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Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys among the defiant people of the Caucasus Hardcover – 4 Mar 2010

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Hardcover, 4 Mar 2010

Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (4 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846141419
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846141416
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 736,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Oliver Bullough is a journalist and author from Wales who moved in 1999 to Russia to work as a journalist. He worked first for local newspapers in St Petersburg and Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), then for Reuters. He stayed in Moscow, mainly reporting on the war in Chechnya, until 2006.

Since leaving Reuters, he has written two books. The first -- Let Our Fame be Great -- is about the peoples of the North Caucasus, and his travels to find their scattered communities. The second -- The Last Man in Russia -- is a biography of a dissident Orthodox priest, whose life closely mirrors that of the Russian nation in the 20th century, and sheds light on the demographic tragedy of modern Russia.

He writes for newspapers and magazines in Britain and North America, and is currently planning a third book.

Product Description


This wonderful, moving book flashes backwards and forwards over a terrain almost impossible to survey, and manages the feat (Norman Stone )

Lively and impassioned ... a tragically neglected corner of our world (Orlando Figes )

A book that effortlessly mixes on-the-spot reportage and a wide-ranging history . . . Let its fame be great (The Scotsman )

An impressive debut … heartfelt and compelling … With this impassioned volume he has struck a blow for the glory of the Caucasus and helped to give voice to the voiceless (Justin Marozzi Financial Times )

[Bullough] brings us exciting news, presented as short, gripping stories that tell of the terrible things that happen to people caught up in constant warfare ... The history of their resistance and resilience has been largely unknown for two centuries. Now their stories are sung by a champion and will resound beyond their boundaries (Ian Finlayson The Times )

Oliver Bullough’s book is a painstaking, sensitively reported effort to knit together their [the people of the Caucasus] lost history (Wendell Steavenson Sunday Times )

Bullough should be congratulated on his brave and tireless investigations into an under-reported region of the world (George Walden New Statesman )

Let Our Fame Be Great is a treat ... Finely bound, with excellent maps, Bullough draws you irresistibly into his narrative, fusing reportage, history and travelogue in colourful, absorbing prose ... The book is a pleasure, and most importantly, it is critical to understanding modern Russia with its worrying collective amnesia (Daniel Metcalfe Spectator )

Fascinating and ground-breaking ... Bullough has got plenty of dust, snow and mud on his boots from his travels recording the forgotten tragedies of the North Caucasus ... In the process he [has] unearthed many priceless nuggets of historic truth (Thomas De Waal OpenDemocracy )

A courageous young journalist illuminates one of the world's most ethnically and culturally diverse regions. His travels and historical back-stories show that contemporary brutality in Chechnya is nothing new, and reminds us of the fate of whole nations such as the Circassians, scattered to the winds by Russian imperialism (FT )

The majority of the stories are frankly heart breaking ... Bullough’s book means that while the peoples of the Caucasus have had neither fame nor glory at least their stories may be told (Will Gourlay Lonely Planet )

About the Author

Oliver Bullough was born in 1977 and grew up on a sheep farm in mid-Wales. He studied modern history at Oxford University and moved to Russia in 1999. He lived in St Petersburg, Bishkek and Moscow over the next seven years, working as a journalist first for local magazines and newspapers, and then for Reuters news agency. He reported from all over Russia and the former Soviet Union, but liked nothing more than to work among the peoples and mountains of the North Caucasus.

He moved back to Britain in 2006, and has spent the following years travelling for and writing this book.He now lives in east London. He likes to travel, to take photographs, to watch Welsh rugby, to cook and to read.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Adrian Maxwell on 29 July 2013
Format: Paperback
I am always very wary of reviewers telling their own story rather than providing useful comments for potential buyers/readers. However, here is what I believe is some necessary context.

In the early 1970s I took a Black Sea cruise with the travel firm Clarksons. Istanbul - Constanza (Rumania) - Odessa - Sochi and back to Istanbul. At Sochi the boat docked at a wharf alongside a main road. No fences or walls divided the town from the port. Russian soldiers put up low barriers around the boat and gangplank more to allow easy access to and from the boat rather than any secrecy. Sochi townspeople came to lean on the barriers and stare at us. The snow covered Caucasus mountains formed a dramatic backdrop to the town and port. Those of us with visas were able to go into the town. I returned with strange Russian cigarettes and chocolate. A short time later Clarksons went out of business and I gave no more thought to the Caucasus. I had no knowledge of the Circassians.

I came to this book with vague memories of the Black Sea, Sochi and the Caucasus but with a desire to further understand developments in and around Russia over the last 30 years. I had not appreciated how complex and important was and is the part of the world I had briefly visited over 30 years earlier. Oliver Bullough has written a wonderful book. In his book he is a travel writer, historian, political commentator and journalist. He has a sympathetic view of the peoples and cultures of the area, a detailed grasp of the history and a sharp assessment of the political involvement of Russia under the Tsars, Stalin and Putin with this mountainous pathway for Catherine the Great and the Tsarist dream of a warm water port.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Alex Allen on 19 Aug. 2010
Format: Hardcover
For those of us who have travelled extensively in the region the rhythms of this text are unmistakable. It captures so well the spririt of those who have inhabited the Caucasus for centuries. The detailed reseach that Bullough undertook means that there is much here you will not read in comparable books.

However it speaks well to those with little knowledge as I then passed it onto my wife who knows little of the area and she adored it and could not put it down. The illuminating and unpatronising tone allows experts and novices alike to enjoy it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David Gordon on 15 April 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book, written from a particular viewpoint, but none the worse for that. The author has clearly managed to gain the trust of the many people he visited and spoke to, and has an excellent background in Russian and Caucasian history. It is selective: the Northern Caucasus (very little about the fascinating history of the countries and peoples to the South - Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and so on), and primarily three nations of the Northern Caucasus. Despite being selective, it is a fine and thought provoking read. No-one will read it and fail to learn more about the interaction of Russia with these peoples.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Zapryan on 16 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback
Although Let Our Fame be Great is Oliver Bullough's first book, it is a masterpiece that clearly demonstrates his historical training and his journalistic background. Bullough tells the story of the people of the Caucasus by successfully combining historical sources and numerous interviews that he carried out during his extensive travel in the region. What stands out most about the book is his ability to emphasize to emphasize with his interviewees and still maintain a suitable distance in order to successfully analyse their perspectives. Bullough's writing is first class and his descriptions of people and places are magnificent. He is able to bring to life every story that he tells, no matter whether he's talking about the Russian Empire in the 18th century or the 1st Chechen war in the late 20th century. The breadth of this book is truly astonishing as it takes the reader on a tour de force of the history of the Caucasus in the last 300 years by looking at the lives of many of the most notable figures of Russian history such as the Russian poets Pushkin and Lermontov, various Russian emperors, the Soviet dictator Stalin and the current Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. At the same time he also gives us a view into the lives of many ordinary people, thus enriching our perspective of the events presented in the book.

Bullough begins his book with the tragic tale of the Nogai people who accepted Russian rule in August 1783 only to be rewarded with an order to abandon their lands and settle south of the Urals. This resulted in a rebellion in which the leaders who had signed the pact with Russia were executed and thousands of Nogai marched against the Russians. However, these rebels were no match for the Russian armies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By F Henwood TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 April 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable traveller's account of a journey among history's losers. I do not use that term pejoratively. The people of the North Caucasus lost out to Russian expansion in the 19th Century much as the Australian aborigines and indigenous Americans lost out to European settler expansion during the same century. For many in Russia, the Caucasus is either a romantic, wild backdrop to literary classics of Pushkin or Lermontov or cesspit of banditry and extremism. Most are oblivious to the region's dark history, and their country's contribution to it. But much of the outside world has no idea, either. Few realized that the Sochi Olympics were sited on a historical crime-scene, where hundreds of thousands of Circassians were massacred or expelled 150 years earlier. Circassian Diaspora groups protested the crass indifference of Russian officials in staging the Olympics in the place which for them is the equivalent of Auschwitz but their voices were barely heard. The scattered Circassian diaspora lacks the lobbying clout of the Armenian Diaspora. Even if their voices had been heard, who would even have known what they were talking about?

In this book, Bullough travels among the various North Caucasian lands (those parts of the Russian Caucasus bordering modern-day Georgia and Azerbaijan) and their scattered Diasporas. He is a wonderfully vivid writer, evoking a great sense of place, of people, and of those peoples' experience of their space. He relates the stories of a plethora of characters, Chechen Sufi mystics, stranded in exile in Kazakhstan; exiles in Turkey, Austria, and Poland; lonely, heroic survivors of the massacres and deportations of the 1940s and their unavailing efforts to extract justice and compensation from the teeth of an indifferent or hostile Russian state.
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