My new favourite village – KHOI (Хой)

I love the village of Хой. It has the best ruins and tonnes of petroglyphs.

There are 7 combat towers here and there used to be 350 homes in this village. It was built in the 9th century. There are petroglyphs everywhere.

Ruslan is Inguish – and this petroglyph of a solar symbol is on the flag of Ingushetia. Cool stuff!!


I found this structure underground completely in tact. I love the architecture in Chechnya. Before I moved here I had no clue that the signal system existed and there were so many ancient ruins.

There is a Koran in the village that is more than 100 years old. When the Chechens were deported in 1944 the Koran was taken to Dagestan. It was returned to the village of Khoi in 1982.

At the end of the day, we had a picnic at Lake Kazenoi AM because it is only 3 km from Khoi.



>I am so happy. My first national costume is complete!!!! I picked it up today and wore it to shoot a segment of my show. It looks awesome. I was dancing with Tima. Actually the costume he is wearing is mine as well. It was a present that i received from a lady named Mariat this week. So I suppose I have 2 national costumes. How cool.

Amnat ( my dressmaker ) and I

It was 41 degrees and we were dancing directly under the blazing sun! Oh well, it looked good even though i was completely SOAKED.

My dance teacher Ashab Meijidov was there to guide me …

>время нет !

>I seriously wish there were 8 days in a week at this point. I have been so busy, all I have time to do is film shows and write scripts. I slept for 13 hours yesterday. NTV came to do a story on me from Wednesday and left Friday. I was stressed out having them follow me and try to keep up with my hectic work schedule.
So, here’s what’s been going on ….

2 weeks ago I met Aiyna Isaeva in the lobby of Dom Pichate. She has the best voice. She sings opera and studies in Moscow.
Photo: Myself and Aiyna Isaeva

Here she is singing:

I finally milked a horse! It was so weird. I made Kumis. To be honest, the horse milk tasted good, but when it was churned into kumis…I could hardly swallow 1 sip.

I can’t remember the order of the next events, but…. sometime last week I was fit for my first national costume.

It looks awesome, I can’t wait until it’s finished! Hopefully it will be completed by Thursday because I want to film it for my show.

Last week I decided to get accordion lessons from Ramzan Paskaev. He is one of the best accordion ( pondar ) players in Chechnya.

Photo: Ramzan Paskaev and Me

My lessons didn’t go too well. I don’t think I am destined to play the accordion, but it was interesting learning about it.

So, on Thursday things got interesting. I decided to travel to Sharoi. It is the most remote and hardest to get to places in Chechnya. It’s elevation is over 3000 metres ! I thought it would take 3 hours to get to but it took over 5 hours each way! I was stressed, I had a camera crew from NTV following me , we were traveling over the worst roads in the middle of nowhere! I was exhausted by the time i got back to Grozny. That didn’t matter though – because I had to get to editing and keep working until midnight. I was toast.

NTV crew and myself ( when I thought there was only another hour of driving ahead ) We have just passed Shatoi.

We’re almost there…I have no clue where we are in this photo. Ruslan was the cameraman.

Here we are in Sharoi after a grueling drive…and we have 5 grueling hours to drive back to Grozny – but it was worth it!

There are locusts in Grozny at the moment. They come out every summer and especially at night. When i leave the TV studio at midnight – they jump in front of me or on me!!!! They freak me out!!!! I can’t wait until they’re gone!

Oh, I forgot – I have a new editor. His name is Islam. He’s cool and a great editor. He listens to good music – he was playing California Love by 2PAC and singing it on Sunday.

Photo: Islam the new editor.

When I get home late Saturday night, I ran into Muslim the guard. This week he shared some of his food with me. It was fish on bread. I ate it – it was good.

Photo: Muslim

And last but not least – I have become obsessed with this ice cream cone. Then I realized it was 18% cream! Forget it, I was eating 2 at a time. I better slow down on that.

>Itum Kale

Today I went to Itum Kale. It was great! Artur, Said Hussein and Ruslan came along with our driver.

By the end of the trip it started to rain. But, that was ok because we found a huge defense tower and climbed to the top of it from inside.
Now I have so much work to do for my show, I am not sure where to start – I better sign off.

>"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

>Oooohhh, so sensational baby!!!

>An article about me came out today by a rather unprepared and uniformed “journalist”. I actually feel sorry for him. How humiliated he must feel in front of his professional colleagues for writing such an insane story…. or maybe the more insane the better?
I reckon he was upset when I embarrassed him in the interview by reminding him that Chechnya was a republic, not a country. I also asked him how some journalists (hint, hint ) could be so ignorant and arrogant to imply that the Chechen Republic should not have any light / entertaining television programs and us western superiors should obviously have it all.
Poor fellow was so stirred up by the time we ended our conversation, I knew the article would be ridiculous with a hint of nasty sprinkled on top. Hahaha.

In the end he took things very personally. I know he couldn’t stand me, but here’s where things get interesting – and I don’t quite understand it….
He used nothing I mentioned in the interview that made him look bad ( which was the entire interview ) so, why in the world would he then make me even more popular by releasing the most sensational article online about me with the most flattering photo??!!!!!!

All I can say to him is – THANK YOU. Big kiss from me!!!!!! xoxoxox


Cutting and pasting quotes together randomly….talk about propaganda and sensationalism at it’s best!!!!

Canadian panned as modern-day Tokyo Rose

A Canadian ex-fashion model, known by some as the glamorous new face of Chechnya and by critics as a modern-day Tokyo Rose, came under criticism Friday by human rights groups over her promotion of strongman Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

Torontonian Chrystal Callahan, who has anchored a weekly news and entertainment program for Chechnya TV since last year, was described on a CNN profile broadcast this week as “Kadyrov’s most enthusiastic and visible western defender.”

But both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said her program, directed to Chechens both at home and abroad, provides a one-sided view of developments in the Russian republic.

Allison Gill, director of Human Rights Watch’s Moscow office, says she has no objection to Grozny TV using a westerner to promote locally and internationally the local government’s achievements in rebuilding the city devastated by two wars since 1994.

“What I find problematic is when that kind of attention is used to mask problems, to deny their existence and to do really nothing to resolve them,” Gill said Friday.

“It seems pretty clear she was hired solely for propaganda purposes.”

Amnesty International Moscow-based researcher Friederike Behr wouldn’t criticize Callahan directly, but said the Canadian is collaborating in an effort to present only one side of Chechnya’s evolution.

Kadyrov, a former warlord installed as president in 2007, is accused of direct involvement in torture, extrajudicial killing, and disappearances that continued in 2009, according to both human rights officials.

Callahan’s program, which she describes as “entertainment and light news,” focuses only on Kadyrov’s achievements.

She began one program by declaring in English, with her words translated into Russian with subtitles, that “the Chechen Republic is steadily becoming a region (that is an) example for other parts of Russia.” Callahan, saying she knows nothing about “rumours” of rights violations, said her state-funded program is intended to provide “uplifting” news for an area that has suffered deeply from war.

“I’m showing a side of the Chechen Republic that obviously no one has ever seen before,” she told Canwest News Service.

Callahan stresses that much of her work involves documenting Chechen culture, and she’s taken a first-person approach by driving a tractor, trying on head scarves worn by women in the Muslim republic, and even performing a folkloric dance while singing in Chechen.

But she does occasionally delve into politics.

In the CNN interview she stated bluntly that Kadyrov’s many critics, and various human rights groups, are wrong in accusing him of orchestrating the assassination in Austria last year of Chechen dissident Umar Israilov in Vienna.

Israilov, the Chechen president’s former bodyguard, went to the European Court of Human Rights to accuse Kadyrov of participating directly in kidnappings and torture.

“Do I think he killed him? Absolutely not. What would he have to gain by that?” Callahan told CNN.

She added: “If there’s no proof and there’s no concrete evidence, who cares?”

Callahan wouldn’t reveal to Canwest her age or anything about her family, though she confirmed she was born and raised in Toronto and spent most of her modelling career in Tokyo.

She said she was introduced to Chechnya while embarking on a career as a documentary-maker, and caught the attention of one of Kadyrov’s top aides after producing a documentary on young Chechen wrestlers.

Callahan appears to delight in her role, expressing her enthusiasm with a teenager-like tone in both her blog and in her conversation.

She describes individuals and events in Chechnya as “cool,” the “coolest,” and “awesome,” while critics are “such a drag” and jealous of the success of others.

People were so nice to her upon her arrival, she told CNN, that she concluded: “This place rules.”

Callahan said she has never gone on websites to learn more about rights violations in Chechnya, saying she’s too busy.

She also dismisses accusations that she’s a propagandist along the lines of Tokyo Rose, the generic name given to female Japanese whose radio commentaries were intended to sap the morale of allied troops during the Second World War.

“I’m out there driving tractors. I’m not a hard news journalist. I’m sure there are enough journalists covering that, all the negative aspects and the rumours.”

CNN interview

>Hi everyone,

I am still on vacation…somewhere in North America….. I started getting emails that I was on, so I checked it out.
What a surprise, I forgot I did it – I think it was from 2 months ago. Ivan Watson is a fair reporter – I like the interview and video that goes with it.

Click here to watch : Chrystal Callahan – CNN Interview

Here is the text :

Canadian model finds fame in Chechnya
By Ivan Watson, CNN
June 16, 2010 7:51 a.m. EDT


* Canadian former fashion model is perhaps the most famous foreigner in Chechnya

* Her TV shows range from current affairs to religious instruction to hobbies

* She defends Chechen president who was named one of 40 “Predators of Press Freedom”

* But Chrystal Callahan is also a symbol of peace and stability

Grozny, Chechnya (CNN) — The news in Chechnya has an unlikely Canadian face: a former fashion model with a catchy name who anchors the news in English on state-run TV.

“Good evening. This is Chrystal Callahan and these are the highlights of the week,” says the smiling anchor at the start of her program. “The Chechen Republic is steadily becoming a region of example for other parts of Russia!”

Aided by a constant stream of Chechen sub-titles, Grozny TV’s English-speaking anchor from Toronto has arguably become the most famous foreigner in post-war Chechnya.

Callahan first traveled to what was long the most war-torn, dangerous corner of Russia several years ago, while filming a documentary about a Chechen Greco-roman wrestling team.

“When I [first] came to Chechnya I was so happy and grateful that I got to come here,” Callahan said, in an interview in one of the studios of Grozny TV. “It was so awesome. Everyone was so nice. And my first impression was “wow, this place rules.””

Today, Callahan lives in Grozny and hosts a series of current affairs and cultural programs.

The program might show her on any given week learning to manipulate manikins at Grozny’s puppet theater or preparing traditional Chechen recipes in the station’s kitchen studio.

She says she has a responsibility to broadcast to members of the Chechen diaspora who have lost touch with their homeland after being scattered around the world by a decade of war.

Though she is not a Muslim, Callahan also offers viewers weekly lessons in Islam, the main religion of the region.

“This week in Islam, we learn about Doomsday,” Callahan announced, at the beginning of a recent interview segment with a Chechen Islamic scholar.

And the tall, dark-skinned Canadian has even begun singing and dancing traditional Chechen folk songs in music videos.

“Everyone needs entertainment and a lighter side of things. So the show I do is light and it’s entertaining,” said Callahan, during a walk through a park in Grozny that includes a memorial to slain journalists. “It’s such a drag, can you imagine? Everyone talking about the war, the war.”

But her “lighter side” approach to the news also extends to Chechnya’s young leader. Callahan devotes a lot of time to documenting the daily achievements of Chechnya’s 33-year-old rebel-turned-Russian-backed-president.

“Horse-racing season has begun in the Chechen republic. The president of the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, opened the tournament,” announced Callahan in one recent broadcast. “The horse races were devoted to the counterterrorist operation’s regime cancellation day as well as the birth of a son from a close friend of the president,” Callahan narrated, over video of Kadyrov watching the contest with uniformed officers.

Kadyrov had a race track constructed at the entrance of his presidential mansion. “In the second race the president’s horse Ergies took first place.”

For years human rights groups have accused Kadyrov and his security forces of kidnapping, torture and even extra-judicial killings.

In 2010, the Paris-based watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders added Kadyrov to its list of 40 “Predators of Press Freedom.”

The group pointed out vocal critics of Kadyrov keep getting murdered. Most recently, Austrian police linked one of Kadyrov’s top aides to the fatal shooting of a Chechen dissident named Umar Israilov in Vienna, Austria.

Kadyrov routinely denies these charges. Callahan dismisses them too.

“If there’s no proof and there’s no concrete evidence, who cares?” Callahan asks.

“Do I think he killed him [Israilov]? Absolutely not,” Callahan says. “What would he have to gain by that? You know, he did so much to try to make this a safe place so kids could run around. There’s no war!”

She speaks while strolling through a Grozny park where elderly women sit chatting on benches and music plays from speakers at an outdoor café that serves instant coffee.

In this relaxing place, Kadyrov’s most enthusiastic and visible Western defender is something of a celebrity.

Young Chechens begin drifting up to Callahan, asking to pose along side the Canadian for photos snapped on their cell phones.

“It’s really nice that she’s from Canada and that she traveled here to host the show,” says 18 year old Avsan Veshal after smiling for the camera.

To these star-struck Chechens, Chrystal Callahan is more then just a mouthpiece for the Kadyrov government. The presence of Grozny’s most famous foreigner also symbolizes something everyone here is hoping for after years of conflict: stability and peace.

>I’m on vacation….kind of


Last week was my last show until June. I got some photos of Azi and I in the studio.

After I read the news, I went out to lnch with Artur.
On Tuesday I met Josie and some other friends for dinner. Josie brought me a present. It smelled good!
On Wednesday I went looking for fabric in the market ( Berkat ) . I need to make several national costumes for when I perform on stage.
While I was in the market, I met a lady that sells stockings. She gave me a pair as a gift!

>Sernavodskaya Water / Boys Military School


This week has been really busy. On Tuesday I went to Sernavodskaya ( 70 KM west of Grozny ) to film. I love getting out of the city.

Sernavodskaya Water company is there. Their mineral water is #2 in the world. In this photo I am with the director of the company and Yusup the cameraman. We are at a hot water spring. It smells like boiled eggs and actually tastes the same. However, this isn’t the water they bottle – it is used for medicinal purposes.

Alihan, the director of the company, is explaining all the details of the water and the way it is processed.

Today Artur is with me because Madina is home with her kids. They are sick.
And Yusup is the cameraman.
They also have a spa here!!! Artur and I are getting a massage in these awesome chairs.
Back to work. We need to get an interview with Alihan.
On Thursday I went to a military school for boys. They are AWESOME! They win every competition they enter.
Ibbi was with me on this day – Madina’s kids are still sick.
Thank god I wore these colours – they match the uniforms!
Ibrashka was the cameraman. We all love him!! He does such a great job every time!!
We ended up having a lovzar party!!! Hahah -I love Chechnya. Spontaneous lovzar parties happen often.



Yesterday I took this photo of Artur from the TV station. He is always so busy and usually is talking on 2 phones at once.

Today I got a call from Said-Sellim ( head of Grozny TV ) telling me that I will do an interview with CNN at some point today.
I ended up meeting them around 3pm for a couple hours.
I am in this photo with the correspondent who interviewed me. His name is Ivan Watson.