Published: July 2005
Did You Know?
In Did You Know? the National Geographic magazine team shares extra information we gathered to expand your knowledge of our featured subjects.

For the past decade filmmakers, photographers, and writers have recorded the horrors of the Chechen wars. In 2004 Finnish director Pirjo Honkasalo won international acclaim for her documentary The Three Rooms of Melancholia, which follows young cadets at a Russian military academy, a woman's attempts to care for dozens of war orphans in Groznyy, and the psychological trauma of Ingushetiya's refugee camps. Heidi Bradner's photographs reveal the lives of teenage soldiers and broken families trying to survive in the devastated landscapes of the North Caucasus. And in some of the most moving writing about the conflict, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya portrays a lawless land where children wander without homes or families—and even without names. Each new story brings to light the burdens borne by the youngest victims of this conflict.

Today many international aid organizations—including the International Rescue Committee, Doctors Without Borders, Islamic Relief, UNICEF, and World Vision—are trying to bring health, education, and hope to the children of the Caucasus. A recent United Nations report records some improvement in education and basic infrastructure in Chechnya, but warns that most schools are overcrowded and lack essential books and materials. Access to food, water, sanitation facilities, and electricity is still problematic. The report also notes the need for psychological and social support, and predicts that "if no vigorous action is taken to promote tolerance and peace among the population—and particularly among the younger generations—the growing tensions may lead to conflict in the future."

—Shelley Sperry