Chechnya (Magill Book Reviews)
The British journalist Anatol Lieven has written an illuminating account of the Chechens’ long contention with Russia in CHECHNYA: TOMBSTONE OF RUSSIAN POWER Lieven finds Russia’s humiliation in the 1994-1996 war to have resulted from the general collapse of Russian society and the woeful conditions and complete demoralization of its military forces. Lieven’s study of Chechen traditions emphasizes the elements in Chechen culture that have always energized the Chechens’ fierce resistance to Russia (and the Soviet Union).
Lieven made several trips to Chechnya both before and during the war, interviewing soldiers and civilians on both sides and keeping his head down during the intense Russian bombing. His evaluations of the leaders on both sides are sharp. Ruslan Labazanov, for instance, was a colorful thug who switched over from the Chechen rebels to the Russian side before being killed in 1996. The courageous Chechen commander Shamil Basayev, although guilty of terrorist tactics, emerges as an intelligent and in many ways agreeable patriot, whereas General Dzhokhar Dudayev, president of the Chechen rebel government, impressed Lieven as arrogant and untrustworthy. General Aslan Maskhadov, whom Lieven respects, won the presidential election in 1997.
Lieven deplores the rise to power under liberal capitalism of a corrupt elite that is exploiting Russia’s resources for personal profit while contributing nothing to the economy. He rejects...
(The entire section is 359 words.)
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Chechnya (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Anatol Lieven is a British journalist with a broad knowledge of Russia who has authored a previous study of the Baltic revolution. In Chechnya Lieven has written a penetrating study in three parts of Russia’s misadventures in the Republic of Chechnya. Part 1, “The War,” includes Lieven’s “A Personal Memoir of Grozny and the Chechen War,” an account of the background to the war (1991-1994) and of the war itself, which lasted from December, 1994, to August, 1996. Part 2 conducts a postmortem of the “The Russian Defeat,” analyzing the collapse of state power in Russia and focusing on the social, cultural, and military roots of the Russian defeat. Part 3, “The Chechen Victory,” devotes three chapters to the Chechens’ cultural and religious traditions and Chechnya’s long, contentious relationship with Russia.
Lieven traveled to Chechnya several times both before and during the war, interviewing soldiers and civilians on all sides, recording his impressions of the battered landscape, and hunkering down during bombings. In his introductory memoir, the corruption that pervades the collapsed Soviet Union is well exemplified in Ruslan Labazanov, a Chechen hero because he allegedly murdered a Russian KGB officer. A former martial arts instructor and mafia boss, Labazanov was first a bodyguard in the entourage of General Dzhokhar Dudayev, president of the rebel Chechen government. In 1994 Labazanov switched to the Russian side and two...
(The entire section is 1879 words.)