Books + Reviews

Nart Sagas From The Caucasus, by John Colarusso

Nart Sagas From The Caucasus, by John Colarusso Nart Sagas from the Caucasus: Myths and Legends from the Circassians, Abazas, Abkhaz, and Ubykhs

Reviewed by Eric Eller

If our lives are to be short,
Then let our fame be great!
Let us not depart from truth! Let fairness be our path!
Let us not know grief!Let us live in freedom!

So starts the first saga of the Narts in John Colarusso’s compilation of the myths and legends of the Circassians, Abazas, Abkhaz, and Ubykhs of the Caucasus region. The valor and determination of the Narts in this response to God’s question about how they wanted to spend their lives is reflected in the durability of their stories.

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The Northwest Caucasus Past, present, future by Walter Richmond

The Northwest Caucasus Past, present, future by Walter RichmondPublisher: Routledge; 1 edition (4 Aug. 2011)

This is the first book to present a comprehensive history of the Northwest Caucasus. Based on extensive research, it describes the peoples of the Northwest Caucasus, which have a significantly different ethnic makeup and history than the Northeast (Chechnya and Daghestan). The book examines their struggles for survival against repeated invasions and their ultimate defeat at the hands of the Russians. It explores interethnic relations and demographic changes that have occurred in the region over time with a particular focus on the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries, incorporating recently published archival materials concerning the deportation of the Abazas, Circassians and Ubykhs to the Ottoman Empire by the Russians, which is treated as the first act of ethnic cleansing in modern history.

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Bourdieu's Secret Admirer in the Caucasus: A World-System Biography by Georgi M. Derluguian

Bourdieu's Secret Admirer in the Caucasus by Georgi DerluguianBourdieu's Secret Admirer in the Caucasus is a gripping account of the developmental dynamics involved in the collapse of Soviet socialism. Fusing a narrative of human agency to his critical discussion of structural forces, Georgi M. Derluguian reconstructs from firsthand accounts the life story of Musa Shanib—who from a small town in the Caucasus grew to be a prominent leader in the Chechen revolution. In his examination of Shanib and his keen interest in the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, Derluguian discerns how and why this dissident intellectual became a nationalist warlord.

Exploring globalization, democratization, ethnic identity, and international terrorism, Derluguian contextualizes Shanib's personal trajectory from de-Stalinization through the nationalist rebellions of the 1990s, to the recent rise in Islamic militancy. He masterfully reveals not only how external economic and political forces affect the former Soviet republics but how those forces are in turn shaped by the individuals, institutions, ethnicities, and social networks that make up those societies. Drawing on the work of Charles Tilly, Immanuel Wallerstein, and, of course, Bourdieu, Derluguian's explanation of the recent ethnic wars and terrorist acts in Russia succeeds in illuminating the role of human agency in shaping history.

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Review of Charles King's 'The Ghost of Freedom: a history of the Caucasus'

The Ghost of Freedom: a history of the CaucasusReviewed by George Hewitt | SOAS

The Caucasus is Europe's most complex region in terms of its ethno-linguistic makeup; even if one draws the line between Europe and Asia along the ridge of the main chain, this statement would remain true. On this basis alone, then, there is wide scope. The 'Father of History', Herodotus, knew that the Caucasus extended to the Caspian Sea, noting (Book I, section 203): 'Along the west of it [the Caspian] stretches the chain of the Caucasus, the longest and loftiest of all mountain-ranges, inhabited by many different tribes.' He speculated on the Egyptian origins of the Colchians of western Caucasia (which is reflected in the folk-history of one of the races, the Abkhazians, who are indigenous to what was northern Colchis), basing his opinion in part 'on the fact that the Colchians, the Egyptians, and the Ethiopians are the only races which from ancient times have practised circumcision' (Book II, section 104). One might, thus, conclude that there is also much to say on the vertical axis of time. But the Caucasus rather slipped off history's highways (at least as far as Europe was concerned). Writing of late 18th-century Russian knowledge about the contemporary western Georgian kingdom, Isobel de Madariaga noted in her Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great (2001.369): 'So little was known about the area that when an emissary of King Solomon of Imeretia asked to be received in St Petersburg in 1768, Catherine called for maps, and found that according to some of them Tiflis was on the Black Sea, according to others, on the Caspian)', whereas the Georgian capital in fact lies somewhere in the middle of the isthmus formed by these seas.

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Circassian Culture and Folklore: Hospitality, Traditions, Cuisine, Festivals and Music by Amjad Jaimoukha

The Ghost of Freedom: a history of the CaucasusCircassian Culture and Folklore: Hospitality, Traditions, Cuisine, Festivals and Music (Kabardian, Cherkess, Adigean, Shapsugh and Diaspora)

Compiled & edited by Amjad Jaimoukha [1964 - 2017]

This is the first book in English to describe in detail the rich culture and traditions of the Circassians - comprising the Karbardians, Cherkess, Adigeans and Shapsugh. The diaspora of this North Caucasian people stems from their defeat in the catastrophic century-long Circassian-Russian War, which ended in 1864. As a result, Circassia's population lost their time-honoured independence and huge numbers went into exile.

Circassian Culture and Folklore provides an ethno-anthropological perspective on the ancient hospitality, cuisine and attitude to life that Circassians across the world still keep alive. A taste is also given of the many holidays and festivals celebrated across the calendar, revealing their vibrant syncretism of ancient beliefs.

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