Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Khassan Baiev

A few days ago before work I finished reading The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire by Khassan Baiev with Ruth and Nicholas Daniloff. I was glad to say I successfully read two books on vacation!

This is one of the better books I've read on the Chechen Wars and probably the only one I've read so far that has broader appeal. The author really lays himself bare and lets you into his mind. With this book you get a really good sense of Khassan's motivations and failings. I especially enjoyed learning about his upbringing, what his Chechen heritage and Muslim faith meant to him and how his family interacted with each other in Chechen (not Russian) ways. Khassan was the only operating Chechen surgeon during the First Chechen War and the beginning of the Second Chechen War. He operated in the crudest conditions one can imagine; used a carpenter's saw and drill, worked by kerosene lamps, made his own salves and encouraged patients to clean their wounds with their own urine. His patients included civilians and fithers, both Chechen and Russian. Helping anyone who came to his "hospital" made him many friends and enemies. The book is full of many near escapes with death. It also includes many run ins with famous individuals including Shamil Basayev (coincidentally a schoolyard acquaintance) as it is Khassan who amputated his leg during a marathon 48 hour session of treating 300 persons injured during the Chechen escape from Grozny, including 67 amputations! Highly recommended.

If you're into podcasts this old podcast/radio show interview with Khassan covers lots of highlights of the book:

WBUR: The Connection: October 27th, 2003

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