fran ilich on 14 Aug 2000 13:48:25 -0000

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<nettime> Chechen students shun anti-war festival

by Marina Balzikova

Nearly 60 student groups from the former Soviet Union attend a Nalchik
festival aimed at uniting young people against military conflict

By Marina Balzikova in Nalchik

Chechen delegates were noticeably absent from last week's student festival
in Kabardino-Balkaria which is held annually under the slogan "Peace,
Youth and Harmony". 

Student Spring in the North Caucasus, which was inaugurated in 1995,
brings together students from Russia, Central Asia and the South Caucasus
republics. The four-day festival in Nalchik is aimed at fostering ties
between young people and takes a fiercely anti-war stance. 

But, although a record 57 student groups attended this year's event, the
delegates expected from Grozny failed to make an appearance, arguing that
the festival no longer "seemed relevant" to their lives. 

A student representative from the Chechen capital explained, "How can you
talk about peace when I, who have seen everything and lost everything, am
unable to escape my memories? 

"A bomb fell on my house and my younger sister was killed. I was left with
my mother who sees almost no sense in this life. Now, I only want to
avenge my family and the troubles of my people. I envy the peace you have
here and that's why I cannot come to your festival." 

However, young people from other areas of conflict such as Abkhazia,
Ossetia and Ingushetia flocked to the event held in a sports stadium
outside the Kabardino-Balkarian capital. 

The highpoint of the festival was a gala concert, featured on a specially
created Internet site, during which student groups performed ethnic music
and staged drama productions. 

Many of the songs focused on the theme of war whilst several national
costumes - notably the North Ossetian -- reflected the military legacy of
the disparate Caucasian tribes. 

And, despite the governing ideology of the event, ethnic tensions were
occasionally felt. At one point, a group of students from Ingushetia
interrupted a performance by a North Ossetian band with shouting and
swearing. The fracas continued backstage with a vicious fist fight. 

But on the last day of the festival, the prime minister of
Kabardino-Balkaria, Pavel Chechenov, told delegates, "Peace in the
Caucasus will definitely be strengthened as a result of this event. There
are many weapons in the Caucasus but your weapons will never rust or
betray you because they are the eternal motto which is the spirit of the
festival - Peace, Youth and Harmony." 

Many young people in the North Caucasus have developed their own peculiar
brand of humour which refuses to be intimidated by the growing threat of
conflict. During the festival, one student comedian told the following

"They closed down the Chechen border after the latest kidnapping and
stopped anyone coming in. Which is shame because going to Chechnya is the
best way of finding out the true value of your life!" 

As long as people can laugh in the face of despair, there is still hope
for the North Caucasus. 

Marina Balzikova is a journalist based in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria

nos vemos en el futuro.

editor sputnik en-linea.
co-editor sputnik impreso.

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