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One Soldier's War

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  332 ratings  ·  44 reviews
One Soldier’s War is a visceral and unflinching memoir of a young Russian soldier’s experience in the Chechen wars that brilliantly captures the fear, drudgery, chaos, and brutality of modern combat. An excerpt of the book was hailed by Tibor Fisher in the Guardian as “right up there with Catch-22 and Michael Herr’s Dispatches,” and the book won Russia’s inaugural Debut Pr ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by Grove Press (first published 2006)
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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
If I were to direct the film version of this war memoir I'll start with a Tarantino-like scene, really strong, the kind that would make moviegoers regret coming in late from the long line at the popcorn counter. Act 1, Scene 1 would be from pages 138 to 139 of the book. Close up shots of the haggard, dirty faces of the young, mostly teenage Russian soldiers. Not too far are the enemy Chechens--

"Then the Chechens start killing our guys they took prisoner. They shout from the end of the street to
Edward Lengel
Superb, and one of the best war memoirs I've read. Babchenko's account realistically reveals the modern Russian army and its wars in Chechnya--but fundamentally his perspective rings true for soldiers' experiences of every nation and every generation.
This is a hell of book, a first hand account of an 18 year old conscript in the Chechen war of 1996, torn from his mother's apron strings and brutalised beyond belief by both the training and the fighting. The most telling effect of the horror is that Babchenko chooses to return to the battlefield as a contract soldier to fight in the second conflict, not because he believes in the war but because it has become part of him and he cannot stay away. Later, still, he goes back as a journalist and s ...more
Maybe it's the Russian translation, but the book just doesn't flow very well. It's an autobiography about the Chechan wars. The narrator is around 18 at the beginning of the book. Right off the bat, he sees some gruesome things (dead bodies in the drinking water, eating a dog because they are hungry, a man strangled by his own intestines) and discusses how they are starved and beaten during training by their own officers. The military sucked there, but civilian life wasn't all that great either. ...more
Probably the most brutal book I've ever read, and an excellent war memoir. A substantial part the book deals with the author's experience behind the front lines, waiting to be sent to war. Ironically, I found this part of the book the most terrifying, as it describes in detail the bullying and beating (sometimes to death) of the soldiers by their own officers. The complete lack of any discipline, the outright barbarism and the total corruption of this rag-tag gang posing as an army is shocking, ...more
A hauntingly stark, but captivating read of a Russian Soldier's experience in the first and second Chechen wars. Arkady Arkadyovich is an educated, insightful author whose tale covers his two tours as a conscript and contract Soldier. His experience in the Russian Army is at once familiar and foreign. Familiar in the confusion and uncertainty in combat, the everlasting camaraderie of Soldiering, the love between Soldiers, the difficulty of recounting combat to those who have not experienced it, ...more
Great account of both wars in Chechnya, from a Russian journalist who, for reasons unknown to him, volunteered for the second, and then came back as a journalist to report on Chechnya after the war (spoiler: people still die in droves, but Russia just fakes a layer of fake peace on top of reality).

As it's more therapy than novel the structure is 'patchy', the author wrote what he had to write, with little regard for 'setting up scene', or whether the stories are connected. Since this is reality,
A very strong revealing testament to the Russian experience of war. I do feel that the stories (especially the longer ones - the shorter ones were much more effective) were somewhat redundant and repetitive. I would have liked to read about more individual episodes and events, rather than the same endless description of cold, suffering, fear, hunger, brutality, and listlessness, though I'm sure that is the point Babchenko is making. Many of his thoughts and conclusions echo those expressed by Ju ...more
Olivia Riddell
"Fear is exhausting." Arkady Babchenko truly illuminates the darkness and fear of being a Russian soldier during the Chechen Wars. This book is definitely not a light read as the author recounts his brutal and deeply disturbing experiences in the army. A recurring theme I saw in this book, for which can probably be seen in many soldier memoirs, is confusion and misunderstanding. No one knew why they were fighting or saw any sense in it. It was definitely an enlightening and thought-provoking boo ...more
This is a very sad and true tale of life in modern day Russia. That is, life, if you are a conscript in the Russian Federal Army. The author laments days, turning into weeks, turning into months, turning in to years of misery at the hand of sadistic senior, non and commissioned officers. The practice of Dedovshchina (described below) having thought to predate 1917's Bolshovic Revolution, has kept the Russian military in chains for the past 240 years. Indeed had old man winter not snuffed out bot ...more
AdultNonFiction Teton County Library
Teton County Library Call No: 947.5208 BABCHENKO
Kevin's rating: 4 stars

In 1994, three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the tiny mountain Republic of Chechnya attempted to take advantage of the disarray that existed throughout the USSR. The mostly Muslim Chechens were anxious to end decades of Russian domination over their lands, language, culture and customs. Accordingly, Chechnya declared its independence from the Russian Federation, kicking off a bitter struggle that has lasted fo
Campbell Mcaulay
Reads like Sven Hassell

One Soldier's War tells of Arkady Babchenko's experiences having been conscripted into the Russian army to fight in the Chechen wars. He spent the first war on a barracks on the Chechen border and the second war fighting in the country itself.

I found it a little shocking that such a bitterly contested regional conflict should have passed me by as did this one. I like to think that I follow world affairs - not particularly closely, I admit - and yes I was aware that there
Previous TCL Reviews
In 1994, three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the tiny mountain Republic of Chechnya attempted to take advantage of the disarray that existed throughout the USSR. The mostly Muslim Chechens were anxious to end decades of Russian domination over their lands, language, culture and customs. Accordingly, Chechnya declared its independence from the Russian Federation, kicking off a bitter struggle that has lasted for over 15 years.
The Russian government claimed that the Chechen secessi
Adebayo Adegbembo
You don’t tell anyone the truth any more. You can’t explain what war really is to someone who has never been there, just as you can’t explain green to a blind person or a man can’t know what it’s like to give birth. They simply don’t have the necessary sensory organs. You can’t explain or understand war - all you can do is experience it.
- Excerpts.
Babchenko nato nel 1977 ci racconta nella prima parte del libro la sua esperienza in Cecenia vissuta come soldato di leva appena diciottenne durante il primo conflitto (1991-1996).
Nella seconda parte del libro ci racconterà (anche se gli episodi sono della stessa drammaticità) il suo ritorno in Cecenia in occasione del secondo conflitto (1999-2006) come militare a contratto.
La drammaticità che non sempre si percepisce nelle brevi telecronache o negli articoli letti di sfuggita sui giornali trasu
A terrifying account of the wars in Chechnya. Babchenko very artistically captures the futility of those wars in particular, bringing you into the soul of a starved, beaten, and thoroughly frightened soldier. The short vignettes of war in each chapter are almost poetic in their brutality. It baffles me that so many young Russians are a product of this conflict and that the Caucasus region seems to have changed so little.
Plainly the most brutal account of war I've ever read.
I read it in Dutch, "De kleur van oorlog", picked it up at the ramsj for a few euros. It haunted me for a long time. If you want to get a REAL insight view about the REAL dirtyness of all wars, this is the one to read...

The soldier-author was discovered by the late Politkovskaya, which already says a lot about him too.
good, very descriptive and bold account of war. surprised that a soldier has such an outlook on war, made me realize its horrors and brutality. love the way it's written, how thoughtful the author is. seems kind of philosophical, almost. surprised at brutality of Russian army, thought it'd be different now. interesting story, I'd never heard of the Chechen Wars before this.
Anandh Sundar
Exceptionally well written maybe due to the journalist co-author and filled with sardonic wit, also its not very politically correct while referring to Chechens, but the flavour of the book really comes through, one can almost smell the gunpowder at the battle scene. A very moving book, and next time while reading reports on war/listening to debates, this will be top of mind
Joshua Martin
This book was very intense, it was extremely realistic. It was unbelievable what happened. It is very violent. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to hear about a hidden war. It is violent but it is was still a good book. Hard to read at times war is confusing. I would read this book if you want a action packed book, that is a very very good read.
Pauline Reynolds
To say this is harrowing is an understatement. Not only does it point up the futility of fighting in Afghanisatan it also demonstrates the brutality of methods by which young soldiers in the Russian Army are 'trained.'

It's written well enough to make you want to keep turning every sad and ghastly page. Not an enjoyable read but a fascinating one.
Memoir of seven years fighting in Russian artillery in Chechnya. Hard to comprehend how badly run the Russian army is. Babchenko claims soldiers are untrained and have to submit to brutal hazing after being inducted. Chechnyan war itself was haphazard and badly directed. Very well written I raced through it in three days.
Absolutely spell binding. An extremely eye opening view into the modern Russian military forces as seen by Babchenko. Very hard to read at times, but he writes with such passion and conviction that you feel it would be a disservice to stop. Very, very good book, the author also has a great talent for writing.
the author discusses war experience against Chechen rebels as he is a Russian sodier. Grim and filled with horror. survive at times on dog meat and oatmeal. meanwhile they feel sorrow when disrupting even the earth to dig a fox hole. war is hell is a good analogy. a quick read. well written. subject matter is rough.
Memoir of a Russian private soldier who fought as a draftee in the first Chechen War and as a volunteer in the second. Spends much time discussing the brutal hazing of younger conscripts by older soldiers. One gets the impression that the Russian Army spent more time and energy fighting itself than the Chechens.
If you think for a second your life is hard, try being an 18 year old conscript sent to Chechnya with no training. If you survive the beatings applied in the barracks, and the actual war, you're still scarred psychologically. Good times.
This is a terrific window onto the Russian wars in Chechnya, but it's the kind of book you end up skimming. A lot. Especially after the translator confuses "lie" and "lay." Babchenko is a better reporter than novelist (if that's what this is).
Probably the most brutal account of war I've ever read. Between the psychotic bullying, the lack of food and equipment and the ferociousness of the Chechnyans it's incredible that any Russian soldier survives.
An amazing and brutal story of a Russian soldier's experience during the Chechan war. His story really pulled me in but made me question how anyone survives life in the Russian army.
Tyler Hartford
Certainly a must read for anyone who glorifies war. It isn't a pretty book, but it's a realistic book. Read this then watch "War Photographer."
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one soldiers war 1 12 Feb 29, 2008 08:17AM  
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Arkady Babchenko fought as an 18-year-old conscript in the first Chechen War in 1996-8 and then volunteered to return for six months in 2000 during the second Chechen War. A law graduate, he currently works in Moscow as a journalist on the oppositional newspaper "Novaya Gazeta".
More about Arkady Babchenko...
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