Like many Russians, we grew up with a faraway war constantly in the background. This war seemed to be at the very edge of both our country and our minds. It was unreal and distant, yet at the same time, we were aware that it was the most painful spot on our country’s map. On television, we were told that the enemy was a Muslim and a terrorist — and that this enemy was killing and torturing Russians. We were told that our army was suffering because of a brutal people who lacked humanity.
In 2009 we were told that Russia had finally won this war. But by then, we had heard so many different stories about Chechnya that we felt we needed to see it with our own eyes. So we — three Russian photographers — set out on our first journey to the capital, Grozny. From 2009 to 2018, we travelled to and from Grozny, discovering ‘nine cities’ within a city. They represent nine different aspects of life in Chechnya: men, women, strangers, ordinary families, Ramzan Kadyrov’s rise to power, oil, religion, war, and the city’s past life. We tried to describe these different worlds through photography and through recording the testimonies of dozens of people: those who inhabit the city now, those who can only remember it as a burning battlefield, and those who endured torture there and had to flee to safety.
Selected Photos by Oksana Yushko: