Right now, everyone is writing up their year-in-reviews, best-of lists and 2015 predictions. So many, in fact, that it sends some of spinning. So of course I have to write my own. I’ll keep it brief.
2014 was, to say the least, an interesting year. I began the year with eyes on Russia. Maidan was happening in Kyiv, bombings in Volgograd, and the Sochi Olympics were around the corner. I tweeted a lot more than I probably should have, but began to collect Twitter friends from around the world. I also began to collect my thoughts and wanted to write them down. Somebody would read them, right? In March I set up this blog with the intention of writing serious pieces mixed with the occasional lighthearted post. My first post was my experience watching (through live video feeds) those first few who would later be known as the Heavenly Hundred. A somber reflection on those who were killed standing up for Ukraine.
I like to say I found my niche a short time later, writing up a piece that combined Russia and the Caucasus, terrorism, and women. A strange combination, but we all have to find our thing. It was also the piece that connected me – in a manner of speaking – to some people who I have come to know as friends and mentors, and opened up new opportunities to write. The rise of Da’ish (Islamic State) in Syria and Iraq offered me an opportunity to write about Chechen extremist activities since the end of the Chechen Wars. I also took a look at the role of women in Da’ish, a post which garnered attention as far away as Australia.
2014 was the year of anniversaries, of the beginning of the Great War most notably, but another one passed with little attention outside a small area in southern Russia. The Beslan School attacks happened 10 years ago; I wrote to remember the victims. The First Chechen War began 20 years ago, a conflict that has never really ended as evident by the ongoing assassinations of Chechen dissidents around the globe, and by a recent attack in Grozny on 4 December.
The attack in Grozny was my first post as a contributor to a new blog on Medium, The Eastern Project. I’m excited about this new adventure, and thankful to Hannah and Garrett for the opportunity. I will forever be grateful to Tyrell Mayfield and Nathan Kinney, who saw my potential and posted my Chechen women piece on The Bridge. In those two I have found inspiration and friendship. There are too many people to thank; I have been blessed with many new friends.
I do want to thank all my readers and followers; you are why I do this. I appreciate everyone of you. I hope you enjoy what you read, and maybe even learn a little. I do.