Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Avoiding Cold War Binaries. New Books in Russian Studies.

New Books in Russia and Eurasia is an important, I might say invaluable, resource for analysts, researchers and students of Russia and surrounding regions.  This is how they introduce themselves:
'New Books in Russia and Eurasia, a channel in the New Books Network, interviews authors of new books in any academic field concerning the history, politics, economy, and culture of Russia and Eurasia.'
The website aggregates the multitude of works the flow of which it is often difficult to follow. Along with text reviews it has podcasts (free) of interviews with authors of new books in the field. It is run by Sean Guillory, the American historian at Northern Illinois University, who is known as the author-publisher of Sean’s Russia Blog.

I was excited to see there a review of Thomas de Waal's new book The Caucasus. An Introduction. De Waal and Carlotta Gall covered the Caucasus for the Moscow Times and wrote one of the best books on the war in Chechnya (the first war of 1994-96) published in Europe as Chechnya: A Small Victorious War and internationally as Chechnya: A Calamity in the Caucasus (links to Amazon). De Waal, whose views are not always welcomed in the countries he writes about, is one of the most knowledgeable experts on the region.

Here is an excerpt from the New Books review:

'On August 8, 2008 many Americans learned that Russia had gone to war with a mysterious country called Georgia over an even stranger territory called South Ossetia. Both Georgia and South Ossetia were located not on the southeastern seaboard of the United States, but in a mountainous region south of Russia called the Caucasus.  The war was short, a mere four days, but during that time it became an campaign issue between Barack Obama and John McCain, a moment made memorable when McCain declared “We are all Georgians now.” For the Cold Warriors of yesteryear the world was remade familiar: Russia was enemy #1 again, Mikheil Saakashvili’s was a victim of Russian imperialism, and the Cold War was back as if it had never left.
'Those familiar with the South Caucasus know that the region is allergic to Cold War binaries.  Its ethnic, linguistic, and religious complexity defy even the best social scientific models. Persistent conflicts mark the region.  Azerbaijan and Armenia are at odds over Nagorno-Karabakh.  Georgia has had to contend with seperatist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both Russian protectorates.  Of course, we can’t forget that the region also hosts two important energy pipelines – the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline – making the South Caucasus a geopolitical focus of the United States, the EU, and Russia.'
There is a podcast interview with de Waal.

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