Asia West Pacific

Creating Peace and Acceptance in Post-War Chechnya

By Chris Hunter

A group of students of the Chechen State University, participants of the CCP trainings, this is our first meeting in February 2020 at which we introduced the participants to the CCP program, the photo was taken by Amina, one of the students.

Rustam and Venera began a series of Creating Cultures of Peace (CCP) workshops in Grozny for students in February, several weeks after Rustam returned from Peace Place in Pati. Six half-day workshops were conducted with the students in February and March before the lockdown commenced in Chechnya due to Covid-19. Rustam and Venera have recently been joined by Chris Hunter of Peacebuilding UK in conducting online CCP Zoom sessions for the students.

Chechnya is situated in the North Caucasus region on the very edge of Russia’s southern border, close to Asia. The region is Russia’s poorest and most violent. It lags behind in every human development indicator: extreme corruption, poor governance, human rights violations, and compromised rule of law. In the three post-Soviet decades, the region has experienced entrenched armed conflict. The leadership of the Chechen Republic currently imposes an exclusionary vision of Chechen culture, often at the expense of openness and diversity. Young people are isolated from peers, even from neighboring regions, and many have been turning to radicalized groups, with some recruited by armed groups in Syria.

In this photo is Khadijat, attending a CCP workshop at the Chechen State University, she is pictured working on a picture of her core self, this class was held on February 19, 2020. Photo taken by Rustam.

Khadijat is a 20-year old student from the city of Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. She studies in the 4th year at the Chechen State University at the Faculty of Psychology and Education. Khadijat writes:

“I was introduced to Cultures of Peace trainings by our teacher Venera. When she offered me to join a series of CCP workshops, I agreed gladly. As my interest was so great, I also had high expectations of the trainings. I’m happy to see that I’m not disappointed at all. The time spent at the workshops has been very stimulating, informative and exciting.

From the very first session I understood that this program is necessary not only for the whole world, but firstly for each individual person, as only through establishing peace and harmony in yourself can you then transmit and create it in the world around you. The most important thing CCP teaches me is the ability to listen, hear, understand, and accept people for who and what they really are. As a result, you change in the best way possible and you notice how easy it becomes.

For me, the biggest and most important point was that I was able to open up and trust others in the group and, so to speak, “pour out my problems”, after which it became much easier for me to communicate. I received support from other people, and learned tools to support myself and others, which is exactly what I needed at this time. I am very happy to be a part of CCP and wish the program and all the people who support and develop it all the very best”.

Emiliya, also a student in Chechnya shares:

“These trainings are a great opportunity for those who want to get out of their comfort zone, who want to know more, who want to interact with people, who want to understand people, who want to understand themselves, and most importantly, who want to understand that every person is unique and an individual. CCP helps me to realize the importance of cultural diversity, as well as the acceptance and comprehension of other cultures, because everyone has strengths and weaknesses and we don’t need to compare ourselves with anyone. I have learned to accept myself and others.”