In 1994 Russian president Boris Yeltsin ordered an invasion after Chechnya's intractable president, Johkar Dudayev, declared independence for his warrior nation. The result was a disastrous three-year war that took the lives of tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers, destroyed the Chechen capital of Grozny, and created a crisis of leadership for Yeltsin.
Gall and de Waal, who covered the war for the Moscow Times, offer an authoritative portrait of combat and a convincing explanation of the origins of the disaster. They deftly put the war into its historical context, describing the Chechens' forced incorporation into imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. Parallels are drawn between policies under monarchist and Soviet rule, and special attention is paid to Stalin's devastating deportation of the Chechens to Central Asia in the late 1940s, an event that contributed greatly to the Chechens' determination to gain independence.
By covering such background, the authors provide a necessary glimpse into the lasting sense of injustice and anger that has spurred many Chechens into action against the Russian army. But while their sympathies clearly lie with the colorful Chechens, the authors remain objective in their assessment of Chechnya's questionable leaders and the corrupt nature of modern Chechen society. Thus, both Yeltsin and Dudayev are assigned some of the blame for hastening the disasterthe former for his bullying nature and misunderstanding of the Chechens, the latter for his Bolshevik tactics.
The Wall Street Journal - Christian Caryl
...provides an excellent ground-level account but sometimes leaves one wishing for a bit more discussion of the wider political context of this crucial historical moment.
The New York Times Book Review - Bill Keller
Their book is an exceptional feat of war correspondence. It is hard to imagine that it will be surpassed as the definitive account of the conflict.
A combination of investigative journalism and historical overview that emphasizes the Chechens' role as the long-oppressed victims of Russian imperialism......Regrettably, despite their obvious engagement with the subject, Gall and de Waal fail to provide a brisk narrative. Their work is thorough but somewhat plodding. Nonetheless, this is a harrowing glimpse into the destabilization caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the troubled road to independence and democracy faced by its non-Russian nationalities.
Library Journal - Rena Fowler
Written by two Moscow Times correspondents, this book describes the conflict, in context, between Russia and these Islamic lands of the Caucasus. .....An excellent journalistic account, the broadest to date.
The chilling account of how Vladimir Putin, a low-level, small-minded KGB operative, ascended to the Russian presidency and destroyed years of progress to make his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.
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