2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Lucid, Balanced, Relevant and Well Informed.,
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This review is from: The Caucasus: An Introduction (Paperback)
The caucasus - an unknown and exotic area, but still part of Europe; we should all understand it better, I told myself. Also, I collect antique rugs from this part of the world so have a special interest for that reason. So I bought this book, thinking that it dealt with both North and South Caucasus and despite initial disappointment that it did not cover such interesting areas as Chechnya and Dagestan, really enjoyed reading it. de Waal manages to transcend many of the complexities, historical, geographic and religious to present the three modern republics in a clear context and illuminates the internecine nature of the various wars and feuds that are, sadly, the most distinguishing characteristic of this region.
A few take-aways from me included the revelation that the Russkies are not, generally nowadays, the bad guys though there is some deeply unpleasant history in (Georgian) Stalinist times involving ethnic cleansing/forced migration of entire peoples and consequential genocide - what a tyrant that man was, arguably the most evil that ever lived. Later Russian regimes seemed positively enlightened about their treatment of these areas. The modern Georgians come across as the main instigators of a number of the problems in this area - Abkazia, South Ossetia, bickering with the Russians etc. - and are trying to up the stakes by involving the West in an area that is really Russia's backyard. This is relevant to the West for a number of reasons, not least being that this has partly given rise to the increasingly problematic nature of Chechnya. One has most sympathy with the Azeris who have been consistently outmanouevred by their Armenian rivals and one wonders why the West is not a little more careful about who it chooses as an ally. The fact that Georgia is Christian and Azerbaijan is Shi'ia is hardly the best basis for a foreign policy.
Through it all de Waal writes in a style which is a delight, presenting things with great clarity and making this book a joy to read. I'd recommend it very highly and am quite happy to look for another book to read as a complement to this covering the Northern (Russian) Caucasus. Just a shame that the same author didn't write one!