The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus / Edition 1

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The Caucasus mountains rise at the intersection of Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. A land of astonishing natural beauty and a dizzying array of ancient cultures, the Caucasus for most of the twentieth century lay inside the Soviet Union, before movements of national liberation created newly independent countries and sparked the devastating war in Chechnya.

Combining riveting storytelling with insightful analysis, The Ghost of Freedom is the first general history of the modern Caucasus, stretching from the beginning of Russian imperial expansion up to the rise of new countries after the Soviet Union's collapse. In evocative and accessible prose, Charles King reveals how tsars, highlanders, revolutionaries, and adventurers have contributed to the fascinating history of this borderland, providing an indispensable guide to the complicated histories, politics, and cultures of this intriguing frontier. Based on new research in multiple languages, the book shows how the struggle for freedom in the mountains, hills, and plains of the Caucasus has been a perennial theme over the last two hundred years—a struggle which has led to liberation as well as to new forms of captivity. The book sheds valuable light on the origins of modern disputes, including the ongoing war in Chechnya, conflicts in Georgia and Azerbaijan, and debates over oil from the Caspian Sea and its impact on world markets.

Ranging from the salons of Russian writers to the circus sideshows of America, from the offices of European diplomats to the villages of Muslim mountaineers, The Ghost of Freedom paints a rich portrait of one of the world's most turbulent and least understood regions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this first general history of the modern Caucasus to appear in the West...King sheds light on modern tribulations and disputes, including the ongoing war in Chechnya, the Georgian-South Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhazian conflics."—CHOICE

"It is a bold historian who writes a history of the Caucasus.... Some forty mutually unintelligible languages are spoken. Worse for anyone trying to present a coherent narrative, these disparate peoples have very different histories, and only two, the Georgians and Armenians (some would add the Azeris), have a history of statehood consistent enough to be retold as one would retell the history of a West European coutnry."—Donald Rayfield, The Times Literary Supplement

"King picks and chooses events and themes seemingly designed to give proper depth to an understanding of the fiery, violent decade and a half since the collapse of the Soviet Union."—Foreign Affairs

"Recently, a few books have been published about the Caucasus...but King's is the most comprehensive, weaving in the history of all the events from the past two centuries that shaped czarist, Soviet, and Russian relations with the region."—Library Journal

"Charles King has produced a work that is at once informative, eclectic, and immensely satisfying."—Alex van Oss,

"Charles King's Ghost of Freedom is a work that's gripping and important, scholarly and wonderfully readable. It not only explains and analyzes one of our world's most strategic regions but also delivers all the exotic and romantic turbulence of these flamboyant warriors and poets and the extraordinary peoples of the Caucasus."— Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Young Stalin

"In a single volume, King manages to pull off the seemingly impossible task of presenting a portrait of the region as a whole, and one that is wonderfully written as it simultaneously informs, entertains, challenges, and stimulates."—Middle East Strategy at Harvard

"This vividly written and impressively researched history is an excellent introduction to a much discussed but little understood region."— Anatol Lieven, King's College London

"The Ghost of Freedom is a brilliant tour through the past and present of a critical borderland between East and West. Enlivened by compelling anecdotes, colorful characters, and first-hand reportage that bring the Caucasus to life, this remarkable book is a highly original and beautifully written analysis of the forces that have shaped the region, from a whirlwind of imperial conquest and nation-building to Soviet engineering, mass deportations, and the bitter consequences of imperial collapse: ethnic wars, banditry, refugees, and misrule. It is an indispensable guide to the Caucasus— and to contemporary global affairs."— Robert D. Crews, author of For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central Asia

"This is a rare work with something for all readers...King's ability to tease out the broader historical patterns in all their complexities and subtleties is remarkable. At the same time, he possesses the sort of keen eye for detail and telling stories that bring the region truly to life in all its vibrant color." —Europe: Early Modern and Modern

"King has produced a work that is remarkable for its breadth of coverage, the depth of the author's insights, and the eloquence of the text. It is hard to imagine how the goal King set himself could have been better achieved." —Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

Library Journal

The Caucasus region, which now consists of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and parts of Russia, has a complex history, not least owing to its interactions with the surrounding nations of Europe and the Middle East and its tremendously diverse ethnic populations. One can be familiar with the history of Russia without really understanding the long and complex history of the Caucasus. King (Romanian studies, international affairs and government, Georgetown Univ.; The Black Sea: A History ) unravels the region's history from the start of Russia's involvement in the region under Ivan the Terrible to the present. Recently, a few books have been published about the Caucasus (e.g., Nicholas Griffin's Caucasus: A Journey to the Land Between Christianity and Islam ), but King's is the most comprehensive, weaving in the history of all the events from the past two centuries that shaped czarist, Soviet, and Russian relations with the region. He briefly discusses the Armenian genocide, a label that Turkey has objected to, which has recently been discussed in the U.S. Congress. King mainly raises it so as to question whether it was indeed a genocide as we define that today. This book would be a wise pick for any scholarly institution.-Harry Willems, Park City P.L., KS

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195177756
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/11/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.44 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles King

Charles King is Ion Ratiu Professor of Romanian Studies, Professor of International Affairs, and Professor of Government at Georgetown University. He is the author of The Black Sea: A History and The Moldovans, and his writing has appeared in The Times Literary Supplement and Foreign Affairs.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

On Words xiii

Chronology xvii

Maps xix

Introduction: Nature's Bulwark 3

1 Empires and Boundaries 20

Imperial Dreams 22

Kings and Khans 32

Life on the Line 39

"Ermolov Comes!" 45

Captives 53

2 Rule and Resistance 64

The Murid Way 67

Raiding and Retribution 73

The Imam and the Viceroy 77

"The Tribes that Remain" 92

3 The Imaginary Caucasus 99

Inventing the Highlander 100

Prisoners, Superfluous Men, and Mopingers 109

Convoy to Tiflis 119

"There Is Something to Be Gained on the Heights" 123

Eros and the Circassian 133

4 Nations and Revolutions 142

Bazaar and Boomtown 145

The Uses of War 153

Phantom Republics 161

Exiles 173

Cleansing 182

5 Time of Troubles 200

Brothers and Rivals 201

Land and Struggle 210

Whose Nations? Whose States? 220

The Tragic North 231

Conclusion: Continental Shift 243

Epilogue: Friends, Foes, and Patrons 251

Notes 263

On Sources 281

Index 289

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