blessed are the vintners

Yes, I know there is a drama and perhaps a real tragedy being played out in Moscow as I write this, but I read this item about the beleagured wine industry in Chechnya this morning before the news about the hostage taking. I still much prefer to think about one of mankind's most benign occupations, that of the vintner, than to dwell on the evils still being done in the name of nationalism, greed and power.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 began a tumultuous decade that left Chechnya's wine industry, like much of the republic, in shambles.

Some here say the industry's decline began earlier, with President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign in 1986, which resulted in thousands of vineyards across the Soviet Union being tilled under.

But it quickened, all agree, when Chechnya's first president, Dzhokhar Dudayev, declared the republic independent and began to restore Muslim traditions. His government stopped supporting the wineries.

... Of all the factors, though, fighting has caused the greatest toll. The two wars in Chechnya — the first from 1994 to 1996, the second from 1999 and still grinding on — destroyed thousands of acres of vineyards and several wineries, including the main one in the capital, Grozny.

It's all so very very sad, and so unnecessary.

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Published on October 23, 2002 10:11 PM.

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