Learning Tools for Peace in Chechnya

By Chris Hunter 

Since lockdown began in Chechnya in late March, Chechen co-facilitators Rustam, Venera and Chris from the UK have held regular Creating Cultures of Peace workshops on Zoom for 12 students of Grozny university students. The students had initially attended four 2-hour trainings with Rustam and Venera at the university before lockdown. 

Lockdown in Chechnya has been enforced by the authorities using the military and customary authoritarian zeal. This has included a 7 day, 24-hour curfew apart from 2-hour slots once or twice a week that the government may approve for households, for which a special warrant is issued. Anyone outside without a warrant was arrested and treated harshly. The lockdown has now been lifted to allow a Russia-wide referendum to take place that granted President Putin two further terms in office beyond his current term.

In addition to the pressures and isolation of lockdown, the students we work with have been grappling with their final university exams, which has put them under a great deal of pressure. There have been a lot of problems about the grading of these exams with a lot of heartache, tears, frustration, and sadness for the students. They have looked forward to getting back to the regular trainings .As well as the trainings themselves, there has been lots of follow up and support in the WhatsApp group, where a huge amount of appreciation for the training has been expressed. 

Dagmara writes “I am now a former student of the 4th year of ‘Psychological and Educational Education’. I have been a participant in a series of Creating Cultures of Peace trainings for almost a year. After each training, I notice that problems I’m faced with begin to look different when viewed from the other side. What used to seem like an unsolvable task now appears in a different light. The most important thing is that my attitude and behaviour towards myself has changed. I understand that I have become calmer and more reasonable. I began to notice much more goodness and positivity in my environment, and if I do not see it, I try to look for it. I realized that sometimes you need to stop and listen to yourself and your heart, relax, calm down and then move on. It really helps to avoid unnecessary anxiety, worries and conflicts”.

We have all learned that we can connect closely with each other with ease, despite being in different parts of the world and from very different cultures, to learn, enjoy and benefit from powerful tools for peace.