The Caucasus Network: Grozny Blogger, Ali Suleymanov

Ali Suleymanov, 1 July 2013, photo by Sergey Ponomarev.

Ali Suleymanov, 1 July 2013, photo by Sergey Ponomarev.

This article is part of an extensive RuNet Echo study of the North Caucasus blogosphere. Explore the complete report and personal stories on The Caucasus Network page.

A 28-year-old Chechnya native, Ali Suleymanov, “Archidesigner,” spent most of his adulthood in the Moscow region, where he studied and later worked as exterior designer. In Moscow, he led a fast-paced city life, attending exhibitions, cultural events, and wandering the city on foot and aboard mass transit. When he returned to Grozny, Suleymanov discovered a very different pace that offered little of the diversity to which he’d grown accustomed in Moscow. Life in Grozny was provincial by comparison, and Suleymanov lived on the city’s outskirts, making even his daily commute a gamble with buses that would have carted him around Moscow on excursions. On his second attempt to resettle in Chechnya (he returned to Moscow a year after the first try), he started a blog to keep track of his Grozny discoveries and catalog the things he hoped to find one day in the city. His blog, written in Russian, has a casual but informative tone. 

In Suleymanov’s own words, his blog is primarily about the city from a designer’s viewpoint:

В первую очередь, мой блог о Грозном. О том что с ним происходит в наши дни. Причем я рассматриваю именно те стороны, которые интересны мне с профессиональной или любительской точек зрения — архитектура, дизайн, урбанистика, история. Мне интересно находить и показывать то, что многие не видят, на что не обращают внимание. Особенно интересно находить следы довоенного города или какие-нибудь «закулисы».

More than anything else, my blog is about Grozny. It’s about what is happening with the city today. Except that I’m looking at the city specifically from a professional perspective. I’m interested in the architecture, the design, the urban life style, and the history. I’m especially interested in finding and showing that which most people don’t see—the things they don’t notice. It’s especially interesting to find remnants of the city from before the war or discover something “back stage.”

Like other bloggers in the region, such as Hard Ingush and Svetlana Anokhina, Suleymanov’s decision to make LiveJournal his blogging platform was not a choice that required much thought. Since most of the bloggers who interest him are already on LJ, he naturally wanted to be part of that environment. Suleymanov does not know most of his readers personally, but he believes they are mostly culture professionals, like him. He says the main benefit of blogging (which he describes, over all, as a positive experience) was discovering that likeminded individuals in Grozny do exist. For Suleymanov, blogging has helped fill the void left by his Moscow experiences, and his engagement with the Web has led to new ideas professionally:

Деятельность в интернете определенно помогла. Иногда даже не прямо, а косвенно. Я стал озвучивать свои интересы, стремиться найти что-то новое (за пределами интернета) и начал встречать очень интересных людей. Причем я знакомлюсь не с читателями, а наоборот — с новыми людьми, которые уже после знакомства узнают о моем блоге и многим это становится интересно.

My online activity has definitely helped—sometimes not directly, but indirectly. I began to voice my interests and attempted to find something new (outside of the Internet), and I started to meet very interesting people. Only, I’m not meeting my readers—it’s the opposite: I meet new people, who only learn afterwards about my blog, and many of them take an interest. 

When asked about censorship, Suleymanov denied having encountered any, explaining that his online work avoids any “problematic” issues. When asked about the threat of censorship, he said:

На личном опыте я с подобным не сталкивался. Стараюсь не выходить за рамки, после которых могут начаться проблемы.

In my personal experience, I‘ve had no such encounters. I try not to go beyond what might cause problems.

Suleymanov also explained that he avoids certain topics for fear of agitating sensitive and powerful local interests:

Меня интересуют различные темы, связанные с благоустройством города, системой общественного транспорта, работой коммунальных служб и другие. Я понимаю, что любая серьезная критика этих направлений будет так или иначе направлена против конкретных служб, организаций или должностных лиц. Как правило, это связано с нецелевым расходованием средств или ресурсов. Подобных тем я избегаю.

I’m interested in various subjects related to city planning and maintenance, public transportation, public utilities work, and so on. I understand that any serious critique of these areas will someway or other be directed against concrete institutions, organizations, or officials. Usually, this concerns the misappropriation of funds or resources. I avoid such topics.

This article is part of an extensive RuNet Echo study of the North Caucasus blogosphere. Explore the complete report and personal stories on The Caucasus Network page.

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