The Secret History of Khava Gaisanova and the North Caucasus
Khava Gaisanova lives in Chermen, a village in the heart of the North Caucasus on the other side of the mountains from Sochi, Russia. In 2007 her husband Mukhazhir disappeared, like so many men in the North Caucasus disappear without a trace – kidnapped, arrested or simply executed and buried in anonymous graves. So many elements of the region seemed to come together in Khava’s life story that we decided to use it as the basis for our project. In The Secret History of Khava Gaisanova, a grim picture unfolds of the region hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.
“Astana was a real city. I had friends and family there. There was a nightlife. Chermen was so rural. I didn’t see the paradise my mother was always talking about.”
“I looked and asked everywhere, from Dagestan to Karachay-Cherkessia. I couldn’t find a trace of my husband anywhere.”
“My husband had gone shopping in Vladikavkaz with a neighbor,” says Khava. “They then intended to drive to Ingushetia together to buy a new car with an Ossetian license plate. They never got there. They were probably arrested by men posing as the police, or stopped by the real police. No one knows what happened.” Mukhazhir’s car was found the same day, in the street near the interior ministry and police headquarters. Residents had alerted the authorities. A car with an Ingush license plate parked in an area like that was suspicious. There had been a spate of bombings and residents were afraid that this car, too, would explode. “I got everything back,” says Khava. “All their important documents were still there, except my husband’s driving license. That’s our only clue; that someone asked for his driving license. Otherwise the car was clean. There was no trace of blood, nothing that indicated any violence.”
“What happened in Beslan was incomprehensible and horrifying. Those children taken hostage at the school, so many dead… It’s only 20 kilometres away. I almost had a heart attack when it happened. But all Ingush were victims of what happened next.”
“Sometimes when it’s dark at night, I become paralysed with fear. I see masked men entering my room.”