CHECHNYA by Anatol Lieven

CHECHNYA

Tombstone of Russian Power

KIRKUS REVIEW

Russia’s humiliation in the Chechen war forms the basis of a nuanced argument about the end of Russian military and imperial power. Lieven, a reporter on Eastern Europe for the Financial Times, offers a compelling view of Russia’s defeat in Chechnya (based on his eyewitness account of the fighting), as well as a revisionist interpretation of Russia’s role as a global power. The Chechen war, maintains Lieven, is a “key moment in Russian and perhaps world history” because it has highlighted the collapse of Russia’s military might and its imperial power. Throughout his study, Lieven interweaves specifics of the situation in Chechnya (background on Grozny, Dudayev, and the course of the war itself) with a broader look at Russian society (privatization, the new capitalist elites, the Russian army, the nature of Russian nationalism) and the historical roots of the Russian-Chechen conflict. A final section discusses the striking nature of the Chechen victory and raises questions about the military and larger ramifications of clashes between organized armies and rebel fighters. Of all of Lieven’s challenging interpretations, the most forceful is his suggestion that Russian society has fundamentally changed, making it impossible to follow traditional Western approaches that assume lasting continuities in Russian and Soviet history. Another of Lieven’s theses that deserves consideration is that today’s Russia should not be compared with earlier Russian or Soviet periods, but with models of “liberal” states in Latin America and southern Europe a century ago (both in terms of national and economic development). While Lieven falls into political science jargon in these types of discussion, the comparative nature of his analysis enlivens them with thoughtful contrasts. A serious contribution to understanding both the implications of the Chechen war and the broader debate among scholars on appropriate interpretations of Russia’s role in the post—Cold War period ahead of us. (12 illustrations)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-300-07398-4
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998