The Angel of Grozny: Orphans of a Forgotten War

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Overview

For over fifteen years, journalist and best-selling author Åsne Seierstad has been the West's most passionate voice on the prolonged and bloody conflict in Chechnya. Traveling in secret and under the constant threat of danger, she lived with orphans, the wounded, and the lost-the children of Grozny.

A compelling and intimate portrait of Chechnya today. The Angel of Grozny is a vivid account of a land's violent history and its ongoing battle for freedom.

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Editorial Reviews

Peter Baker
The world long ago turned its gaze away, content that the big guns had been silenced and uninterested in peering beyond the illusion of stability that Vladimir Putin's government in Moscow presents. But Asne Seierstad forces us to look again, to confront the reality of a savage place, to recognize that a broken, brutalized people have only begun to figure out how deep the wounds really go…Seierstad has produced a masterly and much needed call to attention for the international community. In Nadia Christensen's translation, Seierstad displays the same literary style that distinguished The Bookseller of Kabul, a lyrical account of an Afghan family she lived with for several months in 2002…if there are few angels watching over the orphans of Grozny, at least they have someone to tell their stories.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In this searing journey through a traumatized Chechnya, two children orphaned by the civil war-Timur, a violent street urchin, and his sister Liana, a waif molested by her uncle who becomes a kleptomaniac-symbolize their country's agony, abandonment and lingering dysfunctions. Norwegian journalist Seierstad (The Bookseller of Kabul) includes them in a gallery of portraits drawn from her reporting-sometimes undercover-from the region. These include a kindly childless woman who runs Grozny's last orphanage; a Russian soldier suffering from brain damage caused by a rebel mine; survivors of Stalin's expulsion of the Chechens to Kazakhstan in WWII; and a family whose daughter joined an Islamist sect and died in the spectacular terrorist takeover of a Moscow theater. Even more disturbing is her chilling, absurdist depiction of the regime of Moscow-backed Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, which combines torture and disappearances with a saccharine cult of personality. (One of Kadyrov's youth groups distributed roses on his behalf to every woman in Grozny.) There are many victims but few heroes; the author finds chauvinism and Islamist misogyny to be among the reliable reflexes of the dispossessed in this wounded society. Seierstad's vivid, unsparing reportage makes this distant tragedy very personal. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

The best-selling author of The Bookseller of Kabul here provides a dark look at the plight of children abused and orphaned by war in Chechnya. Equal parts history, biography, and ethnography, the text documents Seierstad's travels into the war-torn region, for periods from 1994 through 2006, giving firsthand accounts of the lives of both Russians and Chechens under an ever-changing banner of presidents, rebels, and pseudoleaders. Heavily laden with the history of the conflict, the story focuses mainly on the Chechen woman (referenced in the title) who, unable to have children, has taken in hundreds of orphans during a war that has not yet ended. With haunting, occasionally melodic, occasionally clinical prose (at least as translated by Christensen), Seierstad reveals how knowing nothing but anger, poverty, and conflict can damage the psyche of a child and how a mother's love is sometimes enough to change a life-but sometimes is not. The ending is far from happy, and it reminds readers that there is more than one war happening in our world today. For both public and academic libraries.
—Jenny Seftas

Kirkus Reviews
Norwegian journalist Seierstad (The Bookseller of Kabul, 2003, etc.) movingly reports on the bleak fallout from the wars in Chechnya. Her atmospheric and heartbreakingly sad text records two treks to the newly independent Muslim country: in 1995, shortly after the disastrous invasion by Russian troops under Boris Yeltsin, and again 12 years later when the war raged anew under Vladimir Putin. Seierstad was a 24-year-old rookie journalist eager to join the fray (despite warnings of sniper attacks) when she hitched a ride with Russian troops into Grozny in 1995. She found the city emptied of men, who were fighting in the mountains, and full of starving, terrified women. Its hospitals, orphanages, waterworks and homes had been demolished by Russian attacks. The Chechens' lives had been blown apart by war, and thousands of orphans had been left to survive on their own. Following the author's initial trip, Aslan Maskhadov was elected as Chechnya's first president in 1997. He proved unable to control the spread of wahhabism, a radical form of Islamic fundamentalism that split the country and led to new conflict with Russia. After Maskhadov's assassination in March 2005, Seierstad found her way back into the country and met Hadijat, called the Angel of Grozny because she never turned away a child in need. In her unofficial orphanage Hadijat and her husband Malik cared for scores of children who had been abandoned, abused and traumatized, left with few prospects for education or a future. The author listened to these suffering youngsters and chronicles their tales of torture, deportation and misery. She also offers her observations on the absurdities of Chechnya's new, Soviet-style dictator RamzanKadyrov, who simply denied the existence of 20,000 orphans. Chechens pride themselves as fearless freedom fighters and frequently take the wolf as their symbol, Seierstad notes, but they "forgot that the wolf is a beast of prey that mercilessly pursues every weak, defenseless animal."A sympathetic, brave work from a deeply engaged war correspondent.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465019496
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 5/25/2010
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,008,921
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Åsne Seierstad is an award-winning journalist who has reported from such war-torn regions as Chechnya,China, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The author of A Hundred and One Days as well as The Bookseller of Kabul, she lives in Norway.
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Table of Contents

1 The Little Wolf 1

2 ...sharpens his kinzhal 11

3 The First War 28

4 Wolf Hunt 49

5 Return 63

6 The Angel of Grozny 71

7 The Abused 78

8 Living in a Fog 88

9 Friday Evening 96

10 Sleep in a Cold Room - Wake Up in a Cold Room 119

11 Between Mecca and the Kremlin 137

12 The Enemy Among Us 152

13 Welcome to Ramzania 162

14 New Grozny and the Green Zone 173

15 The Youth Palace 179

16 War and Peace 198

17 His Father's Son 210

18 Tea, Old Woman? 226

19 While Putin Watches 235

20 Honour 246

21 The Fist 253

22 For the Fatherland 291

23 Minus and Plus 311

24 The Little Wolf and the Thief 317

Thank You 341

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