After the collapse of the Soviet Union the Caucasus was wracked by ethnic and separatist violence as the peoples of the region struggled for self-determination. Vicken Cheterian, who spent many years as a reporter and analyst covering the region’s conflicts, asks why nationalism emerged as a dominant political current, and why, of the many nationalist movements that emerged, some led to violence while others did not. He explains also why minority rebellions were victorious against larger armies, in mountainous Karabakh, Abkhazia, and in the first war of Chechnya, and discusses the ongoing instability and armed resistance in the North Caucasus. He concludes his book by examining chapters the great power competition between Russia, the US, and the EU over the oil and gas resources of the Caspian region.
‘From Armenian family background, Cheterian does not hesitate to name Armenian excesses in the pursuit of independence for Karabakh. In his contributions to several institutes, journalism projects, and to Le Monde Diplomatique and opendemocracy.net, he represents a current of independent, evidence-based reportage and analysis that may just become strong enough to promote rational engagement with the possibilities of peace in the Caucasus.’ — Irish Times
‘One cannot understand the current unresolved turmoil in the Caucasus, including last fall’s war in Georgia, without having read this book.’ — Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs
‘Absolutely competent and reliably researched.’ — Choice
‘Cheterian asks the very useful question as to why the four conflicts that form the focus of his book took the shape that they did.’ — Alex Marshall, War in History
‘A comprehensive description of the painful wars in the Caucasus over the last twenty years and an innovative analysis that adds to the theoretical literature on the sources of violent conflict.’ — Stephen F. Jones, Slavic Review
‘This book is essential reading for all who want to understand the roots of conflicts in the Caucasus and those who seek to build a lasting peace in this strategically important region. The recent war between Georgia and Russia has demonstrated that the international community was wrong in assuming that conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno- Karabakh can remain unresolved for decades. Vicken Cheterian’s detailed and balanced account of brutal conflicts and their implications for the post-Soviet development of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan stands out on this subject. His nuanced understanding of the historic legacies and modern challenges facing the region, its peoples, and its leaders is based on many years living and travelling in the Caucasus. He describes why diplomacy has failed to deliver reconciliation and just peace, and his insights should inform any future efforts to promote regional stability.’ — Oksana Antonenko, program director (Russia and Eurasia), International Institute for Strategic Studies
‘With the South Caucasus suddenly thrust into the centre of world attention, Vicken Cheterian’s book could not be more timely. Cheterian comes to this topic both as an insider with intimate deep knowledge of the region and as a cool analyst who brings the critical insights of a journalist and the sober judgements of a scholar to bear on historical and political complexities. His story is placed squarely in the context of Soviet collapse and the competing national projects of the Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Georgians, Abkhaz, Ossetians, and Russians. Rather than seeing conflict as primordial or inevitable, Cheterian reveals both the conjunctures and contingencies that made what seemed unavoidable possible. His analysis and interpretations range from pipelines to politicians and provide readers with the most comprehensive understanding of what lies behind the often distorted public rhetoric of state leaders.’ — Professor Ronald Grigor Suny, University of Michigan
Vicken Cheterian is a historian and journalist, and is currently based at Webster University, Geneva.