>"Chechnya Through My Eyes"

>Hello everyone, my vacation is officially over.
I have a new program on Grozny TV called, “Chechnya Through My Eyes”. It airs tonight.

There is a new segment called – Road Trip – where I travel throughout the republic. Most of the shows have been shot for the season already.
For the first show I am in the Vedeno region at Lake Kazenoi (Кезеной-Ам)

This photo looks like I was standing in front of a green screen and it is a fake background.

our driver, me and Ruslan


Ruslan the cameraman


>The Last week of February 2010


This week started with the culture segment of my show at the airport. I worked there for 2 days – I was so tired by Wednesday…but I had to keep going. In this photo I’m with the director of Grozny Airport, Ruslan Gambulatov.
Here is the final version of the episode – it is one of my favorites.

Onto my new shoes…………………………………

By Thursday I had to meet Aimani Aidamirova and return the dress I borrowed from her. She asked me to perform in her concert next Sunday March 7th! She wrote a duet for us! It is so cool. She also told me that I needed to be at rehearsal several days next week. I had to buy these special shoes that the dancers wear. They only cost 100 rubles ( $3.00 ) but these are my favourite pair of shoes EVER. All the dancers wear them …. and now I do too.
YES!!!!!! I am a going to be a dancer….or – at least learn some hot moves to get me through my upcoming stage performance.
And speaking of stage performances…..I had to record the song today that Aimani and I are singing on Sunday at her concert. We went to Deni Satabaev’s place to do it. What a dream come true!!! Singing with Aimani Aidamirova and working with Deni Satabaev!!

Aimani Aidamirova

Deni Satabaev

And Illyas Aiyubov stopped by as well. I love his music – he is an awesome singer. He is having a concert on March 8th.

Illyas Aiyubov and I

Me and Deni

Today I decided to Google myself….

I Googled my name today and found some really funny articles about me.


It makes me wonder if any news articles published are true when I read insanity like this:

Tjetjeniens största modebloggare

Chechnya’s largest fashion blogger

Skrivet av Martin Aagård Anmäl ! Written by Martin Aagard Report!

Chrystal Callahan möter "Ramzan patriotic club" Säg att du är en diktator uppbackad av en före detta supermakt som håller din krigshärjade bergsprovins i schack med lönnmord och tortyr samtidigt som du försöker bekämpa islamistisk terrorism som stöds av Al Qaida.

Say you are a dictator backed by a former superpower that holds your war-ravaged mountainous province of chess with assassinations and torture while you are trying to combat Islamist terrorism sponsored by Al Qaeda.

Hur gör du för att bevisa för dina landsmän och omvärlden att du är en ledare som står för stabilitet och framsteg?

How do you do to prove to your countrymen and the world that you are a leader who stands for stability and progress?

Lätt – du anställer en modebloggare.

Easy – you hire a fashion blogger.

Traditionellt brukar diktatorer i centralasien resa 50 meter höga guldstatyer över sig själva som roterar efter solens gång (exemplet Turkmenistan ) för att bevisa samma sak, men den Moskvatrogne presidenten i Tjetjenien, Ramzan Kadyrov är en modern man.

Traditionally dictators in Central Asia trip 50-meter high gold statues of themselves as the sun rotates once (example Turkmenistan) to prove the same thing, but the faithful Moscow president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov is a modern man.

Traditionally dictators in Central Asia trip 50-meter high gold statues of themselves as the sun rotates once (example Turkmenistan) to prove the same thing, but the faithful Moscow president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov is a modern man.

Sen ett tag tillbaka sänder den kanadensiska modellen Chrystal Callahan programmet Highlights of the week with Chrystal Callahan på det regimtrogna Grozny tv.
Then a while back sending the Canadian model Chrystal Callahan Program Highlights of the week with Chrystal Callahan on the regime loyal to Grozny television.
Inslag om designerkläder och skönhet varvas med folkmusik och hyllningar av Kadyrov .

Feature on designer clothes and beauty interspersed with folk music and tributes to Kadyrov.

Callahan provar huvuddukar från Pierre Cardin och bildbloggar på ” Grozny gossip “.

Callahan try headscarves from Pierre Cardin and video blogs on “Grozny gossip”.

I en intervju på chechnyatoday.com berättar hon att tjetjeniens press- och informationsminister gav henne jobbet och att omvärlden inte har en aning om att det finns restauranger och underhållning i Tjetjenien. Det är hennes uppgift att visa det.

In an interview on chechnyatoday.com she says that Chechnya’s press and information minister gave her the job and the outside world has no idea that there are restaurants and entertainment in Chechnya. It is her task to show it.

Att Ramzan Kadyrov profilerar Tjetjenien med mode är väl inte konstigare än att svenska institutet torgför ”det svenska modeundret” utomlands.
That Ramzan Kadyrov Chechnya profiles with fashion’s not stranger than Swedish Institute torgför “the Swedish fashion miracle” abroad.
Men att mode blivit ett så effektivt propagandavapen att det till och med används i världens farligaste konfliktzon är läskigt, med tanke på den extrema modebloggtätheten i Sverige.

But that fashion has become the most effective propaganda weapon that is even used in the world’s most dangerous konfliktzon is scary, given the extreme fashion blogg density in Sweden.

Nedrusta nu!

Disarm now!

What in the world? Am I a fashion blogger? I don’t even know what that means – hahahaha. I hardly write about fashion…maybe because I was a model? I don’t get it.
There was another article, just as strange as the one above. Check it out:

Fashion Blogging – An Answer to all Problems

Posted in Digital on February 11th, 2010 by Admin

US First Lady Michelle Obama is on the pages of Vogue covers and Carla Bruni Sarkozy’s outfits are talked about as if they are next year’s state budget. For those early adopters growing a bit tired of such pointlessness the Chechen minister of press and information is taking fashion and politics combo to a new level.

A few months Canadian former catwalk model Chrystal Callahan was hired to blog on Grozny Gossip and lighthearted topics in general are mixed with tributes to Chechnya’s president Kadyrov, infamous for controlling his war-torn country and subjects with murder and torture. Callahan, and her employers, state the purpose of the blog and 20-minute show to be a mirror of the beautiful side of Chechen everyday life avoiding the more obvious darker side of Chechen life.

This cocktail of fashion, propaganda and social media makes you wonder of you underestimated the importance and impact of fashion after all? Or maybe one-dimensional propaganda never went out of fashion? Lately fashion bloggers are said to be responsible of the democratization of the fashion industry, but that might just be old news. Maybe the early adopting fashion bloggers are going over to the other side…


I wonder why people keep calling me a fashion blogger? I suppose I’ve been called worse. Hahahhaha.
What strange articles. Why would I be hired to write a fashion blog for Chechnya ?
Oh well, people have to have something to talk about if nothing else is happening in their lives.
Today I shot the best episode for the show with Artur. We went to Grozny airport and filmed a scenario sitting in the cockpit! We pretended that we were going to fly the plane to Moscow ( of course it was just pretend , but it will look cool on the show ) .

It is raining so hard here today. I am going to relax and watch….you guessed it – OZ!!! I think I only have 3 episodes left to watch in the season 5. I only realized today that there are 6 seasons of OZ ( I only have seasons 1-5) and I have something to look forward to – season 6!!!! How awesome.I am going to mandarins, chaipulgash and drink green tea, then fall asleep by 8pm tonight.

Oh! I forgot, I went out with Khassan Baiev yesterday. There was a Bulgarian film crew here filming him for a documentary and they wanted to interview me .
Here are some pics from dinner:

>The Chechen Grammy’s

>What a weekend this has been. It all started on Wednesday when Tamilla who is the secretary for the TV station president asked me if I was going to the music awards that weekend. At this point I hadn’t even heard of this event – the Chechen Grammy’s. I was like…no. I told her to get me tickets. She said they are hard to get … just come into the theatre on Saturday. It is an official event that the president will be attending. She already had her evening gown prepared!

On Thursday I went to see Artyr at the TV station regarding work and I asked him if he had tickets to the event. Of course he did because Grozny TV is in charge of this event. He gave me 4 tickets.

At about 6.30 pm on Thursday, I get a call from Artyr and Tamilla speaking very quickly and saying something about my music video…I thought. I thought they were asking me if they could play it at the awards. However, aftr they called Madina and Ibbi – it all became clear. They were requesting that I perform at this event in national costume. At first I said no, and then I said yes…and then the next 2 days of panicking started.
On Friday I needed a national costume. Artur suggested a couple of the high end Chechen designers, but I decided to just call Aimani Aidamirova. She is sure to have the best dresses for stage in all of the republic. She agreed . I went to the srudio where she has them made.
There were tonnes of national costumes here. But I ended up wearing one of her personal ones!
I chose a black and gold outfit. It was too short on the bottom and the arms were not long enough so Aimani and her assistant ended up making alterations on it immediately.
So, since this was not live singing at the show, all I had to do was remember the words and move my mouth. I went to rehearsal at the grand concert hall, and then I went with Aimani to get changed and have make-up done.
Finally, at about 4;45pm we arrived at the concert hall. All the performers had to be in separate cars to get out and walk the red carpet. My car was last. But…. while waiting for the red carpet thing to start, the hosts of the show and Ibbi and I just sat in a big limo and drank ice tea.
and of course I was on the phone with Madina – who was already inside the concert hall.
I admit, my outfit was really over the top – but isn’t that what being on stage is for? Hahhahah.
I did my performance, and now I am relieved. It was my first stage performance singing in Chechen. The president was there, his wife, the mayor of Grozny and Gudermes and every other official person you can imagine. There was also a film crew from France.

Anyway – I am glad it is over. Today is Sunday at 6.28am. I just woke up 20 minutes ago . I better go back to sleep because I have editing at 9.30am and the rest of the week I am slammed with work.

>Officially a корреспондент

>I received my card yesterday that says I am a correspondent “корреспондент”. It took a long time to get.
And here my colleague Tamilla and I are posing in Said Sellim’s office. She told me about the first Chechen music awards that are on this Saturday – something like the Grammy’s. I am going!!!!

>Back in the saddle again……

>It’s 6:37am – I woke up at 4:30…..I am up too early these days. Probably because I fall asleep before 8pm.

Yesterday was Monday, and…I am back to work. I didn’t realize it would take so much effort to make a 10 minute special report – it is taking up all my time.
I decided to ask Lom Ali from the TV station to co-host this special report with me – he agreed. But… I have to be on his show in return. Today Ibbi and I are on his show – I am the guest. I have no idea how this will turn out because he didn’t give me any questions to review before airtime – and he said there will be none. Hahaha. So, at 1pm today I will be under pressure on TV being drilled by Lom Ali Zurushev. Thank god Ibbi is with me.

I have so much to do today – I better get started. What am I going to wear? This is the first time I have been on TV in 2 months. So much prep work. So much makeup. hahaha

>Wow – 2 new interviews posted in 1 day – I am so popular. Hahaha.

14.01.2010 г.

14.01.2010 /12:17/
Вообще-то, я крайне редко беру интервью у коллег. В последний раз, если не ошибаюсь, беседовал с известным российским журналистом Александром Любимовым. И то по поводу того, что он на одной из пресс-конференций в Доме журналистов России назвал Чечню зоной терроризма. Это было в 1996 году.
А сегодняшняя моя собеседница – ведущая английской версии ГТРК «Грозный» «Чечня сегодня» г-жа Кристал Каллахан, несомненно, заслуживает того, чтобы с ней познакомились читатели «Молодежной Смены». – Мисс Кристал, Вы сделали на Западе завидную карьеру фотомодели и репортера. Чем объяснить такой, своего рода парадокс, что оказались в нашей республике, которую пока еще трудно сравнивать с сытым и довольным Западом?

– Я по натуре увлекающаяся личность и меня всегда тянет на новое, неизведанное, экстремальное. Но в случае с приездом в Чечню я не сказала бы, что здесь так опасно или неудобно. С приходом к власти Рамзана Кадырова в ЧР и, особенно в Грозном, произошли разительные перемены. По некоторым параметрам Грозный не уступает не только российским городам, но и западным мегаполисам.

Земля, как говорится, полна слухами. Я, например, слышал, что Вас в Чечню сманил известный специалист по челюстно-лицевой хирургии, живущий и работающий в Соединенных Штатах…

– У Вас не совсем верная информация. С Хасаном мы очень хорошие друзья, но приехала я в Чечню благодаря министру ЧР по внешним связям, национальной политике, печати и информации Шамсаилу Саралиеву. Он был очень заинтересован моей работой и оказал поддержку в осуществлении моих проектов в Чечне, а также дал мне шанс вести программу на телеканале «Грозный».

А как у Вас складываются отношения с чеченскими коллегами. Можно ли сказать, что Вы уже адаптировались в коллективе и, вообще, насколько комфортно чувствуете себя в республике, среди чеченцев?

– Сотрудники ГТРК «Грозный» очень дружелюбны и любезны, так что работа идет гладко. И у меня есть все необходимое для дела: оператор, монтажер, переводчики, которые прекрасно выполняют свою работу. Что касается адаптации, то сейчас мне намного легче жить и трудиться в местной социальной среде, чем полгода назад, когда я приехала в эту республику. Сегодня я, более-менее, могу общаться с людьми на русском языке, а чеченские обычаи и традиции для меня не экзотика.

Недавно на юбилейном концерте Государственного ансамбля танца ЧР «Вайнах» я заметил, как Вы с неподдельным интересом наблюдали за танцорами, не сдерживая эмоций, восторгались происходящим на сцене. Интересно, а сами Вы не пробовали освоить лезгинку?

– Ансамбль «Вайнах» – блестящий и признанный во всем мире хореографический коллектив и им невозможно не восхищаться. Что касается моего отношения к лезгинке, то я беру уроки чеченского национального танца и учу чеченские песни. Уверена, человек, который более или менее длительное время проживает в иной национальной среде, должен уважать местные обычаи, традиции, выучить местный язык. В связи с этим, я не могу понять, так называемых «русскоязычных» людей, которые живут среди чеченцев десятилетиями и не удосуживаются, хотя бы из уважения, выучить даже несколько чеченских слов.
Вы уже успели завоевать добрую репутацию в качестве ведущей английской версии ГТРК «Грозный» «Чечня сегодня». Интересует ли Вас мнение зрителей и есть ли обратная связь с ними?

– Конечно, интересует. И обратная связь тоже есть. Отзывы, в основном, положительные. Особенно от тех, кто живет за рубежом. Кое-кто из них, оказывается, и не знал, что в Грозном есть рестораны, развлекательные заведения. В Интернете практически отсутствует такая информация, поэтому наши передачи восполняют этот информационный пробел.

Мисс Кристал, интересно узнать: насколько долгосрочны Ваши планы жить и работать в Чечне?

– Во всяком случае, мне пока живется и работается здесь нормально. Мне нравится грозненское ТВ, мне по душе Чечня и симпатичны сами чеченцы. Сейчас работаю над новой программой. Посмотрим, как отреагирует зритель. В наше время загадывать на длительную перспективу – занятие бессмысленное, но сейчас я в ЧР чувствую себя, как говорится, в своей тарелке.

И последний вопрос. Так как мы встретились в самом начале 2010 года, хотелось бы узнать, что бы Вам хотелось пожелать в новом году своим зрителям, да и всем жителям нашей республики?

– Вряд ли я буду оригинальна в своем ответе. Своим зрителям, всем чеченцам и другим жителям Чечни желаю мира, здоровья, счастья. Ведь чеченский народ заслужил его, как никто другой…

Благодарю, мисс Кристалл, и от имени читателей «МС» желаю Вам новых удач в новом году.

– Баркалла!

Вел беседу Замид Аюбов

>Radio Free Europe Interview


Canadian Model Unlikely New Face Of Chechen TV

Chrystal Callahan calls her job ”a dream come true” and says she has never regretted her decision to trade the catwalk for a career on Chechen television.
January 13, 2010
By Claire Bigg

Chrystal Callahan likes shopping, designer clothes, and fine cuisine. Much of her weekly television show, “Highlights of the Week with Chrystal Callahan,” is devoted to beauty and fashion, with a sprinkling of folk culture and music.

From her job description, one would never guess the Canadian model-turned-anchor is broadcasting from Chechnya, a region still reeling from two devastating wars.
Although the conflict is officially over, thousands of civilian war victims are believed to still be buried in the dozens of mass graves that dot the Russian republic. Kidnapping and murder are rife in Chechnya, which remains one of the most deadly places in the world for human rights activists.

But the Toronto-born former model says she feels at ease in her adopted land. Speaking to RFE/RL by phone from Grozny, she acknowledges life in the Chechen capital can be dangerous. But she insists the risks are now no worse than those in crime-troubled Western cities like Chicago or Mexico City.

“I feel completely safe. I think the problem with many people and why they might feel so frightened about coming to Chechnya is because of all the negative press,” Callahan says.

“There’s usually never any good stories coming out of Chechnya that are covered by the media, so I think that’s what the problem is.”

The Face Of Chechnya

Callahan is determined to set the record straight.

Since June 2009, she has hosted her television show on Chechen state-run television, which casts a decidedly positive spin on life in the North Caucasus republic.

The show appears every Sunday evening in English with Russian subtitles. “Highlights of the Week” consists of three sections — a news review, a cultural feature on a topic of her choosing, and a Q&A session in which she answers questions sent in by viewers.

Callahan says the 20-minute program deliberately avoids difficult and negative topics.

Initially intended for Chechens and Chechnya-watchers living abroad, it broadcasts both across Russia and abroad via satellite. But Callahan says the program has also proven popular in Chechnya, and has transformed her into a local celebrity.

Callahan, who says she’s in her 20s, calls her job “a dream come true” and says she has never regretted her decision to trade the catwalk for a career on Chechen television.

She first came to Chechnya in 2007 as a budding filmmaker to shoot a documentary about a group of teenage Chechen wrestlers struggling with the legacy of war.

That’s when Callahan, who describes herself as “obsessed” with Chechen traditional music and dancing, floated the idea of working for local television.

She is now the head-scarf-wearing spokeswoman of Chechnya’s state campaign to improve the image of the republic and convince the world that the separatist insurgency has been crushed and that wartime tribulations are a part of the past.

WATCH: “Highlights of the Week with Chrystal Callahan”

‘Positive, Not Propaganda’

Many Chechens are grateful to Callahan for shedding light on everyday life in a region known for little else but war.

But critics say her view of Chechnya is skewed. They accuse her of being a willing cog in the propaganda machine of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-installed leader of Chechnya, who has been aggressively promoting his own cult of personality and whom rights groups accuse of massive abuses, abductions, and torture.

She has been compared to famous British journalist Walter Duranty, who headed “The New York Times'” Moscow bureau from 1922 to 1936 and is now widely criticized for his favorable portrayals of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

A series of ads for Russia Today were recently rejected by U.S. airports.

In fact, Callahan is just one of many bright young Westerners who make a living by helping spruce up the image of troubled regimes across the post-Soviet space — at outfits such as the English-language television channel Russia Today, for instance, or the U.S. PR agency Ketchum, hired by the Kremlin in 2006 to manage its public image.

But Callahan, who declines to discuss how much she earns for her work, defends her program, saying she is honoring the Chechen culture.

“I show the beautiful side of how people try to preserve their culture and traditions. I feature people and stores that make positive changes to the republic,” Callahan says.

“The last time I checked in the dictionary, the word positive did not equal propaganda.”

Inspired By Kadyrov

Kadyrov features prominently in the news section of Callahan’s program, which week after week airs footage of him opening hospitals, visiting schools, and unveiling monuments.

The website that carries Callahan’s show, chechnyatoday.com, regularly runs stories extolling Kadyrov, with headlines such as “The Chechen Republic President Is The Greatest Hope” or “Activity Of The Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov Has Been Compared With Policy of Peter the Great.”

Although Kadyrov himself has publicly admitted to killing some of his opponents, many see the Chechen leader — who has taken much of the credit for a vast reconstruction program bankrolled by Moscow — as the man who ended the war and rebuilt the North Caucasus republic.

Ramzan Kadyrov with his son at a racetrack on Police Day in Gudermes.

Callahan, who first met Kadyrov in 2007 over ice cream and coffee, is one of them.

“My first impression was, wow, what a down-to-earth person. He was funny; he made really funny jokes. He was clever. He was a gentleman.

But what stood out the most was that he is extremely proud of his homeland and culture. He’s very charming. To be honest, I’ve never met anyone like that.

“It made me want to work even harder on anything I did from then on, because I saw this person who was giving his entire self, making massive advancements in preserving culture, reopening schools and hospitals.”

The killing of several Chechen human rights campaigners last year, including fierce Kadyrov critic Natalya Estemirova, has not shaken Callahan’s stated faith in the Kadyrov regime.

As far as she is concerned, accusations of rights abuses against him are mere “speculation, rumors, and gossip.”

Despite the controversy surrounding her employer, Callahan is in no hurry to leave Chechnya. She has just signed a new, one-year television contract and is exploring the seemingly endless career possibilities offered by the postwar region.

She has recently published a book, “Diary of a Fashion Model in Chechnya,” and even appears to be eyeing a career in music, with the recent release of a song in Chechen.

>Last Day in Grozny before Christmas Vacation


Well – almost vacation. I will be working most of the time doing a special report for Grozny TV.

Yesterday started off with me rocking out to music. I can’t remember what I was listening to. I was so happy to know that all I had to do was go to the studio and do a New Year’s greeting.

When I got to the TV station – the director I had to read the greeting in Russian. I had nothing prepared in Russian – only English! Disaster. In the end everything worked out and I read my Russian New Year greeting sentence.
BELOW: Me and Lom-Ali ( this dude has a 2 talk shows on the air. He has such a cool attitude and personality )

But, I ran into another problem – my platok was blue and so was the background for the greeting commercial. Uggghhhh- Madina had to go borrow one from some chick in the news room.

Madina and I ( me in new platok from random person – I wish it was mine! I love the colour!!)
Of course, all of a sudden this dude shows up from Neotek advertising department ( a company I did a commercial for a few months ago and the sponsor of my song ) Apparently I am to shoot a new commercial. NOW. OMG!!! Seriously?? What am I supposed to wear? I ran home and changed , came back to the studio and did the Neotek commercial.

Above are some random studio shots.
Next I went to the control room – I could hear my song playing. Turns out all the dudes there were watching the video.

I then went to sushi – I had a 2.5 hour lunch. ahahhahaahaha.

Last night was also the final show for Young Stars competition – I didn’t go, I decided to pack. I could hear fireworks going off at the Bolshoi Koncert Nazal – I took some photos – only 1 came out. Today I texted Xeda to see who won:
Grand Prize – Tamila Sagaipova
Runner Up – Markha Obitaeva
I don’t know who they are. I have to get photos of them later and post.

OH – at lunch there were kittens in the restaurant, they were so cute!

>" Дицлур Дац " my first Chechen music video


Well, I did it.
I feel relieved that this video is complete. I put it on Youtube last night. It premiers on Grozny TV today.
Said-Sellim the President of the TV station has not seen it yet.
above photo:ME AND SAID-SELLIM ( he’s the President of Grozny TV )Hahahhaha. It is yet another surprise for my employers, including Shamsail.

I am so happy this season is over. I am exhausted and have bags under my eyes. I look like I am 100 years old. I am taking 3 weeks off and going home. Yeah!!! However…this is a working trip. I have to make a special report for Grozny TV while I am away.
My reminder just went off on my phone. My friend Khassan Baiev is arriving in Moscow today! Hooray!!!!!! I am so happy he is coming back to Chechnya. He will stay for 4 months. He is one of the most AMAZING people I have ever met. I can’t believe that a person like him exists. After I read, Grief of My Heart: Memoirs of a Chechen Surgeon , I felt that I never should complain about ANYTHING ever again. Everyone should read this book.
Today I am supposed to be packing, however….I hate packing. I always put this off until the last possible minute – then I have a meltdown because I am completely overwhelmed and start crying. My family has seen this many times. Instead of packing, I am going to my friends house ( my family in Chechnya ) in Chernorechie and I am spending the night. I haven’t seen them in 1 month. These are actually the closest people to me here in Chechnya.
Here is me and my friend Fatima:
One time I stayed over in Chernorechie in the summer. There were so many mosquitos out at the time, I could hardly sleep. Eventually I fell asleep and had to get up early to get back to the city and meet Shamsail in his office. I woke up and my eye was completely swollen shut. A mosquito totally attacked my eye ….and here is what it looked like:

Fortunately for me, Fatima is real ДИК ЗУД and she had some ointment. I went to visit Shamsail and looked normal….well -kind of normal…..and BTW – this is the day I got hired for Grozny TV.
OK, I am going to take a shower and go to the village. Fatima is making khingalsh and manti for me. My favourite food!!!!!!! I will take photos.