THE ANGEL OF GROZNY by Åsne Seierstad


Orphans of a Forgotten War
Email this review


Norwegian journalist Seierstad (The Bookseller of Kabul, 2003, etc.) movingly reports on the bleak fallout from the wars in Chechnya.

Her atmospheric and heartbreakingly sad text records two treks to the newly independent Muslim country: in 1995, shortly after the disastrous invasion by Russian troops under Boris Yeltsin, and again 12 years later when the war raged anew under Vladimir Putin. Seierstad was a 24-year-old rookie journalist eager to join the fray (despite warnings of sniper attacks) when she hitched a ride with Russian troops into Grozny in 1995. She found the city emptied of men, who were fighting in the mountains, and full of starving, terrified women. Its hospitals, orphanages, waterworks and homes had been demolished by Russian attacks. The Chechens’ lives had been blown apart by war, and thousands of orphans had been left to survive on their own. Following the author’s initial trip, Aslan Maskhadov was elected as Chechnya’s first president in 1997. He proved unable to control the spread of wahhabism, a radical form of Islamic fundamentalism that split the country and led to new conflict with Russia. After Maskhadov’s assassination in March 2005, Seierstad found her way back into the country and met Hadijat, called the Angel of Grozny because she never turned away a child in need. In her unofficial orphanage Hadijat and her husband Malik cared for scores of children who had been abandoned, abused and traumatized, left with few prospects for education or a future. The author listened to these suffering youngsters and chronicles their tales of torture, deportation and misery. She also offers her observations on the absurdities of Chechnya’s new, Soviet-style dictator Ramzan Kadyrov, who simply denied the existence of 20,000 orphans. Chechens pride themselves as fearless freedom fighters and frequently take the wolf as their symbol, Seierstad notes, but they “forgot that the wolf is a beast of prey that mercilessly pursues every weak, defenseless animal.”

A sympathetic, brave work from a deeply engaged war correspondent.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-465-01122-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2008


NonfictionTWO SISTERS by Åsne Seierstad
by Åsne Seierstad
NonfictionONE OF US by Åsne Seierstad
by Åsne Seierstad
NonfictionWITH THEIR BACKS TO THE WORLD by Åsne Seierstad
by Åsne Seierstad


FictionACROSS THE CHINA SEA by Gaute Heivoll
by Gaute Heivoll
FictionTHE QUIET GIRL by Peter Høeg
by Peter Hoeg
FictionTALES OF PROTECTION by Erik Fosnes Hansen
by Erik Fosnes Hansen