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    Chechen Republic (Chechnya)

A republic in the North Caucasus, Chechnya became part of present-day Russia in XIX century. Administratively, the Chechen Republic is made up of 18 districts. Its capital Grozny, with a population of about 300,000, is being restored as an industrial, cultural and scientific center of Chechnya. Other main cities include Gudermes, Argun, Urus-Martan, and Shali. Chechnya has about 500 settlements, its population is about one million people.

The Greater Caucasus, wedged in between the Black and Caspian Seas on either side of the Main Caucasus Ridge, has been known to travelers and seafarers since ancient times.

It attracted them not only with its inimical beauty and uniqueness but also, as it was believed then, by untold wealth. It was sought by the Greek argonauts who went in search of the golden fleece and later by Byzantine and Venetian merchants. In former times the Great Silk Road, laid as early as the second century BC, crossed the Greater Caucasus. Western powers resisted Russia's growing might in the Caucasus and on the Black Sea.

Their interest in the Caucasus was also fueled by the discovery of Caspian oil deposits. Force was resorted to on many occasions to wrest these rich and strategically important areas from Russia, first in the course of the 19th century by Britain, and then in the 20th century by Nazi Germany.

Chechens call their republic Ichkeria. Representatives of dozens of ethnic communities have been living in Chechnya since times immemorial. Ingushes, Russians, Kumyks, and Nogais have formed the largest ethnic communities. There are thousands of ethnic Lezgians, Armenians, Circassians, Jews, Ukrainians, Avars, Tartars, Lezgians, Kurds, Azeris.

The Chechen language belongs to the Nakh group of Caucasian languages. Their written language based on the Arabic script was replaced by the Cyrillic and later Latin alphabets.

Unlike other Caucasian ethnic communities, the Chechen and Ingushes have to a certain extent preserved communal rule and tribal institutions. Social and class distinctions were not graphically manifest in the Chechen community for many centuries, so the community emerged as the dominating social pattern, including ethnic Chechen and other families within a major settlement or bringing together several minor villages. Clan meetings have ordered community life since the earliest times, while a meeting of the entire community determined the use of farmland, appointed the days for ploughing and haymaking, and mediated disputes.

Chechens call themselves Nokhchi. Special mention should be made of the word "Nokhchallah" which the they use to describe the Chechen character. The word does not lend itself to translation. "Nokhcho" stands for Chechen."Nokhchallah" brings together all the specific properties of the Chechen character. It implies a whole gamut of moral and ethical norms. It may be described as the Chechen code of honor.

A legend says that the ancestor of all Chechens - Nokhcho - was born with a piece of iron in one hand and a piece of cheese in the other. "Grace seldom rests on places unfrequented by guests," "a guest brings joy,""the longer the guest's way to your house, the more respect you owe him..." Many sayings, legends and fables focus on the sacred law of hospitality. There is a direct connection between hospitality and greetings. To greet someone, Chechens open up their arms, that is bare their heart for us to see that they neither hide mean intentions nor plan any evil.

In a Chechen family the mothers enjoy a special social status. The husband is no more than the head of a family but the woman has, from times immemorial, kept the fire, and the worst thing one Chechen can say to another is "I wish the fire went dead in your fireplace." The Chechens have always held in the highest esteem those who keep the fire. The fire-keepers enjoy a very privileged position.

Internet sites used for the article:

http://tschetschenien.russisches-haus.de

www.encarta.msn.com

www.chechnyafree.ru


Tags: Russian tourism Russian regions Chechnya Russian history North Caucasus 


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