As dusk falls on the Chechen capital, Grozny, in southern Russia, the sounds of dogs barking, neighbors chatting, and the theme song to a popular Brazilian soap opera mix with the sounds of automatic gunfire and distant explosions. But the conversations continue, soup is served, and everyone stays glued to the TV.

This conflict has not existed only for the last 18 months, but for more than 200 years. Long ago when Russians tried to expand their territory into the Caucasus, they too retreated at nightfall into their fortress for safety, frightened by attacks from Chechan rebels. The Russian soldiers would emerge in daylight to control Grozny. Today, just outside the city, dirty, underfed, and drunk Russian soldiers take bribes and offer to sell weapons and even tanks to passersby and to Chechen rebels.

Meanwhile, the Chechen countryside is being littered with Russian bombs as soldiers try to flush out the rebels while bringing destruction and death to local inhabitants. Russian Channel 1 television news, a Yeltsin mouthpiece seen throughout the former Soviet Union, continues to reassure the public that everything is going well and the conflict will be over soon. But the Russian president continues to be plagued by this unpopular war that he thought would end quickly. Now people wonder why he doesn't pull out. According to one resident, who is rebuilding a mosque in the center of Grozny, "Russians need an enemy to exist."

The continuing breakup of the former Soviet Union plays out in misery and hardship. Women in the break-away republic of Chechnya wash clothes on the outskirts of Grozny from a hot water pipe. Most of the city's residents are without hot water and electricity.
Local demonstrations occur almost daily in Chechen towns to protest the renewed Russian bomb attacks on villages in the countryside where rebels are thought to be based. Here in Sali, the elders of the village gather in the central square on the site of a former monument to Lenin. The banner reads "Chechen and Dagastan Brothers." Dagastan was the site of a Chechen hostage stand-off in the town of Pervomaiskoye.
After a week of demonstrations in Grozny's central square, Russian soldiers begin to clear the debris and makeshift houses built by Chechens to protest the Russian occupation. The view is seen through a window which has the Chechen symbol, a wolf, painted on it.
Here in a Chechen battalion base in the small town of Goiskoe, a 19-year-old Russian soldier from Stavropol, captured in December, 1995, is returned to his mother. After many months without mail from her son and repeated attempts to get information from the Russian army, she took up the search herself in Chechnya.
On a road into the village of Khurchaloy, women and men have been gathering daily since last December, singing traditional Chechen songs, to protest the presence of Russian tanks that occupy a field 300 yards away.
Women cry in response to Russian bomb blasts heard from the town of Novogrozinski.
A mother and daughter gather their daily water needs from a melting river bed outside a small Chechen town.
Schools are closed during the winter in Grozny due to a lack of electricity and heat. Here, though still chilly in March, students get a morning lesson while still wearing their hats and coats.
A young boy watches a Russian patrol rumbling down a destroyed street in downtown Grozny.
A moment of silence is held during the funeral for an 80-year-old man in the town of Bachi-yurt as Russian helicopters pass overhead towards the town of Novogrozinski in a bombing raid.
Horns have been painted on a factory wall mosaic of Lenin by Chechens. The mural is visible as you leave Grozny from the east.
The market in downtown Grozny extends into local streets among the debris of yesterday's discards and bombing rubble.
Residents flee from the villages surrounding Novogrozinski without their belongings during a four-day attack by Russian planes.
A young woman sets us shop in the center of Grozny. Behind her, the presidential palace is in ruins. Just days before, it was destroyed by three Russian blasts in order to deter Chechens from demonstrating there. Its destruction attempted to cripple morale as it was a symbol of the Chechan cause.
A mother and son walk in the streets of the Chechen capital, which remains destroyed. More than a year has past since the initial Russian bombardments.
A Chechen rebel plays with his son's balloon while Russian news from Moscow issues Yeltsin propaganda on the war.
A woman gathers water from a tiny well in the center of Grozny, where buildings once stood. Her own home is only half-standing.
A man waits near a bombed-out window in a downtown Grozny telephone center to call relatives in Russia. The local phone system is still down.