May 31st 2009 · Prague Watchdog / Leonid Ruzov · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS · ALSO AVAILABLE IN: RUSSIAN 

The house where Jack hid

The house where Jack hid

By Leonid Ruzov, special to Prague Watchdog


NOTE: The original Russian-language version of this essay is considerably longer, and consists of a series of personal reflections on recent developments in Chechnya, ruminations that were prompted by the author's recent visit to the republic. He sees the changes that are currently taking place in Chechen society as having their roots not in structural directives from above (whether from Moscow or from Ramzan Kadyrov's Moscow-backed government) but in certain qualities that have been characteristic of the Chechen people throughout their history. In particular, he addresses the issue of masculinity and the masculine role in Chechen society. The following is an excerpt from the latter part of the essay.

The editors


For the Vainakh male there are three types of standard behaviour.

The first is the role of the "good, brave fellow," the Konakh. His valour may be displayed on the battlefield. However, his "deeds" may also lie on the wrong side of the law. He is far away from his home, from his native village, and there may be no respected elder to stay his hand Unfortunately, it is by men like him that the whole of the Chechen people may be judged.

The second possible role is that of the father. Yesterday's Konakh is transformed. Now his principal deed is performed in his own village – in the field, in the yard, at home. His task is to keep up with his neighbours. Anyone who does not believe that such Chechens exist has never seen the assiduity with which he digs his garden.

The third possibility is the “wise old man": hat, beard, jacket, riding-breeches, boots, pithy phrases and general respect. Though of itself a gray beard adds no brains, as I am all too well aware...


In addition, much has changed over the past ten, fifteen or twenty years, in the "era of wars and revolutions". In the “wild nineties” young men suddenly realized that it was acceptable not to show respect for their elders, particularly if they were holding a gun and the elders were pusillanimous in the face of evil.

At the beginning of the “naughty noughties” Chechen women (who even before that did not have much in common with the stereotype of "oppressed Muslim female") often become the principal breadwinners in their families – they shouldered the burden the men were not up to carrying.

Many other things have also changed.

And at the end of the "noughties" it suddenly turned out that someone from outside – not the oldest person in the family, and not a man! – was able to give women instructions on how to dress and how to cover their heads. It’s a long time since that happened – a hundred and fifty years ago, or even three hundred?


I believe that something similar happened in the mid-19th century, after the Caucasus War: the values of peacetime suddenly became more important than military valour.

The only difference now is that for this no new Kunta-Khadzhi [the 19th century Sufi sheikh and Islamic scholar] is needed. The Konakhs have suddenly turned into "fathers with families". It is possible that the magic transformation was also brought about by the fact that the Chechens have been forced to withdraw all their vitality from the political sphere and hide it behind an impenetrable wall of family life. For a very simple reason. Any attempt to put one’s energy and self-reliance into public life may easily become a source of serious trouble, at the very least.

This may explain many things, from the numerical reduction in the forces of the armed resistance to the "grassroots" increase in the number of private households and the revival of Chechnya.

But why this has happened is a separate issue, and one that deserves a separate discussion.


(Translation by DM)

(P, DM)



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