An account of the first Chechen war written by two journalists who were on the ground when it happened, interviewing the leaders and even spending time embedded amongst Chechen units, “Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus” is both a thorough overview and a riveting story of the first war. Although it is distinctly dated by being […]Read more "“Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus” by Carlotta Gall and Thomas de Waal"
Reading Politkovskaya is always a draining experience, and this, the last complete book of her writings and released after her death, is particularly challenging. It is organized in the form of a diary, with daily entries compiled of Politkovskaya’s notes, many of which later became articles–it includes, for example, the infamous interview with Ramzan Kadyrov, […]Read more "“A Russian Diary” by Anna Politkovskaya"
Asne Seierstad was a freelance journalist in Moscow when the first Chechen war broke out. Acting under a poorly-understood compulsion to find out what was really going on there, she sweet-talked her way onto a military transport plane and ended up in Grozny. She spent several months during the first war, and again during the […]Read more "“The Angel of Grozny” by Åsne Seierstad"
The Chechen wars (1994-6 and 1999-2009, sort of) were brutal for everyone involved. But for Chechen women, they were particularly devastating. “Allah’s Angels” documents their participation and their suffering. Getting hard data about almost any aspect of the Chechen wars can be an exercise in frustration–even things that are supposedly monitored carefully by the government, […]Read more "“Allah’s Angels: Chechen Women in War” by Paul J. Murphy"
While any Politkovskaya book is an emotionally intense experience, this one is particularly wrenching: it begins with articles she wrote during the final years of her life, including the articles that may have led to her murder, and ends with tributes–some heartfelt, some grudging–paid to her after her death by her friends, admirers, and enemies […]Read more "“Is Journalism Worth Dying For?” by Anna Politkovskaya"
“People like you save yourselves by devouring Russia, and people like me–by devouring our own souls. Russia is nourished on the souls of her sons–she thrives on them. Not by the righteous ones, but by the cursed.” So says Sasha (“Sankya”) Tishin, the protagonist of “Sankya,” Zakhar Prilepin’s novel about “communofascist” Russian opposition group the […]Read more "“Sankya” by Zakhar Prilepin"
What do you do when you’re an idealistic young journalist whose hometown suddenly turns into a war zone? Obviously, you grab your camera and your notepad and you start gathering stories. Only it turns out that a brutal civil war in your own country is more than just another story. There have been many appalling […]Read more "“The Sky Wept Fire” by Mikail Eldin"
In “A Small Corner of Hell,” Anna Politkovskaya continues her reportage of the Second Chechen War. While “A Dirty War,” the first collection of her articles, conveys them in more or less their original form, “A Small Corner of Hell,” while still divided into individual reports, is a more coherent, book-like narrative, with large sections […]Read more "“A Small Corner of Hell” by Anna Politkovskaya"
Zakhar Prilepin represents much of what is confusing and contradictory about contemporary Russia. And on the other hand, it’s all absolutely simple. He’s a pro-Stalinist member of the anti-Putin opposition, a writer who exposes the dark side of modern Russian life while volunteering in the army of the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic. Western readers […]Read more "“Sin” by Zakhar Prilepin"
Anyone tempted to say that heroes no longer exist need look no further than opposition Russian journalists to be proven wrong. Although there are many heroes and martyrs amongst that group, the name Anna Politkovskaya is particularly sacred. A furious truth-teller, Politkovskay always had the courage of her convictions, descending into chaos, corruption, and the […]Read more "“A Dirty War” by Anna Politkovskaya"