Diana Markosian • Goodbye My Chechnya • Magnum Photos

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Arts & Culture

Goodbye My Chechnya

An investigation into the changes taking place in schools, homes and social lives as young, modern Chechens embrace Islam

Diana Markosian

Diana Markosian A young Chechen girl covers her head with pastel-colored covering before leaving her home. In modern-day Chechnya, Islam is quickly becoming the cornerstone of identity for youth. Chechnya. 2012. © Diana Markosian | Magnum Photos
Diana Markosian A couple on a date in the small village of Serzhen-Yurt. Couples in Chechnya must meet in public and sit a distance from one another. All physical contact is forbidden prior to marriage. Chechnya. (...)
Diana Markosian Half of the girls in the ninth grade at School No 1- in the Chechen village of Serzhen-Yurt - wear a hijab. The head and neck covering is a sharp break from Chechen tradition. Chechnya. 2012. © Diana Markosian | Magnum Photos
Diana Markosian Chechen girls after school in front of the Heart of Chechnya mosque, the largest in Europe. All Chechen girls, despite religion, must wear a head covering in public schools and government buildings (...)
Diana Markosian Seda Malakhadzheva, 15, sits beside her friends as they adjust her hijab. She started wearing the headcovering a year ago. Chechnya. 2012. © Diana Markosian | Magnum Photos
Diana Markosian Chechen teens study the Koran at an underground Madrasa. In today's Chechnya, Chechen youth are quick to embrace Islam after decades of religious repression in the Soviet Union. Chechnya. 2012. © Diana Markosian | Magnum Photos
Diana Markosian Gym class at School No 1 in the Chechen village of Serzhen-Yurt. The schoolgirls, all dressed in skirts with their heads wrapped in headscarves, say gym clothes violate Muslim dress code. Chechnya. (...)
Diana Markosian Layusa Ibragimova, 15, has her hair and nails done before her wedding. Her marriage to 19-year-old Ibragim Isaev was finalized by her father just weeks before. Chechnya. 2012. © Diana Markosian | Magnum Photos
Diana Markosian A group of Chechen men at a party, standing at the opposite end of the women. In Chechnya, under Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, gender segregation is being enforced. Chechnya. 2012. © Diana Markosian | Magnum Photos
Diana Markosian A group of Chechen women standing at the opposite end of the men. In Chechnya, under the leadership of Ramzan Kadyrov, gender segregation is being enforced. Chechnya. 2012. © Diana Markosian | Magnum Photos
Diana Markosian The mountain region of Itum-Kale. The district was a base for rebels during both Chechen wars. Chechnya. 2012. © Diana Markosian | Magnum Photos
Diana Markosian Chechen artists backstage before their performance. All women in Chechnya must wear headscarves in public schools and state buildings. Celebrities were among the first to conform, making the head c (...)
Diana Markosian Chechen girls wait to be picked up for a party in the village of Achkoy-Martan. Chechnya. 2012. © Diana Markosian | Magnum Photos
Diana Markosian Chechen dancers backstage at a concert hall in the Chechen capital, Grozny. A suicide bomb exploded in front of the concert hall in 2009, killing six people and wounding several others. Chechnya. 2 (...)
Diana Markosian Jamila Idalova, 16, on her wedding day. The teen bride was kidnapped by her boyfriend. Idalova's family eventually approved the marriage. Bridal kidnappings are outlawed under Chechyan leader Ramza (...)
Diana Markosian At sunset in the outskirts of Grozny, Kazbek Mutsaev, 29, fires celebratory gun shots as part of an age-old wedding tradition in Chechnya. Ramzan Kadyrov © Diana Markosian | Magnum Photos

For young girls in Chechnya, the most innocent acts could mean breaking the rules. A Chechen girl caught smoking is cause for arrest; while rumors of a couple having sex before marriage can result in an honor killing. The few girls who dare to rebel become targets in the eyes of Chechen authorities.

After nearly two decades of vicious war and 70 years of Soviet rule, during which religious participation was banned, modern-day Chechnya is going through Islamic revival. The Chechen government is building mosques in every village, prayer rooms in public schools, and enforcing a stricter Islamic dress code for both men and women. This photo essay chronicles the lives of young Muslim girls who witnessed the horrors of two wars and are now coming of age in a republic that is rapidly redefining itself as a Muslim state.