*Update* December 2012. The situation in Grozny has stabilized as time progresses. Travel to Grozny is still not advised, however the security situation continues to improve.
Grozny (Russian: Гро́зный GROHZ-nyh) is the capital city of the Russian republic of Chechnya. Grozny has undergone a massive rebuilding and development program since the end of the Second Chechen War in 2002. Many of the shelled and aandoned apartment blocs and houses have been demolished and replaced with newer re-built buildings and suburbs.
Grozny was originally a Russian fortress/garrison town, whose name in English is roughly translated as "terrible".
The city was nearly completely destroyed as a result of the Chechen separatist wars of the 1990s and early 2000s. The United Nations declared Grozny 'the most destroyed city on Earth' in 2002.
After coming under federal control in the early 2000s, Grozny has been completely rebuilt.
Grozny was originally founded in 1818 as a Russian fort. It was a major stronghold for the Russians during the Caucasian Wars of 1818-1864. During the early 20th century, the population boomed as the city's rich oil reserves brought numerous Russian settlers from other parts of the country to work in the city.
During World War II, Josef Stalin accused the Chechens of collaborating with Nazi Germany. Stalin subsequently deported the entire Chechen population in 1944 to northern Kazakhstan, killing nearly a third of the population in the process. The Chechens were allowed to return to Chechnya after Stalin's death in 1953.
Following the liberalizing policies of Mikhail Gorbachev's 'perestroika', dissident separatists within Chechnya began calling for independence. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Chechnya declared independence from the nearly formed Russian Federation in November of that year. Led by former Soviet Air Force General Dzhokhar Dudayev, Chechnya acted as a de-facto independent state from 1991-1994.
Moscow attempted to regain federal authority over the republic and remove Dudayev from power with a massive ill-fated assault on Grozny on December 31, 1994.
Heavy fighting over the next two years reduced Grozny to rubble as most of the population were either killed or forced to flee the city.
A ceasefire signed in 1996 effectively ended the fighting and resulted in Moscow withdrawing its forces from the republic.
Chechnya again gained a degree of de-facto independence from 1996-1999. However, the period was marked by rampant crime and kidnappings. Devastated by the war, Grozny became one of the world's most dangerous cities, marked by the number of mass abductions that occurred in the city during the period. This culminated in the kidnapping and beheading of several Western aide workers in 1998.
Chechnya's economy was in ruins and it's government ineffective as rival clans and armed militias frequently battled each other on the streets of Grozny.
Without international recognition and with the loss of its credibility in the West, Islamic extremists from the Arab world began to quickly gain influence with several former rebel commanders, including the noted terrorist Shamil Basayev.
Basayev's invasion of the neighboring republic of Dagestan and a series of bombings in Moscow precipitated the Second Chechen War in September 1999. The ensuing fighting and the recapture of Grozny by federal authorities left the city nearly completely destroyed.
Grozny has slowly been rebuilt under the supervision of Chechnya's Moscow-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. The security situation has stabilized in recent years and the city's redevelopment continues at a rapid pace.
Due to the devastation caused by years of war, Grozny's transportation is often tricky. However, since reconstruction projects began, it's possible to take a flight to the city or use a train, bus or the convenient highway system.
The only two ways to get to Grozny by air are by using Moscow's Vnukovo Airport and Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Aiport. Rusline is one airline with regular flights between Moscow and Grozny, and Grozny Avia is the second airline with regular flights between Istanbul and Grozny, although it may be difficult if not impossible for non-Russian visitors to gain authorization to travel to Chechnya. The flights to Grozny are extremely guarded since the war and 9/11, so expect delays.
A night train departs from Moscow every second day, taking two nights. Due to terrorist threats, the train is heavily guarded, expect delays and hassles. Also, there is a night train from Rostov-on-the-Don and a day train from Astrakhan. Local trains connect with Khasavyurt and Gudermes.
Grozny is connected to the rest of Russia by a large highway system. The P-308, P-307 and M-29 highways connect the city to other cities in Russia. Keep in mind that it's best to take a map with you, or else you can get lost.
It's very difficult to get around Grozny since the tram and trolley systems were destroyed during the siege of Grozny . The tram is not expected to re-open, but the trolley re-opened in 2012. The trolley still has not fully developed, so it's advised to use a car to travel in the city. There is a (religious) taxi company operating in the city called Islam, which uses green-painted cars.
Because of the region's war's affect on the economy, many items in Grozny are cheap. However, many items do not have regular set prices. You can find many Western essentials. Many authentic swords and daggers can be bought at low prices. There is a bazaar with many Chechen and Russian merchants. You can find many producs with well known brands.
There aren't many bars in the city, but there are many local vendors which sell beer. Common sense must be used when approaching alcohol, and beer can only be sold legally between 8:00 and 10:00 AM.
Grozny has only partly stabilized enough to be safe for travel. Take extreme caution when visiting war-torn areas as there are some unexploded land-mines. Rebels often take tourists as hostages, so try to blend in with the population. Just use common sense. People in Chechnya are very modern and friendly unlike other parts of the country. If you get lost or need help you can easily find a police officer outside and he will help you with anything.
Many foreign governments, including the UK, Canadian and US governments, strongly warn their citizens not to travel to Chechnya under any circumstances. They report that there have been many incidents of their citizens visiting there as well as Russian citizens being missing, killed, or kidnapped for ransom.