Chechnya markets warfare tourism
The unstable southern Russian republic of Chechnya is offering military-themed holidays in an unconventional attempt to attract up to 400,000 visitors per year.
The regional tourism minister, Muslim Baytazev, offered visits to a Chechen special forces detachment.
“Where better than Chechnya to learn how to use weapons and handle military equipment?” asked the Chechen Tour travel agency in the capital, Grozny.
Two separatist wars in the 1990s and early 2000s – when Russian President Vladimir Putin first took office – left more than 100,000 dead and flattened Grozny.
Islamist attacks remain frequent under the repressive regime and homosexual men are mercilessly targeted by the authorities. The so-called Islamic State claimed two strikes in Chechnya during 2019. The group this year claims to have killed a police officer in neighbouring Ingushetia.
But Chechnya opened the world’s longest artificial ski slope in 2018 and attracted 160,000 visitors last year. Chechen tourist offices have opened across Russia and in Estonia and Germany.
Simplified e-visas are being offered although citizens from the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US are not eligible.
In November, a British YouTube influencer was forced to post an apology for offending Chechen women by referring to drinking beer with a female from the predominantly Muslim region.
Benjamin of the Bald and Bankrupt YouTube feed videoed his apology in an office containing portraits of Putin and pro-Kremlin Chechen strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Hero of Russia
According to the Kremlin’s mouthpiece Tass, Putin said Kadyrov lives in constant danger and he regularly takes part in combat operations.
Putin named Kadyrov a Hero of Russia, explaining that he read an FSB report about eradicating an armed group. “I said: ‘Nominate your people for state awards.’ And [FSB director Alexander Bortnikov] responded: ‘We didn’t do it, it was Kadyrov and his people.’ I pointed out that I had prohibited him from doing it but he cannot be stopped, he still continues walking into the line of fire,” Putin said, according to Tass. “I don’t sign decrees awarding the Hero of Russia title for no reason.”
Of the Chechen chief’s father, Akhmat Kadyrov, Putin said he at first wanted to build ties with other Muslim countries only to realise they sought to impose their will on Chechnya. Russia “never suppressed religious freedom in Chechnya and the Chechen people’s way of life”, the official news agency stated, without apparent reference to the atheist Soviet Union’s occupation.
Putin said: “He made his own choice. And you know what happened to him: he was killed by terrorists. What did he die for? For Chechnya, the Chechen people and Russia.”
Picture credit: Flickr