Book Review: Georgi M. Derluguian. Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in The Caucasus. A World-System Biography.


I am approaching the review of this book with a lot of excitement and thrill. First of all, this is by far my favorite book about the Caucasus. Second, it is one of the few (and spectacular) examples of applying world-system analysis to post-Soviet material, and perhaps, the first  work doing that for contemporary Caucasus.

I should be honest, I failed all my homeworks and everything else when I came across this book: I could not stop reading until I finished the last line with along with the first rays of morning sun throwing light upon my sleeplessly desolate room. It is an incredibly compelling narrative, and the book is as dynamic as an adventure novel – which, to some extent, it is.

The text falls into two main parts: the socio-anthropological observations, dressed in the form of journalist reports or field diaries; and the analytical part where the heavy artillery of world-system analysis comes into play.  The narrative is focused on Musa Shanibov, a political functioner of Kabardino-Balkariya. Derluguian traces his life story and his rise to a significant figure in the Chechen revolution, and, peculiarly, finds that it is Shanibov’s interest in sociology, and, specifically, in Bourdieu’s works, which can largely explain Shanibov’s trajectory.

Thomas de Waal | openDemocracy
Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus is an extraordinary book by any standards. . . . What the author has written is no less than a theoretical and empirical explanation of the late Soviet and early post-Soviet society that spins out a highly sophisticated explanation of how the Soviet Union broke up and why nationalist conflict broke out in the Caucasus.”


Shanibov’s story gets further inscribed in to the larger sociopolitical context of post-Stalin to post-Soviet Russia, where it serves as a pivotal element for uncovering topics such as ethnic identities in the North Caucasus, the rise of extremism, the vectors of politics in post-Soviet North Caucasus, and, finally, the effects of the dynamics of personal and public on the development of the Northern Caucasus.

Derluguian’s book will probably become one of the most often quoted in this blog since it applies world-system analysis – which I will do as well. So the next entry on ‘The Caucasus Calling’ will be dedicated to world-system analysis – the primary method I am going to be using in my research.

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