Chechens I Used to Know

The typical vision of Chechnya: a violence-filled land of terrorists fighting for independence from the Kremlin’s iron grip. The reality is a land torn between nationalism and a Russian civic identity.

Issue: May-June 2011

Ilyas Akhmadov and Miriam Lanskoy, The Chechen Struggle: Independence Won and Lost (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 288 pp., $35.00.

German Sadulaev, I am a Chechen!, trans. Anna Gunin (London: Harvill Secker, 2010), 256 pp., £12.99.

Robert W. Schaefer, The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Gazavat to Jihad (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010), 303 pp., $59.95.

[amazon 031338634X full]CHECHNYA IS a poisoned word. To the average reader of the foreign news pages, it holds associations of car bombs, drunken rampages of Russian soldiers, even severed heads and fingers. The moment an explosion killed several dozen people at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport on January 24, 2011, “Chechens” were immediately invoked—with the term “terrorists” not far behind. Chechnya is put in the same category as Somalia, a black hole of depressing headlines.

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