If you are searching for meaning in the wake of the tragedy in Beslan, here are 15 books, including five powerful recent accounts, that shed light on the conflict in Chechnya.
By Stephen Dewar
Open Wound: Chechnya 1994 to 2003
by Stanley Greene, Trolley, New York, 2003, $59.95.
Greene is a seasoned photojournalist and these 81 pictures he took during the two Chechen wars are accompanied by his commentary. He is not detached – passionate would be a better description of his approach – and the writing often has as much impact as his images.
A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya
by Anna Politkovskaya (translated by Alexander Burry and Tatiana Tulchinsky), University of Chicago Press, 2003, $25.00.
Politkovskaya is well known in Russia and abroad for her reporting from Chechnya, mostly for Novaya Gazeta, and is one of the few Russian reporters consistently to challenge official accounts of what has been happening there. She is not popular in the power ministries and she claims she was poisoned when flying to cover the Beslan tragedy.
Chienne de Guerre: A Woman Reporter Behind the Lines of the War in Chechnya
by Anne Nivat with Susan Darnton, Public Affairs, 2001, $25.00.
Nivat, a Frenchwoman working for the French newspaper Liberation, smuggled herself into Chechnya in 1999 at the age of 30. For six months she traveled through the region, disguised as a peasant and helped by a local guide. She spoke with people from every side of the conflict. Her reports published in Liberation sparked anti-war protests in Paris.
Chechnya Diary: A War Correspondent’s Story of Surviving the War in Chechnya
by Thomas Goltz, 2003, Thomas Dunne Books, $27.95.
Goltz, an American journalist, spent six weeks living in a Chechen village in 1995 where, soon after he left, a hundred villagers were massacred, propelling this hitherto unknown hamlet (Samashki) onto the world’s frontpage news. He returned a number of times to continue coverage of the conflict there and to interview some of the individuals, both powerful and impotent, who are respectively the movers-and-shakers and the victims in the war.
The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire
by Khassan Baiev. With Ruth and Nicholas Daniloff, Walker & Co., 2003, $26.00.
Baiev is a Chechen and the only one to have written an account of the current situation that is available in English. A surgeon by profession, he returned to Chechnya from Russia when the first Chechen war started. As a doctor, he treated all the casualties who came before him, Chechens and Russians, civilians and combatants. His descriptions of what he saw and did under appalling conditions are painfully vivid.
The Chechen Wars: Will Russia Go the Way of the Soviet Union? by Matthew Evangelista, Brookings Institution Press, 2003, $19.95.
Allah’s Mountains: The Battle for Chechnya by Sebastian Smith, I.B. Tauris, 2001, $45.00.
Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus by Carlotta Gall and Thomas De Waal, New York University Press, 2000, $21.00.
Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power, by Anatol Lieven, Yale University Press, 1999, $35.
The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories, by Lev Tolstoy (trans. L. & A. Maude and J.D. Duff), New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, $8.95.
A Hero of Our Time, by Mikhail Lermontov (trans. Vl. And D. Nabokov), Ann Arbor, Ardis, $13.
The North Caucasus Barrier: The Russian Advance Towards the Muslim World, edited by Marie Bennigsen Broxup, New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1992.
Transcaucasian Boundaries, edited by Wright, Goldenberg, & Schofield, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.
Russia’s Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800, by Michael Khodarkovsky, Indiana University Press, 2002.