Synopses & Reviews
The barbaric, terrorist siege in the summer of 2004 that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent children in Beslan did not begin either there or in the take-over of a Moscow theatre in 2002. As Andrew Meier explains in this utterly compelling account, the most recent Chechen war actually broke out on New Year's Eve in 1994 when Boris Yeltsin sent hundreds of tanks to the center of the city of Grozny in an effort to quell popular demands for independence from Russia. Six years later, Meier, braving great personal danger, traveled to the scene of one of the largest civilian massacres carried out by Russian troops, reporting on the carnage in which over 60 Chechen civiliansincluding a pregnant woman and many elderlywere brutally slaughtered in one of the war's most horrific "mop-up" operations. Days after a Chechen woman became the conflict's first female suicide bomber, Meier visited this war-torn province, encountering, among others, kidnappers, Wahhabi Islamists aligned with the Taliban, and a stream of Russian mothers arriving at the morgue to identify their fallen soldier sons. is Meier's stunning report from a region where the death toll has already exceeded 100,000 people, and a book that attempts to comprehend what compels men to shoot children in the back.
"Meier was Time's Moscow correspondent from 1996 to 2001, during which time Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, was reduced to rubble. This compact summary of the wars fought there (one under Yeltsin, one under Putin) inevitably makes grim reading. It is packed with firsthand reportage that draws one in immediately, but Meier also provides a running history lesson: various Caucasian nationalities converted to Islam in the 17th century; were brutally conquered by the Russians in the 19th; deported under Stalin and returned to their homelands under Khrushchev; and suppressed when attempting autonomy. Even with Meier's careful tracing, the full motivations for both sides of the recent wars are still not fully comprehensible, although there is some finger-pointing at Wahhabi Islam, and the links between the Chechens and various Islamic terrorist groups are disquieting. The Russian military, however, is shown as the epitome of savagery and ineptness, with deliberate massacres of civilians and destruction of Grozny. Meier has procured more interviews with victims than with the Russian brass or rank and file, but the final sense is of a situation more the Russians' making than anyone else's. No matter where the pieces eventually fall, as a work of summary historical analysis mixed with quick-hit war reportage, the book fills an important gap." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Andrew's Meier riveting portrait of Chechnya, a land ravaged by indescribable carnage, enables us to understand the origins of this brutal conflict like no other recent work.
About the Author
Andrew Meier, the author of Black Earth: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall, is a recent Fellow at the New York Public Library's Cullman Center for Scholars & Writers and currently a writer-in-residence at the New School University. He lives in New York City.