Mayor: Islam Kadyrov
Main industries: oil, engineering, construction materials
Founded in 1818
Interesting fact: In 2012, Grozny was ranked as the happiest city of Russia in the Happiness Index of Russian Cities, compiled by NewsEffector and the Regions of Russia foundation
Sister cities: Istanbul, Turkey; Warsaw, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; Odessa, Ukraine; Tatabanya, Hungary; Kazan, Russia.
Helpful contacts: The Chechen president's administration (10 Garazhnaya Ulitsa, +7 871-222-3085, +7 871-222-2135, firstname.lastname@example.org); Grozny City Hall (99/20 Prospekt Isayeva, +7 871-222-2085, email@example.com).
Not long ago, Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, was called "the most devastated city on Earth."
The city was ravaged by two wars in the 1990s to early 2000s. The Associated Press image of a Russian soldier lighting a cigarette from a pile of burning trash in the middle of a heavily damaged street became an internationally recognized icon for the shattered city.
But walking Grozny's streets today, that apocalyptic feeling is hard to associate with the attractive and modern city rebuilt out of the rubble.
The city's entire history is rife with military conflicts and fits well with poet Mikhail Lermontov's description of North Caucasian peoples: "Their god is freedom, their law is war."
In 1818, General Alexei Yermolov built the Groznaya ("terrible, fearsome") fortress — a major military outpost used in Russia's conquest of the Caucasus. But in 1870, the citadel lost its strategic importance and was incorporated as a town.
Grozneftegaz (7/28 Prospekt Revolyutsii; +7 495-730-3513, firstname.lastname@example.org) is a leading oil company in the south of Russia.
The Grozny Wine and Brandy Factory (1 Sanatornaya Ulitsa; +7 928-894-9444) is Grozny's biggest wine producer.
In 1944, the city's entire Chechen population, along with all other Chechens and Ingush in the country, was deported to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan after Soviet authorities accused them of collaborating with Nazi troops. They were banned from the region until 1957.
In 1991, Grozny became the capital of the republic of Ichkeria, which proclaimed independence from Russia at the time of the Soviet Union's breakup. As a result, Russian troops invaded the city in 1994-95, launching the heaviest bombing campaign in Europe since the end of World War II and causing enormous military and civilian casualties. Following the battle, the city was almost completely demolished and conquered by federal authorities.
Russian forces had to withdraw from Chechnya after a peace treaty was signed in 1996, and Grozny became a base of operations for Islamic extremists, including Shamil Basayev and Ibn al-Khattab. Federal authorities took action and the city was ravaged by another war in 1999-2000, whose outcome reconfirmed Chechnya's place inside the sovereign Russian Federation.
Though a low-intensity conflict with Islamist insurgents is still smoldering in the mountains south of Grozny, today the metropolis does not resemble the war-torn city it used to be.
A: Chechnya is a fast-developing Russian republic and Grozny is good proof of that. Because of this, the local government is seeking to create a healthy climate for investors. To reach this goal, Grozny City Hall has prepared a legal basis for investment activities. Areas for investments have been analyzed, the capabilities of the city's infrastructure have been investigated, and a number of investment projects will be offered for implementation in Grozny.
Grozny is relying on the experience of cities such as Kazan, Istanbul and Ankara, where healthy investment climates have already been created, by meeting with top officials of those cities.
In a nutshell, vacant niches for the development of business are awaiting investors in Grozny. The absence of strong competition, a lack of red tape and local government support are key prerequisites for attracting investors and creating new production facilities and jobs.
Q: Which sectors are the most promising for investors?
A: First of all, Grozny is interested in investment projects aimed at increasing the industrial potential of the city and creating jobs. Manufacturing is the most relevant sector in Grozny.
The city needs power generation capacities to service a planned manufacturing complex, including a waste recycling plant.
Q: How did the city change during the last few years?
A: Grozny has changed a lot in the past few years. The main sector in which the city has made great strides is infrastructure. Living standards have increased. Important regional and international events take place in the city more often than before. The business, cultural and tourist communities both in Russia and abroad have traditionally taken an interest in the city. In other words, city has become recognizable.
Grozny City, a glitzy office and residential complex featuring seven skyscrapers, has become a key symbol of the city's resurgence after all the conflict. The central district will soon boast a 300 meter tower now under construction — the tallest building in Russia outside Moscow and among the highest in Europe. The lavish federal spending that allowed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov to rebuild Grozny has been praised by some observers but lambasted by others as a "tribute" paid to Chechens and a tool of corruption.
The everyday life of the Chechen capital would seem eccentric to a Western observer. Even in the streets of the city, you can see wedding celebrations that involve people shooting in the air and performing the popular Caucasian lezginka dance.
In the post-Soviet era, Islam has seen a resurgence in Grozny. Muslim devotion can be felt everywhere in the city, with more and more bearded men, as well as women wearing a hijab (headscarf). During the Kurban Bayram festival, it is common to see sheep's throats being cut in the streets as part of a religious sacrifice.
Though distancing himself from the radical Wahhabi branch of Islam espoused by Chechen insurgents, Kadyrov has sought to impose Muslim customs through political means. Since coming to power in 2007, he has required women to don headscarves when entering state buildings. Vigilantes have regularly shot paintball guns at women without a hijab and attacked advertisements featuring bareheaded women.
Atypical for a high-ranking official, Kadyrov is an avid fan of photo sharing social network Instagram and has more than 160,000 subscribers. A former insurgent who fought against Russian troops in the 1990s, he has been accused of building an oppressive authoritarian regime. Experts say his clout in the North Caucasus is unsurpassed, with Kadyrov's bodyguards and Chechen police accused of getting away with alleged crimes in other regions, including even Moscow.
Kadyrov also sparked controversy after he invited actor Gerard Depardieu, who renounced his French citizenship and became a Russian citizen in January, to Grozny in February. Depardieu met with the Chechen president, who handed the actor keys to a five-room apartment in Grozny City. The actor performed a lezginka and promised to become a fan of the local Terek soccer team.The visit was widely mocked by Russian commentators, and the actor was criticized by international pundits for cozying up to both federal and Chechen authorities. Ironically, Depardieu's apartment was located right next to a skyscraper that was engulfed by flames in April.
What to see if you have two hours
Stroll along Prospekt Putina — a street that was named after President Vladimir Putin in 2008 and caused a major controversy when critics accused Chechen authorities of promoting a cult of personality.
Visit the Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque on Prospekt Putina (Prospekt Vladimira Putina, +7-871-229-4460, serdce-chechni.ru) — the heart of Chechnya and its national symbol. Based on Istanbul's famous Blue Mosque and constructed by Turkish laborers, it is said to be the largest mosque in Europe and is able to hold 10,000 worshippers.
Then take a walk down Ulitsa Mira until Ulitsa Lorsanova, where you will find Ploshchad Chekhova. The main reason why this place is special is that the Groznaya fortress, which gave birth to the city, was previously located here.
The next place you can visit is the Avenue of Glory Park, which is famous for its World War II memorial and the monument to the first Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov. To get here, you should head north from Ulitsa Lorsanova.
What to do if you have two days
A: As a Muslim, the first place I would recommend for tourists to visit is the Heart of Chechnya, Europe's biggest mosque. This place, the main mosque in the republic, can be interesting for everyone because of its unique architecture. The mosque is covered with pure gold and has an interesting design and lighting. For the Chechen people, this mosque is comparable to the Taj Mahal. Tourism in Grozny is developing fast, and a lot of interesting facilities are being created at this moment — for example, a comfortable and beautiful park near Kazenoy-am Lake, which is going to be a nice place for relaxation. Another example is the modern mountain resort of Veduchi.
Q: What makes Grozny special?
A: Before the Chechen War, Grozny was one of the most beautiful cities in the Caucasus. It was green, clean and all the buildings had beautiful architecture. The war destroyed almost all the historic buildings. Today Grozny is a good-looking city. It is also new and young, and it is different from other Caucasian cities. The rebirth of the city created a positive atmosphere, and Grozny's residents seem to be happier than before.
Q: What should a tourist know about the culture of the Chechen people before visiting Grozny?
A: Chechens have their own traditions. The residents of Grozny strictly follow all of them. The most important is to respect old people. In the city's streets, you will never meet anyone with a beer or a cigarette. People are not allowed to be impolite and use obscene language. Fortunately, tourists usually respect our traditions and do not break the rules. Even though Chechen people are very strict about their outfits, they would never tell tourists what to wear. As my experience tells me, visitors prefer not to dress provocatively anyway.
Do not lose the opportunity to savor Grozny's beautiful nature, see waterfalls and get some fresh air. You can also see the city from the mountains — and if you are not afraid to stay there until the evening — enjoy the sunset. You should not take such a trip alone because you could get lost. Call +7-929-000-0039, or write an e-mail to email@example.com to get a professional guide.
To learn more about the history and culture of Chechnya, visit the Akhmad Kadyrov Museum (Ulitsa Mayakovskogo, +7-871-222-3554, firstname.lastname@example.org). It is a luxury place with a 790-lamp chandelier containing 20 kilograms of pure gold. The museum is devoted to Akhmad Kadyrov, president of Chechnya from 2003-04 and Ramzan's father, and historical events such as World War II.
If you feel an urge to leave your hotel, there are some options for entertainment.
Alcoholic beverage sales in Grozny are severely restricted because of Islamic traditions. Walking through the city, you can find half a dozen places within a two-mile radius that openly sell beer. Finding vodka would be even more difficult.
For those who do not want to push their luck breaking customs, there is another way to spend your time, for example, the Chernaya Zhemchuzhina (Black Pearl) movie theater (2A Prospekt Kirova; +7 861-202-2222; +7 861-730-0500; +7 861-335-9555). You can also go to the Lermontov National Russian Drama Theater (19/65 Ulitsa Delovaya; +7 871-222-2894; email@example.com), and Nurdaliyev Chechen National Theater (9 Prospekt Yesambayeva; +7-871-222-2809; firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you want to enjoy a bit of Chechen humor, visit the Grozny Style karaoke club (2a Prospekt Kirova; +7 929-888-3223), where creative young people show their talents — it could be a singing, dancing or a comedy show.
Where to eat
Enjoy a quality meal at the Paradise restaurant at a reasonable price (3 Shosse Staropromyslovskoye; +7 928-021-1002). It has live music, and during dinner customers get up and dance. The restaurant offers both traditional Chechen food like khingalsh, a type of flatbreads similar to Italian calzones, and dumplings called zhizhig-galnash, as well as European food. A meal will cost you about 1,500 rubles (about $50).
Another place where the quality of food and price are in balance is Teatro (2/1 Ulitsa Yesambayeva; +7 928-736-6411). The restaurant serves European food and one of the tastiest pasta dishes in Grozny. A meal costs about 1,000 rubles. The advantage of this restaurant is that it is near the Chechen National Drama Theater, so you can enjoy a good play after dinner.
To grab a light snack, you can go to the Slastyona cafe, where you can buy tasty cookies (1/25 Vyborgskaya Ulitsa; +7 928-641-5599).
Where to stay
The Grozny City Hotel (1/16 Prospekt Kadyrova; +7 871-229-6000; email@example.com) is one of the best hotels in Grozny and is located in the center of the city near the Sunzha River. The hotel offers a spa, a fitness center, a billiards room and a swimming pool. A standard single room costs 5,000 rubles per night and a double costs 7,000 per night.
The Arena City Hotel (52 Ulitsa Polyarnikova; +7 871-222-6401; www.arena-city.ru) offers a spa, a beauty shop, billiards and a fitness hall. It also includes a restaurant with traditional Chechen food. A standard single room costs 5,000 rubles per night.
The Terek Hotel is located in downtown Grozny (110 Ulitsa Griboyedova; +7 844-260-0810; www.goo.gl/JYQ2f). For soccer fans, this hotel would be a perfect option. It features football-themed decor and has a special room where customers can watch soccer games. The hotel offers many services such as a swimming pool, a sauna and a restaurant. Prices range from 4,000 rubles per night for a standard double to 6,500 rubles per night for a luxury room.
Neither a woman's hair nor her legs should be completely visible on Grozny's streets. It is better to avoid clothes that could attract a man's attention. Do not forget to take a headscarf with you because there are places where women are not allowed to enter without wearing it. Women in Chechnya do not smoke, but if you cannot help it, smoke in a place where you stay unseen.
For men it is not polite to shake a woman's hand while introducing yourself, and it is better not to touch women at all. Smoking is normal for men in Chechnya, but if you speak with older people, you should either hide your cigarette or throw it away before starting the conversation.
How to get there
From Moscow, Grozny Avia flies daily to Grozny's international airport. A flight takes about 2-1/2 hours. An economy-class round-trip ticket costs about 14,000 rubles.
For those who prefer to take a train, a one-way ticket on the 1,726-kilometer route costs about 3,000 rubles. It takes about 42 hours to get to Grozny.