‘The Dubai of the Caucasus’
The rumors that the leader of Chechnya planned to throw another extravagant party on the capital’s City Day began to appear on the local news a month before the actual holiday. Locals as usual were waiting for some kind of big show, and indeed a star-studded party it was.
On the day of the holiday Grozny looked prepared.
At the entrance to the city we were met by huge portraits of Ramzan Kadyrov and his late father Ahmad. The other state buildings had pictures of President Medvedev and PM Putin on both sides. While passing through the downtown of Grozny we had a feeling that almost all the buildings are adorned with top politicians.
The Chechen leader had his birthday on City Day, but local news agencies spread out statements that Kadyrov banned any attempts to celebrate his birthday. But in reality it was the celebration of both. The appearance of Hollywood stars was announced earlier, but no one believed that they would really show up. That was until Hollywood actress Hillary Swank went out on the stage, followed by Belgium actor Jean-Claude van Damme and famous violinist Vanessa Mae.
The heart of the reconstruction of the city and its proudest achievement is the so-called Grozny City, a complex of five-star skyscraper hotels and business centers that stand near the central mosque. This is the symbol of a new page in the history of the town. And its location is also very symbolic: instead of bombed-out buildings and empty, shattered carcasses that the two Chechen wars left behind stand Dubai-style 45-story towers over an entirely new city.
I have to admit the show was spectacular, with flashing lights and colorful fountains. At the grand opening of Grozny City hundreds of golden fireworks simultaneously illuminated the walls of the skyscrapers. The celebrations ended with 15 minutes of fireworks, despite the rain.
But no matter how the city is remodeled, Grozny still retains signs of a volatile region. Police officers were dressed in blue camouflage uniforms carrying automatic rifles as they patrolled the streets. And this picture gave every one of us uncomfortable feelings. Security was really tight at the celebrations. The post-war trauma is still visible, with some locals being very suspicious and closed.
I had a chance to meet one young woman there who managed to open the first modern art gallery in Grozny (I will tell more about it in my next post). She says after the war many left the city, and many who stayed are still psychologically damaged.
While Grozny is getting brighter every day and the signs of what happened here just some 10 years ago are no longer visible, the memory of the war is still held in people’s minds here and to erase it is the next challenge to be overcome.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.