Museums coming to life in rebuilt Chechnya

Fri Dec 11, 2009 11:27am EST
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By Amie Ferris-Rotman

URUS-MARTAN, Russia (Reuters Life!) - Clad in a shaggy white ram's wool hat and sporting a matching beard, museum founder Adam Satuyev says tiny Chechnya is undergoing a cultural revival after decades of war.

Perched in a clay-covered 18th century watchtower with a 100-year-old rifle, Satuyev says he opened "Donde-Yurt," Chechnya's only ethnographic museum, last year to enormous success in a country devastated by two wars but now rebuilding.

"After the wars and all the horrors that we went through, it's important to preserve our cultural heritage, which we are so proud of, now that we have finally achieved peace," the 52-year-old retired policeman told Reuters.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who fought against the Russians in the first separatist war but then switched sides, has called Satuyev's museum a "national treasure," given him 1 million roubles ($33,314) for its upkeep and demanded more museums celebrating the region's rich cultural legacy be built.

Showing off a collection of 400-year-old jugs and rusty accordions, Satuyev remarked: "Chechens now know what a museum is, they had no clue 10 years ago, as we had nothing."

Satuyev spent years collecting over 2,000 items from all over Chechnya -- from bayonets used in battle to paintings to string instruments -- for the open-air museum in the town of Urus-Martan, 24 km (15 miles) southwest of regional capital Grozny.

After two bloody separatist wars with Moscow since the mid-1990s, mainly Muslim Chechnya now rests on a shaky peace. Kadyrov is largely credited by the Kremlin for rebuilding the republic over the last two years.

Using a fund Kadyrov set up in honor of his father and predecessor, Akhmad, who was assassinated in a bomb blast in 2004, Chechen authorities opened two other museums on Thursday in the name of 19th century Russian writers Leo Tolstoy and Mikhail Lermontov.   Continued...

<p>Adam Satuyev, founder of the "Donde-Yurt" ethnographic museum, demonstrates the use of a sabre as he stands in front of his museum in Urus-Martan, Chechnya, December 4, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer</p>