The jagged peaks of the Caucasus Mountains have hosted a rich history of diverse nations, valuable trade, and incessant warfare. But today the region is best known for atrocities in Chechnya and the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.
In Let Our Fame Be Great, journalist and Russian expert Oliver Bullough explores the fascinating cultural crossroads of the Caucasus, where Europe, Asia, and the Middle East intersect. Traveling through its history, Bullough tracks down the nations dispersed by the region's last two hundred years of brutal warfare. Filled with a compelling mix of archival research and oral history, Let Our Fame Be Great recounts the tenacious survival of peoples who have been relentlessly invaded and persecuted and yet woefully overlooked.
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.