A note from James Willcox, Founder
“Travelling in Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan is like walking on the moon but without a space suit” - Lonely Planet guidebook to Russia
Arranging trips to the Russian Caucasus Republics of Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia has been one of the most rewarding things we have done in the last 12 months. But it has been far from easy. Thanks to helpful tourism promotion like the quote above there is little infrastructure for foreign tourists. Because there are no tourists. We have had to start from scratch spending hours travelling, researching, meeting people and assessing risk.
I have led four trips to the region in the past year and each of them had their own special flavour. Attending a Chechen wedding on our October trip was probably my favourite experience although the time spent in a school for the deaf in Grozny on a private trip in May was a really touching moment.
However, the most challenging assignment was guiding an academic researcher who was gathering info for an anthropological study. Asking questions in that part of the world is tricky at best, curiosity is not generally appreciated. The trip also coincided with the start of the Winter Olympics so the already tight security was on extra alert. We didn't get off to a very auspicious start as we were pulled over at the first security checkpoint and asked to show our documents to the FSB (Federal Security Bureau). Our driver was busy showing us a video of Steven Seagal dancing the Lezginka with the Chechen President on his phone at the time, when we hit a patch of ice and crashed into the FSB compound.
You would think that damaging security agency property in Chechnya would be a big faux pas but they just laughed it off. It seems that travel without a spacesuit is possible in the north Caucasus after all.