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Chechnya Diary: A War Correspondent's Story of Surviving the War in Chechnya Hardcover – October 1, 2003


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Frequently Bought Together

Chechnya Diary: A War Correspondent's Story of Surviving the War in Chechnya + Chechnya: Life in a War-Torn Society (California Series in Public Anthropology) + A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312268742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312268749
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,615,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mortar fire booming in the distance, smoke pluming behind the hills and the just-out-of-camera-range repeat of machine-gun fire frustrate and enthrall freelance war correspondent Goltz as he chronicles his attempt to capture on videotape Russia's nearly decade-long war with the republic of Chechnya. Less an evenhanded exploration of the byzantine quilt of atrocity and retribution characterizing the post-Soviet conflict, this is more a personal tale of Goltz's relationship with one town (Samashki) and, in particular, one man: a fixer named Hussein who risks his life and, later, exile, in an effort to help the reporter (on contract assignment for ABC News at first) get the story. With a keen observational eye and an ear for characterizing detail, Goltz describes his encounters with the people of the small Chechen village, which suffered a brutal pounding at the hands of the Russian military in 1995. But the book's most compelling aspects are Goltz's ruminations on the impact he, as a Western journalist, has on the events that he set out to objectively report on. Citing as an epigraph a bit of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle-"the observer affects the observed"-the author proceeds to detail how his work with Hussein, and subsequent departure from Samashki right before a big Russian attack, helped cast him, in the eyes of the villagers, in the role of KGB agent and Hussein as a Russian collaborator. Details of his resulting trip to Hussein's home-in-exile in Kazakhstan round out the tale. Goltz's powerful conclusion: war leaves no innocents, let alone innocence. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

There have been plenty of memoirs written by journalists working in war zones, but rarely has the "tacit death urge" at the heart of war correspondence been as fully explored as it is here. It is foolish, Goltz writes, to describe a war correspondent as courageous, because a journalist deliberately places himself in the line of fire to get the story. This memoir focuses on the war in Chechnya, in particular the massacre at Samashki, the town that, in early 1996, was essentially wiped out by Russian troops. Goltz describes the violence and destruction vividly, but it is his concentration on individual people--including Hussein, the 46-year-old leader of the local resistance, and Isa, the author's streetwise guide--that makes the book memorable. Goltz focuses not on politics but on the people of Chechnya and on the brutality that has become a way of life there. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Author, academic and adventurer Thomas Goltz is a graduate with an MA in Middle East Studies from New York University (1985), and is currently an adjunct professor of Political Science at Montana State University, Bozeman, where he teaches courses on the Post-Soviet Caucasus and the Middle East.

Prior to returning to academia, Goltz spent some twenty years in the field as a print and electronic journalist. He has written news, features and OpEds for most leading US publications, including the New York Times, the Los Angles Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Extended pieces have appeared in Foreign Policy, The National Interest, The Washington Quarterly and other large-format magazines. In terms of electronic media, he has worked for or produced video documentaries on a range of subjects for ABC/Nightline, BBC/Correspondent and CBS/60 Minutes.

His 1998 book Azerbaijan Diary has been hailed as 'essential reading for all post-Sovietologists;' chapters have been published in French, German, Norwegian, Turkish and Persian, and its full publication in Azerbaijani is anticipated in 2011. The second book in his post-Soviet triptych on the Caucasus, Chechnya Diary, appeared in 2003; it was published in Turkish in 2005. The third book in the 'unanticipated triptych' is Georgia Diary, first published in hardback in 2006, and re-issued with an extended update as paperback in 2009. A memoir about Africa in the 1970s, Assassinating Shakespeare, was published issued as in May 2006, and published in Hungarian in 2007.

Both Azerbaijan Diary and Georgia Diary have won accolades on the www.fivebestbooks.com web site.

In 2012, he Kindlized Assassinating Shakespeare.

This was followed by a Kindle version Sumgayit: An Armenian Agitator and the Beginning of the Collapse of the USSR, a book he edited for Aslan Ismayilov, the leading Azerbaijani Prosecutor in the weird show-trial of seven murderous thugs involved in the notorious events of February, 1988 in the then Soviet Azerbaijani city of Sumgayit.
Most recently, he also Kindlized the long-awaited account of The Oil Odyssey, a bizarre motorcycle trip aboard Soviet-era three-wheelers down the 1500-mile proposed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, leading from Azerbaijan across Georgia and into Turkey.

Goltz is fluent or functional in German, Turkish, Azerbaijani, Russian and Arabic, and has lectured at most leading US universities (Columbia, Georgetown, Berkeley, Northwestern, Princeton, etc) and foreign policy-related institutes in Azerbaijan, Canada, Georgia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Born in Japan in 1954, he grew up in North Dakota, and now lives in Montana.

He is currently working on a three part series on independent Azerbaijan.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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His honesty is great and I enjoy his writing style.
dtgBobcat
I like how he puts in some history of events, or people to help us better understand the subject he's telling about without taking one off track.
K. Cline
For one thing, it reads more like an adventure or a novel than straight history.
Heather Lowe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Heather Lowe on February 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Chechnya Diary isn't your typical book about war. For one thing, it reads more like an adventure or a novel than straight history. It's also much more philosophical than I would have expected. The book begins with the quote, "The observer affects the observed," and boy is that statement ever borne out as the story unfolds.
Author Thomas Goltz sneaks into the country to cover the war, and ends up in a small town called Samashki, where he depends on the hospitality of a man named Hussein. Ostensibly there to record the fighting, Goltz soon becomes intimately involved, raising many tough questions about journalistic ethics and the effects of media war coverage.
The book really picks up steam in the second half, as Goltz returns to Chechnya to discover the damage his participation has caused, and tries to rectify it.
It's a thought-provoking book that provides background on the Chechnyan war but also goes far beyond that to dwell on how our shallow media culture affects our understanding of world events (and beyond that, how media coverage actually determines the course of those events as they play out). Goltz is a likable narrator who doesn't shy away from implicating himself when it comes to the sticky moral questions. He brings to life real Chechnyans in such vivid fashion that you'll remember them every time you hear about Chechnya in the news.
I had tears in my eyes as I finished the book. Highly recommended.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Until I read 'Chechnya Diary' I was willing to accept what seemed to be conventional wisdom about the conflict in Chechnya--i.e., just another incidence of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. Mr. Goltz provides another view: i.e., an effort (at least initally) to restore to a displaced people the homeland of which they were deprived by the Stalinst regime. I also found it refreshing to read something by a journalist who is willing to acknowledge that his presence may have an impact on the turn of events. All in all, I think this is a most enlightening book and, like Mr. Goltz's 'Azerbaijan Diary', a terrific adventure story.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Pope on October 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'll state straight away that I count myself a an old and loyal friend of Thomas Goltz, and I'm a journalist too, so my five stars should perhaps seen in that context. But I believe they are well deserved, not least for the personal bravery the author displayed in getting the story. For me, this book's particular value is that for once it strips away the shield that we reporters feel necessary to arm ourselves with to protect ourselves from emotional involvement with the subjects of our reportage. This is the first time I read the account of someone who has faced up to naked realities of this situation. The result is a rare and compelling tale of the relationship between the interviewer and the interviewed, and set against a backdrop that shows how both sides behave and above all feel when trapped in forces outside their control.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Wyeth Larson on January 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Though a true story, laden with facts and names, Chechnya Diary by Thomas Goltz reads much more like a novel than other first person accounts of historical events. Goltz focuses much more on the personal side of the war, that of the Russians, Chechens, and most importantly, himself. The book becomes a point of philosophical reasoning that any person can relate to, war correspondent or not. Despite its factual, dry beginning, the book becomes a small window into the people affected by war, and how one small town copes with its many horrific problems.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is not so much about the war, as it is about the authors experiences in covering it as a reporter. It would certainly be an excellent book for those interested in the life of a war correspondent. My interest was just about the war in general, and I found the book interesting. It took awhile to get going though. Not that the beginning is bad, but I found myself more captivated in the second half. It would have been nice to have some maps and pictures though. Does Golz not own the right to reprint his own works? It certainly is possible.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great description of the authors time documenting the early days of the Chechnyan conflict from before the fighting even started right thru some of its bloodiest and more infamous fights. Also gives a telling look at how free lance journalism works with people risking their lives to film days of fighting to see maybe 15 seconds get used on a broadcast or maybe a longer documentary
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