Not better, not worse. Just different.

Text Anna Ivanova

Russian Federation is a diverse and multicultural country. All nations are bound together in one or another way.  Even though I was born in the central part of Russia, I have always dreamed of visiting the Caucasus.  When sharing this desire with my family and friends, their reaction was ranging from “Hey wanna be wiped out there?” to “You will be sold to slavery!”. Yes, stereotypes are still alive and kicking.

If you are a little bit acquainted with the relations between central Russia and the Caucasus, you might be aware they have always been a little bit fiery. From the very beginning, when the Caucasus was conquered by the Russian Empire, till now. The modern Caucasus is largely a product of imperial and Soviet history. People from the Caucasus are known as Highlanders. There are even jokes that the mountain air has made them the way they are: fearless, courageous, risky but also pepperish. European laws are unnatural for their nature. Such laws are not perceived by many and therefore violated. The Caucasian people (and especially the Vainakhs) need laws that are understood and respected by the people. For them, this is sharia.

My dream of visiting the Caucasus came true in April 2018. I was working at the World  Festival of Youth and Students in 2017 and made friends with a girl from Chechnya. She invited me to participate in the students’ forum in the Caucasus. I was on the cloud nine and ready for new adventures.

Guided by the principle “when in Rome do as the Romans do”, I left my jeans at home and took more long skirts. I stopped using dark humor: you better not sarcasm. It is not allowed to raise some topics in conversations. It is not permissible for a man to touch a woman’s face or hands.

Before coming there, I had quite a lot of stereotypes about the Caucasus natives (judging by the stories of friends and the behavior of those guys in Moscow). Fortunately, they didn’t come true at all!  I was surrounded by people who honor the traditions of their ancestors and respect others. They do not just talk about honor and dignity, but they show this by example. Truly admirable.

Hospitality in the Caucasus is considered almost the most important adat (Caucasian law). Caucasians are proud to follow this ancient custom of hospitality. There are many not only sayings about also legends dedicated to this. Old people used to say, “No guests, no goodwill”. Moreover, each house (especially in the countryside) has a “guest room”, which is always ready to be occupied.

The Caucasus is definitely a place worth visiting. Not better, not worse. Just different. An integral and essential part of Russia with its own uniqueness.

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