CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus by Carlotta & Thomas de Waal Gall

CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A combination of investigative journalism and historical overview that emphasizes the Chechens' role as the long-oppressed victims of Russian imperialism. 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 disaster--the former for his bullying nature and misunderstanding of the Chechens, the latter for his Bolshevik tactics. 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.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0814731325
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: New York Univ.