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A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches From Chechnya [Paperback]

Anna Politkovakaya
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

3 Oct 2003
Chechnya, a 6,000-square-mile corner of the northern Caucasus, has struggled under Russian domination for centuries. The region declared its independence in 1991, leading to a brutal war, Russian withdrawal, and subsequent "governance" by bandits and warlords. A series of apartment building attacks in Moscow in 1999, allegedly orchestrated by a rebel faction, reignited the war, which continues to rage today. Russia has gone to great lengths to keep journalists from reporting on the conflict; consequently, few people outside the region understand its scale and the atrocities—described by eyewitnesses as comparable to those discovered in Bosnia—committed there.

Anna Politkovskaya, a correspondent for the liberal Moscow newspaper Novaya gazeta, was the only journalist to have constant access to the region. Her international stature and reputation for honesty among the Chechens allowed her to continue to report to the world the brutal tactics of Russia's leaders used to quell the uprisings. A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya is her second book on this bloody and prolonged war. More than a collection of articles and columns, A Small Corner of Hell offers a rare insider's view of life in Chechnya over the past years. Centered on stories of those caught-literally-in the crossfire of the conflict, her book recounts the horrors of living in the midst of the war, examines how the war has affected Russian society, and takes a hard look at how people on both sides are profiting from it, from the guards who accept bribes from Chechens out after curfew to the United Nations. Politkovskaya's unflinching honesty and her courage in speaking truth to power combine here to produce a powerful account of what is acknowledged as one of the most dangerous and least understood conflicts on the planet.
 
Anna Politkovskaya was assassinated in Moscow on October 7, 2006.
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Product details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (3 Oct 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226674339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226674339
  • Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 15.5 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 245,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"[A Small Corner of Hell] skips harrowingly from year to year and place to place. The arch-villains are the Russian death squads, venal and brutal, and the complacent, lying politicians and generals who profit from the illegal trade in booty, oil, and captives. Her heroes are not the Chechen resistance - a gangsterish and ill-fed lot - but the long-suffering civilian population, whose natural grit and solidarity has gradually dissolved under the relentless brutality of daily life." - Economist "A personal, unblinking stare at the casualties of war." - Jonathan Kaplan, Los Angeles Times "The silencing of a voice so commonsensical and so courageous should make the new.... Her work mattered worldwide because it was true democracy in action: because, unlike so many politicians in her own country and elsewhere, she genuinely put her life at risk to speak for the little people whose interests are all too often ignored." - Evening Standard (UK) "Anna Politkovskaya... dedicated her career to covering what other parts of the Russian media either ignored or misreported. She told the stories of people, in Chechnya and the Caucasus, who had experienced the horrors and privations of two brutal wars, and a 'peace' that was just as cruel." - Times (UK)"

About the Author

Anna Politkovskaya (1958-2006) received the Golden Pen Award from the Russian Union of Journalists in 2000, the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation, and the Prize for Journalism and Democracy from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden truths 30 Sep 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having read widely about the Chechen conflict it was clear that Anna Politkovskaya was a dissenting voice that the Russians did not want to hear ... hey, they ended up killing her for her outspoken attacks on Putin and his cronies. To hear the real story of the Chechen conflict go no futher than this wonderfully lucid account of what modern warfare does to the ordinary people on both sides. There are heartbreaking accounts of the destruction of Grozny and the impact this had on the elderly and very young, accounts of the inept way in which the Russian authorities deal with the dead, wounded and missing on their own side ... there is literally one pathology department in the entire Russian army that deals with literally thousands of bodies being returned every year.
Propaganda? I think not, but with so little being allowed out and the current state of affairs with Putin and the Russian Federation where else could we get information? Anna was a beacon of hope in this dark and inhuman conflict and should have been celebrated as such. This book reveals why so little was made of her murder. The more people that read this the better.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is Journalism! 9 Dec 2006
By Sergei - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This review applies to Small Corner of Hell and Putin's Russia. I read almost all of Anna's books and reports for Novaya Gazeta. It always struck me how dedicated and fearless (sadly she paid the ultimate price) she was to helping regular civilians living in Chechnya, and not just Chechens but Russians too. Her critics acuse her of being pro-chechen, but she also did plenty of reporting about Russian families who got stuck in the basements of Grozny during Russian carpet bombing campaign and for whom nobody in Russia really cared. She also wrote about regular Russian soldiers who are basically used as modern day slaves (Russian army is not voluntary).

If you are a Western reader trying to understand the roots of this conflict, Politkovskaya's books are probably a wrong choice. For that you have to read some history books addressing Russian history of the last 200 - 300 years. Start with Richard Pipes or something similar. Her books are reports of what's going on there now. As such they are great examples of what the REAL journalism should be. They also serve as a good source on what's really going on in Russia today. They would make a good foundation for a War Crimes Tribunal for both Russian and Chechen sides (or are they really just the same Gang), which hopefully will take place some day.

Finally, as others pointed out here the Publisher Weekly reviewer frankly does not know what he is talking about. He probably thinks Kim Jon Il is a legitimate ruler because 98% of North Koreans "vote" for him, too.
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biased?!!! 25 May 2005
By Anton Gorbounov - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Yes, it is a shock therapy book. It is filled with some of the most cruel and bloody imagery. But this shock therapy is needed, both in Russia and in the West. Because that imagery is not a figment of somebody's imagination nor is it some particularly violent page of the world history book long turned over and forgotten. It's reality. It's happening right now, right at this moment. Even now, 3 years since the book's last interview with Akhmed Zakaev took place. And virtually nobody outside of Chechnya has a good idea what is going on there.

Yes, the author sympathizes with the Chechen CIVILIANS, and the word 'civilians' should always be emphasized. She has nothing good to say about the separatists/terrorists (which do you prefer, by the way?). Except the fact that she - and, upon reading this book, me too, by the way - can understand the ever-increasing number of people who are willing to fight the federal forces 'till the last drop of blood.

Yes, the author is somewhat biased. But, then again, who isn't. And it's hard to be unbiased when you see a 6-year-old boy helping gather the remains of a man who stepped on a landmine into a plastic bag that was bought from those same people who put the landmines there in the first place.

Disregard the (so obviously Russian) naysayers - if someone's brainwashed, it's them. Putin's puppet media does wonders, trust me. Read this book, read something that presents an alternative point of view, and form your own opinion.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More of the same in Russia these days 11 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book and "Chechnya Diary" by Thomas Goltz. I read this one first, which is backwards. If you are going to read both, read "Diary" first. It is more about the first chechen war, and this is more about the second. "Diary" is also good, but is more of an emphasis on the reporters events. This book is more a documentary of the war. If you are only going to read one, I recommend this one.
This is mostly a book about atmosphere. The book has a little history of the conflict, but it is mostly insight into the daily life of the war. To me, that is a plus. There aren't really any battle strategies to discuss, and the actual history is muddled by lack of reporters, and Russian propoganda.
It is obvious that the author is no fan of Putin, and reviewers of her other book have criticized the political bias of her writing, but I didn't see it as a problem. While having little good to say about Putin or the Russian Federal Forces, she does point out that there misdeads on both sides, and the citizens are caught in the middle.
My biggest complaint is lack of pictures.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars America is more interested in Martha Stewart and Britney 5 May 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book was an easy read, but a sad one. The plight of the Chechen people is virtually unknown in the U.S. The author points out that Putin, Kofi Annan, and Bush do not or cannot do anything to stop the violence and illegal behavior in Chechnya. Politkovskaya writes her book in a series of short stories that recount the conditions in Chechnya. She personally witnessed some illegal activities, and documents others from victims. The story is riveting, I read the 224 pages in a 12 hour period, but it is not an action or adventure story, only a depressing one.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Devastating 22 Nov 2007
By Joanna Raczynska - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When asked why I would want to read such a sad book, the reason above and beyond the obvious - for historic background on a war that Americans know so little about and for the human perspective on the ongoing war machine - was that the author was unstoppable. Even after her assassination, her words remain. It is enough to read this book to honor Anna Politkovskaya, a force that scared the powers in Russia so much that they had to kill her. The truth is greater than fear, theirs and our own. So, I urge you to read this book. The first half is a matter of fact account of conversations with ordinary people in Chechnya, everyday citizens now just trying to get by. In the latter part of this remarkable book, the author explains who is responsible for the devastation, the recurring and habitual murders, tortures, rapes, and destruction of the land and culture. She names names.
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