Friday, July 31, 2015


A few days ago I finished reading my tenth book on Post-Soviet wars, Allah's Mountains: The Battle for Chechnya by Sebastian Smith. For me my reading inspires my painting and my painting inspires my reading. I like reading about other non-fiction topics as well, but lately my primary reading topic is modern wars. This book surprised me a bit. I thought it would include material on the 2nd Chechen War as the book was supposedly updated, but it did not. The writing of the book was concluded sometime around 1998. It also had a lot more information on the Circassians and other Caucasian peoples than I expected. I learned a lot about ethnic groups related to Chechens and have a decent understanding about why other states in the Northern Caucasus didn't seek independence. The First Chechen War was not addressed until about half way through the book. His coverage of the war was bit spotty. All was covered, but he definitely decided to concentrate on the occurrences that he reported firsthand on. The book is well written and reads quickly.

Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus - Carlotta Gall & Thomas de Waal

Although this book only covers the First Chechen War this is probably the book I recommend most for a general overview. The description of the 1994/1995 New Year's Eve Grozny attack in here is thrilling. The book's coverage of the Kizlyar-Pervomayskoye hostage crisis is equally good.

Chechnya Diary: A War Correspondent's Story of Surviving the War in Chechnya - Thomas Goltz

This is the first book I read about the Chechen Wars. I'm a big fan of Goltz's style and after reading other books I appreciate this book's non-Grozny focus more.

To Catch a Tartar: Notes from the Caucasus - Chris Bird

Similar to Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus, but not as good. As a Dad I appreciated his descriptions of being a war correspondent while at the same time hauling his family around.

One Soldiers War - Arkady Babchenko

I think this might be the only Russian memoir from the Chechen Wars available in English (I sure wish there were more!). This book is a must. The author is great writer and participated in the First and Second wars. It gets a bit repetitious concerning the numerous beatings he endured from his fellow Russians, but other than that it was very interesting.

The Sky Wept Fire: My Life as a Chechen Freedom Fighter - Mikail Eldin

This is the only memoir I've found by a Chechen fighter. It is good read, especially for his descriptions of the daily slog of being an insurgent and his imprisonment. Strangely, he left out all descriptions of actual combat!

Fangs of the Lone Wolf: Chechen Tactics in the Russian-Chechen Wars 1994-2009 - Dodge Billingsley

This book is great. It is full of maps and tactics (very low level) from a Chechen point of view. My only wish is there was a companion book that covered Russian tactics.

Russia's Chechen Wars: 1994-2000: Lessons from Urban Combat - Olga Oliker

This small book is OK, but completely non-essential. Other books such as Fangs of the Wolf cover much of the same material better.

RAIDS Special: Tchetchenie: L'Armee Russe Au Combat

This another book (or magazine special) I bought. It was very pricey because I had to buy it directly from the French publisher. It is in French (which I don't speak) and contains many photographs of Russian troops in the 2nd Chechen War. There are a couple of photographs of the Chechen forces included as well. Perhaps if I could read the text I'd find it more useful and at this point I've found all the photographs elsewhere so I don't use it much.

Camouflage Uniforms of the Soviet Union and Russia: 1937 to the Present - Dennis Desmond

There aren't any Osprey books on uniforms worn in the Chechen Wars so I sought this one out. In a very comprehensive manner, but dry manner it covers only camouflage uniforms of the Soviet/Russian forces up until about 1999. It helped me begin to understand the many camouflage schemes used by Russian forces in the 1990's, but the book is by no means essential for what I'm doing. My book reeks of cigarette smoke. Yuck!

Russian Security and Paramilitary Forces since 1991 - Mark Galeotti

Hopefully this is the last Osprey book about Modern Wars I buy. There are some references to the Chechen Wars that are useful, but the information contained is no better than Wikipedia and similar pictures (sometimes better, certainly more) can be found online.

Related Wars
Georgia Diary: A Chronicle of War and Political Chaos in the Post-Soviet Caucasus - Thomas Goltz

So far this is the only book I've read about the Georgian Civil War. Before I read this I read Goltz's book on Chechnya and I liked his travel-history style of writing so I was excited to read this. I wasn't disappointed. I wish there more books about this war out there.

Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War - Thomas de Waal

This is the first book I've read about the Armenian-Azerbaijan War. For good reason it is widely regarded as the go-to book on this topic. It is very well written, seems fair and is now up-to-date.

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