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Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys Among the Defiant People of the Caucasus Hardcover – August 3, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this grim exploration of some of history's less publicized tragedies, Bullough, who has reported for Reuters from the Caucasus, covers two centuries of conflict between a remorseless Russian military machine and the proud, warlike, anarchic peoples of the Caucasus Mountains. The crimes he chronicles are vast--the 1864 expulsion of a million Circassians; Stalin's deportations of "Mountain Turks" to Central Asia; Putin's "war of complete savagery" in Chechnya. Bullough tries to convey both their epic scale and their impact on individual victims. His firsthand reporting of the Chechnya conflict is especially evocative, and he adds softer interludes that humanize the material: a survey of Russian Romantic writings about the Caucasus, a vivid profile of 19th-century Chechen guerrilla leader Imam Shamil, visits with Caucasian expatriates. Nevertheless, this overstuffed saga of suffering and injustice can grow dreary. The brutality of Russia's army and officialdom is eternal, while the many ethnicities they oppress blur together, and we get no vivid sense of the cultures that inspire their dogged resistance and nonconformity. 16 pages of photos, maps.
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Financial Times
"[An] impressive debut....Wonderful travel history....With this impassioned volume [Bullough] has struck a blow for the glory of the Caucasus and helped to give voice to the voiceless."

New Statesman
“Bullough should be congratulated on his brave and tireless investigations into an under-reported region of the world.”

Sunday Times(UK)
"The Caucasus is a frontier land of high, jagged snow peaks, ruined flint fortresses and pine forests that have hidden centuries of bare-rock rebellion by warrior nations. Waves of uprising, conquest, deportation, exile and resettlement have pitted the peoples of the north Caucasus against Russia for hundreds of years and continue to do so still. Oliver Bullough’s book is a painstaking, sensitively reported effort to knit together their lost history."

"How much do you want or need to understand about a far-off place of which we know little? More than you would think, to judge by the enthusiasm of Oliver Bullough, who brings us exciting news, presented as short, gripping stories that tell of the terrible things that happen to people caught up in constant warfare, who have long struggled for survival and suffered not only diaspora but enforced deportation. 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."

Norman Stone, Director of the Center for Russian Studies at Bilkent University, and author of The Atlantic and Its Enemies and World War One
“This wonderful, moving book flashes backwards and forwards over a terrain almost impossible to survey, and manages the feat.”

Orlando Figes, author of The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia and A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924
“Lively and impassioned… a tragically neglected corner of our world.”

Let Our Fame Be Great is a treat. It is finely bound, with excellent maps, and Bullough draws you irresistibly into his narrative, fusing reportage, history and travelogue in colourful, absorbing prose..... He tells a brilliant story, interweaving personal reportage with impressive reading, both in the Caucasus and its far-flung diaspora.”

Kirkus (Starred Review)
“A gripping, often sanguinary account of the history, culture and current status of the people for whom the Caucasus has been home, battleground and slaughterhouse… this is a fearless examination of a brutal place… A remarkably illuminating window into a world of neglected people and deleted history.”

Independent (UK)

The Economist (UK)
“Oliver Bullough’s first book marks him out as a distinguished researcher, observer and narrator....His research is formidable.”
Financial Times (London)
“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.”
The New Republic
“[I]mpressively researched and devastating… Bullough’s book combines intimate personal accounts, formidable historical research, and first-hand observations collected during years of reporting in the region into a heart-scraping testimony of Russia’s systematic and deliberate brutality in the North Caucasus—and the cruel acts of terror that it continues to provoke.”
Christian Science Monitor
“[C]ompelling. . . . As Bullough dashes and darts us through the amazing and forgotten episodes of the region, we see that this is a book of discoveries… cultural history filtered through the eyes and heart of a bright and earnest young writer… fresh and vital, admiring and frustrated.”
The Sunday Times (London) Books of the Year
“Oliver Bullough…clearly put his heart and soul into his grand, furious Let Our Fame Be Great.”
Times Literary Supplement (London)
Let Our Fame Be Great is a beautifully written piece of reportage intertwined with historical narrative.”
The Scotsman
“[A]s Bullough shows time and again in a book that effortlessly mixes on-the-spot reportage and a wide-ranging history, though the Caucasian highlanders' suffering has been great, their fame has not.”
The Guardian (London)
“Raw, romantic, almost Byronic”
The Explorer’s Journal
“[Bullough] bravely entered this dangerous, haunted region to learn about and tell the sad, brutal story of war, genocide, and survival. . . . More than simply chronicle the destruction, Bullough explores the culture, literature, history, and personalities to present a more rounded portrait of the region."

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (August 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465021840
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465021840
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #957,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Patrick McGuire on November 15, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This History of the Caucuses has been very well written and researched. Oliver Bullough gives a great picture of Chechnya especially during the 1990's with war against Russia. But Bullough also delves into the history of the entire region in a most readable and delightful manner. He does a very good job of explaining the many different peoples, cultures and religions. He also talks about the Diaspora and the many groups and their forced migrations under the Czars, the Soviet Union and Russia. These people are not easy to understand as knowledge of each group, religion, culture and language will go a long way to a better understanding. Bullough goes a long way of solving this mystery. It makes me glad that I found this book and was able to read because here is many groups of people that we are called after (Caucasian) and we in the West have no idea what they are like and how little in common we have with them. I recommend this book to anyone who is serious about History.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Paul E. Richardson VINE VOICE on October 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Over the years, we have reviewed several fine books on the Caucasus. This new work by Bullough joins the ranks of Babchenko's One Soldier's War and Seierstad's moving The Angel of Grozny: Orphans of a Forgotten War as a work that is both essential and good.

The difference with Bullough's work, however, is that he takes on all of the Caucasus, not just Chechnya. He is a journalist who has been there, on the ground, in Chechen refugee camps, at the Beslan massacre, walking around villages of resettled Balkars. His goal is to track down and retell the stories of peoples displaced (and sometimes replaced) by wars and deportations. The Circassians, Balkars, Nogais, Ingush, Karachais and others all have their voices heard here. And he tells the stories by traveling there, by meeting people and relating to us first-hand what he sees, what the air smells like, how people's lives - upended generations ago - are still unsettled and unjust.

Of course, to support all this, Bullough paints in plenty of back-story, on the history of each nation's majesty or tragedy, on how things have gotten to where they are. But it is never dry or boring, because Bullough writes as if he is there, learning everything right alongside us. The result is a very intimate, effective, contemporary history of a part of the world that is little understood and now rarely traveled to. Invaluable.

As reviewed in Russian Life
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 7, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Do you, for example, know about the Circassian diaspora? Stalin's ethnic cleansing of the mountain Turks (the Karachais, Chechens, Inguish, and Balkars)? Shamil, the charismatic 19th-Century Sufi leader of the Dagestanis? The historical roots of the mayhem and terrorism that have convulsed Chechnya, spilling over into Beslan and Moscow?

Before reading this book, I knew distressingly little. For much of modern Western history, the peoples of the Caucasus (the mountains that stretch between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea) have been isolated and ignored. But for more than two centuries, Russia has waged war against them, alternately trying to subordinate them, uproot them, or exterminate them. In 1864, in "the first modern genocide on European soil," Russia drove about 1.2 million Circassians from their native lands, killing about 300,000 in the process. In 1943 and 1944, Stalin massacred or exported to the Russian steppes the native Turkish peoples of the North Caucasus, and then expunged them from the official encyclopedia of the peoples of the Soviet Union. After letting the Chechans return during the 1980s, the Soviets reversed course and in 1994 invaded Chechnya, igniting the violence and disorder that have continued since. And those episodes are the more notorious ones - the tip of the iceberg of the hell that has been the Caucasus.

Oliver Bullough is a British journalist, who was introduced to the relatively unknown history of the peoples of the Caucasus in covering Chechnyan terrorism in Moscow. His telling of their story in LET OUR FAME BE GREAT is more journalistic than conventional history. As a result, it is more engaging than all but the very best-written history books.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Danusha V. Goska on July 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the afternoon of April 15, 2013, I was listening to the radio. An announcer interrupted the broadcast to report that there had been a blast at the Boston Marathon. He was careful not to attribute the bombing to any one group - because we are all afraid of appearing to stereotype one group as terrorists. Indeed, he insisted, the Boston blast might have been caused by a ruptured gas pipe. After Chechen refugees Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were identified as the Boston Marathon bombers, one of my students said to me, "See? Everyone thought it was Muslim terrorists. But now it turns out it was Russians!"

My student should read Oliver Bullough's "Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys Among the Defiant People of the Caucasus." So should many people.

"Let Our Fame Be Great" is a heartbreaking, informative, recommended book. I was often in tears while reading it. I'm very glad I learned what Bullough had to teach. LOFBG is a travelogue through the history, literature, and current events of the Caucasus. This little-known corner of the world should be better known.

I have Circassian and Armenian friends. I've been to Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey, three countries bordering the Black Sea. I remember reading about the Russian destruction of Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, in the New York Times. Even so, I knew virtually nothing about the material Bullough introduces in his book.

The Caucasus is a spit of land between the Black and the Caspian Seas, between Russia to the north and Turkey and Iran to the south. When Turkey was Europe's "sick man" and its power was declining, Russia moved south to fill the vacuum. Russia wanted access to the Black Sea, because its own ports freeze over in winter.
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