Staunton, September 17 – A half century ago, at the height of the Cold War, an American newsmagazine carried a story on how Soviet slogans might be rewritten if the task of preparing them were to be turned over to Madison Avenue. The one that has remained most firmly imbedded in this writer’s mind was “Visit Moscow during Execution Season.”
Today, Yana Amelina, a specialist on the North Caucasus, has published an article prompting one to recall this earlier suggestion. In 2019, she says, “the North Caucasus has been experiencing a real tourist boom” with hotels full not only at the most desirable destinations but at others as well (kavkazoved.info/news/2019/09/17/turisticheskij-bum-na-severnom-kavkaze-kogda-gory-darjat-radost-fotoreportazh.html).
Chechnya and Daghestan, which had been laggards in this regard because of concerns about security, are now attracting more tourists than ever before. Only a few years ago, they were being visited only by military personnel or by relatives of people living there from nearby republics. But now things have changed dramatically.
Nearly every day, Amelina says, large groups and individuals are making their way to “the most surprising and difficult to reach places of North Ossetia” and other republics. Tourists are coming to Chechnya and not just Grozny but to the mountainous regions as well, especially to the new mosque at Shali and the delightful Kerzenoi-Am Lake.
“Who are all these people?” the analyst asks. “Are they perhaps wealthy Muscovites? There are some of those, but the overwhelming majority of those who book such tours are local people” who want to see the regions around them.
“Of course, it is still a long way t the revival of mass tourism of the times of the late USSR,” she acknowledges. But it is “an enormous and underrated plus” that people are beginning to view the mountains of the North Caucasus not as places where special operations are being carried out but as tourist destinations.
Amelina provides no statistics to back up her claim of a tourist “boom” in the region, but her comments are significant not just in terms of the decline in violence in this region but also and even more in the ways in which people adapt to even the most difficult conditions and view any easing of them as a breakthrough and occasion for celebration.