people originated from its coast. The Caspian Sea is approximately 150 kilometers to the east of Chechenya, and some say that it is possible for those with good sight to see the Caspian Sea from the highest mountains in Chechenya.

In ancient days, the people of the area worshipped the sun, which seemed to rise out of the Caspian Sea. Even today, the old people of Chechenya say that early in the morning the sun's rays make the sea waves run faster, and that human souls are born from the white foam of these waves.

In addition to the Chechen people, the Chechen Republic also encompasses the Cossacks of Terek, who settled on the banks of the Terek River, which flows east to the Caspian Sea. Nomadic peoples are also included, such as the Nogays, who speak Turkic, and the Kalmyks, who speak a Mongolian language.

Southeast of Chechenya is the Andotsezian nation of Dagestan, distant relations of the Chechens. To the northeast are the Kumyks, who speak Turkic. Stavropolsky Region is situated to the north. To the west, the Chechens have a border with the Ingushes, who are very similar to the Chechens by their origin and their language. To the South and over the mountains is Georgia.

Landscape features have had an essential influence on the formation of the Chechen mode of life. The country consists of both mountains and plains. Nearly all kinds of climatic zones are represented, from the arid plains in the north, and the windy, sandy desert of Buruny, to the cold and icy mountains in the south.

Mountain landscape is diverse. The gentle slopes are mild, covered with leaf-bearing forests. Neighboring Alpine meadows are covered with rocks and coniferous forests. The mountains are cut with deep canyons made by streams, and lakes have been created by ancient mountain landslides. In the spring, sheep graze on the abundant mountain pastures. Occasionally in the mountains one can also see the remnants of numerous defensive towers built in the Middle Ages.

The variety of the natural environment plays a role in the formation of


the Chechen human personality. Geographically, the Chechen people take their motherland as a whole. They are adaptable to various natural conditions. A person who yesterday climbed sheer rocks holding his horse's tail, today can swim across the impetuous Terek River and work his way through the rushy bank.

The Chechens had always lived on the plains as well but there they had been permanently threatened by the nomadic tribes which invaded their land. The mountains would not protect the Chechens safely from these invasions, as it happened in the fifteenth century during the bloody conquest of Lame Timur, the Asian conqueror.

Beginning in the sixteenth century Russia as a huge geopolitical factor has influenced the life of the Chechen people.

During the last two hundred years, not mentioning the close relations with the Ingushes, contacts with the Kabarda people, with the Kumyks, with the Nogays a^^Lthe Russians played the important role in the Chechens' life. Due to various reasons the Chechens had moved to the area where other nations lived and acquired their land but they never seized the territories by means of weapons.

After the Caucasian Wars (1722-1864) Russia became for Chechenya the main factor determining geopolitical, ecological, social and economic problems.

Chechenya had entered the finalizing stage of the Caucasian War (1834-1859) when Imam Shamil became the leader. At the time the population of Chechenya was approximately 200,000. After 25 years there were only 100,000 left, because Chechenya suffered severely in the struggle against Russian tsarism. When the Soviets assumed power, the population numbered about 400,000. But during the seven decades of the Soviet government, the number of people did not increase because of the deportation of Chechens to Middle Asia from 1944-1956. The census of 1979 showed the number of Chechens to be only 418,000. For Moslem people with high birthrates, such statistics are the evidence of the hard life conditions. Current population figures for Chechenya are one million people.



Among the many peoples of the Caucasus region, the Vaynakhs (the Chechens and the Ingushes) were uniquely successful in avoiding the feudal social structure prevalent in the Middle Ages. Although many of their princes, and the princes of neighboring lands (Kabardine, Kumyak and Avar) were exiled, the Chechens managed to overcome the tendency to feudalism. The psychology of the people's devotion to democracy has its roots in their ancient history.

Even in the Hurrian and Urartu Kingdoms, 2,000-1,000 BC, the Vaynakh states had been very powerful, with strong central leadership. By the Middle Ages, the governor of each region was a tsar, and there were councils of cooperation among the tsars of the various regions. As the peasants were colonized, democratic institutions such as the people's assembly and elected councils were already well established. In our opinion, in the 14th Century, when the epoch of Timur the Lame's (Tamerlane) conquest began, the Vaynakhs had formed a well-organized democratic society which was able to struggle against this monstrous threat.

The ethnic psychology of Chechenya is based on a strong Islamic influence. To the Vaynakhs, the principle of personal freedom is considered the general ground and objective of human existence. The Chechens were connected to a certain extent with the activities of the 16th Century Turkish socialist reformer Badraddin Simavi. The Sufic order of Tokalars, a dervish order which emphasized social equality, was very influential in Chechenya for a long period of time. (Traces of the Tokalar order could be found in Chechenya even in the 1930's)

Because of the ethnic psychology of the Chechens, combined with the Islamic teachings that all people are equal in the eyes of God, slavery has never taken place in their communities and republics. Mohammed the Prophet, as well as his fellow fighters such as AN the Hero, became Chechen national heroes, and the national and religious ideals of social justice are celebrated in the Chechen Illy folk songs.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, Russia began to pose a military threat to Chechenya. This threat strengthened the people's commitment to principles of democratic self-organization as well as a total and sincere turning to the Sufic mode of Islam.

The huge potential of Chechen social culture had shown itself in the fact that no other land but Chechenya became the basic area for the whole


Imamate of Shamil.

The same potential has proved itself when Chechenya was included into Russia. The significant strata of active capitalistic entrepreneurs developed quite quickly among Chechens. Out of these people such prominant capitalists as oil field owner Tapa Tchermoyev (beginning of the 20th Century) have afterwards appeared.



During the Soviet period, Chechenya was actually a colony. The oil development industry in the 1920's through the 1940's was the base for industrialization of the whole USSR. But the people of the Chechen Republic received nearly nothing from the oil fortunes. Nothing, of course, except increased environmental pollution.

Agriculture in Chechenya was forcefully collectivized by the regime, as it was throughout the USSR. But the traditions of the Vaynakhs were an obstacle for this tyranny. In the history of Chechenya, land had mostly been privately owned. Soil fertility had been maintained by enormous groups of laborers who made terraces on the slopes of mountains and accomplished irrigation on the plains. So Communism met with great resistance among the peasants, who would not accept kolkhozes and sovkozes (collective and state farms.) And this resistance continued up until World War II.

By this time, as a result of having been joined together with the Russian people for centuries, the Chechens did embrace the Russian social, economic and intellectual space. Russian intellectuals and the spiritual culture of the Russian people had transformed the Chechen consciousness, particularly in terms of its orientation in the world.

An example of its solidarity with the peoples of the Soviet Union is seen in the role played by Chechens in the courageous struggle against the German Fascist aggression which occurred in 1941. It was their natural bravery and willingness to fight for justice, not the totalitarian Stalinist regime, that moved them to join in the Great Patriotic War. The Chechens have shown their courage in the fiercest of battles, and many of them were honored by the most prestigious awards.

But regardless of their participation in the liberation war, and despite their laborious service on the home front, on February 23,1944, the Stalinist regime accomplished a monstrous action. Many Chechens were loaded into railway cars and exiled for 13 years to Middle Asia. Many of them never returned.

A. I. Solzhenitsyn, who had suffered from Stalinist tyranny himself, mentions this incident in his famous book, The Gulag Archipelago. Writing of the inhuman injustice which had broken many people in exile, he stated, "... but there was one nation which did not yield to the psychology of resignation and obedience at all — neither lone persons, nor rioters, but the nation as a whole. These were the Chechens."


The Chechens came back to their Motherland in 1957. The life was still full of contradictions. Oil development and petrochemistry was expanding more and more. Environmental pollution was increasing. The Chechen nation promoted new intellectuals, professors and academicians.

Some people moved to Siberia and tried to earn money by heavy physical labor. The Communist regime encouraged exploitation of this labor, for which the people received nearly nothing. Other social obstacles to the development of national character developed in the field of education. Children at school were forbidden to speak the Chechen language. The Republic also had very poor statistics in health care and other area of social conditions.



The events of 1991 were considered by the common people as a chance to acquire freedom. "Allow us to live freely in our own house," was the opinion that many people addressed to the Russian government.

During the democratic meeting at the beginning of September, 1991, the author of the present review was in Grozny doing ethnographic research. At the same time in Grozny, in Freedom Square, members of the religious Kadarian fraternity were doing zikras, their collective prayers. For the people, it was a sign of the newly acquired freedom. Up until then, it had not been allowed to do religious ceremonies to the full extent, nor were they allowed to follow normal Islamic rituals for the burial of the dead.

On September 5,1991, I happened to talk with Hussein BARALIYEV, a 75-year-old participant in the Zikra prayers from BACHY-YURT village. He was dressed in a green Circassian coat. He had not eaten anything from early morning. Despite hot weather (30 degrees above zero) he took active part in the religious celebration. The believers formed a circle and prayed and danced.

After four o'clock, Hussein BARALIYEV agreed to talk to me. As we shared a meal in a cafe, the dignified gentleman told me a Chechen myth: God had created a stomach for man, and He meant that eating together should always be a way to demonstrate harmony and politeness. Hussein believed that God had destined this meeting for us, and he accepted the meal as the realization of the fate foreordained for him by God (ritsk).

Hussein also told me about the ancient Chechen belief in personal guardian spirits (teram), a belief about which many people have forgotten.

Hussein spoke as a typical representative of traditional Chechen culture. He represented the ideals of many common Chechens as he participated in the religious celebration and prayers. My conversation with Hussein and my discussions with other Chechens at that time convinced me that the Chechens understood all the happening events as the realization of their natural development of life — that the moment had arrived when these long-suffering people could now seek a place in the world with mutual understanding among other nations.

Mutual understanding with the Russian government is still not achieved. However, the martial law imposed by the Kremlin in November, 1991, did not cause any serious consequence thank God, although some believe that this action did increase the prestige of Djokhar DUDAYEV, the


President of Chechenya.

In October and November of 1992, the conflict between the Osetins and the Ingushes broke out, and the Russian Army became involved in it. For a while it appeared that an armed conflict between the Russian Army and the Chechen Army was likely. But a political solution to the problem was achieved as the Prime Minister of Russia, Ye.T. GAYDAR and the Chechen Vice Prime Minister Yaragi M. MAMADAEV managed to reach agreement regarding the separation of the troops.

The present situation in Chechenya is very complicated. Djokhar DUDAYEV, the President, faces serious opposition. He is attempting to deal with the opposition by liquidating the basic Constitutional governmental structures, such as the Constitutional Court and the Parliament, among others. When the opposition held a meeting in June, 1993, many of the participants were shot at, and some were killed. The President has announced that the opposition exists due to the support of the Kremlin., His main opponent, Yaragi MAMADAEV, the Prime Minister assigned by the Parliament, believes that the causes of the current situation, due to a crisis of government, economic troubles and a decline of morality.

The decline of morality, according to Mr. MAMADAEV, is the result of some peoples' rejection of the traditional values of the Chechen society. He believes that the true morality of the Chechen people can be reinstated, however, through an internal multi-level program, which at every stage will take into account the interests of a family, of a clan (a group of related families called in Chechenya a teyp), of a village, of a district, of the state on the whole. Yaragi MAMADAEV proposes to include this program, which observes the balance of interests, within the regional North-Caucasian area, into CIS, and possibly to impart a new model of division of labor for the entire world. The most important point of this concept is that it takes into consideration the regional tendencies which are of such great importance in all parts of the world.




Abdurakhman AVTORKHANOV, a courageous Chechen intellectual, several decades ago had started the fight against Stalin's regime. To this day, despite his age, he has remained imminently well-informed about all the nuances of the political situation in Chechenya and in Russia. On May 31, 1994, spoke by telephone from Germany with Prime Minister Yaragi MAMADAEV. Mr. AVTORKHANOV expressed the following opinions.

Mr. AVTORKHANOV stated that internal affairs in Chechenya should be resolved in one way or another together with Russia. Chechen should unite with the democratic forces in Russia, not with the maniacal, great-power, chauvinistic ones. Mr. AVTORKHANOV said that all the Chechens know that historically Chechenya had been annexed by force. But it is not possible to achieve freedom by force. Unlike the period of the Caucasian wars, today's battles involve advanced weaponry. Also, Russia has become the motherland for many Chechens, in fact, almost one third of all Chechens live outside Chechenya.

Mr. AVTORKHANOV said that even though both tsarism and communism were bad for Chechenya, and communism was the worse of the two, now the Chechens have an opportunity to settle their relationship with a democratic Russia. He expressed hope that a democratic Russia would grant independence to the republics located at its borders. Moreover, Mr. AVTORKHANOV stated, "Chechenya shall restore itself in unity with CIS countries and with Russia."

Mr. AVTORKHANOV'S recommendations regarding internal policies were that all the various forces within Chechenya should come to a consensus. He expressed the opinion that Ruslan KHAZBULATOV is a person who can unite the currently-disputing political forces of President Djokhar DUDAYEV and Prime Minister Yaragi MAMADAEV.

We must listen attentively to Mr. AVTORKHANOV'S opinions regarding the ethnic traditions of the Chechens. He recommends that all Chechens observe the rules of adat (the code of national habits) thoroughly, because for the Chechens, the adat norms are at the moment more important than the shariah. He remembers that it was the adat that made the Chechens support Shamil. Mr. AVTORKHANOV indicates that the adat is deeply connected with the human personality. The Chechen personality has deep roots in his family, in his community, and in his clan (taip).

When asked to make ethnic and psychological sense of political


relations in Chechenya, Mr. AVTORKHANOV, one of the most prominent Chechens of today, stated, "It is allowed to criticize the point of view, but not the person." Mr. AVTORKHANOV offered all of his thoughts and opinions in the spirit of great honor and urgency for the Chechen people.




The date of Yuri GAGARIN'S landing was a most unusual date in the life of the Chechen ethnographer Ibragim SAIDOV. It was quite unusual for myself as well. At that time I was finalizing my studies at Moscow University, Chair of Ethnography. Even today, after more than thirty years, whenever I speak with Ibragim at his place in Grozny, we often speak of the date April 12, 1961.

In a recent discussion, Ibragim and I were mulling over our favorite topic, "What is the subject of our science, ethnography?" Ibragim reminded me of that day in '61, when all the students at Moscow University, including myself, had poured into the streets to greet and honor GAGARIN, the first cosmonaut to successfully return from space to the earth. Ibragim on that day had to rush to get through the crowded streets to a prearranged meeting with Mark Osipovich KOSVEN, a renown professor and specialist in the Caucasus. Ibragim SAIDOV at that time had nearly completed his thesis for the grade of candidate in science, his theme being the community of the Chechens and the Ingushes (the Vaynakhs).

So during the occasion of this great holiday for Russians and for the rest of the world, Ibragim SAIDOV put the following question to the elder ethnographer: "Mark Osipovich, could you please give your definition of ethnography?" Mark Osipovich KOSVEN did not answer at once. Instead he looked out his window at the celebrating crowd and thought of the momentous occasion being celebrated below.

"Ethnography," he said, "is the science describing trifles."

What had the prominent scientist, and one of the most well-known specialists in ethnography, meant? Had he really considered the science describing nations, their life and habits (lately accepted in Russian scientific circles under the name "ethnology") insignificant for the civilization which had already reached outer space? Maybe he had considered the supremacy of technological progress, and in comparison it seemed to him that the study of the ethnic existence of peoples of the earth was an unimportant factor.

But instead, we take Mr. KOSVEN's definition of ethnography to mean that nations have more similarities than differences in their mode of life, in their perception of the world, and in their values. Many prominent specialists agree with the opinion that nations differ in trifles only, and that this is the objective of ethnography — to describe these trifles. Yu. V. BROMLEY, the academician, put much effort in the past to put forth his point of view that the



deep strata of the culture never fulfills its function — to help distinguish one ethnos from another.   But is this really true?

I was born in Chechenya, although I specialized in China in my early days as an ethnographer. When China became inaccessible to me in the sixties, I turned my professional life back to my homeland, the Caucasus. Following my fate, I lived in the mountains, in the plains, in villages and in the cities. The more I came to understand Chechenya, the more I comprehended the significance of the question Ibragim SAIDOV had put to Mr. KOSVEN, and how Mr. KOSVEN's answer could not have satisfied Ibragim. In any situation a Chechen wants to get a clear answer, to search for the principle things, for the main reasons. Ibragim SAIDOV, a great monotheist, would turn instead to the works of the famous scientist from Middle Asia, BIRUNI.

In the course of my discussions with Ibragim one thought often comes into my mind: that the whole ethnic existence of the Chechen nation — the unity of the Chechen people, the ability to over live the Caucasian War and the 13-year exile, the hope for rescue in the future — the whole ethnic character is based on trust in God. In all my research, that thought was clearly expressed by many people, young and old, even those born before the exile and those born thousands of kilometers from the motherland.

It is clear that in studying ethnography of the Chechen people, we come to know not trifles but the most important things in human life. Yet these things are hidden. They are never given any ostentatious display.

A true believer shall respect people of any nationality. In Grozny one day, I was talking on the street with a bunch of Chechens. As we spoke of their religion, a man from Starye Atagy village said that their mullah had told them that most Russians ("about 80 to 90 per cent") should go to paradise. Why such a high number of the nation which had oppressed the Chechen nation? Perhaps the understandings of ethnography can supply answers.

In the old habits of the Chechens and the Ingushes there is an ethnic rule: a person should speak of himself with as much humility as possible, and if he expresses an opinion he should not speak plainly. Rather he should preface his opinion with something like, "One Nogay has said..." or "One Geopgian has told me..." etc. This habit of speaking avows that the Vaynakhs do not feel that they are surrounded by aggressive enemies, despite the facts of their history.

Faithful and trusting in God, the Chechen feels that he lives in a



friendly medium. Therefore he speaks as though people of other nations are telling the truth for him. That is why the moral estimate of the Russians given by the mullah of the village turned out to be so high. Hope for trulth and for justice is also strong in the Chechen nation, seeking for the good not only from other nations but also from the attention of God.

Last autumn I attended a meeting of Cheberloy Society at Kezenoy-
Am Lake. A hot discussion occurred regarding the relationship between
Chechenya and Russia, and one participant asked the question, "Why wasn't
there a single Russian who tried to protect the Chechens in 1944?" I felt
unexpectedly a huge belief of the Chechens in Russia and observed that the
hope for understanding is still alive.

There was a Russian whose soul was opened to deep all-hum feelings when he lived as a youth in Chechenya. It was the world famous writer Leo TOLSTOY. The same we can say about PUSHKIN, LERMONTOV and others. Speaking a few years ago at a scientific conference in Vedeno, Moscow journalist Tatyana SHUTOVA said, "I am in the spiritual motherland of Russian literature." It seemed to me that she thought as a Chechen: our real environment is the source of the human spirit surrounding us. Later in the day, an old Chechen led her to see enormous trees. He said, "These trees are growing on the graves of your ancestors. This is the Russian graveyard." Obviously, this was the graveyard in Vedeno, the capital of Shamil, where the Russian soldiers who fought against the Tsar's troops were buried.

The reader has the right to put the question: Does the nation which had suffered so much from the Russians in the past feel any wish or revenge? I expressly answer, "No". I have come to know of some violence against the Russians in Chechenya, and it is entirely of a criminal nature. The ethnic mentality of the Chechens and the Ingushes show convincingly the peaceful character of these nations. Also should mention that neither the Chechens nor the Ingushes have ever laid claim to territorial expansion. The conflicts in the common life of peoples of these nations are provoked not by ethnic, but by psychological reasons.

For example, the Vaynakhs cannot stand Russian curses. It is difficult for a Russian to understand that there is some distance even between friends, but it exists in the Vaynakh society, as it does similarly in the Spanish and Japanese cultures.

The Vaynakhs are very polite with people of other nations, and also very hospitable. A guest who has come from far away is most respected,



and usually is a foreigner. Such a guest has come from afar. And who is coming from the future? Of course, the children are. The Vaynakhs, like other Caucasian nations, predict guests' arrival from children's behavior (for example, if a child has bent and looked between his legs.)

The special attitude toward children is expressed in the myth about an orphan, who was under the protection of the god of harvest called Yelta. This god provided the orphan with good harvest. Special regard for childhood is also demonstrated by the name NAKHCHO. This is a name for cheese starter, and the legend is that the Chechens descended from the boy who was born with the cheese starter gripped in his hand. The truth is that the nation lived, lives and will live in the future, and this perspective sanctifies the ethnic sense and increases its moral depth.

Belonging to a people is the most important property of the human personality, because every person is obliged to participate in the life of the national body, consisting of our ancestors, ourselves and our descendants. The macropersonality, or archetypal ideal, of the Vaynakh ethics is represented in the heroic image of the KONAKH, who protects the people. His property (KONKHALLA) is courage. In the tradition, the KONAKH is perpetually a ten-year-old child ("five years will pass before he is fifteen.") It is said that the land of the ancestors is where the truth is, and that the KONAKH always brings the truth from the past through the present to the future. The KONAKH occupies the central organizing position in the ethnic values of the Vaynakhs. They say that the nation is supported by the KONAKHALLA."

Is it really possible after this short review of the deep layers of Chechen world view to speak about academic carelessness towards their ethnic orientation, towards the ethnic specifics?

First of all we can see that the statements of Mr. KOSVEN and Mr. BROMLEY, made from the "all-human" point of view, actually just reflect the position of liberal-minded academic observers. The human values for them are just something abstract and bodiless. The Marxian concepts of the progressive development of humanity and the related theory of formations replacing each other starting from primitive communal systems and finishing with socialism were not long ago the criteria of valid social progress. Stalin's formula regarding culture — "socialistic sense and national shape" — has been actually based on the above concept. But ethnic existence cannot be a shape of anything. The people who are the carriers of ethnos, with its specific culture, do not relate to anything as a shape. Within the frame of



ethnos, people and culture are in the essential relations with themselves in the past, in the present and in the future.

It is possible to suppose the change of regime in any society, but it is unimaginable to assume that a nation would change its ethnic character. A nation is a biological unit striving for preservation of itself in the future. This is how the nation expresses its ethnic character. The ethnic character is unique, and it cannot be quantified. We cannot say that this habit is more Russian, and that is less Russian. Similarly, we cannot say that Russian ethnic character is more expressed than French or Abkhazian,

My teachers and mentors, old people, many times explained such obvious things with the help of fingers on the hand. They are all different, but they are all equally necessary for a person.

When I visit Grozny, I always go to the building of the Chechen Parliament, where the Council of Elders (MEHK-KHEL, which means "The Court of the Country" or "The Council of the Country") is located. Ibragim SAIDOV has studied this institution in his thesis. In the present MEHK-KHEL I still have some acquaintances, and I have met with them several times. One time recently a young man dropped in. When he found out that I came from the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, he supposed that the information I was gathering could help to blow the sovereignty of Chechenya. I clarified in detail that the task of an ethnographer is to represent the nation he studies, but not the governing structures of the country where he lives. This explanation satisfied everybody, and there were no more questions.

The Chechens have a folkloric legend: Somewhere in the world, either Moscow, or London, or maybe in Instanbul, a book exists which contains the whole truth about the Vaynakhs. Of course, such a book does not exist. Only the nation itself can write such a book, with the help of ethnography (ethnology).



The long-term experience of the people is often depicted in short proverbs that sometimes recommend how to live. While conducting my ethnographical travels in the North Caucasus, I have heard such a wise proverb many times: "Travel with the Chechen, share a meal with the Armenian, spend a night in the Jew's home." I also note that safe travel with a Chechen is mentioned by Pushkin in his book Travel to Erzurum. where the presence of the Chechen Beybulat TAYMIYEV in the regiment was the guaranty of safe arrival in Erzurum. So what does the above proverb say about the Chechen, that it is safe to travel together with him, but his home and meal are worse than others?

Perhaps we should first take into account the national consciousness or world view that describes the people in relation to space: the Chechen is on his way out of his home; the Armenian is sitting at the table; and the Jew is completely closed within his home. Let us also remember that the above proverb takes into account the space ranges of the North Caucasian knighthood: it is most prestigious to be in the wild, dangerous space, and it is less prestigious to be at home. So in this proverb we see the ethnic image of the people described according to space characteristics (road, table, home). I have researched the material from various countries and found that the ethnic images of various peoples contain a hidden indication on the character cast interpreted through the relationship in space. Examples include "a pedantic German", "a light-minded French", "fat John Bull", or "thin Uncle Sam". (See the article "Ethnic Image" in the hook Ethnosign Functions of the Culture. Moscow, 1991.)

A. AVTORKHANOV in one of his books about the Chechens mentions that in the last century the Russians officers called the Chechens the "French of the Caucasus" for their joviality and wit. (A.URALOV, Slaughter of the Chechen and Ingush People. Moscow, 1991, p. 15.) Comparison with the French in this case also refers to the space characteristic.

We can say that description of ethnic character through space characteristics is the hidden formula of ethnic image. Let us show it on some other examples. Consider the famous lines by LERMONTOV: "A vicious Chechen is crawling on the bank. He is sharpening his dagger." The character of the Chechens in the Russians' perception is described here as vicious movement through space ("is crawling on the bank"). And even earlier, PUSHKIN described in a poem the same space feature: "Escape,



Russian girls. Hurry up home, you beautiful girls. The Chechen is walking on the opposite river bank."

More evidence of the Chechen character is presented in the writings of a remarkable traveler, A.E. ROSSIKOVA, who left us the excellent description of her journey to the mountain region of Eastern Chechenya one hundred years ago. She asks, "Who is this self-willed, passionate, impetuous and restless inhabitant of the Northern Caucasus — the Chechen? Where is his initial motherland? Who are his ancestors? We do not know anything for sure by now." (A.E. ROSSIKOVA, "Journey in the Central Part of the Mountain Chechenya" Tiflis, 1895, page 3.) The author, in describing character, is using space characteristics: "inhabitant of the Northern Caucasus" and "where is his motherland?"

By the way, we also note that space orientation implies character more than describes character. An example is the famous question, "Where does the Russian land begin?", put by the author of Story of the Temporary Years. a strained search for the spacial orientation of the past.

In the Chechen folklore, there are numerous myths related to the origin of the nation (from Syria, from Arabia, from the neighboring regions.) Legends are always meaningful, irrespective of their truthfulness, and in this case these legends reflect the search for external spacial support for the nation's self-description.

From the point of view of the open structure of such a description, the myth relating to the origin and genealogy may be enhanced by comparison with some other nation, for example comparing the Chechens with the Russians. Here is a description by ROSSIKOVA of the Cherboloy people, an ethnic group of Chechens living in the mountains near Dagestan: "The Cheberloy people are high, with well-developed figure, somewhat lean, with open and attractive faces, their type maybe similar to Russian, but with the stern and penetrating look of dark eyes, (page 27)

Openness of the Chechens for communication is today still one of the remarkable distinguishing features of this nation. In order to make the picture objective, we shall mention that this openness may suddenly turn into suspiciousness. The suspiciousness is to a certain extent characteristic of the mountain people, because in the course of their history they have known the aggressions of the troops of large nations and threats from the side of the blood avenger. But openness in the overwhelming feature of the culture and tone of Chechen communication.

The Chechen ethnographer Said KHASIYEV considered that joviality



is caused, strange as it may seem, by the conditions of the mountain mode of life. Tough living conditions and limited resources made people work together and exchange goods. Good communication, joviality, openness and good manners were, therefore, a necessary quality of the inherent Chechen nature.

These qualities are also found in the spiritual values (the original ethnogenic substance) of the Vaynakhs. From ancient times, the Vaynakhs have believed in monotheism, that all people on the earth are children of one God. This tendency has been strengthened by Islam. The firm base and moral requirement of the traditions of the Vaynakh culture is justice — along with the related ideas of equity and consent. So on the personal level, the Chechen is inclined to be humane, and he expects that other people will be humane toward him.

Let us clarify the above with respect to recent history. The Chechen believes in the existence of justice in the world, and that justice is inherent in all the other nations and cultures. Injustice, therefore, toward the Chechens in the tsarist, soviet and post-soviet Russia is taken as a violation of the natural mode of life, a violation of the social principles granted by God. However, the relation to the policy of Russia (as a rule it is unjust) is always distinguished from the convictions of the Russians. And these convictions, even the unacceptable, are distinguished from the person himself, and in principle, this relation does not violate the personal dignity. This is how it would be seen by the true carriers of the Chechen culture, and they are religious people as a rule.

The hope for justice is expressed by the phrase which I have heard several times as a conclusion of uneasy discussion regarding mutual relationship between Chechenya and Russia: "The only way to gain a victory over the Chechens is to be good to them."

Openness as a psychological feature of the Chechens is deeply representative of the Vaynakhs’ world perception. It is in full harmony with the value of the external space. However, not long ago, the Chechen would never glorify his people directly. Therefore, the Chechen would pronounce any wise thoughts or good words as if they had been said by some foreigner: "One Georgian said ..." or "One Nogay told me ..."

It is surprising to hear such a hope that kindness and wisdom would be coming from the external world. It is contrary to the tendency for suspiciousness and isolation born by private interests. This duality may be present in one and the same person. I have often heard the Chechen say,



"We are a people of the extreme points." And that may also mean that the person contacting the Chechens may meet the same properties he demonstrates himself: openness or suspiciousness.

On the whole, openness and good manners are the deepest inherent feat ures of the Chechen personality, based on the general world view that justice rules everywhere. Suspiciousness was compelled upon the Chechens by historical conditions. The Chechens themselves make fun of themselves speaking about this feature, speaking, for example, in such a proverb: "Even to the most beautiful girl the Chechen said that her neck was a little bit too long."

In the past century, when the Caucasian war was the core of the whole social life of the Chechens, Russian authors have reflected upon how robbed and conquered people react to violence. A.P.BERGE, the manager of the Caucasian Department of the Emperor's Geographic Society, published a detailed research about the Chechens in Tiflis in 1859. BERGE was a state official and a scientist who had worked in the Caucasus since 1852. His works plated a great role in the formation of the basis of the scientific research off the Caucasus. When working over the book, "Chechenya and the Chechens", BERGE used the materials received from the Chechens. He called them "the former Katchkalyk Bata nahib", "natural Chechen" Zaur and Sait-Kurt-Mohammed. What is the description of the Chechens given by Berg?

"The appearance of the Chechens is generally quite pleasant. They have well-developed figures; their movements are quick and agile." After that, Berge presents a remarkable paragraph which seems to quote military reports describing campaigns against "beasts". Despite the facts that the Chechens have overcome a primitive wild state and are now leading a settled way of life, their characters are still seen as half-primitive. Cruelty, greediness, suspiciousness and vengeance are the strongest elements observed, along with the good qualities as well.

For example, he observes without exception the rules of hospitality. If a stranger on his way stays at the Chechen's home overnight, the master would slaughter at least one or several lambs for a feast. A rich Chechen might even serve a calf, depending on the importance of the guest and the number traveling with him as guards and retinue. The Chechen is also obligated to see the guest off up to a safe place, or to pass him over to another Chechen, and to care about his personal safety. If the guest has been robbed, insulted or killed due to improper behavior of the Chechen or



due to non-fulfillment of the hospitality rules, the Chechen would be ostracized by the whole society until he takes vengeance for the insult his guest has suffered.

BERGE had described hospitality of the Chechens, and by his description, he had shown not a "primitive state" or "semi-wildness" of the Chechens, but something quite opposite. Such a hospitality may be a result of aristocratism, knighthood manners, of commercial interest, in short, of anything but primitive state.

For us, the following fact is most important. BERGE, in describing the ethnic portrait of the Chechens, had followed the structure we have spoken about: appearance, character and space characteristics (note the description of the guest reception and seeing off.) In the course of ethnic Chechen image research, and with the examples of world literature, this structure has proven valuable. They allow us to take a detached view, which we shall call the ethnic extra-image. What shall happen if we turn to the internal point of view, or to the ethnic intra-image?




The full formula of ethnic intra-image can seldom be found in conversations with outsiders. The point is that by now the ethnic rule is still in force among the people, never to glorify themselves, and even to mention themselves in a slighting tone. My ethnographical diary is full of notes such as, "We the Chechens have been demoralized." "In the past there were knights-Konakhs, but now you cannot find a single one in a square full of people." "There used to be true people among us, but they all had perished in the exile."

The ironic view of themselves has been seen in the above proverb about the girl having an excessively long neck. Such self-criticism is based on the preserved belief in elevated national ideals, in their absolute value, which is not achievable, even for the best of existing people. In various situations, a negative attitude to real life may be expressed. But the force of the ideal stays free, and in this case, the ideal is based on personal participation and worshipping. This participation is expressed specifically in the hidden belief inherent in any Chechen: that in the depth of his soul, sealed from everybody, he is confident that he possesses at least one property of Konahk.

On January 20, 1991, I had a lengthy conversation with the Chechen poet and scientist, Akhmad SULEMANOV. He is an expert with deep knowledge of the habits of his people. Being a teacher by his education and by his vocation, he became a true tutor in Chechen ethnography for me. He provided a definition of a "True Chechen": "First of all, it is a noble person. His primary task is to protect a woman. This was the problem put by the Council of Elders many centuries ago. Such a person has the property of patience. He devotes himself to the defense of his native hearth and home, of his native land, of his motherland."

The description given by Akhmad is a true intra-image of the Chechen, complying to the above formula. First let us consider space characteristics. In the description of both the extra-image and the intra-image, the space characteristics are given as territory, the physical earth territory — motherland. And as to behavior, the example expressing space characteristics is the guest off-seeing ceremony. There are also etiquette rules prescribing movement order for people of various ages walking




together. The younger person should walk on the left side of the older person, if two persons are walking, and the youngest person should take place on the right side of the oldest person if there are three of them.

The space characteristic is also present in the important Vaynakh culture of communication, which requires a person to listen to and understand the opinion of those with whom they are communicating. The ability to listen and the aspiration to understand another person is a deeply immanent, basic property of the culture. The mechanisms of people's diplomacy are based on the ability to understand other people, and this diplomacy might help to reconcile even bloody enemies. Only the person who is able to take into account the interests of other people may become a leader in Chechen society. (The requirement to understand the point of view of other persons is similar to "avaceru" principle in Japanese culture, which means that one should adjust to his partner in conversation.)

Another reflection of the space characteristic is the clear understanding that making friends with people one has not met before is a good thing. An additional space related factor which influences the behavior of people is the fear of rumors (KHABAR) as a constant criteria of behavior. "We are terribly afraid of rumors," was the sincere confession of some of the Chechens with whom I spoke. By fear, of course, we do not mean cowardice. The heroic leader of the Chechens, Beybulat TAYMIYEV, whom we mentioned earlier as having met A.S. PUSHKIN in Tiflis in 1929, used to say that he was afraid of rumors such as a rumor that a guest was unsatisfied with his reception.

The appearance of a person is also included as an aspect of space related ethical relationship. To a Chechen, the image of a person (KUTS, KUTSKEPS) is the most important index of the person's moral level. In the person's image, the inherited proportions of his figure are important, together with stateliness, poses and gestures, which form the image (KUTS) which the person acquires in accordance with his character (AMAL). The character and personality are reflected in the face features, and they can even judge about the person's religiousness (IMAN) especially in the area between eyes and nose. The clothes are also very important as well as a general sense of orderliness.

The significance of image in the Chechen culture underlines their openness, even nakedness, of their human internal universe. This phenomenon is related to the other one — truthfulness of the Chechen's speech. Any double-facedness or double-dealing is extremely despised.




Neighboring nations find the sincerity of the Chechens striking. The Kabardines, the Karachayevs and the Dagestanians often remark that the Chechen always expresses his mind openly.

The Chechen also values cleanliness, not only in the clothing, but a clean face and overall clean health. Following this logic, any diseases like a cold or inflammation are considered to be signs of inauspicious spiritual state. The concept of cleanliness has embraced the Chechen genealogy. "Pure pedigree, pure semen" (TS'ENA KH'U) is the factor always taken into consideration in the internal ethical relationships among the Chechens.

Cleanliness is also a feature of the internal rational/emotional world of thoughts and actions whether or not they are controlled by society. Therefore, this factor is defined through the heart. "DOG TS'ENA" means "cleanliness of the heart." In contemporary times, "cleanliness of the heart" is converted into moral impulses close to the monotheistic religion, Islam, and secondarily to ethics and to general community principles. In this sense, cleanliness has been interpreted by the academician Salambek KHADZHIYEV, to include a person not taking up a weapon in his hand to kill another human being. In KHADZHIYEV's perception, cleanliness is quite close to the category of intelligence as a property characterizing not a level of education but a special moral principle.

Religion, however, represents the most important space orientation of the Chechens, the vertical relationship. In the Vaynakh tradition, the most important essential categories are surrounded by silence. They have no definitions, and cannot be used in the description of intra-image or extra-image. Elevated values are often overtly and opportunely denied, or mentioned as values which had existed in the past. An example of such non-defining (or silent defining) would be denial of the existence of "KONAKHALLA", the knight's wisdom or selflessness. The most widely-spread type of non-defining of the most important values is the practice of emphasizing the opposite, such as moral decay and greediness, and other self-criticism. The importance of overly defining the lower pole of the moral vertical is that it serves to indicate by contrast the upper pole, which can then be understood as a heavenly force. The uprightness of the divine vertical is a very prominent ideal in the Chechen culture.

The norms of the Vaynakhs' culture require that a human being keep a physical position similar to that of the divine vertical. They teach children to keep such a pose from their childhood. A stranger in Chechenya would notice at once that there are no round-shouldered people at all, that all



people have a handsome carriage. The Chechen would never sit lounging. The people's bearing is not only an aesthetic requirement of the culture, it is a matter of ethics.

The ethical ideals of the Chechens also extend to the vertical shapes of their things. A Chechen dagger or Chechen jug would differ from Dagestanian ones by their vertical proportions. Famous defensive towers are not only fortresses, they are the human prayer addressed to God, an invocation of the human life.

Maternal lullabies are also both invocations and prayers. Lullaby is the most intimate feature of ethnic culture from the point of view of the conditions and opportunities a newly born baby would live in, but at the same time a lullaby is a program of his development as a person, a compact description of the life ideals.

In various regions of Chechenya, I managed to write down the lullaby given below. It is really quite ethnic, because people in Grozny know it as well (especially women brushing the streets in the night.) Here is its content, translated as close to the sense of the original as possible (variant of Taybat KOVRAYEVA, born 1929.)

Foot, foot. Tip-cat.  Foot.

As you came out, you made it dirty.

They wipe it with grass.

Mother gave the child her breast.

The child calmed down.

In the middle of the first line of this strange song, a tip-cat is mentioned. It is a sharpened stick (KYULLYA) which flies up when they strike it, and the winner is the child whose tip-cat has flown farther than the others'. We can say that the flying KYULLYA is a fate defined by the subject striving to reach the upper pole of the vertical. Then the foot and the excrement mark the lower pole of this vertical. This pole is the beginning of life, and this life starts even lower than the grass level. Then it moves up from the feet along the vertical.

In the Vaynakhs' culture, the soles of feet are very important. It is considered an insult to show them to anybody, and it is not allowed to wash them with soap or to wipe them dry after washing. Contrary to the Russian proverb, "You cannot rely on legs" the Vaynakhs consider legs to be close to the value sources. When mother washes her child standing in the wash



basin, she draws water from the basin and pours it on his head, repeating, "You should be wise."

Our lullaby states that the life which has started on the lower levels gets soothing power from the mother's breast. Further, it moves to the unknown unguessed fate. In the Chechen notions, fate is not fatal. Its realization, as if in a game, depends on the efforts and aspirations of the person. The people, therefore, say that "the person himself brings down his deeds" which are suspended from heaven on some threads. Such an idea of fate is seen in a game played at New Years where a person with his eyes closed cuts down with scissors "his share" for the present and the coming year.

It is enough to know such ethnographic facts, as they help us to come to the main conclusion regarding the Chechen's character and personality. The point is that the Chechen himself makes choice when seeking for his way in life, or when deciding to do one thing or another. Such a decision is motivated be hidden, or even unconscious, thought that the person in this case is moved by God's will, because God has given him life and provided him freedom of choice. This deeply values ground of the Chechens' character fills the definition of liberty (MARSHO) not only with social and economic sense, but also with deep ethical and religious value. In the Chechen language, the expressions, "Be free!" or "Pass freely!" are the first phrases pronounced by people who have just met each other. If we are speaking of political movements in Chechenya, we can say that however different they are, all will have the word "freedom" in their slogans.

Striving for freedom is deeply rooted in the Chechen soul. And all the mysteries of Chechen history, any deep analysis of the present state of the Chechen society, and any degree of reliability of prognosis for the future of Chechenya will depend on giving proper consideration to the issues of freedom and liberty.

The Chechen not only feels that the sense of freedom is the ground of his own personality, but at the same time, if he is a normal person, he respects the freedom of other people. That is the reason he says to other people, "Be free!" An ethnopolitical principle of the Chechens is that oppression of other person's freedom makes the person doing it bound.

Considering now the Chechen's ineradicable sense of freedom, with its foundation deeply rooted in religious ethic, we are closer to understanding this spontaneous, hospitable and noble national character, from which this ancient and unusual nation commands our respect.




The theme of political culture is a comparatively new study. In the world practice, it has been developed most often as applied to individual society. What is studied is the political culture of separate groups of people inside each society ~ a class, an ethnic or religious community, etc. The encyclopedia defines political culture as follows: "Political culture contains historical experience, memory of social communities and of individuals in the political sphere, orientation of people, their habits influencing political behavior." (M. 1993, page 264.)

The political culture of the Chechen ethnos is a very prominent focus of social attention in the present conditions of Chechenya today. We shall at this point consider the most important aspects of the nation's historical political experience. Then, with the help of several examples, we shall try to characterize certain political leaders and general ethnic orientations in the present fast-changing political situation.

In one of the latest articles by Yaragi MAMADAEV, the following thought has drawn my attention. Speaking of declarative attempts to proclaim Islamic state in Chechenya, MAMADAEV makes reference to history, by stating, "We should first become a normal temporal state, and then we could think of other more elevated aims. Today we should first do our best to observe human rights. We should reach the mountain democracy, which had existed here in the past. We should achieve the results we once had."

This is an absolutely correct thought. In ancient history, Chechenya had been a self-governing society which managed to do without political hierarchy. In the Middle Ages, it denied the hierarchy of power and exiled feudals, both the native ones and the strangers (Kabardine and Kumyuk).

What was the society like from the political point of view? It is difficult to answer this question exactly and simply, since the language of our science is defined by the present epoch's hierarchy of power. Even when academic literature refers to social equity or inequity, or the throne of power at the top of the pyramid, the results turned out to be unconvincing.

The Chechen society managed to come into the present epoch observing those human rights of which we talk so much today. Thus, we forget that the concept of these rights was worked out in the eighteenth century by Jean Jaques ROUSSEAU, who came to Paris bringing along with him the ideals of a free Swiss peasant. So the Chechen society presents



the type of such a society where native fighters against power similar to William Tell have grown up. This was initially a feudal power which deprived a person of his human rights. All of humanity shall be thankful to Jean Jaques ROUSSEAU that he had found the initial point for the modern principles of life and affirmed the human rights.

Our reader may notice that one could make the following conclusion: the Chechens are nearly most devoted citizens of the society proclaimed by the most prominent thinkers of the world, that they are the carriers of civilization which our mother Russia lacks so badly. What nonsense! one can exclaim, especially after he has just heard the latest news on TV about the new Chechen tricks. But he would not be right as to the essence of the facts, and as to the memory about Rousseau, despite the fact that this person is maybe trying to follow the principles of Rousseau in his life unconsciously.

Many students of history in schools were taught that many mountain nations of the Caucasus "had not reached the stage of class society." But in truth, the NAKHS (the Chechens, the Ingushes and the Batsbys who are living in Georgia) had left behind the epoch of class society long ago. Their ancestors had created, in the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the states which competed with Assyrian Empire and over lived it, similar to Urartu. But it is not the point, cultural tradition and psychic structure inherited from the depth of the times are more important. These structures make a person responsible before the Earth, and the Earth "cavity" (LYATT KERA) shall accept after death the person morally enriched. This idea was known to the Hurrians, to the Urartians and to the Etrucans who trued out to be related to the former. The Egyptians had developed this idea and they kept the embalmed body of pharaoh in the artificial cavity in pyramid. By now the Chechens and Ingushes bury their dead in the native land only. Therefore they transport their bodies even from far away how much expensive it would be. But our task is now to start from the cultural and philosophical premises and to go down directly to characteristics of the political culture.

The politically oriented author of "Story of the Temporary Years" had put the first question like this: "Where does the Russian land start from?" Relation to land is the main geopolitical and general political question. What can we say about Chechen geopolitics?

Here the soil is not only feeding the people. It is also the place of burial for the ancestors. Therefore, it is blasphemy to lay claims to strange



territories and it is impossible to give their own territory to another nation. This is the basic opinion of Chechen and Ingush geopolitics. Historically, this very opinion has given birth to the heroic, rational and shrewd means of defense of this territory. When faced with danger, the Council of Elders elected in this connection (MEKHKEL) moved to the part of Vaynakh territory which was threatened. The system of famous defensive towers was used for defense as well. Civic responsibility and defense of the motherland was inspired by the religious idea of sacred soil, not by class oppression or even by devotion to the leader.

In a conversation I had with the late Lev Nikolayevich GUMILYOV, he told me that the idea of passionate zeal had come to him when he was reading a book about Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia. He had first conquered the whole Greece, and after that he went on to take revenge on the enemies of Greece, the Persians. After that he conquered India without any reason. His passion pushed him forward.

Protection of motherland constantly arouses in the Vaynakhs' volcanic passion. Political leaders of the Chechens and Ingushes feel by their intuition and sometimes by their reason, the permanent passionate zeal of their nations.

Patriotic feelings towards the motherland are actively inherent in any honest person of any nationality. But let us look closely at what a politically engaged Chechen thinks about the relationship between his nation and the neighboring ones.

Consider a pamphlet published in Grozny in 1992 by solicitor Adam DUDAYEV (this surname, derived from the first name, can often be found among the Chechens.) In it he presents a detailed concept of sovereignty as a constitutional guarantee from the point of view of the community of nations, confirming the right of any nation to self-determination. He also presents the idea that the true unity of sovereign states is necessary. In fact, when turning the pages of this booklet, we come to a conclusion that it was written by a person of true Chechen mentality. For example, he writes, "Conquering geographic space, the Russian Empire had withdrawn from its people any possibility of comprehension of the human existence."

A. DUDAYEV concludes by speaking as a lawyer, giving the ground for the role of creative and initiative personality trying to get through in the market relationship. He describes one more feature of the Chechen mentality, competitiveness (YAKH). The people believe that YAKH is the integral part of the personality, and there is a proverb about it: "A man



without YAKH should not be born!" The people always know the right measure. They say that YAKH should not be converted into KHAG — envy.

The initial stimuli of the passionate Chechen personality is also limited by ethics. I recently interviewed Yaragi MAMADAEV, the Prime-Minister of the Government of People's Confidence of the Chechen Republic, and we discussed an analysis of the political ethics. I asked him the question, "What is the political culture of the Chechens?" Speaking as one of the leading people of the Republic, he answered, "The European carriage cannot ride on the mountain path, but an araba (kind of cart) can. No, we are not standing for a retarded technique, or standing against progress. But we shall observe the real moral and political situation.*

The Chechen political leader shall keep his dignity. He must be free and independent, he must fight for justice. This is the foundation of his activity whatever his program. Yes, this foundation can be defined by the word, YAKH. This word bears many senses: consciousness, honor, responsibility, honesty. However, in our political culture we show respect to an opponent. Certainly, this feature is resulting from the ancient rules of hospitality. The result of any activity, of any negotiations, should be visible and concrete. It is self-understandable that such a result can be achieved by means of mutual compromise and mutual respect. It is especially important when we deal with the problem of the Chechen sovereignty. Well, we understand it as a sum of personal sovereignties of all the Chechens and citizens of the Republic. In the sovereignty of the Republic the main thing is its individual feature, which comes over anything personal, but keeps the connection. So the hope of the Chechens that Russia, the successor of the Soviet Union, should apologize for repressions, is not a mere formality. This hope is based on the faith in the Russian people, in their nobleness.

In the relationship between Russia and Chechenya there is a great deal of uncertainty. And this uncertainty provokes criminal violence. It is not a secret that this situation allows the regime of the President to explain all disasters the people of Chechenya suffer by referring to the above.

As I conducted ethnographic research in Chechenya during the past few years, I have observed political attitudes, reactions to political events and the common people's estimates of Chechen and Russian leaders. Step by step in the towns and villages of Chechenya, I kept my observations on political culture as notes in diaries, ultimately formulating a concept, maybe a subjective one, of this culture. Its formula is as follows: Soil of one's native land is a stimulus of active work for a person during all his life granted



to him, and the same is the last shelter for the man returning to it.

It is remarkable that Chechen elders exiled in 1944 to Kazakhstan and to Middle Asia tried somehow to realize the impossible thing — deprivation of the native land. The way out was found in the conviction that out of seven late ancestors, whose names any Chechen is obliged to know, three had come to the exile together with their descendants to make an agreement with the late ancestors of the native people, and four of them belonging to the earlier generations had stayed in their motherland to guard it. This policy of the dead saved those alive, it gave an opportunity to orient in the monstrous reality. Islam provided the second gleam of hope in the exile. It also taught the exiles to keep dignity and always bear the hope for the final justice.

R. I. KHAZBOULATOV's figure is one of the most remarkable for characterizing the Chechen political culture. Management of the Supreme Council of Russia and his capture in October, 1993, have underlined some of the aspects of this person.

Much to the relief of Chechen society, the Supreme Council has abolished martial law in Chechenya, which had been proclaimed by the Russian government in November, 1991. And the Chechens were very watchful toward the activities of the Supreme Council as a political body and R. I. KHAZBOULATOV personally. The sovereignty of Chechenya to a great extent was depending on it. As to the personality of the Russian Parliament's Speaker, a Chechen himself, the people observed the way he fulfilled his obligations with uneasy attention. Even though the Speaker violated etiquette with occasional vulgar and rude statements, but in general the people's estimate of him was cautiously positive. Nevertheless, any Chechen interested in politics understood that the work of the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Russia was aimed against sovereignty of Chechenya, and therefore against the will of the Chechen people.

After the events of October 3-4, 1993, R. I. KHAZBOULATOV was captured and put into Lefortovo Prison. The people's opinion in Chechenya was generally positive based on his behavior in the besieged White House. By word of mouth, they passed the words he had supposedly said, that he would not leave the White House, which was under fire. And everyone could see on television that he stuck by his word and encouraged those who stayed with him.

A great meeting was held in Grozny because of the hostile action



toward R. I. KHAZBOULATOV and his imprisonment. In this meeting the people created a document addressed to Boris N. YELTSYN entitled "Public Appeal of the Chechen Republic." The document stated that before 1991, the Chechen Republic had been part of the united political space, and at that time they had elected both R. I. KHAZBOULATOV and B. N. YELTSYN for the Supreme Council. The Appeal expressed anxiety that Russia could be turning into a "third grade developing country, into a raw material resource for great imperialistic states." The document also appealed for the release of R. I. Kazboulatov from prison, motivated by the necessity of a just estimate of his serving to the Russian authority and of his struggle against corruption in the government.

Such an approach to Khazboulatov reflects the Chechen and all-Caucasian ideal of a political leader fighting for justice. Khazboulatov's imprisonment has elevated high his authority in Chechenya as a person who managed to keep his dignity. He was evaluated not only as a person but as a scientist, with high scientific grades. Many have said, "There are not many such people in Chechenya." Even the political opponents in Chechenya, such as Yaragi MAMODAYEV, have expressed the same humane attitude toward KHAZBOULATOV'S fate.

Now KHAZBOULATOV is as if returning to his motherland (God bless him and grant him long life.) He is returning as a person. The Chechen political leader, wherever he is, will never lose the natural communications with his motherland. It is very important for all of us. p^C^O

Well, even the great dreamer, Jean Jacques ROUSSEAU had left the Alpine pastures of his motherland and tried to convert the rules of natural existence of his Swiss compatriots into a universal law for the world community. The human rights he had formulated became later the basis of the American democracy. The human rights were the gangplank a person used to come down from the ship which he had sailed to his native land. And when he came down this gangplank, he was getting the feeling of the new motherland.

But human rights can also be used to defy one's motherland, if they become the means of a person's greediness. We can see now many examples of such attitude. No doubt many political leaders and politicians of Russia are now discussing the idea of human rights intentionally, having in mind some certain situations of our life, with the hidden agenda to violate the rights of the Republic or to drop all the attempts to discuss seriously the ethnic rights of the people. In such cases the idea of human rights serves



to the plans of real imperial geopolicy or becomes a plug for ears, in order not to hear the voices of people being killed in ethnic conflicts.

Political culture of the Caucasian peoples during thousands of years had worked out excellent norms of friendly relationship with neighbors, rules of reconciliation in the most complicated issues. It had worked out the principles of people's diplomacy. There is a concrete example. In October and November, 1992, in the course of conflict between the Osetins and the Ingushes, Russian armored troops came to the borders of Chechenya and even crossed them.

But the leaders of Chechenya and Ingushetia were wise enough to insist that the troops should go away from the border, and they signed an agreement regarding "transparency" of internal borders. In this case the government used the whole political culture experience of the Chechens and the Ingushes, two Vaynakh peoples very close to each other. They have common ancestors, and have expressed tendencies to become more close, not to part. Any border on the territory of the Vaynakhs would part a living ethnic body.

Political community cannot exist without geopolitics, but the latter cannot be limited only by territorial interests and expansion of States. Multinational Russia is now standing before the necessity to create its geopolitics as a sum of ethnic geopolitical trends, uniting the living area of the nations with their peculiar unique fates. Of course, these new geopolitics are possible with material and spiritual cooperation. They cannot be based on injustice and violence.




What can we say about the Chechen national character? So much bread and salt has been eaten at the common table when I was a guest in Chechen homes, and at my home, many nights I have spent in towns and villages of Chechenya. It seems to me that I have seen and heard so much.

I am thinking over the thoughts I have heard from other people. Olzhas SOULEYMENOV wrote about the exile of the Vaynakhs to his native land, Kazakhstan: "The Vaynakhs are the people deprived of freedom and motherland ... Some had thought it would be forever. But sons and daughters of this nation who could not do without their motherland thought in another way."

Alexander SOLZHENITSYN, in his book The Gulag Archipelago said, "One cannot reproach the Chechens that they ever served oppression." And one more quotation, "But there was one nation which did not yield to psychology of resignation and obedience at all — neither lone persons, nor rioters, but the nation as a whole — these were the Chechens."

I found in SOLZHENITSYN's book some more descriptions of the Chechens: "Despising the law of total education and those state-defined school subjects, they have not allowed their girls, and even some boys, to go to school to avoid moral degradation. They never let their women work in Kolkhozes."

It seems to me that SOLZHENITSYN was right, as a writer he understood the special ethical attitude of the Chechens toward their women.

What is the sense of this special attitude?

In Vaynakh culture, woman is the source of all the moral principles. "Mothertongue" (NENEN MOTT) is not only the native language, these are also the principles of moral behavior adopted in the family.

Once a well-known man was asked what properties he possessed that helped him to become famous. This man answered that he did not know anything special about himself. He said that the only thing was that his wife respected him, and consequently the whole family did. So the respect of the family caused the same attitude of the neighbors, and their respect caused the respect of the whole country.

The above story is not just a folkloric moral parable. The priority of the feminine essence is a traditional focus of Vaynakh society. When a house is newly built, for example, the wife traditionally enters the house first and



then invites her husband to come in. Women also have a place in battle. In ancient times, a girl on a white horse was present on the battle field among the soldiers. She shot the first arrow at the enemies. In contemporary battles, if a woman takes off her shawl from her head and throws it down before the fighters, conciliation should be achieved.

So in the past, women both started and finished the battles. But nowadays, the most important role of women is to stop cruelty and violence. In our society, there are still so many reasons for conflicts. And even though women do not often participate in the conflicts, they are still needed to extinguish the violence. At one meeting of women, which I attended in Grozny, I heard the same opinion theologically formulated: "God created the woman to extinguish masculine aggression."

Historically, Vaynakh society was always polarized into two parts — feminine and masculine. The role of mother — mistress of the house, keeping hearth and home and all the treasuries of a peaceful life — is especially underlined in all of Vaynakh culture. On the masculine pole, naturally, the military functions were concentrated. Inside the house, a man would not feel comfortable. The Chechens always feel uneasy about a Chechen woman marrying a stranger. The woman is responsible for the transfer of the ethnic values from one generation to the next. The Chechen culture understands this fact intuitively, and even SOLZHENITSYN noticed a careful and anxious attitude toward women.

Women are always required to be modest and devoted to their family. The ideal of a woman's devotion to her home and the tendency for men to keep distance from their homes is quite strong. So many times I have seen a man coming home from the market, and behind him his wife was walking with heavy bags. Can anything be done about this requirement of Chechen etiquette? Here let us remind ourselves that Vaynakh culture has worked out the image of a man — KONAKH — who was not afraid to go against public opinion, who could easily demonstrate himself in a traditionally "feminine" work. It is quite easy to talk about the dignity and properties of Chechen men, but it is very difficult to take bags with food weighing approximately 10 kilos from your wife at the market! I imagine quite clearly my friend who had come up to his wife behind his fence in his yard and taken the heavy bags. His strong shoulders became stooped as he carried his heavy load into the house.

The good person and famous actor, Musa DUDAYEV, usually in his performances in concert halls and on TV, speaks against these habits, which



are usually associated with women being bound to their homes. One of the features characteristic of the old habits Musa cannot bear can be seen on public transportation: men are sitting when the sisters or wives are standing behind them. Musa knows how to make the audience sympathize with his opinion.

The habits Musa is fighting against are based on deep, difficult to reveal structures of psychology, which isolate women from the public field. Why should we invite the woman to sit down if she is actually not here among us? That is the hidden psychological position. This position reflects in the woman's behavior as autoblocking. That means that the woman depresses all her personal aspirations in favor of her elders, her husband and her children.

One form of autoblocking is speech blocking. A woman, especially a young one, should be silent. The tradition allows her to express what she thinks, but in a special place — at the cemetery. Here is a touching example noted by Isita GEBRAILOVA.

A woman, 43 years old, came and spoke over the grave of her husband: "You had turned out to be more lucky than I. You have left this vicious world for another pious one. I have stayed here in this world with my sorrow. Now the whole weight of the life problems is on my shoulders, and there is nobody to talk to. I could tell my mother, and she would understand and console me, but I would not like to upset her, her old heart aches without my problems. I could talk with my daughter, but she is too young, she would not understand me. The young people have their own problems. I would not like to overshadow her life so early, her time will come! I could talk to my son, but he is too impulsive. I would not take the risk. I am afraid he could create even more problems in a fit of temper! So, I keep everything in my heart, and it is not made of stone — life is hard for me. The only place I can speak out is here!" After that she told her late husband about the problems and successes of the family, of grandchildren, etc. "I do not want to show anybody how hard it is for me, neither to the relations, not to the others. If you were here you would have helped me and supported me. Allah is kind — I shall rest in the other pious world!"

Autoblocking of the Chechen women can be seen as related to the accumulation of the whole complex of ethnic values in their hands. However, the question is, "What is the situation with these values when modern liberation of a woman from the traditional autoblocking is going on irrespective of her will or unwillingness?"



In March, 1994,1 was present at the roundtable talk, "Family, Woman, Society", thanks to the kindness of "Daymokh" newspaper editorial staff. This meeting was held by women, and Taus SERGANOVA, candidate of pedagogy, was presiding. About ten women spoke there, having answered an invitation advertised by the newspaper. A lawyer, an actress, a teacher from Islamic University, a businesswoman, a poet, an official from the Ministry of Culture, and a director of Gymnasium were among them. Most of them had diplomas from higher education. I asked myself what had attracted these women to this roundtable discussion

Here is the list of problems they stated: Social and economic crisis making it necessary for women to help support the family by purchasing some goods in a nearby country and selling them at the local market. Crisis of health care, destruction of medical services, women's and children's health becoming worse and worse, with tuberculosis and malnutrition spreading. Crisis in education, with kindergartens closing and older children taking younger siblings to class with them for lack of child care, classrooms poorly heated. Increase of criminality, including drugs, with children as young as 12 actively involved in drugs. General crisis of culture, name destruction of libraries, theaters and cultural centers which used to be the places where youngsters could communicate. Decrease of the traditional authority of the man, because he has stopped being the main breadwinner in the family. Mistrust toward politicians and corrupt officials.

All of them were concerned about the loss level of moral principles in the society, which was characterized as next to a vacuum. Although Islam is a huge force, it cannot fill in all the cavities. They called men the carriers of the religion, but at the same time they called them "an antagonistic class" as related to women in common life.

So, at present, the Chechen women, in response to difficult situations, have had to leave their hearths and come out of their homes. By facing social problems, women are quickly becoming public and politically oriented. They are making efforts to find a way out of the above social problems. Some ways were suggested: It is necessary for women to participate in the elections for Parliament as candidates in the near future. Legal knowledge should be distributed among women. A system of special feminine education should be created (Gymnasia with appropriate subjects such as medicine, cuisine, esthetics, etc. This was the idea of Seda MITZOYEVA, director of gymnasium.) A state system of women's support should be established.



The general tone of these suggestions and their sharp discussion was that the society should turn its face to the women and children. The women themselves have to unite into an association or a movement in order to achieve progress along this line.

In Chechenya, family is the main cell of human society, apd it should be the center of women's thoughts. Nowadays, woman is realizing her responsibility before her children and before the nation as a whole on the new political level. But the nation in its turn should think about woman. Otherwise, woman would turn into some kind of a mutant, as one of the participants in the roundtable said. This mutant would bear the obligations of a man as well.

Certainly, political orientation of women in Chechenya is one of the parts of political tension in the society, a society which no longer consists of traditional institutions. It is open to any trends of the world. And active participation of women in the life of open society proves that this society is on the level of nation. The nation consists of citizens who honor human rights, and realize these rights irrespective of their gender. But even so, one comment I heard in the discussion was, "They make you feel ashamed that you are a woman." It is a shame, but that is what I heard.

The roundtable talk in Grozny was actually a kind of account the women presented to the modern Chechen society. Will it be able to pay the bill? Is it possible to dispel the doubts of the most talented actress, Zulay BAGALOVA, who said, "I am working in the theater due to the damnation of my parents." And in this theater, the heating is broken and the staff is not paid. Zulay worked on TV and in broadcasting. The voice of this beautiful woman, mother of three, is heard by everybody. This is the voice of the Chechen woman addressed to the whole nation.