Russische Föderation: Zalpa Bersanova

Twenty-four per cent of the Chechens questioned responded that during the second Russian-Chechen war, from 1999 to 2001, they had lost at least one close relative.

— Zalpa Bersanova

Zalpa Bersanova was born into the big family of the famous Chechen writer Bersanov. Holder of a PhD in Ethnology, she is renowned for her sociological research on aspects of the Chechen culture. She is the author of several books promoting reconciliation and analyzing the consequences of the Russian-Chechen wars. After a series of meetings at scientific conferences in the USA (2004 and 2005), together with like-minded researchers, she created the International Center for Chechen Studies, which contributes to an unbiased approach for the enhanced understanding of the Chechen issue.

When the Russian-Chechen war broke out, in 1994, Zalpa Bersanova was working on her PhD thesis at Moscow State University (MGU). Shocked by the incoming news, she spent entire days at home watching TV. Grozny was being bombarded by the Russian Air Force, and innocent civilians were dying in their homes and in the streets. She understood that she could not remain idle. First she took part in the protest meetings; then she began to write articles and books about the war. She said to herself that if at least one person read what she wrote and if that person took a stand against the war, it would mean that she had succeeded in making her small contribution to stopping the bloody nightmare. Together with the other misfortunes the war has wrought, it has also inflicted upon the Chechen people a deep moral trauma. The Russian mass media often try to represent the Chechens as ancestral bandits capable of doing nothing other than stealing, committing murder, and kidnapping. For several years now, Zalpa has been doing research on the spiritual values of the present-day Chechens. Her findings convincingly prove that the Chechen people have a considerable positive potential even after the inhumane tragedy of war. They still maintain their faith in human compassion and in their traditional ideals. In 1999, Zalpa Bersanova presented her research in a lecture held in the Sakharov Museum (Moscow) and, in 2004 and 2005, she participated in a series of conferences in the USA on the issues of war and peace. It was there that she conceived the idea of consolidating the efforts of all those doing research on the Chechen culture in order to help stop the violence. Together with her fellow researchers, Zalpa founded the International Center for Chechen Studies (ICCS), striving to make the world see the real face of the Chechen people, their history, and rich spiritual culture.

The International Center for Chechen Studies (ICCS)