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The Caucasus

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  250 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
In this fascinating book, noted journalist Thomas de Waal--author of the highly acclaimed Black Garden--makes the case that while the Caucasus is often treated as a sub-plot in the history of Russia, or as a mere gateway to Asia, the five-day war in Georgia, which flared into a major international crisis in 2008, proves that this is still a combustible region, whose inner ...more
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Published August 11th 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA
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James (JD) Dittes
For a country that was one of the first to break away from the Soviet Union in 1989, Georgia has certainly had breakaway problems of its own. Three regions with significant enclaves of ethnic minorities--Abkhaz, Ossetians, and Muslim Ajaris--were autonomous at the turn of the 21st Century. Wars had been fought to restore Georgian control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the early 1990s. Ajaria, wedged between the Black Sea and Turkey in the country's southwest, lived free and easy, dominated by ...more
May 18, 2016 Eitental rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: caucasus
This 260-page book is intended to provide a broad overview of the history, culture and politics of the South Caucasus (not the whole Caucasus, despite the title!) and is written by journalist Thomas de Waal, who spent time as a reporter in the region and has since gone on to become something of a popular expert.

The first half of the book provides basic cultural and geographical background and a fairly straightforward narrative history up to the collapse of the Soviet Union, aimed primarily at pe
Good background on a part of the world that is interesting but little known. I found it a bit of a challenge to keep everything straight, since there are three countries and several disputed regions involved, but most of that was my issue and not the fault of the author. The book provided a great overview of the main developmental history and events in the region. As such, it lives up to the "An Introduction" part of the title. The modern information was particularly interesting to me, especiall ...more
Delway Burton
I bought this book via a recommendation in The Economist. As a warning, if you find the geography, history, and culture of the Balkans, Western Africa, or Central Asia are complex, convoluted, and beyond Byzantine to the point of cultural insanity, then this is the book for you. The primary counries are Georgia (birthplace of Stalin), Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Inhabited since paleolithic times, there are so many ethnic groups, languages, religions, wars, disputes, uprisings, and killings that the ...more
Jason Brown
A useful introduction for those with only a passing familiarity with the region's history and ongoing conflicts, de Waal does a better job of describing the past then providing any kind of meaningful analysis for the future. Essentially, de Waal argues that the outside world (the EU, primarily) should try to understand the region's long, convoluted but incredibly intertwined history in order to help defuse its ongoing conflicts (the book concludes shortly after the 2008 Georgia-Russia war) even ...more
Jan 03, 2012 Ajk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone trying to get in on the ground floor of the Caucasus
Shelves: turania, non-fiction
De Waal has a very readable, engaging style which is key if you're going to cover 110 years of very convoluted history. It focuses on the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) which is a bit of a shame but ultimately necessary to keep it short and as readable as it is. Lots of fun nuggets (Stalin didn't go to his mother's funeral!) and good threads of history. Some detail is necessarily removed, but not enough to get really frustrating.

I'm sure some people are going to accuse it of b
Anyusha Rose
Though 'The Caucasus: An Introduction' gives a readable and reasonably detailed analysis of Georgia's conflicts and contemporary political dynamics, de Waal does not discuss any of the other tragedies that have taken place in the Caucasus across the last two decades in any real detail. This is a disappointing book considering the quality of his other studies of the region. Both chapters dedicated to discussing the relationship between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the wake of Soviet collapse fail to ...more
A concise and detailed outlook at a very complex region. De Waal manages to cover a lot of ground within a couple hundred pages. The book itself is divided into neatly organised sections that can essentially be read independently, with an overview of the geography and history at the front and then chapters detailing Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, as well as one on the politics of oil and gas. It is mostly concerned with contemporary events, heavily focused on post-Soviet affairs, but does include ...more
Aug 17, 2011 Maxstrasser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately the book didn't manage to capture the taste of the food or the majesty of the mountain views, but I guess you can't ask for everything.It's basically an introductory textbook, but it was a surprisingly good read. De Waal's writing is clear and fast moving and he knows the region extremely well. The book covers the region's modern history in exactly the right depth you want from an introductory book. I also liked his objective perspective. Among the insanely bitter ethnic conflicts ...more
de Waal's book on the Caucasus is very informative. The book focuses on South Caucasus which includes the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia (as opposed to North Caucasus, which includes Chechnya and Dagestan). The area has been controlled by most recently by Czarist Russian and the Soviet Union.

The book discusses the history of the region, but focuses mainly on events after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and newly formed governments of the three countries (and their contested terr
J.M. Hushour
Aug 21, 2015 J.M. Hushour rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an introductory text, this one is just dandy, but don't expect an overwhelming amount of detail save for the most salient issues. Fortunately, these are handled well and with a nice, refreshing distance: no one comes out unscathed when de Waal addresses such issues as the 2008 August War and the eminently retarded war over Nagorny-Karabakh. These events and the issue of Caspian-Caucasus natural resources form the bulk of the book and that's good. There's relevant backstories for each of the t ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, caucasus
Excellent, if slim, introduction to the complexities of South Caucasian complexity (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, plus Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorny Karabakh, and that other bit of Azerbaijan...) Totally without travelogue chitchat and sentimental cultural excesses; thoroughly readable and quite enthralling ancient and recent history, built (in the latter stages) around a couple of major issues. Particularly detailed on Caspian oil and Georgian struggles with breakaway republics... perhaps a ...more
Orkhan Bahramli
Sep 10, 2015 Orkhan Bahramli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would say it is a fine book for a reader or a researcher of history of the Caucasus region. The author Thomas de Waal covers mainly the issues related since late 1980s, or fall of the Soviet Union, till present day situation. The war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh region is discussed in a non-thorough manner, I shall say. Readers are encouraged to move on to "Black Garden"* by the same author, if they would like to learn about the war over disputed regions between Azerbai ...more
Jul 20, 2013 Filip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent overview of the current political situation in the Caucasus proper (Armenia, Azerbaidzan and - especially - Georgia). Although the author stresses that there is no new "Great Game" going on in that region, the jostling for geopolitical power between Russia, the West and Iran is impressive, compounded by the plentiful supplies of oil and gas that could stream to the West without Russian control. I'll be holding on to this book, because I'm sure I'll be looking things up as things in tha ...more
Peter Schön
Oct 30, 2012 Peter Schön rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Concise book about the recent South Caucasus conflicts (and their historical roots). Suited as "an introduction" into highly complex topics, but even better as fast reference (I take it with me every time I go to the South Caucasus) after reading the more comprehensive literature. Concise, slim, yet not leaving out major points and surprisingly good to read. It will not keep you up all night or explain the fascination of the Caucasus; but for what it is intended to be and what it is - 5 stars.

James Zhao
Dec 30, 2014 James Zhao rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good introduction to an important region for the next several decades. Possessing ample amounts of natural resources, the Caucasus region will prove to be a major player in the global energy development. The best part of the book is that instead of relegates the analysis of the region to purely political and economical, de Waal does a good job of underscoring the importance of the people who actually inhabit the area. The political background of the Soviet Union and the elephant in the room (Rus ...more
Elena Sheroziya
I knew the author through his book about Chechnya, which was one of the first books to be written about War in Chechnya in the 90ies, and I remember I had great impressions about it. But that was many many years ago. This book felt like recompilation of information, which one finds very useful, especially if this is his first encounter with the region and it's history. So I would call it a brief history of Zakavkazie.
Daniel Polansky
as the title says. A good primer on a region of the world I am visiting in a month and half but didn't know much about. It seemed admirably even-handed given the complexity and diversity of the region, not that I'm really qualified to comment on that. On the other hand, often times you can read when a guy has an act to grind and if de Waal does I couldn't pick it up. Recommended. Were there sword fights: No, no sword fights.
Raz Yessaian
Overall, this is a decent book and a good primer on this region. However, the author tends to give his two cents about situations that he is not an expert on and in turn presents himself a bit patronizing. Some of these ethnic groups are among the most ancient in history and some quarrels are millennia old.
For him to offer solutions and advice especially towards a group who almost faced extinction is somewhat comical. Great book, great read.
Jill Cordry
While the title is THE CAUCUSES, one finds out almost immediately that the book is limited to the South Caucasus: Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. It has very little information on the North Caucasus: Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia which were my primary interests. It is written primarily as a research text without narrative flow. Therefore, one can pick and choose the parts of interest easily and forego others.
Dec 28, 2013 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book certainly gave me a much clearer perspective on the history of the Caucasus, but it's a bit on the pro-western side in its treatment of the region's most recent developments. It's not that I don't agree with the author's interpretation of events, just that a historian should attempt to remove their biases.
Paulo Jan
Feb 08, 2016 Paulo Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

For an introduction , this book seems to be quite complete! Congratulations to the auctor that is a specialist indeed. Ethical conflicts.... the more I read about them , the less i know what to say. Anyway it clarified my mind , so I am now one step ahead.
( Ive already read it for the second time . The lecture was finished in December , 1st , 2013 and I keep my oppinion about De Waal.)
Jul 17, 2011 Nanar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, despite his obvious bias towards Georgians and ambivalent attitude towards Armenians and Azeris, which quickly became apparent even in his set list of "Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan." Why list the countries in that order? Why not do so alphabetically? Can it be your order of preference, SIR?
This leans heavily on the 20th-century, which I didn't expect from the subtitle "a history." I picked it up partly because I was curious about the 17-19th century history of the region. But it was helpful, and it's not as though I don't need some background on modern history as well.
Aug 22, 2012 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are even remotely interested in the Caucasus or modern Russian/USA relations, this is a must read. It's to the point, comfortably literate and informative: a rare trifecta for modern geo-political analysis
Sep 30, 2011 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe
A crisp, well-written primer to the region. After a brief history, it focuses on recent ethnic/national wars and the natural resource scramble. One reviewer is probably right in that the author favors, Georgia, but I'm most interested in that country anyway.
Yoko Nemchinova
Jul 13, 2013 Yoko Nemchinova rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Clear and correct analysis over the issues in Caucasus and the involvement of foreign powers. Caucasus as an arena of worldpolitics.
Turhan Dilmaç
As mentioned in the title of the book, an introduction, albeit a quite satisfactory one, to the politics of South Caucasus
Murad rated it it was amazing
Jul 28, 2015
Justin Kiggins
Justin Kiggins rated it really liked it
Jun 26, 2011
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