Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 1 Issue: 3

noted further that 715,065 (97.44 percent) of the registered populace were ethnic Chechens, demonstrating that the republic has become a mono-ethnic entity. The number of ethnic Russians now living in Chechnya was estimated by the Danish organizations as “lower than 10,000” (a figure incommensurate with the 293,800 Russians registered in the Chechen-Ingush republic of the former Soviet Union in 1989). The only minorities still present in the republic in significant numbers are the Kumyks and Nogai, both Muslim peoples.

The no. 43 issue of Obshchaya gazeta carried an article on the ethnic Russians, most of them elderly, still living in Chechnya. In Djohar, the author of the article noted, “No one believes that Russian power is something serious or that will last a long time.” In the former Cossack villages located to the north of the Terek River in Shelkovskii Distict, by contrast, the Russians who remain look “optimistically” to the future.

The average size of a family registered in Chechnya by DRC/ASF was 4.5 persons. The relatively small size of these families was said to be a result of the fact that “extreme conditions are prevailing in Chechnya, and because parts of the family members are likely to have been displaced to Ingushetiya or elsewhere.”

Of the total registered populace of almost 734,000 (which, as has been noted, does not include the populace of four Chechen districts), 127,546 are categorized by DRC/ASF as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), or refugees. A total of 67,846 persons are said to be “totally dependent on humanitarian aid.” One noteworthy factor is that 7,525 mothers are presently unable to breast-feed their children, having lost their milk “as a result of the conflict.”

The DRC/ASF report noted that the destruction of housing has been particularly severe in Djohar City, Groznensky District, Urus-Martan District, Achkoy-Martan District and Shali District. The October 24 (no. 29) report of DRC/ASF provided figures for settlements located in two of these districts, Urus-Martan and Shali. In the former district, 1,610 homes were said to be “destroyed,” and 4,113 were described as having “no roof.” In the latter, 1,601 homes were reported as destroyed, and 2,809 roofless.

In a report dated September 18, the aforementioned Lam and Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe organizations drew attention to wretched conditions obtaining in parts of the Chechen highlands: “The city of Shatoi lies in ruins, as does the regional center of Itum-Kale…. Surviving the winter will prove very difficult for those who live in villages without gas, as they are prevented from collecting firewood by mines and constant shelling.”

There have been several reports on the current dire situation of the city of Djohar. On September 13, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued a report after making a visit to the city. The “sheer devastation” of the city, the UN team remarked, outweighed anything they had seen in Sarajevo. “The oil refineries around the city continue to burn, billowing smoke into the sky. The environmental consequences could be significant.” The team paid a visit to Hospital No. 9, described as “the best” hospital in the region. “The hospital lacked running water and heating. The electricity supply was irregular. There was no food for patients.” Most of the city was described as lacking running water and depending on well water or on containers purchased from water tankers. One Djohar dweller complained: “The water stinks of oil.” The team also visited a school: “It lies a virtual ruin, without any windows, doors, running water, electricity or heating.”

The UN report noted that the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations had operated soup kitchens and bread distribution centers in Djohar from March to May of this year but then had abruptly closed them down. The ministry has been criticized in the Russian State Duma for halting such activities because, incredibly, it does not believe that the situation in Chechnya and the crisis with the refugees in Ingushetiya constitute authentic “emergencies.”

Patrick Tyler, a correspondent for the New York Times, spent several days in Djohar in early October (New York Times, October 22). He was informed by the pro-Moscow Chechen authorities that approximately 150,000 people are now living there. Describing the condition of the city’s inhabitants, he wrote: “Much of the city’s population is living, as if in caves, within the damaged walls of apartments without heat, electricity or running water. There is no television or telephones, only candles, kerosene lamps and the trickle of gas that can barely boil water for tea…. Reconstruction funding from Moscow has been frozen or deferred until next year with no explanation…”

Tyler noted that an environmental menace of daunting proportions now threatens the health of Djohar’s large populace: “One hundred years of oil refining,” he wrote, “has flooded the [city’s] water table with an estimated 500,000 tons of gasoline distillate that leaked from underground pipelines. It forms an underground lake of gasoline mixed with acetone, phenol and other toxins. This lake ‘floats’ on the water table and stretches five miles underground… through the center of the city. It is a mile wide.”

On the plight of Chechen schools, Report No. 2 of Lam/Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (September 29) observes: “Today, only the schools in the larger villages of the Chechen flatlands are in working order. In the smaller villages, schools have not been in operation since the first war due to lack of funds. Practically all the schools in the mountains have been destroyed by bombing and shelling over the course of the two wars.” In fact, “in the mountain villages, more than one generation of children has already come of age without an education of any kind…”

The October 28 issue of the Russian newspaper Trud featured one such uneducated Chechen youth, Said, who was said to be between ten and twelve years of age. Encountering the Russian reporter in Djohar, Said confided to him that when he grew up he too would become a resistance fighter. “Said has never gone to school; he does not know how to read or write. But he can shoot from an automatic weapon no worse than an adult.” “The fate of a whole generation of Chechen children and adolescents,” the Trud reporter wrote, “has been uprooted….[O]nly the first war took the lives of more than 5,000 children, and left 1,877 boys and girls invalids, plus many thousands as orphans….There are no centers for the psychological rehabilitation of children in Chechnya.” It was noted that child mortality in Chechnya has increased by 484 percent over the past eight months.

Given the above-described conditions, one might ask why leading Russian political and military spokesmen continue to maintain that the large Chechen refugee population currently living in Ingushetiya–with nearly half of that body being children–should, today, be induced to return to their home republic.