Robert Chenciner, a senior member St. Antony’s College at University of Oxford, and author of Dagestan: Tradition and Survival (Palgrave Macmillan, Caucasus World Series, 1997), reviews Alisa Ganieva’s much-discussed book, The Holiday Mountain.
Walls should be a wonderful construct for this story. The walls visible from outer space are the Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall across north Britain, the triple walls of Constantinople, the Sassanian Persian walls of Derbent, and others in Dagestan. In modern times there rose the former Berlin Wall, the West Bank Wall, and the Belfast Wall. So the mythical wall of the title is in rich company.
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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.
Continue reading “Book Review: Georgi M. Derluguian. Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in The Caucasus. A World-System Biography.”
We all remember Lev Tolstoi’s ‘Khadzhi-Murat’: a tragic story of double loyalties, love, challenged by fidelity and vice versa. Perhaps that would be no exaggeration to say that every reader of ‘Khadzhi-Murat’ must have gone through the same torturing feeling of curiosity and puzzlement trying to uncover the real incentives for Khadhi-Murat’s actions, and understand what this mysterious character really cared about and longed for.
Miсhael Khodarkovsky’s ‘Bitter Choices: Loyalty and Betrayal in Russian Conquest of the North Caucasus’ gives one the opportunity to do so. Khodarkovsky’s absolutely compelling read focuses on a character very similar to that of Khadzhi-Murat. Semen Atarschikov, of Chechen/Kumyk and Cossack/Nogai descent, is a mysterious figure in the annals of Russia’s North Caucasus quest. Raised as a Chechen, Atarshikov was rooted both in Russian and Chechen cultures, and it was his knowledge of both languages as well as Arabic and Tatar (think of Khadzhi-Murat again) that brought him quick promotion in the Russian army which he joined at the age of sixteen, in 1823 to serve as an interpreter. We come across Atarschikov’s portrait in v.5 of Vasilij Potto’s ‘Kavkazskaia voina: Vremia Paskevicha, ili Bunt Chechni’: Continue reading “Book Review: Michael Khodarkovsky. Bitter Choices: Loyalty and Betrayal in the Russian Conquest of the North Caucasus”