The photo below was not taken in a provincial Russian city but in Grozny.
Grozny in 2008
Of course Grozny is a provincial city deep south in the Caucasus region of Russian federation but just a decade ago it was the most destroyed city on Earth, where the Russian Army had to pour everything they had in their arsenal to devour the Chechen insurgency (and everyone else that was fateless to be in the city at that time). Below is what it meant to be in Grozny in the end of 1990s.
Grozny in 1995
The troubles of Chechen people and Russians (or Soviets) makes a history of itself. Starting from the southward expansion of Russian Empire, the mountain tribes, mainly Muslim, of Caucasia fought for freedom and waited for every single chance to wage war against the Christian and Godless infidels from the frozen steppes who have named the city as Grozny (Gruesome). One of those chances arose when the Nazis rumbled on to the Baku oilfields in 1941-2 and visibly weakened the war machine of Soviet Union. Many Chechens took it as an advantage for independence, knowing that the Nazis had no vendetta against the muslim tribesmen living on top of mountains and many joined the Waffen-SS against Red Army.
After Stalingrad, the tide of war turned against the Germans and their local collaborators in the occupied territories in USSR, which brought a terrible fate upon the latter as Red Army reclaimed those territories. Stalin, the boss of mayhem and a person definitely without a sense of pity, ordered the entire populations which are suspected of collaboration. As with Chechens, many other nationalities in the former occupied territories were exiled overnight on cattle trains to the vast emptiness of Central Asia. Many died on the way and very few survived to return and find out that their lands were already occupied with Russians.
Mixed with a pre-installed hunger for independence and fueled with religion, the Chechens, with many fighters who are already entitled to high positions in Red Army because of their highly acclaimed fighting spirit, revolted against the already crumbling central authority in Moscow in 1990s. The reply from the once-mighty government was weak and the new Russian Army was humiliated by a bunch of heavily armed and indoctrinated militiamen. I even remember a video that was sent to me in my first internship in 2000 (it was the dawn of the internet as we know now and watching a video on a PC was a novelty) and it was about a bunch of Chechen guerrillas decapitating (with gruesome details) a young Russian conscript.
The First Chechen War was a defeat for the new Russian federation with a number of republics carefully watching the results of the street fighting in Grozny. This defeat was also one of the reasons why Putin with harsh nationalistic campaigns was easily handed over the job in Kremlin because the public was in fear of sporadic terrorist attacks even in the center of Moscow. Eventually Putin found an excuse (ordered secret agents to plant bombs in a Moscow apartment and blamed Chechen terrorists for the attack) and unleashed the Army unto Grozny where the separatist rebels had already founded an Islamic Republic of their own. The city of Grozny, with a lot of Russian civilians living it it, was leveled and the rebels ran to the hills to fight back another time. The fight for that insurgency continued for years until Russians realised the weak point of the mountain tribes (that also counts for many semi-civilized nations around that region) that the best possible way to fight a determined rebel is not to attack with tanks and artillery but to buy out (or bribe) his kinsmen and eventually start a controlled civil war in which the fractions of the enemy would devour themselves to a standstill. That is exactly what happened in Chechnya. The easy oil money funded the already pro-Putin Kadyrov clan who have realised that fighting the might bear would just be the total annihilation of Chechnya and they have effectively ended all other armed resistance of other clans. After his father's assassination, Ramzan Kadyrov is now not a warlord in defiance of Russia but but a president of a republic in Russian Federation and in close ties with Putin.
El Presidente Ramzan Kadyrov in one of his public dances. The ones who don't applause will be shot on the spot.
Members of the Viva Kadyrov Fan Club
Members of the Viva Kadyrov Fan Club (the back of the t-shirts say "Ramzan, We are with you")
Now Grozny is being extensively rebuilt and the life is becoming normal in the once ground zero of Chechen War. The highlight of this campaign is the concrete replica of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul built in Grozny to be the biggest mosque in Europe. It is rumored that Turkish funding and workmanship is being used...
The plan of the Grozny Mosque
Viva Kadyrov Fan Club meeting in front of the construction site
Youıng Kadyrov-wannabes in parade in front of the construction