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When Chechen rebels took Moscow theatergoers hostage in October 2002, it tragically highlighted the ongoing conflict between Russia and its breakaway republic, Chechnya—a war that has claimed an estimated 200,000 Chechen lives in the past decade. Yet the true nature of the debacle lies behind the headlines. In The Oath, a heroic Chechen doctor relates his harrowing experiences in the line of fire to bear witness to this international calamity, and illuminates his remarkable people and their culture.
In 1994, when fighting threatened to break out in Chechnya, Baiev left his promising career in Russia to aid his countrymen. First, he worked in a Grozny hospital until it was destroyed by Russian shelling. Returning to his hometown of Alkhan Kala, he and his fellow villagers restored a clinic with his own funds, and he soon found himself the only doctor for 80,000 residents in six villages and 5,000 refugees. During the next six years, he worked without gas, electricity, or running water, with only local anesthetics, and at one point dressed wounds with sour cream or egg yolks when supplies ran out. He often donated his own blood for surgeries, and on one occasion performed sixty-seven amputations in forty-eight hours.
Although he mainly treated civilians, Baiev also cared for Russian soldiers and Chechen fighters alike, never allowing politics to interfere with his commitment to the Hippocratic oath. He harbored Russian deserters and Chechen rebels at great personal risk and single-handedly rescued a Russian doctor who was scheduled to be executed. For this, Baiev was nearly killed by both the Russian special forces and Chechen extremists. Only when the Russian Army ordered him arrested for treating a wounded rebel warlord did Baiev finally flee Chechnya.
Echoing through his memoir is the history of Chechnya, a Muslim nation the size of Connecticut with a population of one million. Baiev explains the roots of the Chechen- Russian conflict, dating back 400 years, and he brings to life his once-beautiful ancestral home of Makazhoi where his family clan goes back generations, steeped in ancient traditions that are an intriguing blend of mountain folklore—including blood vendettas, arranged marriages, the authority of village elders—and Muslim religious rituals. And he writes frankly about the challenges of assimilating into western culture and about the post-traumatic stress disorder that has debilitated him since the war began.
The Oath is an important eyewitness account of the reality of the Chechen-Russian conflict, in which countless atrocities have been committed against average Chechens in stark contrast to the Kremlin’s portrayal of the conflict. It is also a searing, unforgettable memoir that is certain to become a classic in the literature of war.
Author Biography: Dr. Khassan Baiev is currently living in Boston. Ruth Daniloff has written for the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and many other publications. She has lived and worked in Moscow where she was a correspondent for Peace News and Variety. Nicholas Daniloff worked as a correspondent for United Press International and U.S. News and World Report. He was Director of the School of Journalism at Northeastern University from 1992–1999 and he is the author of The Kremlin and the Cosmos and Two Lives: One Russia.
|Part 1||Before the War|
|Chapter 1||Dada and Nana||11|
|Chapter 3||Becoming a Doctor||43|
|Chapter 4||Finding a Wife||67|
|Chapter 5||The Eve of the First War||89|
|Part 2||The First War|
|Chapter 6||The Hospital Opens||105|
|Chapter 7||Heaven and Hell||117|
|Chapter 8||Young Soldiers||130|
|Chapter 9||Raduyev and Sasha||142|
|Chapter 10||Saving Alkhan Kala||160|
|Chapter 11||Escape from Grozny||167|
|Part 3||A Fragile Peace|
|Chapter 13||An Eclipse of the Soul||201|
|Chapter 15||Rising Crime||223|
|Part 4||The Second War|
|Chapter 16||War Again||241|
|Chapter 17||Reaching a Climax||256|
|Chapter 18||Double Jeopardy||277|
|Chapter 19||Descent into Hell||289|
|Part 5||Refuge in America|
|Chapter 20||My Escape||313|
|Chapter 21||Hard Choices||327|
|Chapter 23||Hope and Despair||343|
|Appendix||Where Are They Now?||363|
Posted April 4, 2004
Posted April 28, 2004
I just finished this book, and all I have to say is , 'WOW!!!' This is an amazing journey through hell. The Oath chronicles one man's life from birth to his coming to America. Baiev is Chechnian, and he is obviuosly very proud of this fact. As a historian, I wanted to learn more about the situation in Chechnya. Baiev weaves history and memoir into this fantastic book. After reading the last page, I felt as if I really had a very good idea of the culture and people of the country. I am just astonished that all of the events depicted happened to one man. In the end, I literlly cried. This book works on so many levels: it is a memoir, it depicts the horrors of war, it is an anti-war book; however, at the core he addresses the issue of what it means to be human. I am very angry at my local bookstore because I found this wonderful book buried in the medical section and not in current events where it would recieve more exposure. Do yourself a favor and run to the bookstore and pick this up; once stated you will not be able to put it down. Baiev's images, thoughts, and reflections will forever last in your memories.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2004
This work is probably one of the most important books I've ever read. If you are interested in the human condition in the world today, in medicine, in life in Russia, or in Russia's relations to its ethnic minorities, I would highly recommend reading 'The Oath'. This is the type of book you'll remember reading 60 years from now.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.