Mutual aid and Assistance in Chechen Culture
The first thing a Chechen asks on meeting anyone is “How is your family? Are all of them safe and sound?” A well-mannered person will inquire, before taking leave, if there is “anything he could do to help.”
Mutual aid and assistance is rooted in the olden day. The hard living conditions made it imperative for the farmers to join forces. Villagers would tie up with one rope to be able to cut the grass on a steep mountain slope; it took a whole village to make a plot of land good for farming. If a calamity befell a family, everyone joined forces to repair the situation. Should a bread-winner die, all the villagers felt responsible for the bereaved family. Men would not sit down to eat until part of the food had been delivered to the family that had lost its bread-winner.
An offer of aid and assistance was an integral part of every phrase of greeting that a young man might address to a representative of the older generation. If an elderly villager started doing something, the neighbors were expected to give him a hand. Often as not, it was the neighbors who completed the job.
The tradition of reciprocal aid and assistance has taught the people to be responsive. The neighbors of an afflicted family hold the gates wide open to show that they share its grief. Should someone die, all the villagers will flock to its house to voice condolences and render moral assistance and, if necessary, material aid to his family. The relatives and neighbors take it upon themselves to foot all the funeral bills. A traveler will receive, on return to his home village, detailed information on all the recent developments. The first thing he does, on return home, is go to voice his condolences.
Chechen wisdom says that “a neighbor next door is worth more than a relative far away from home,” “death is preferable to life without human warmth,” “people united are likened to an indestructible fortress.”