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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shoots of Peace in War-Singed Earth

When Tamara Bedoyeva decided to stage an exhibit of drawings by the children of Chechnya, she expected the worst.

Having lived under German occupation during World War II, she understands better than most the psychological wounds war inflicts on the population's most defenseless -- the children living under fire. "I remember my own drawings from that time. They were very raw," said Bedoyeva, 62, who lived in the basement of a house occupied by German soldiers. "Perhaps our paintings did not show cruelty, but they were full of tragedy and fear."

But Bedoyeva, the curator of "Earth Singed by War," a new exhibit at Moscow's Kosyrev Center of Children's Art, sees something much more hopeful in the drawings of the children from war-torn Grozny.

Indeed, one of the most striking aspects of the exhibit is that it so rarely touches on war at all. Of the 80 paintings that hang in the center's gallery, only 10 of them depict the war. The majority feature scenes of children at the dacha, weddings in full national costume, fairy tales with goats and birds, even futuristic fantasy complete with martians and intergalactic travel.

One particularly soothing picture is of a winter street scene in Grozny with a mother walking a baby carriage across the street as children build a snowman in the background. And "The Picnic" by Lena Belozerova, 12, might more aptly be named "Young Teenagers in Love."

"There is no hate here, no cruelty," said Bedoyeva. "These children are painting what they dream about, and what they'd like life to be."

But while "Earth Singed by War" seems to be full of hope, there is a darker side to the exhibit as well.

In "Border Aflame, the Battle Is Underway," Lena Silina, a 12-year-old Russian girl from Grozny, paints a vivid scene of soldiers firing, airplanes dropping bombs, and tanks advancing. An arrow points the way to the bomb shelter.

The thunderous violence of Silina's painting is a sharp contrast to the stillness of Sulesman Abuyev's "After Battle." In this pencil drawing, Sulesman, 14, depicts buildings shattered by bombs. A rocket protrudes from the ground, next to which the bodies of two dead soldiers dangle from a tank.

Death creeps again into Natasha Kopylova's "Grozny, Winter 1994." As apartments blaze in the background, a man lies in the street, the footprints of those who have evacuated the city trailing past him.

But Bedoyeva insists that even these portraits are not as dark as they could be.

"These children paint without gore or cruelty -- as if they are taking snapshots of what they see from their window," said Bedoyeva.

"Even those who are under fire are thinking of peace," she added, pointing to a drawing "Peace to the World" by a 10-year-old girl from Grozny.

"Earth Singed by War," which will run until the middle of February, is part of a series of exhibits featuring children's art from the northern Caucasus organized by the International Children's Gallery and the Association of International Cultural and Humanitarian Ties. In the 1 1/2 years since the gallery opened at the Center for Children's Art, it has already hosted 30 exhibits, including one by the children from the radiation zone around Chernobyl. The Chechnya exhibit will be followed by one featuring children from Ingushetia, Dagestan, and Ossetia, all of which will be united into one larger exhibit in September titled "Blue Mountains of the Caucasus."

"Earth Singed by War" is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Kosyrev Center of Children's Art, 60 Ulitsa 5-aya Parkovaya. Nearest metro: Izmailovsky Park. Admission is free.