Friday, October 18, 2019

Failure to Treat Those Traumatized by War or Abuse Sparking Radicalization in the North Caucasus, Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 14 – That the North Caucasus is one of the regions of Russia most traumatized by violence and official abuse of human rights is something no one would deny; but few have focused on what is being done to help such people or on their willingness to be helped, psychologist Natalya Nesterenko says in a new study.

            She examined the situation in three republics, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Daghestan, and concluded that “the level of psychological traumatization is extremely high, there are too few qualified specialists available to treat the victims, but that in many cases, those who are suffering refuse to turn to those experts who are available (

                 What is especially necessary now, she says, is proving those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with help. But in all three republics, there are simply too few doctors, too many quacks, and a great reluctance to turn to the right ones for assistance even when they exist and are identifiable.

One positive development has been the emergence of the Association for Psychological Help to Muslims, whose members understand the local culture and who work closely with official institutions. All too often, she says, experts who come in from the outside don’t understand local mores and do more harm than good.

            Of the three republics, the situation in Chechnya is in many ways the worst; and that in Daghestan, a combination of the best and the worst.  In Chechnya, which was most affected by war and human rights abuses, there are few psychologists specializing in dealing with such traumas and a reluctance of people to talk about problems that might put them at odds with the regime.

            In Daghestan, the situation in Makhachkala, the capital, is as good or better as in most Russian cities; but conditions outside that city are truly horrific, with few experts, great unwillingness to make use of what services there are, and a willingness to turn to shamans or others who may or may not help.

            Nesterenko and the local experts with whom she spoke urge that officials do more to expand such assistance and popularize it to help cure these societies, prevent the growth of personal problems and the re-emergence of various kinds of “destructive social phenomena,” including terrorism. 

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