Asia West Pacific

Creating Cultures of Peace Among Students in Grozny, Chechnya

By Chris Hunter and Rustam Musaev

 Year 4 students of the Chechen State University, faculty of social psychology at a CCP training in Grozny in early December. Photo by Rustam Musaev.

Although Covid-19 rates are high and increasing in Chechnya and the whole of Russia, schools and universities are open again, so students are keen to attend face to face trainings, to learn both about Power of Goodness and Creating Cultures of Peace (CCP). Rustam and Venera started a series of Creating Cultures of Peace trainings with students in Grozny in November. Below is feedback from two of the students, Markha and Magomed.

Over the last quarter of a century people in Chechnya have experienced two devastating wars, years of sporadic fighting and violence, while the population continues to experience violence and suppression today. Acceptance and openness towards others is more discouraged than in the past when Chechnya was multi-ethnic and much more open. Since the wars most people in Chechnya (around 1 million) are now ethnic Chechens, predominantly Muslims. People of other nationalities and faiths had more opportunities to flee to safety elsewhere or were among the many victims of the wars.

In this environment, Creating Cultures of Peace trainings provide a welcome alternative worldview for young people in Chechnya. We plan to hold an 8-day intensive training in the neighbouring country of Georgia in 2021 as soon as conditions allow, for young people from Chechnya, other North Caucasus republics, Georgia, and Ukraine. We had hoped to welcome Creating Cultures of Peace friends from Nepal and Indonesia, but now plan to restrict the event to regional participation as we recover from the pandemic. As well as learning new skills for creating peace within themselves and in their societies, the young people will meet peers from other neighbouring countries and learn about their stories and societies, breaking down the isolation that young people in the North Caucasus feel today.

 Year 4 students of the Chechen State University, faculty of social psychology during a light and lively at a CCP training in Grozny in early December. Photo by Rustam Musaev.

Markha, 21 years old: Our group of students was invited to a training on “creating a culture of peace.” In the first class, we met Rustam and he introduced us to the history of the program. I was very much affected by the fact that the program calls us to love and protect the world as it is. I can say that after these trainings my attitude to some things in life has changed drastically. I’ve become more sensitive to certain things.

Our class started with a light and lively in which we shared our answers to the question who would like to live in which country and why? Everyone explained in his or her words, I was interested not only to learn more about others, but also to learn new things about other countries or cities. As it seems to me the task of creating a culture of peace means we have to understand how big our world is, to understand how many cultures and religions there are, and to realise that we should treat everyone the way we would like to be treated. I really liked the trainings and look forward to the next one! This program aims to make us learn to appreciate, understand, listen to, and respect each other. I would like all my family, friends, everyone to have the opportunity to participate in this seminar.

 Year 4 students of the Chechen State University, faculty of social psychology engaging in the exercise ‘broken squares’ at a CCP training in Grozny in early December. Photo by Rustam Musaev.

Magomed, 22 years old: For me this is the first time attending this kind of training. I really like the message and idea of this program because if you really look within and at everything around you, you can come to understand that actually “peace is possible” and this is the most important thing to all of us. For myself, I discovered a new, nonviolent world, and the trainings allowed me to rethink my attitude towards people of different nationalities and different religions.

As a participant in these trainings, after graduating from university I will use these practical methods in my work. I plan to encourage young people to use negotiations and peace processes in any domestic conflicts. I also plan to attend the 8-day Creating Cultures of Peace training, which will be held in Georgia with great pleasure.