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Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  379 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2003

Black Garden is the definitive study of how Armenia and Azerbaijan, two southern Soviet republics, got sucked into a conflict that helped bring them to independence, bringing to an end the Soviet Union, and plaguing a region of great strategic importance. It cuts between a careful reconstruction of the history of Nagorny Karabakh
Hardcover, 337 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by New York University Press (first published 2003)
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May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading this and bits on the short-lived Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic, I believe more than ever that we are united by a single "cultural space." That although the land was never a geographically delimited area, it is first and foremost the sum total of three homogenous cultures. Being nationalists, our leaders reject this. I wish they'd read and remember Evgeni Gegechkori's (head of the TDFR) words used to explain the uniting of the Transcaucasian people: "Alone we are a ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]This is a really good book. Even if you don't have a professional interest in the Nagorno-Karabakh question (and let's face it, not a lot of people do), I think the studies of how a historical dispute over a very small patch of land destroyed two countries and helped to destroy the Soviet Union are of worldwide, human interest. The narrative of the conflict is interspersed with either interviews with today's survivors or historical ...more
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The glowing praise this book has received from worthy critics is well-earned, and I cannot recommend a better introduction to the dispute over Nagorno Karabakh. This is an acute and balanced view of the region, its politics, and the small-minded xenophobia that continues to drive the dispute. With this effort, de Waal has written the authoritative overview of the conflict and the region's political climate.

Highly recommended.

P.S. Disregard the hyperbole and complaints of bias. Zealots on either
Nov 09, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't understand how 'balanced and objective' this book can be if it mostly presents Armenian civilians' viewpoints and never mention about more than 600 civil Azerbaijanis being tortured/killed in Khojaly in February 26th 1992 by Armenians.
Jafar Isbarov
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict may not have been the worst of modern wars, but it has produced one of the worst peaces.

It has, indeed.
3.5. disappointing editing: formatting, mechanics, even spacing were distracting, and the circular chronology does the reader no favors. still one of the most comprehensive NK accounts.
Mar 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The strength of the book lies in its assessment of how the conflict in Nagorno-Kharabagh has affected the social and political environment of the Caucasus. The problem lies in that this assessment is not fairly balanced to both sides of the question. In the prologue, De Waal states repeatedly that he is taking an unbiased, third-party approach to his assessment. Yet, I found a clear imbalance in the focus of most chapters, leaning towards the Azeri perspective. In describing the situation of ...more
Jul 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is great book that depicts the conflict in Nagorny-Karabakh. I'm not an expert but from what I can tell, the author is fairly objective. The author goes over the history of the region from 1988 to the present years of frozen conflict.

I would recommend this book, although not as an introduction to Karabakh. It is a tad lengthy, and filled with anecdotes -- some personal and some not. The anecdotes add a personal touch and some context to the storyline but they also add weight to the book.

Thomas de Waal is a respected journalist who has written about the conflict in Chechnya as well as covered this conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. He attempts to write a balanced account of the ingredients that led to this conflict, one that is still unresolved, and under a tenuous cease-fire that's held since 1994 (with some isolated shooting across the cease-fire line from both sides).
Travis Taylor
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

An excellent, seemingly well rounded coverage of a brutal war. I'm sure there are parts of this book that offend both sides, but it is the insight into the pride and frailty of the human psyche that led to the causes and escalation and non-resolution of this conflict that means that neither side can claim victory or righteousness.
The most comprehensive work on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Though de Waal is not an academic, he is a recognised authority on the Caucasus, and his book is by far the most important, and neutral, publication on the conflict. It has become nearly impossible to find anyone who doesn't cite this book when writing about the conflict.
Aug 07, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Interesting to read a bit about the "other side". Having lived in Azerbaijan, I have only heard their side of the war.
Michael Dean
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Superbly researched. Fairly positions both sides of the conflict. The updated versions offers well thought-out conclusions.
Rune Norheim
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good book. Provokes both sides. Read it after visiting Stepanakert .
Armen Grigoryan
Sep 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting insight to the conflict.
Samson Martirosyan
I started reading this book in early winter of 2017, when at that time I had time to spare and desire to read a non-fiction piece. Partly because my desire to read non-fiction wasn't strong enough and I yielded to reading fiction and partly because the Armenian translation of this book was not that good, I dropped it somewhere in the beginning. And since I borrowed the only copy of the book from my local library, dropping it wasn't that hard.

Nonetheless, in October 2017 I came across this book
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a solid journalistic work on the Nagorno Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It did a good job of examining the factors that led to the conflict, specifically the breakdown in the paper-thin "Soviet Identity" that led to countless incidents of intercommunal violence following the breakup of the USSR. Prior to the war, Armenians and Azeris worked together, lived together in villages and intermarried, but that all went out the window fairly quickly once nationalist fervor was ...more
Anna Madó
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am reccomanding everybody to read this book which will enhance your understanding about the whole situation between two Caucasion countries- Armenia and Azerbaijan. The book has a subjective to give the reader some alternative opinions, judgements and news by the both sides.
David Jijelava
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is one of those books that you always hear about but never actually got around reading it. And once you finally read it, you wish you had done it long time ago. The book not only provides excellent analysis, but is also very rich with personal stories.
Very good read.
Jun 09, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I have to read this book
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Black Garden thankfully remains neutral in regards to Armenia and Azerbaijan, but regularly falls back on liberal anti-communism.
Brendan Monroe
While it doesn't come close to being one of the more exciting books I've read, 'Black Garden' is certainly informative if you're looking to gain a little insight into what went into creating a conflict that you probably haven't heard about. I picked up de Waal's book because I'm spending some time in Baku and as a result wanted a bit of insight into something that you hear about on an almost continual basis from the local population. "The occupation of OUR land" is bound to have a different spin ...more
Javid Najafov
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book about the conflict.

1) Nobody should give even a slight credit to international terrorists such as Monte Melkonian. This is similar to give a credit to any terrorist from Al-Kaida or whatever.
2) There is no such thing as 'superior fighting skills of Karabakhi Armenians' - they will not any need for feadins or melkonians then, forget about post-Soviet Russian forces.
3) It is unhealthy to compare, maybe politicial tough person, as Azerbaijani President with some 'bandit' from
★ Cara ★
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 1/2 stars to be precise. I found De Waal's narrative as confused as the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict. It's not nearly linear and creates a sense of frustration for the reader (perhaps that's the intention). It's difficult not to be frustrated with all sides in the conflict (a conflict that mirrors other territorial disputes and has been repeated throughout history...has nobody learned anything?). It's also about 15 years out of date now. Still, has anything really changed? Armenia and ...more
Paulo Jan
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“I had been following the Thomas de Waal's work for a long time, since I read his book Caucasus an introduction. However, as the book BLACK GARDEN had been written in 2003 did not buy it. When the uptated edition of 10 years was released , I Decided to read.
I found out surprising details about the Karabakh War. The narrative is perfect, interspersed with interviews, descriptions of the capitals Baku and Yerevan. There is an excellent apendix of statistics and a complete time -line.
The auctor
Russ Moore
Feb 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For someone like me who knows next to nothing about the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict, this is a very informative read. de Waal is meticulous in many first-person details, and serves up the issues in a balanced manner. This is probably one of the more complex conflicts in the world today, and de Waal explores many possible reasons and factors from ancient rivalries to modern economic pressures. There were a few areas I would have liked to see him explore in more detail: the Armenian Republic's ...more
Suzanne Auckerman
Excellent book if you want to slog through the history of the conflict in the Caucasus and the psychology of ethnic conflict. It is a border zone between Iran, Turkey, and Russia, all with competing interests and it will erupt again and probably in the near future as tensions continue to rise. There has never been a peace treaty, only a ceasefire line on which about 30 - 40 people are killed each year. It is very similar to the Balkans, which I think will also erupt again. I got interested in ...more
Sevada Abraamyan
Nov 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was mostly unbiased and a good read. However, he seemed to be unnaturally attempting to stay unbiased in some areas of the book by diluting certain important events with examples from the opposing sides which were really minor events/historical facts in comparison. Overall I felt a small bias toward the Azeri side via the emotional card he played with the Azeri refugees. Of course, I'm Armenian so maybe I'm biased myself and others will have a different opinion regarding this matter. It was a ...more
The dispute over Nagorno Karabakh is a complicated issue between Armenia and Azerbaijan. What de Waal has done here is present a neutral account of the war, without favouring either side, a rarity in conflicts like this. He presents clear facts for both sides, while stressing the humanitarian issues at stake, namely the hundreds of thousands of refugees on both sides who are victims of the decades long conflict. Its a great read, and is quite detailed in explaining the origins of the conflict, ...more
Dec 07, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a must read for anyone interested in Armenia and/or the Caucus countries. DeWaal is a British journalist whose goal was to as accurately as possible report on the events leading up to and including the Nagorno-Karabagh war. He provides a detailed and well documented account dispelling myths and reporting accurate statistics. Recently, it was translated into Armenian hopefully expanding the number of readers.
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