File this book title under wishful thinking (circa 1998) that proved to be completely wrong:
The contemporaneous reviews were glowing…at least according to YUP. This one is especially funny in hindsight:
“Mr. Lieven examines the weaknesses of Russian nationalism and shows why this potentially destabilizing force has remained relatively quiescent in populations live outside the borders of the Russian Federation. Mr. Lieven argues convincingly, that the oligarchy of powerful bankers and “reformed” communists that now dominates the Russian state has little interest in promoting national self-awareness. [An] insightful book.” —Christian Caryl, Wall Street Journal
It could now be argued that Russians have more than an adequate share of “national self-awareness.”
And this review is just sad:
“This book pays tribute to the Chechen people. They alone emerge from the calamity with honour. . . . They managed to create a nation for themselves against overwhelming odds.”—Economist Review
More wishful thinking:
“A probing account of the Russian defeat in Chechnya and its importance in revealing the end of Russia as a great military and imperial power. Lieven’s perceptive and intelligent work succeeds in all of its objectives, providing a gripping eyewitness account of the war in Chechnya, a lengthy account of the reasons and meanings behind the outcome, and a useful examination of the character of the new Chechen nation and its people. Lieven’s work is the best account currently available on the Chechen war and its consequences not only for Russia, but for our own understanding of the post-Communist world.”—Virginia Quarterly Review
One of the few critical reviews – this one in the NY Review of Books – had this to say:
…it is fairly clear on which side of the Chechen-Russian conflict his sympathies will lie.[...] t may be deduced that Mr. Lieven’s feelings toward the Russians are somewhat less admiring. [review goes on to cite some rather egregious examples]
…If his Russia is not something to provoke fear or hatred, that is only because it has decayed into something more worthy of pity and contempt. Indeed, Russia emerges from his analysis as a place so hideous that the only thing redeeming it is the completeness with which it has allowed itself to be defeated.
The journalist and historian as a biased advocate….makes for interesting reading and bad history. It reminds me of the horrendous body of literature on the Soviet-Afghan war that came out in the 1980s.
You can read this up-to-date timeline to see how things shifted back in Russia’s favor.