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The Caucasus mountains rise at the intersection of Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. A land of astonishing natural beauty and a dizzying array of ancient cultures, the Caucasus for most of the twentieth century lay inside the Soviet Union, before movements of national liberation created newly independent countries and sparked the devastating war in Chechnya. Combining ri The Caucasus mountains rise at the intersection of Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. A land of astonishing natural beauty and a dizzying array of ancient cultures, the Caucasus for most of the twentieth century lay inside the Soviet Union, before movements of national liberation created newly independent countries and sparked the devastating war in Chechnya. Combining riveting storytelling with insightful analysis, The Ghost of Freedom is the first general history of the modern Caucasus, stretching from the beginning of Russian imperial expansion up to the rise of new countries after the Soviet Union's collapse. In evocative and accessible prose, Charles King reveals how tsars, highlanders, revolutionaries, and adventurers have contributed to the fascinating history of this borderland, providing an indispensable guide to the complicated histories, politics, and cultures of this intriguing frontier. Based on new research in multiple languages, the book shows how the struggle for freedom in the mountains, hills, and plains of the Caucasus has been a perennial theme over the last two hundred years--a struggle which has led to liberation as well as to new forms of captivity. The book sheds valuable light on the origins of modern disputes, including the ongoing war in Chechnya, conflicts in Georgia and Azerbaijan, and debates over oil from the Caspian Sea and its impact on world markets. Ranging from the salons of Russian writers to the circus sideshows of America, from the offices of European diplomats to the villages of Muslim mountaineers, The Ghost of Freedom paints a rich portrait of one of the world's most turbulent and least understood regions.


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The Caucasus mountains rise at the intersection of Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. A land of astonishing natural beauty and a dizzying array of ancient cultures, the Caucasus for most of the twentieth century lay inside the Soviet Union, before movements of national liberation created newly independent countries and sparked the devastating war in Chechnya. Combining ri The Caucasus mountains rise at the intersection of Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. A land of astonishing natural beauty and a dizzying array of ancient cultures, the Caucasus for most of the twentieth century lay inside the Soviet Union, before movements of national liberation created newly independent countries and sparked the devastating war in Chechnya. Combining riveting storytelling with insightful analysis, The Ghost of Freedom is the first general history of the modern Caucasus, stretching from the beginning of Russian imperial expansion up to the rise of new countries after the Soviet Union's collapse. In evocative and accessible prose, Charles King reveals how tsars, highlanders, revolutionaries, and adventurers have contributed to the fascinating history of this borderland, providing an indispensable guide to the complicated histories, politics, and cultures of this intriguing frontier. Based on new research in multiple languages, the book shows how the struggle for freedom in the mountains, hills, and plains of the Caucasus has been a perennial theme over the last two hundred years--a struggle which has led to liberation as well as to new forms of captivity. The book sheds valuable light on the origins of modern disputes, including the ongoing war in Chechnya, conflicts in Georgia and Azerbaijan, and debates over oil from the Caspian Sea and its impact on world markets. Ranging from the salons of Russian writers to the circus sideshows of America, from the offices of European diplomats to the villages of Muslim mountaineers, The Ghost of Freedom paints a rich portrait of one of the world's most turbulent and least understood regions.

30 review for The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bob Newman

    A thoughtfully-written history For many Americans “Caucasus” may signify those tight little groups that meet during party conventions every four years. For others, it might bring to mind a skin disease or a kind of weird cookie that their Ruritanian grandma used to bake. If the name is far from American minds, what can we say about the history of an area between Europe and Asia, between the Black and Caspian seas, and between historical fact and popular fiction? If de Waal’s “The Caucasus: An Int A thoughtfully-written history For many Americans “Caucasus” may signify those tight little groups that meet during party conventions every four years. For others, it might bring to mind a skin disease or a kind of weird cookie that their Ruritanian grandma used to bake. If the name is far from American minds, what can we say about the history of an area between Europe and Asia, between the Black and Caspian seas, and between historical fact and popular fiction? If de Waal’s “The Caucasus: An Introduction” is a top quality journalistic work, this book covers history in an academic, but exceedingly well-written way. Starting in the 17th century, King analyzes the sweep of history that saw Turkey, Persia, and Russia vie for control over 200 years until Russia emerged victorious in the mid-19th century. He uses descriptions by travelers as well as various old histories to tell his tale. A section on “The Imaginary Caucasus” traces the origins of various misconceptions and views of the area, going into a mountain climbing boom in the late 1800s, the “exotic” mountaineers who appeared in the West seeking aid against the Tsars, and the myth of the Circassian beauty. I found that section extremely interesting and thought that many other historians ought to introduce it to their work. The oil boom in Baku, the long struggle by Russia to control the mountain tribes of the north Caucasus, and the quick rise and fall of nations in the 1918-1921 period---these plus many other interesting topics make King’s book an outstanding one. An important point that he raises repeatedly is that ethnic/religious hatred or enmity, associated with the Caucasus and its recent series of wars, is not an “age old” phenomenon. It was created by the rise of nationalism in the 19th century, fanned by meddling outside powers, and stirred as well as suppressed by Communism. In the past, groups may have lived and married separately, but there was an incredible mixture of peoples and languages. The ethnic divisions and clashes came later. As late as 2010 (now so far away), the author could not predict the rise of illiberal democracy and outright dictators in so much of the world. The three small Caucasus nations of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, plus the other political units dominated by Russia can never be world actors, but only re-actors. Their fates must be determined by others; they must always seek larger protectors. Their future is uncertain, but their past is so well-described and explained in this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    The title of this book is based on Aleksandr Pushkin's description of the Caucasus as the outsider's romantic dream of freedom in his poem “The Prisoner of the Caucasus”, about a romance between a Russian prisoner and a Circassian woman. Inspired by Pushkin, Tolstoy wrote a novella based on Pushkin’s work, Cesar Cui an opera and in Michael Lermontov’s book “A Hero of Our Time” the hero (not surprisingly) falls for a Caucasian girl. King draws on these unusual for a history text but enlightening The title of this book is based on Aleksandr Pushkin's description of the Caucasus as the outsider's romantic dream of freedom in his poem “The Prisoner of the Caucasus”, about a romance between a Russian prisoner and a Circassian woman. Inspired by Pushkin, Tolstoy wrote a novella based on Pushkin’s work, Cesar Cui an opera and in Michael Lermontov’s book “A Hero of Our Time” the hero (not surprisingly) falls for a Caucasian girl. King draws on these unusual for a history text but enlightening examples for view of the Caucasus as an area of wild beauty, populated by noble-minded, freedom-loving and fierce warriors and staggeringly exquisite women. “The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus” is impressive in its breadth of coverage, the depth of the author's insights, and the eloquence of the text. His account of contemporary Russian attitudes as mediated through analysis of literary works by Pushkin, Lermontov and Tolstoy is not one with which all would agree but it is relatively well supported and certainly worth discussion. Much as the Balkans were to Western Europe, the Caucasus were “the other” to Russia. The specific predicates of the “otherness” are far less important than what they symbolized—in both cases they were uncivilized (or unpolluted by civilization) dwellers in almost inaccessible places—legend had that the mountain tribes of the Caucasus would only come to the plains to steal livestock, kidnap women for brides and men for slaves. King uses this as the main thread for his account from its 19th century incorporation into the Russian empire to Russian wars with Georgia and the ongoing horror of Chechnya. He stresses, in particular, the region's place in the imagination of foreigners Russians who tried to annex the area but also German academics who went there to study them. Circassians weren’t considered so much a different race from the Russians as a different species. Chechny, Dagestan and the surrounding areas were subject to Russian genocide, war crimes and mass slaughter based on the “collective guilt” for banditry and raiding of the North Caucasus. The South has been subjected to the invasion, occupation and dismemberment of Georgia by Russia and the Armenian Genocide by Turkey. The North Caucasus is part of European Russia that lies between the Sea of Azov and Black Sea on the west and the Caspian Sea on the east. It includes the republics within the Russian Federation of Dagestan and Chechnya, a part of Russia plus an unmanageable (for me) bunch of breakaway regions, republics with very few citizens (less than, for example, Grand Rapids, Michigan) and a few areas that look like a cartographer's error. The South Caucasus is made up of fewer parts but its history and geography are no less convoluted than those to the north. The independent nations of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are the South Caucasus but include the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, a part of Azerbaijan surrounded by Armenia and separated from the rest of Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh which is part of Azerbaijan but claimed by Armenian rebels. The geography can be daunting especially early in the book when King uses place names that no longer exist, one of the only real problems with this text. I suggest that you not approach this book without a decent map of the area. Current maps are easily available online; unfortunately most historical maps showing the late 19th century and early 20th century are in Russian with Cyrillic lettering. ---------------------- A note on usage: Caucasian and Circassian are used interchangeably by King and his sources; King writes that “Caucasian” has come to have a much broader meaning than a native of that region and that its can be confusing in some contexts since the term has nothing to do with the region and its people and everything to do with concepts of race.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Clayton

    Not so much "A History of the Caucasus," as the title suggests, as a survey of its interactions with the empires of Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. The two or three thousand years of history that happened before Catherine the Great are glossed over, and as the bibliography indicates, most of it is really a Russian history of the Caucasus, told from the perspective of Russia. King lets actual Caucasians speak when possible, but like most colonized zones in modern history, it's the invaders w Not so much "A History of the Caucasus," as the title suggests, as a survey of its interactions with the empires of Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. The two or three thousand years of history that happened before Catherine the Great are glossed over, and as the bibliography indicates, most of it is really a Russian history of the Caucasus, told from the perspective of Russia. King lets actual Caucasians speak when possible, but like most colonized zones in modern history, it's the invaders who did most of the talking. Bad for the Caucasians, then, but not necessarily the book, which makes that Russian gaze its greatest subject. Much like the American West, the history of the Caucasus is really three histories: the history of its indigenous people, their cultures, and their lives; the history of the empire and the imperials who colonized it; and the history of those histories, the fantasies and misunderstandings projected onto that place and what they meant. Any complete history of the American West would have to cover not just western expansion, native Americans, and cowboys, but Manifest Destiny and Cowboys & Indians, too. The Caucasus is the same: the Circassian genocide matters, but so does the myth of the sexy Circassian. So, three histories. The history of the Caucasian peoples is slight in this book, for the perfectly understandable reason that no satisfying explanation of the Caucasus, with its dozens of ethnic groups and languages, could be crammed into a book under three thousand pages, let alone three hundred. I doubt many readers will leave this book knowing the difference between an Avar and an Adyghe. Neither did most Russians, but they conquered the place anyway, and King can give a perfunctory gloss on the movement of their troops, general Ermolov's schemes, and Russia's long history of keeping up with the Kartvelians. The Caucasian and Russian threads are tied up at the end with a bluffer's guide to post-Soviet history in southern Russia, devoting a few scant pages each to what happened when the Armenian, Azeri, and Georgian SSR's dropped the Soviet Socialist part. The Russian side of the Caucasus, with the agonizing wars of Chechnya and the emergence of Putin's brutal fiefdoms, gets a few pages and a nod to the fact that King may have overstepped his bounds trying to cram all of this stuff in. But Ghost of Freedom really gets going on that third thread, when it's talking about the Russian Romantics gallivanting around the mountains or the invention of the Sexy Circassian or Tolstoy making fun of the Russian Romantics gallivanting around the mountains. You can sense King's relief, shuffling through his sources, when he gets here: Russian governments have written a lot of boring and bland things about the Caucasus, but Russian writers have written a lot of thrilling, artsy, sexy things about it, and even when they're wrong--especially when they're wrong--they're fascinating. A lot of the Russian soul is bound up in these mountains: Lermontov, Tolstoy, and Mandelstam were here; Andrei Bitov found his voice wandering through the Caucasian SSR's; Lev Grossman rekindled his love for humanity in Armenia. Pushkin was here of course, but, interestingly enough, only after he published "A Captive of the Caucasus." That poem was a fantasy gleaned from the distant mountains visible from the resort he visited. His real trip through those mountains got the suitably realistic, hard-nosed reportage of "Journey to Erzurum."All of this is good stuff, and Russophiles are encouraged to pick it up if they can stomach another study of the Wild South in the Russian Imagination. I know I can: speaking as an American, is it really possible to have too many Westerns? (I should also add that I had the good fortune of reading this book about the shadows of the Caucasus while sitting under the shadow of actual Caucasian mountains. I wouldn't mind hiking some of them, but many are still seeded with landmines from the 1990s. It's a very modern spin on the old "beautiful/brutal" trope of these mountains.)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Terence

    The good thing about this book is that it's a serviceable introduction to the Caucasus for anyone who's not terribly familiar with the region. Unfortunately, it's difficult for an English-language reader to progress much further since a lot of the scholarship is in Russian or some other foreign language. The chief problem of the book for me was that it lacked organization. It's a history of parts of the Caucasus for selected periods of time -- primarily the Russian conquest throughout the first h The good thing about this book is that it's a serviceable introduction to the Caucasus for anyone who's not terribly familiar with the region. Unfortunately, it's difficult for an English-language reader to progress much further since a lot of the scholarship is in Russian or some other foreign language. The chief problem of the book for me was that it lacked organization. It's a history of parts of the Caucasus for selected periods of time -- primarily the Russian conquest throughout the first half of the 19th century and the Soviet/post-Soviet period. The author wanders over the entire region and, even with a map at one's side, the reader can easily become confused. Upon reflection, I don't think the faults of the book are entirely the author's but rather its size. At only 250 pages, it's a wonder King is able to present as much information as he does. A book of equal length that focused on a more restricted period and/or region or one of twice its length dealing with the same topics would have served the subject and the reader better.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steve Cran

    Thoroughly engrossing read. Great book for understanding the history of Russian involvement in the Caucusus. Understanding the History helps understand why some of the things that are happening are today are happening.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I got it in my head it would be fun to read a book set in every country in the world. My first step was to decide what I would treat as a country for my project, since, though I know very little about international politics, I know that what is and is not a country is often a point of considerable contention. In the end, I decided that if Wikipedia says that a place is considered by a country by itself and at least one other country, it’s a country. Yes, I realize that definition would cause inte I got it in my head it would be fun to read a book set in every country in the world. My first step was to decide what I would treat as a country for my project, since, though I know very little about international politics, I know that what is and is not a country is often a point of considerable contention. In the end, I decided that if Wikipedia says that a place is considered by a country by itself and at least one other country, it’s a country. Yes, I realize that definition would cause international incidents, but, whatever. I’m not a governing body; I’m a person in her pajamas reading some books. So, that means, alphabetically, my first country is...Abkhazia! The original plan was to read fiction books set in each country, but it turns out there is not much fiction to be found about Abkhazia. Not much recreational nonfiction either, so this one about the Caucasus region generally was the best I could do. The majority of this book was not for me. Most of it was taken up with accounts of military and political maneuvers, in which various regions were transferred to and from various powers, sometimes briefly becoming independent between the transfers. I imagine this is well written, but, at least for me, it’s often very dry reading. I did learn that, for most of modern history, being an average resident of the Caucasus would be a very, very bad deal. There were often forced mass migrations and genocides, which were, of course, gruesome and tragic. In some cases, the people being forcibly moved away from a location were the same people whose grandparents had been forcibly moved to the same location by a different power a few generations before. Also, the environment itself took a considerable beating. At one point in the 1800s, the Russian army was at a disadvantage against local forces who were familiar with the landscape of the forests, so the Russian army just clearcut huge swaths of land. The middle third of the book focused more on culture, so that was more interesting for me. I learned about the fate of women who were kidnapped to be slaves, and about literature written about the Caucasus, and about the time in the 1890s when the Caucasus mountains became the trendy place to travel for wealthy European sportsmen. Also, randomly, the book contained this sentence about the Caucasus people: “They were also extremely sexy.” Say what now? But yes, apparently, “Circassian women” were a popular draw at PT Barnum shows, where they would tell about their daring adventures. They were supposed to be the epitome of female beauty. At the shows, the quotes around “Circassian” were very much of the ironic variety. The women were generally American actors, but the popular perception about women of the Caucasus remained. Typing all of these things, I’m realizing that even the chapter on culture is about what other people said and did about the Caucasus. The sections on the mountains are about the Europeans, and the sections on the captured slave women are mostly about the captors, and one of the most popular pieces of literature was an tragic romantic epic poem, written by a guy who had only kinda sorta been to the region. And the accounts of political and military maneuvering are mostly about the powers who claimed the land, not the people who lived in the land that was claimed. So, hmmm. I guess this is mostly a book about what people outside the Caucasus have said and done about the Caucasus.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nannette

    The Ghost of Freedom A History of the Caucasus Author Charles King Narrated by Michael Page Publication date May 23, 2017 Running time 12 hrs Courtesy Tantor Media At 54 and with chronic health conditions, I know I will never have the opportunity to travel to the many wondrous places on our planet I would like. I have found that learning about those far off lands is fascinating and fulfilling. I recently listened to audiobooks on India and Scandinavia. Next up is the Caucasus. Again I was not disappoi The Ghost of Freedom A History of the Caucasus Author Charles King Narrated by Michael Page Publication date May 23, 2017 Running time 12 hrs Courtesy Tantor Media At 54 and with chronic health conditions, I know I will never have the opportunity to travel to the many wondrous places on our planet I would like. I have found that learning about those far off lands is fascinating and fulfilling. I recently listened to audiobooks on India and Scandinavia. Next up is the Caucasus. Again I was not disappointed in my audiobook adventure. The Caucasus is still a remote and wild region on the world map. It sits at a crossroad between Europe and Asia, an isthmus between the Black and Caspian seas. The Greeks chained Prometheus up in the Caucasus to have his liver devoured each day by the eagle for giving man fire. Ovid, the Roman poet, had Jason said to the Caucasus, the end of the known world, to steal the Golden Fleece. The regions lends itself well to mythologies with its blend of beauty and danger. It is a land that has been contested and fought over for centuries. The original tribes who settled the area gave dynastic giants like the Russian and Turkish Empires more than they could handle. The Ghost of Freedom A History of the Caucasus by Charles King and narrated by Michael Page does justice to this incredible region. King starts with a forward which explains the importance of words in the region. “In a part of the world where ethnic, religious, and political categories are hotly contested, being sensitive to labels is particularly crucial.” He then provides a in depth chronology of the history of the area as well as a glossary of words related to the area. The words are influenced by the original tribal languages as well as successive waves of conquerors from Russia, Turkey and others. I want to point out how incredible Mr. Page’s narration is concerning the many, many foreign words. Had I read the book, my eyes would have skimmed over the unpronounceable, for me, and in doing so I would have lost a part of the book. Listening to Mr. Page’s confident pronunciation conveys the rich of the words and helps spin the spell of foreign lands. The books leads the listener through the history of the Caucasus region from the first recorded Russian foray in the mid sixteenth century to the early twenty first century struggle to emerge from the shadow of the former Soviet Union into individual nations. This is an audiobook I will listen to again. Mr. King’s storytelling on the history of the region is complex, vast and accessible. Coupled with Mr. Page’s incredible narration, the audiobook is a entertaining, educational and fascinating experience.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Em

    This is great! Highly recommended. Full thoughts here: https://cookiesandthecaucasus.wordpre... This is great! Highly recommended. Full thoughts here: https://cookiesandthecaucasus.wordpre...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Vicky Hunt

    "A Mountain of Languages" Having introduced the region of the Caucasus as a mountain of languages, people groups, and varying societal organizations, living in often inaccessible geographical regions; Charles King chose to present these arrayed 'tribes' from the perspective of their shaky relationships and alliances with foreign empires. I use the word tribes here loosely, because they are really to be seen as loose feudal states within a state. Georgia is a frontier country of the Soviet Union, "A Mountain of Languages" Having introduced the region of the Caucasus as a mountain of languages, people groups, and varying societal organizations, living in often inaccessible geographical regions; Charles King chose to present these arrayed 'tribes' from the perspective of their shaky relationships and alliances with foreign empires. I use the word tribes here loosely, because they are really to be seen as loose feudal states within a state. Georgia is a frontier country of the Soviet Union, and has been compared to the 'somewhat similar' wild West of the United States. Though I don't really see a parallel there between the US struggles with the native Americans and Russia's struggle with/ over the Caucasus, I can see the comparison being made between the looseness of the tribes that existed on the North American continent. The three South Caucasus states of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan have a parallel history, in that they have been historically sandwiched on a political 'fault-line' between empires. So, King had a lot of ground to work with, in selecting his material for the book. Of course, my background on the Caucasus was near zero. From my perspective, Mr. King's approach was creative. Instead of treating the many smaller groups in-depth, he dealt topically with the way they dealt with the hegemony struggles of Russia and the Ottomans. He brought in a great deal of discussion of Armenia and Azerbaijan as well. And, a bit of a sweeping panorama of Russian and Turk history. His insightful comments throughout are enlightening, and I will probably reread the book, since I'm sure I only absorbed the tip of the iceberg, considering my lack of background in that region. But, it led me to do a great deal of side research on the Black and Caspian Seas. Those are areas I'd love to explore in more detail as well. The conclusion of the book is indispensable. Here King very astutely commented on the 'idea of Europe' today, (as well as some of the United States work in the area.) While acknowledging Europe's history is somewhat different than what they want to be seen as today, he speaks with vision about what Europe wants to be. Would that the whole Earth could have that vision. I read this book for my stop in Georgia on my Journey Around the World in 80 books for 2018,in the Kindle format with whisper-sync narration by Michael Page. This was perfect for this book. My next stop is Turkey, before heading down into Africa via Syria, Jordan, and Israel. A few quotations follow: "Roman writers claimed that scores of translators were required when traders sought to do business there, while Arab geographers sometimes labeled the region the djabal al-alsun, the mountain of languages." "The Armenian genocide was neither explicitly ordered as a single act of violence nor was it the unavoidable consequence of some ancient quarrel between Muslims and Christians. Rather, it was the result of communal fear, ethnic reprisals, government paranoia, and fitful experimentation with targeted killing as a tool of modern statecraft." "In the popular imagination the Armenian genocide has come to be thought of as a single event—the imprisonment and killing of intellectuals and other leaders of the Armenian community in Constantinople on April 24, 1915. However, the violence of the First World War was a rolling phenomenon... the systematic ethnic cleansing of Christian villages and neighborhoods; the persecution of communal leaders by the Ottoman army and gendarmerie; and the forced deportation, on foot and under deplorable conditions, of entire communities." "The Turkish Republic, established as the successor to the defunct Ottoman Empire later that same year... Before the genocide, it was possible to be an Armenian and an Ottoman. Afterward it was impossible to be both an Armenian and a Turk." "While the genocide itself was an Anatolian affair, its aftereffects became a fundamental part of the modern history of the Caucasus." "...those values that most often defined Europeanness; nationalism, chauvinism, and a penchant for the authoritarian state." "To conceive of Europe as a place that does not stop at the Oder River or even the Bosporus became possible once Europe refashioned itself as a set of values rather than a self-evident set of boundaries."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Steve Cran

    The Caucus mountain range straddle the borders of Europe, Turkey, Russia and Iran. It is home to a multitude of different people and just as many governments. The residents of the Caucus Mountain range follow a variety of different religions , Orthodox Christianity, Shia Islam, Suno Islam and even nomadic Buddhists. Before the Russian take over the Caucus people were very tribal with power residing in the hands of local chieftains. Through the history of the Caucus three major empires have vied The Caucus mountain range straddle the borders of Europe, Turkey, Russia and Iran. It is home to a multitude of different people and just as many governments. The residents of the Caucus Mountain range follow a variety of different religions , Orthodox Christianity, Shia Islam, Suno Islam and even nomadic Buddhists. Before the Russian take over the Caucus people were very tribal with power residing in the hands of local chieftains. Through the history of the Caucus three major empires have vied for control, the Persian Empire, Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Historically no Empire has been able to completely control the Caucus as the local warlord, whom power relied often times shifted alliances based on self interest and putting one empire against the other. The reverse was also true the major empires would pit the various warlords against each other. Classic divide and conquer which is easy to do as the various ethnic groups did not always like each other . The book traces military history and documents how Russia was able to beat out the two other empires and take control over the Caucus. There were many conflicts with the local population. The most noted would be with the Daghestani people. The Circassian would put up fierce resistance to Russian rule. Often times using guerrila tactics the Russians found themselves taking on heavy casualties. Military leaders like Ermelov would mow down entire villages. Other leaders would deport major sections of the population . The communist take over would complicate things. Ur eventually Russia took over, To the Russians the Caucus was at times a savage place but going their could be liberating . Often times Rusdia sent their undesirables like the Cossacks out there as colonists. Some times other nationalities would defect from forced conscription in the Russian Army and end up siding with the highlanders. Sometimes being a slave to a high lander was the same as being a serf to a noble or a forced conscripts in the military. With Gorbachev reforms countries like Armenia,Azerbaijan and a Georgia broke away from the Soviet Union . This did not lead to peace but rather it lead to infighting among various ethnic groups. Chechenya tried to violently break away from Russian rule twice,their tactics involved invoking religion as a motivating factor. They used violent terror tactics to achieve their means . Great over all history of the region. Of course, I will tell to go read the book if you want more information.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    It is probably impossible to wish that this started all the way back with settlement of the mountains and archaeological evidence, but King does a masterful job tracking the peoples of the Caucasus from their early interaction with expansionist Imperial Russia, through the Soviet years to the recent destructive and tragic wars. For dealing with people who are often tribal, illiterate and leave few records except the accounts of their enemies, King genuinely tries to sort out the origins of the c It is probably impossible to wish that this started all the way back with settlement of the mountains and archaeological evidence, but King does a masterful job tracking the peoples of the Caucasus from their early interaction with expansionist Imperial Russia, through the Soviet years to the recent destructive and tragic wars. For dealing with people who are often tribal, illiterate and leave few records except the accounts of their enemies, King genuinely tries to sort out the origins of the conflicts with an even hand and an outsider's disinclination to hold a 300 year old grudge.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    4.5 This book is ideal for someone who has already gotten an understanding of Russian history from 1700-present, as Russia has consistently been the empire/state with maximum interaction with peoples of the Caucasus. Organization follows different patterns with one excellent chapter (part 3) that contains an "orientalist" history of the Caucasus, which in my estimation is as important for cultural understanding as any recount of political history. Tip: If you've been to the Caucasus before, your a 4.5 This book is ideal for someone who has already gotten an understanding of Russian history from 1700-present, as Russia has consistently been the empire/state with maximum interaction with peoples of the Caucasus. Organization follows different patterns with one excellent chapter (part 3) that contains an "orientalist" history of the Caucasus, which in my estimation is as important for cultural understanding as any recount of political history. Tip: If you've been to the Caucasus before, your appreciation of this book will grow exponentially.

  13. 5 out of 5

    MH

    This book gave a general overview of governance (and the lack of it) in Caucasus. I walked away with more understanding of the region. I'd recommend for someone with a specific interest in the region. This book gave a general overview of governance (and the lack of it) in Caucasus. I walked away with more understanding of the region. I'd recommend for someone with a specific interest in the region.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Manray9

    This is a good start in understanding the complicated history and cultures of the peoples of the Caucasus, but the presentation is disorganized and the examination cursory.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Peter Corrigan

    This book did a pretty nice job with a concise history of one of the most complicated and fragmented places on earth. In a world where 'diversity' has become almost a religion the Caucasus is one of the leading lights. Physical, ethnographic, religious, cultural, etc. This place can and will make your head spin. Ossetia (North and South), Chechnya, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Circassia, Abkhazia, Dagestan and plenty more. And to make sense of it in a reasonable amount of spac This book did a pretty nice job with a concise history of one of the most complicated and fragmented places on earth. In a world where 'diversity' has become almost a religion the Caucasus is one of the leading lights. Physical, ethnographic, religious, cultural, etc. This place can and will make your head spin. Ossetia (North and South), Chechnya, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Circassia, Abkhazia, Dagestan and plenty more. And to make sense of it in a reasonable amount of space is very commendable. The sections on the early 'explorers' who traveled and wrote about the region, providing a portrait for the outside world (and many of the stereotypes) are quite interesting. That they included several German emigres was surprising. 'Travels in Russia and the Caucasus Mountains' was published in 1787 by Johann Guldenstadt who spent several years during the reign of Catherine the Great. Of course, the Caucasus is closely tied to Russian history (as well as Persian and Ottoman-Turkish) and imperialism and that complex story is also well-told. Russia had a strange love-affair with this region while inflicting endless pain in attempting to subjugate or at least control the area. Some of the great writers of Russian history had spells in or near the Caucasus and wrote about it; Pushkin, Lermontov, and Tolstoy (actually served in the Army there). The arrival of General Alexei Ermolov around 1820 brought new military tactics and a level of pressure that seemed new to the author but had certainly been practiced by numerous empires. Things like scorched earth, ethnic cleansing and ferocious reprisals. He deals with the issues of slavery in the region and concludes that Ottoman (Muslim) slavery was really a pretty good deal for gals plucked from the mountains of the Caucasus, which is but one example of his constant tendency to downplay Muslim and Islamic misbehavior. Just as he sort of brushes aside the Turkish genocide of the Armenians in WW1 and chalks it up to the confusion of the war. The books feels a little rushed toward the end as events gather steam from about 1900 onward and there is so much more information. The post-WW1 mayhem, the advent of Bolshevism, WW2 mass relocations, the Soviet era and the breakup and inter-ethnic conflicts and rise of fundamentalist Islam are dealt with, but necessarily with a broad brush. I dropped one off the rating for his annoying tendency to minimize Islamic guilt throughout the book. Even the horrific Beslan school massacre (2006) in Ossetia perpetrated by Chechen jihadists is sort of glossed over, But as a Georgetown professor the last thing he could probably tolerate is to be called 'Islamophobic'! Lol.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paulo Jan

    First of all , I want to say that the cover is so beautiful , and by itself gives 1 star to this book. The book was rewarded by Moscow times in 2008 , the year of releasing , and I regarded that. Besides , I had previously read two other books of Charles King , based in Eastern Europe with great acceptation : "Odessa" and "Extreme politics". But definitely , the Caucasus is not his speciality. He wrote a very basic and obvious book , with resumed informations and with some lack of organization tha First of all , I want to say that the cover is so beautiful , and by itself gives 1 star to this book. The book was rewarded by Moscow times in 2008 , the year of releasing , and I regarded that. Besides , I had previously read two other books of Charles King , based in Eastern Europe with great acceptation : "Odessa" and "Extreme politics". But definitely , the Caucasus is not his speciality. He wrote a very basic and obvious book , with resumed informations and with some lack of organization that reminded me Wikipedia's contents. Some good reflections started well , but all of a sudden , got lost in excessive comments that said nothing. The last chapter saved the book in my opinion, with the description of his meeting with Edward Shevardnadze and the comments about the 5 days' war in South Ossetia that had happened during the writing of the book .

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    An irritating book on a subject for which there's not a lot of books available. The author decides to begin the story essentially during the Russian beginnings in the Caucasus - in the 19th century - which essentially leaves out entire pieces of Caucasus history that are valuable to the reader, of Byzantine and Iranian influence (especially the Byzantine-Sassanid Wars, for example) undiscussed. Even accepting that this is just a history of the last 200 years, the book is choppy and bizarrely orga An irritating book on a subject for which there's not a lot of books available. The author decides to begin the story essentially during the Russian beginnings in the Caucasus - in the 19th century - which essentially leaves out entire pieces of Caucasus history that are valuable to the reader, of Byzantine and Iranian influence (especially the Byzantine-Sassanid Wars, for example) undiscussed. Even accepting that this is just a history of the last 200 years, the book is choppy and bizarrely organized, going back and forth in time while leaving the reader confused and waxing for pages and pages on, of all things, British mountaineering expeditions in the late 19th century. The end of the book is more thoroughly laid out, but it's also the period for which there's a lot more material out there.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve Hanson

    I found this book to be a good overview of the history of the Caucasus as a whole. He covers the early periods, the Russian conquest, and has a few chapters on the post-Soviet situations. It is a good introduction to the topic, and I especially appreciate that he doesn't devote too much time to the whole Shamil story (which some books tend to overdo). I found the chapter called "The Imaginary Caucasus" interesting. He examines the whole mythology of the Caucasus in Russian and world culture. Thes I found this book to be a good overview of the history of the Caucasus as a whole. He covers the early periods, the Russian conquest, and has a few chapters on the post-Soviet situations. It is a good introduction to the topic, and I especially appreciate that he doesn't devote too much time to the whole Shamil story (which some books tend to overdo). I found the chapter called "The Imaginary Caucasus" interesting. He examines the whole mythology of the Caucasus in Russian and world culture. These kinds of discussions of colonialism and its mentality are interesting. He draws a parallel the the American mythology of the Native Indains. It includes an extensive bibliography for further reading.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pearse Anderson

    I started this on the plane home from Italy, and six months later I almost dozed off trying to get through the conclusion to this piece. The history was dense, intense, and full of names and places, but often frustratingly so. I'm not sure how much I learned by the end, and how much this could have taught me. The pacing was strange (but the reveal that 25% of the book was notes and indexes was SO lovely when I realized how close I was to finishing) and the jumps between sections or types of hist I started this on the plane home from Italy, and six months later I almost dozed off trying to get through the conclusion to this piece. The history was dense, intense, and full of names and places, but often frustratingly so. I'm not sure how much I learned by the end, and how much this could have taught me. The pacing was strange (but the reveal that 25% of the book was notes and indexes was SO lovely when I realized how close I was to finishing) and the jumps between sections or types of history (mountaineering to political, without stopping over at economic or feminist histories) was also strange. 6/10.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    A short survey of the Caucasus from the Russian conquest at the start of the 19th century until around 2000, this is a fairly good book to get a general understanding of what has happened in the region. However the short length does mean that some important details are not given enough of a look, and considering the complexity of the history of the region it does detract somewhat. For someone who has no knowledge of the Caucasus it is a great introduction, but for those looking for an in depth l A short survey of the Caucasus from the Russian conquest at the start of the 19th century until around 2000, this is a fairly good book to get a general understanding of what has happened in the region. However the short length does mean that some important details are not given enough of a look, and considering the complexity of the history of the region it does detract somewhat. For someone who has no knowledge of the Caucasus it is a great introduction, but for those looking for an in depth look, or indeed an earlier history, this is not going to be of much benefit.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This book provides a history of the Caucasus, from the late 18th century to the present, largely coinciding with the growth of Russian influence in the region. The book is a good introduction, and does provide some insight into current ethnic conflicts in the region. The writing style was a little dry, and it was hard to follow in some places, but that is likely more because of my lack of background knowledge about the region.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jason Hebert

    This was a wonderful overview of the Caucasus; it presented multiple points of view for important events and the narrative flowed logically. The author draws clear parallels between events at different times yet also points out the limitations of such comparisons. As in any good history there are no clear heroes or villains, only real people making both good and bad decisions.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    In 250 pages, The Ghost of Freedom follows the history of the Caucasus Mountain region. The title explains how the author tries to give coherence to the history of a region of wars, clans, religions, varied terrains, and multiple cultures. Laying a foundation for understanding the Caucasus allows the reader to expand a world view that takes in Russia, Turkey and Iran in the present day.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Vince

    The first 100 or so pages are hard. Lots of names and places that I'm not to familiar with. The book picks up around 1870 and the parts about what shaped Russian perceptions of the area, writers like Pushkin, are excellent. Worth a look if you have an interest in the subject matter. The first 100 or so pages are hard. Lots of names and places that I'm not to familiar with. The book picks up around 1870 and the parts about what shaped Russian perceptions of the area, writers like Pushkin, are excellent. Worth a look if you have an interest in the subject matter.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tim Verstraete

    I would have given it 3.5 stars because the first part was very haphazard and jumped all the way with dates en times and so on so it was difficult to follow. Once we started with the soviet area, things cleared up ... still very interesting book about an interesting area!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mike Blyth

    Informative history, decently written, not a page-turner. But now 95% of what I know about the Caucasus region (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Ossetia, the Circassians and so on) is what I gleaned from this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mason

    An interesting account of the history of the Caucasus, a region rife with ethnic tension and conflicting national identities wedged between Russia and the Middle East.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Robert Tchaidze

    The XXth century could have been analyzed better

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Lombardozzi

    Good book, but very dense. I think it's best left for those with a passion for the Caucasus. Good book, but very dense. I think it's best left for those with a passion for the Caucasus.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hana

    Charles King lecture on the Caucasus at Villanova: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf86w... Charles King lecture on the Caucasus at Villanova: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf86w...

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