2001 Photo Contest, Spot News, 1st prize

Thomas Dworzak

Magnum Photos

01 February, 2000

Chechen rebels drag a fellow fighter into Alkhan-Kala. After several months of fighting the Russians, Chechen separatists withdrew from Grozny in February. The fighters used a 'safe corridor' to the west, towards the village of Alkhan-Kala. Russian soldiers did not open fire, but the corridor turned out to be mined. Several hundred were killed or lost limbs. Casualties included a number of the rebel commanders. Alkhan-Kala became overcrowded, and days after the fighters arrived, the Russians attacked the village. Compared to the situation in 1994, when Dworzak photographed the war in Chechny for the first time, the situation in 1999 had radically changed. It became impossible for him to work, as he related in Magnum Stories (2004, p. 123): ‘I had almost given up on it when I was called by the journalist Janine di Giovanni, asking me to work for her as a fixer and translator. I got Janine into Chechnya in February 2000 when, as it turned out, it fell to the Russians. We arrived in a village on the outskirts of Grozny, having got a guy to drive us into the hills when the city was encircled by the Russians. We hadn’t really expected anything to be happening when we got there but in fact the village and its hospitals were full of the injured and dead, who had been among the first to leave Grozny. That night Grozny was bombarded, and during the night the bulk of the rebel army left, retreating through a minefield where they were blown up. I was on the edge of the minefield and in total darkness. Half of what I got I only saw when I looked at the pictures. That was the end of the uprising. Afterwards, what was left of the rebel forces disappeared into hiding in the mountains, and they haven’t been seen since.’ The story was first published by Paris Match, followed by many other publications.

About the photographer

Thomas Dworzak

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