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Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power Paperback – June 10, 1999

3.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A correspondent for the Financial Times, Anatol Lieven spent much time in Chechnya, the postage-stamp-sized Caucasus republic whose break from Russia in 1994 precipitated a major war (one that Russia lost). Lieven looks into the long, troubled history of Russian-Chechen relations, noting that each side despised the other for largely cultural reasons (the Chechens have long been involved in organized crime in major Russian cities, whereas Russians have long tried to strip Chechnya of its resources). He notes that Chechen society has historically been militarized (one Armenian said to Lieven, "The men are always fighting and the women are cooking for them, nursing their wounds, and bringing up their children"), making the mountain people a formidable foe. In the meanwhile, writes Lieven, the Russian military suffered from low morale and from corruption of various kinds: Russian field soldiers sold their guns to Chechen guerrillas for vodka and currency, while Russian officers stole their soldiers' pay and Russian politicians skimmed off the top. This is an extraordinary look at a little-known conflict. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist Lieven (The Baltic Revolution) offers something of a three-course menu in his latest book. The first is a commanding eyewitness account of the recent Chechen war and the personalities and power maneuvers surrounding it, followed by his analysis of the breakdown of the Russian military and, indeed, of the entire Russian political structure after the Soviet Union's collapse. Third is a condensed history of the Chechen (and North Caucasus) region?its people, culture and attitudes, concluding with the author's prognoses. As his subtitle might suggest, Lieven's emphasis is on issues of Russian power?Chechnya's strategic and symbolic significance, the breakdown of legitimacy, mismanagement and pervasive corruption within the Russian state, from Yeltsin down, which destroyed public and military morale. Russian troops who survived by theft while fighting a guerrilla war they had no training for ended up asking why they were fighting outside Russia, risking death without pay, only to inflate remote political egos and fortunes. Lieven shows enormous respect for the Chechens, whose memory of Stalin's mass deportations between 1944 and 1958 galvanized their resolve to be free. Although helpful to understanding Russia and Chechnya today and rich in firsthand information, the work's three main themes remain unsatisfactorily integrated, while Lieven's indictment of post-Soviet Russia begs for a larger work, with Chechnya as one telling chapter.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (June 10, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300078811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300078817
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,998,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Mr. Lieven does an excellent job in his analysis of the Chechen conflict, but readers should use caution against potential bias. During his time in Chechnya, the author seems to have grown quite affectionate toward the Chechens. This leads to the Russians being painted as the villain (not that they are angels, but neither are the Chechens). However, Mr. Lieven does provide a fascinating insight into the war. I love his miniature analyses of the evolution of modern war. This book is not for beginners, but few Yale publishings are. Beginnners should look for a Chechnya book from a mass-market publisher.
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Format: Paperback
Lieven's book is sporadically brilliant at telling the story of why the Russians failed to conquer Chechnya, and why they'll probably fail again. In particular, he brings to the fore how russian foreign policy is dictated by the internal political struggles amongst the rich and greedy; and how the russian military suffers from a serious lack of morale.
But the book has serious problems: Lieven assumes his readers are as knowledgeable as him. For instance, Lieven talks of all these important figures in the Chechnyan war, but often doesn't bother to introduce them. He doesn't explain who General Dudayev was until about 50 pages through the book. The legendary exploits of a great chechnyan rebel, Shamil, aren't discussed till near the very end of the book. Lieven doesn't discuss the history of Russian involvement in chechnya till two-thirds of the way through the book.
There's no damn map, so often you have no idea what took place where.
If you want a good short introduction to the chechnya conflict, this isn't it. You're better off starting off with something a little simpler, that actually tells the story in a relatively linear and straightforward manner.
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Format: Hardcover
Lieven gives a vivid account from the front line in Chechnya during the recent war. He spoke to the main protagonists on both sides and also to the common soldiers or fighters. He offers many lively examples of Russian incompetence and corruption and writes admiringly but not uncritically about the courage and tenacity of the Chechens who fought this once mighty military force. Lieven also analyses thoroughly the broader military and political reasons for the Russian defeat and traces its causes to the general state of political decay in present day Russia. He offers the historical background of the very troubled Russian-Chechen relationship. He draws many interesting parallels with other political systems where corrupt and incompetent leaders have remained in power over longer periods of time e.g. in certain Latin American countries. Lieven writes critically about western analysts such as the historian Richard Pipes who still tend to regard Russia as an inherently expansionist power. Military expansion, in his view, is simply not on the agenda for a very long time, if only due to the very sorry state of the Russian military and of politics generally. A very insightful book, very rewarding.
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By A Customer on July 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is one of the most important works for those who read, write and think about any of the following:
Capitalism;
RMA Issues;
Nation-States;
Revolutions;
Post-Soviet Society;
Islam;
Tribal Society;
East-West Divisions;
The Rule of Law;
War;
and Human Rights.
There is very little that this book does not at some point find a way to address. That is my only real problem with the text: Like its author, it has a way of involving many different ideas that may, or may not, actually hold together to make a compelling argument. However, unlike other authors' attempts to weave this kind of tapestry, this book succeeds more often that it confounds.
I think it is the first book I have read that accurately captured just what was going on in Chechnya in terms of what had happened in Moscow. This is more than a typical piece of modern war-correspondent work. This is an author who understands both sides of the conflict, and not only in terms of the tactical and strategic pictures. More than a blow-by-blow account of Russian brutality (which it contains as well), it moves beyond the normal, facile explanations of Russian behavior in the Caucasus.
Would the normal view of an expansionist Russian still account for the ways in which the first Chechen campaign was conducted? Only partly, and it would be wholly unsatisfying to stop there. To answer this question requires a deeper understanding of modern Russia than you would get from the traditional explanations coming from Conquest et. al.
What Lieven has done here is to capture more than the status on the ground. He has achieved the first real and complex portrait of the Russia of Boris Yeltsin, the Russian army in its post-Soviet incarnation, and one of the best examples of the kind of analysis that needs to be done on modern armies who must confront ancient societies.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Professor Lieven does an interesting look at how Chechnya has impacted Russia in his look at the war of 1994-1996. It is very well done in detail and looks at the historical and practical reasons for the Russian defeat in the war. As other reviewers have pointed out there is a bias from the author and it is not for beginners. During his time in Chechnya he has become a fan of the Chechens and it is obvious in the way that he characterizes both parties in the war. This is a very intense and widely ranging scholarly work looking at factors including military, sociology, economics, religion, politics and history related to the conflict. The author makes a very strong point related to the character of the Chechens on religion and culture and why the fight in the war as a religion older than Islam. For those who really want to dive into why the Russians struggled in this conflict and how it persists into today this is a great book to use.
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