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The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus Hardcover – February 11, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195177754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195177756
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #910,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"In this first general history of the modern Caucasus to appear in the West...King sheds light on modern tribulations and disputes, including the ongoing war in Chechnya, the Georgian-South Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhazian conflics."--CHOICE


"It is a bold historian who writes a history of the Caucasus.... Some forty mutually unintelligible languages are spoken. Worse for anyone trying to present a coherent narrative, these disparate peoples have very different histories, and only two, the Georgians and Armenians (some would add the Azeris), have a history of statehood consistent enough to be retold as one would retell the history of a West European coutnry."--Donald Rayfield, The Times Literary Supplement


"King picks and chooses events and themes seemingly designed to give proper depth to an understanding of the fiery, violent decade and a half since the collapse of the Soviet Union."--Foreign Affairs


"Recently, a few books have been published about the Caucasus...but King's is the most comprehensive, weaving in the history of all the events from the past two centuries that shaped czarist, Soviet, and Russian relations with the region."--Library Journal


"Charles King has produced a work that is at once informative, eclectic, and immensely satisfying."--Alex van Oss, Eurasianet.org


"Charles King's Ghost of Freedom is a work that's gripping and important, scholarly and wonderfully readable. It not only explains and analyzes one of our world's most strategic regions but also delivers all the exotic and romantic turbulence of these flamboyant warriors and poets and the extraordinary peoples of the Caucasus."-- Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Young Stalin


"In a single volume, King manages to pull off the seemingly impossible task of presenting a portrait of the region as a whole, and one that is wonderfully written as it simultaneously informs, entertains, challenges, and stimulates."--Middle East Strategy at Harvard


"This vividly written and impressively researched history is an excellent introduction to a much discussed but little understood region."-- Anatol Lieven, King's College London


"The Ghost of Freedom is a brilliant tour through the past and present of a critical borderland between East and West. Enlivened by compelling anecdotes, colorful characters, and first-hand reportage that bring the Caucasus to life, this remarkable book is a highly original and beautifully written analysis of the forces that have shaped the region, from a whirlwind of imperial conquest and nation-building to Soviet engineering, mass deportations, and the bitter consequences of imperial collapse: ethnic wars, banditry, refugees, and misrule. It is an indispensable guide to the Caucasus-- and to contemporary global affairs."-- Robert D. Crews, author of For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central Asia


"This is a rare work with something for all readers...King's ability to tease out the broader historical patterns in all their complexities and subtleties is remarkable. At the same time, he possesses the sort of keen eye for detail and telling stories that bring the region truly to life in all its vibrant color." --Europe: Early Modern and Modern


"King has produced a work that is remarkable for its breadth of coverage, the depth of the author's insights, and the eloquence of the text. It is hard to imagine how the goal King set himself could have been better achieved." --Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


About the Author


Charles King is Ion Ratiu Professor of Romanian Studies, Professor of International Affairs, and Professor of Government at Georgetown University. He is the author of The Black Sea: A History and The Moldovans, and his writing has appeared in The Times Literary Supplement and Foreign Affairs.

More About the Author

Charles King is Professor of International Affairs and Government at Georgetown University. He is the author of six books on European history and politics, including Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul (W. W. Norton, 2014), Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams (W. W. Norton, 2011), which received the National Jewish Book Award, and The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (Oxford University Press, 2008). He lectures widely on eastern Europe, social violence, and ethnic politics, and has worked with broadcast media including CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, the History Channel, and MTV. A native of the Ozark hill country, King studied history and politics at the University of Arkansas and Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By David M. Dougherty VINE VOICE on October 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Frankly, I found this book well written but on such a complex subject that it was difficult to keep in mind all the ethnic players, their situations, politics, languages and characteristics from page to page. It may be an easy read, but difficult to comprehend. I noticed that none of the other reviewers attampted to offer a brief synopsis of the chapters or contents. I won't either, since I have no idea how to briefly state what the author does in many pages and where everything seems to be in flux.

At one time the Muslim Circassians take one side and the Christian Armenians another, then twenty years later everything is reversed. I found the hodge-podge of ethnic enclaves and large number of languages, some very different from the others, various political orientations, attitudes toward slavery (that continued into the 20th century), unique off-shoots of Islam and Christianity that often seem pagan or animistic, fascinating but difficult to grasp in a single book (or in a single course of study.) The Caucasus makes the Balkans seem trivial in comparison.

Nonetheless, this work is extremely useful in bringing the reader up to date on the region and giving him an appreciation of its history and complexity. One can readily see that to choose sides is to make enemies, and with states and borders having been very recent inventions, one is cautioned to tread lightly here with one's western ideas and concepts.

I was sorry to see that the book does not go back to ancient times as the history of the Armenians and Georgia are particularly fascinating. The Armenians were a substantial power from 260BCE to 72 CE, then again from 1048 to 1375 CE.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By frothy on April 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Ghost of Freedom is a much needed book about a little known region. It's ideal as an introduction to the Caucasus for the general reader who doesn't know a lot about the area.
One minor complaint is I wish the author had included more history of the Caucasus before the Russian conquest of the early 19th century. It seems all books about the region take that event as their starting point.
But that's a minor quibble. All in all a very informative book.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 21, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The main historical focus of this book is the late 1700s to early 2000s. Like other reviewers this somewhat dissapointed me. The Caucasus play a role going all the way back to the Greeks and further. Little information is given regarding these earlier times that I did not encounter in other books. In my opinion this is ultimately why the book is lacking: everything is predicated on ethnic and national identities but the reader cannot relate fully to the experience.

Admittedly this is a tough region to write about, similar to the Balkans in some ways. The author does a good job looking at all sides of the issues. The book really excels when discussing the imperial Russian methods for control of the Caucasus in the 1800s. Much insight into a topic I knew little about.

Another great topic was the Mensheviks and the rise of socialist ideas in places like Georgia. Stalin is covered in depth and fleshed out very well to Mr. King's credit. The author does a decent job with current events up to around 5 or 6 years ago. Both Chechen wars are discussed as part of the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union.

One glaring ommision for me: the Armenian genocide. For many Americans this is the single biggest historical event relating to the Caucus region. The author leads up to it, gives a page summary of how the Armenians and Turks view it differently, and then the fallout of the Armenian diaspora. The event itself is simply not covered in any depth... completely baffling. Does the author expect us to go out to Wikipedia or something?

Also in discussion of the slave trade, especially in relation to the Ottoman Empire. The idea is that somehow many of these slaves were better off leaving the Caucasus and being sold off in Constantinople. Really? Bear in mind that Mr.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Outside Food on May 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author describes the past three centuries of the Caucasus, making sense of the bewildering patchwork of regions, ethnic areas, languages, and countries. The region was known in the 19th century as a mysterious and somewht lawless area attracting adventurers and vacationers, then became famous for beautiful women, then genocide of Armenians, and now the Russian-Chechnian conflict. The author has spent much time in the area and is on firm footing when describing recent events. There is not much about pre-18th century history, however, which is a shame because some of it is fascinating.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Ghost of Freedom provides the same accessibility combined with academic rigor that King delivered with his History of the Black Sea. Useful for the student of the region as well as an uninitiated reader seeking an intrduction, the Ghost of Freedom is both readable and scholarly. For the reader who is looking to "catch up" on the historical events that shaped the volatile and strategically significant region that is the Caucasus today, this is the ideal book. Standing at a geostrategic and economic crossroads, the Caucasus is a region that anyone who is academically or professionally concerned with geostrategy in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East simply cannot ignore, and King's work represents a brilliant and relevant survey.
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