On my way from Vladikavkaz to Astrakhan, I stopped off in Grozny. I’m not sure what I expected from Chechnya, but it wasn’t this.

Almost all the buildings in central Grozny are new, built after the devastation of the second Chechen War.  But there is now another enormous new wave of construction under way, with several multi-storey towers and many, many blocks of new low rise buildings.  I wandered through what felt like an endless construction zone.  It isn’t all prestige fluff either – there seem to be many well constructed new apartment blocks too.

People in Grozny seemed slightly surprised to see a tourist, let alone a foreigner from exotic “Shotlandiya”, but they also seemed pleased and welcoming.

The city has a very different feel from most of European Russia.  This is definitely an Islamic city, with most women wearing headscarves and many men wearing muslim caps.  And on Friday afternoon there was a large crowd coming out of the grand new mosque.

Chechnya, and Grozny in particular, seems to be going through a relatively stable period at the moment.  (The key word being “relatively”, there are still periodic incidents.)  There is a lot of armed security sprinkled around the city, but it is generally low key.  The city feels bustling and prosperous.

It’s worth a visit.  More Grozny photos.

Practicalities: I came in by marshrutka from Vladikavkaz via Nazran and took the very slow 602C train out to Astrakhan.  (Note that at Nazran the Grozny marshrutkas arrive/leave at a separate bus stand about 1 km South of the main bus station.) I stayed at the pleasant and friendly Hotel Arena City.

Hotel Arena City Security Guards

Hotel Arena City – Night Watchmen

 

I checked out of the Arena City before dawn, so I got to meet two of the night-time security team.  They had stopped in for a quick tea break while two more armed guards patrolled outside.  While Grozny is mostly stable these days, this is still the North Caucasus, so I guess a little extra security isn’t too surprising.