A visceral and unflinching memoir of a young Russian soldier’s experience in the Chechen wars.
In 1995, Arkady Babchenko was an eighteen-year-old law student in Moscow when he was drafted into the Russian army and sent to Chechnya. It was the beginning of a torturous journey from naïve conscript to hardened soldier that took Babchenko from the front lines of the first Chechen War in 1995 to the second in 1999. He fought in major cities and tiny hamlets, from the bombed-out streets of Grozny to anonymous mountain villages. Babchenko takes the raw and mundane realities of war the constant cold, hunger, exhaustion, filth, and terror and twists it into compelling, haunting, and eerily elegant prose.
Acclaimed by reviewers around the world, this is a devastating first-person account of war that brilliantly captures the fear, drudgery, chaos, and brutality of modern combat. An excerpt of One Soldier’s War was hailed by Tibor Fisher in The Guardian as “right up there with Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and Michael Herr’s Dispatches.” Mark Bowden, bestselling author of Black Hawk Down, hailed it as “hypnotic and terrifying” and the book won Russia’s inaugural Debut Prize, which recognizes authors who write despite, not because of, their life circumstances.
“If you haven’t yet learned that war is hell, this memoir by a young Russian recruit in his country’s battle with the breakaway republic of Chechnya, should easily convince you.” —Publishers Weekly
If you haven't yet learned that war is hell, this memoir by a young Russian recruit in his country's battle with the breakaway republic of Chechnya, should easily convince you. And yet Babchenko, who was drafted in 1995 as a second-year law student for the first Chechnya campaign, actually volunteered for the second one in 1999 for reasons even he is hard put to explain. Written shortly after his discharge from the army, the book burns with the need to tell of his personal ordeal and that of his fellows as young, innocent and woefully inexperienced grunts condemned to a miserable life ruled by shell-shocked superiors and perpetual threats. Here there are no good guys or moral high purpose "No one, from the regimental commander to the rank and file soldier," Babchenko assures us, "understands why he is here"; one fights only for the fellow soldier next to him. Babchenko, now a journalist, demonstrates genuine literary ability, especially in the earlier vignette-like chapters, but readers will glean little about the conflict's political and historical context. Redundancy weakens a narrative that otherwise would have benefited from brevity.