Russian-Muslim Confrontation in the Caucasus by Muhammad Tahir al-Qarakhi and Lev Tolstoi, edited by Thomas Sanders, Ernest Tucker and Gary Hamburg (Soas/Routledge Studies on the Middle East: Routledge) This book presents two important texts, The Shining of Daghestani Swords by al-Qarakhi and a new translation for a contemporary readership of Lev Tolstoi's Hadji Murat, illuminating the mountain war between the Muslim peoples of the Caucasus and the imperial Russian army from 1830 to 1859. The editors offer a complete commentary on the various intellectual and religious contexts that shaped the two texts and explain the historical significance of the Russian—Muslim confrontation. It is shown that the mountain war was a clash of two cultures, two religious outlooks and two different worlds. The book provides an important background to the ongoing contest between Russia and indigenous people for control of the Caucasus. The two translations are accompanied by short introductions and by a longer commentary intended for readers who desire a broader introduction to the tragic conflict in the Caucasus whose effects still reverberate in the twenty-first century.
Thus, this book presents two perspectives on the Caucasus: Tolstoi's enlightened European viewpoint and al-Qarakhi's indigenous interpretation. The commentary at the end of this work analyzes the war of worlds between imperial Russia and the Islamic mountaineers. Because of the currency of the subject matter, the eminence of Tolstoi, and the privileged proximity of al-Qarakhi to Imam Shamil and to the imam's view of the conflict, we think this book is an excellent case study of cultural collision. As such we hope it will be of interest to specialists in Russian and Middle Eastern studies, to teachers of world and European history courses, and to the educated public in the English-speaking world and beyond.
This work began as a post-Soviet project and ended as more of a post-modernist one. In the early 1990s, in dismay over the general level of misinformation on the history of Russian—Chechen relations, we began to search for ways to alert the educated public to the complexities of that history. An obvious point of reference for newcomers to the Caucasus region is Lev Tolstoi's posthumously published novella, Hadji Murat, whose title character was a major figure in the mountain war of the mid-nineteenth century. Unfortunately, English readers commonly encounter this little gem in the incomplete, unsatisfactory rendition by Tolstoi's English disciple, Aylmer Maude. The Maude version is rife with archaic Anglicisms and punctuated by dialogue whose meaning is sometimes as remote as the peaks of the Caucasus. We decided, therefore, to begin our project by providing readers with a more accessible translation of Hadji Murat.
We also wanted our readers to have access to at least one indigenous account of the Caucasus's unhappy history. To capture the mountaineers' voices, we chose to translate Muhammad Tahir al-Qarakhi's The Shining of Daghestani Swords in Certain Campaigns of Shama A scribe who enjoyed the confidence of Imam Shamil, the military and religious leader of the anti-Russian forces during the mountain war of 1830-1859, al-Qarakhi was exceptionally well placed to know the principal events of the war and to convey the mountaineers' singular perspective on those events. Moreover, since The Shining of Daghestani Swords derives from the Middle Eastern tradition of chronicling and hagiography, our translation gives readers the chance to examine the formal divergence between mountain techniques of representation and the more familiar European genre of historical fiction.
For the past two centuries the rugged flanks of the Caucasus have been contested ground—the site of religious strife, imperial conquest, wars of national liberation, revolutions, ethnic cleansing, banditry, kidnapping, financial skullduggery, and sheer madness, but equally the locus of profitable cultural interaction, extraordinary intellectual creativity, deeply felt patriotism, family loyalty, heroic persistence, and nobility of soul. The region's outsized contradictions have intoxicated travelers, tantalized journalists, and fascinated scholars, generating a veritable flood of publications about the customs, ethnographic complexities, shifting confessional identities, and peculiar histories of the mountain peoples. In the wake of such prodigious reportage, often expertly done, one may wonder if anything about the Caucasus remains, unsaid, if any detail of its social life has been overlooked, if any grievance of its multitudinous peoples has gone unrehearsed. The Caucasus would seem to be one of those rare places where no one is forgot, nothing forgotten.
For an outsider, however, the task of understanding the tangled modern history of the Caucasus remains daunting, if only because the region's most instructive voices have spoken in an assortment of tongues—Russian, Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Georgian, Armenian to name a few—each the product of an ancient culture, each bearing within its semantic web complex assumptions about God and the ideal contours of human society. Where the mute stones speak in recondite languages, even the most sensitive of ears may detect only meaningless sound and endless fury.
The present book is an experiment in listening through cacophony. The investigation has the primary object of attending scrupulously to two powerful representations of the 1830-1859 mountain war between Russia and the indigenous peoples of the North Caucasus. Our first text, written in the stylized Arabic that served as the religious lingua franca in the North Caucasus and in most of the Islamic world, is a historical chronicle of the mountain war recorded largely in the 1850s. Entitled The Shining of Daghestani Swords in Certain Campaigns of Shamil, the chronicle is the only comprehensive history of the war from the insurgents' perspective. Its author, Muhammad Tahir al-Qarakhi, composed the text under the direct supervision of the insurgent leader, Imam Shamil. In it we hear, through the medium of a scribe's account, Shamil's voice, but also unmistakable echoes of the Prophet Muhammad himself, of myriad Muslim hagiographers, and of the Sufi brothers who sought to make human society conform to God's design. We have chosen to translate those portions of al-Qarakhi's text that best illustrate the war's religious dimensions, Shamil's character, the clash between Shamil and his rival Hadji Murat, and the war's aftermath. So far as we know, this translation of The Shining of Daghestani Swords is the first to appear in English.
The second text is Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoi's fictional history of the mountain war, Hadji Murat. The last of Tolstoi's great novels, Hadji Murat presents a single episode of the mountain conflict—Hadji Murat's 1851 defection to the Russians and his tragic death in spring 1852—as a microcosm of the entire bloody war. Using techniques he had employed in War and Peace, Tolstoi constructs around Hadji Murat elaborately researched portraits of the principal military and political figures on both sides of the belligerency. His ambition is to analyze how absolute power corrupts everyone it touches, from European bureaucrats to "Asiatic" satraps, how it despoils nature, mocks God, and transforms human societies into prisons.
English readers already have access to two translations: the archaic version of Aylmer Maude and the chatty 1977 redaction by Paul Foote. The present translation, by Thomas Sanders and G. M. Hamburg, strives to convey to readers the poetic compression and calculated strangeness of Tolstoi's Russian. It also tries to encode in American English, a language ever more informal and democratic in sensibility, the class-specific rhythms and idioms of Tolstoian discourse. These features are crucial components of Hadji Murat that must be communicated if the English translation is somehow to approximate the original story's unsettling power.
By what logic do we combine in our book two texts so radically different, one a formal Arabic chronicle by a virtually unknown Sufi adept, the other a work of historical fiction by a universally recognized master? Beyond a bare coincidence of subject matter, the two texts would seem to have nothing in common. Moreover, as we shall see, there is no evidence that either writer knew the other. Must we then explain our choice by asserting that only by the juxtaposition of these two incongruous texts could we fathom the cultural disparity between subaltern mountaineers and the Russian hegemons? Half-tempted to make such an arbitrary assertion, we nevertheless prescind from it, preferring instead to justify our choice on the following three grounds.
First, in spite of their obvious differences, al-Qarakhi and Tolstoi had a great deal in common. Both were religious—al-Qarakhi being a Muslim scholar working in the Sufi tradition and Tolstoi being a self-styled Christian anarchist who, late in life, became fascinated by Islam's social teachings. Both men took active part in the mountain war: al-Qarakhi fought as an insurgent soldier until physically unable to do so; Tolstoi joined Russian raids and artillery bombardments of Chechen villages in the early 1850s. Both men wrote accounts of the war during actual combat: al-Qarakhi's first redaction of The Shining of Daghestani Swords was composed in the mid-1850s, whereas Tolstoi's earliest writing about the Caucasus war, material he later incorporated into Hadji Murat, dated to 1854. Each writer corrected his first account of the war by adding documentary evidence and oral testimony that appeared after the fighting had ended. In each case, the writer selected a literary genre familiar in his own culture: al-Qarakhi chose the historical chronicle and hagiography, Tolstoi selected the novella (povest) form. Yet each writer modified the genre as the material demanded: alQarakhi's chronicle gradually evolved from a formalized annalistic first redaction toward a looser, but more analytical narrative; Tolstoi's Hadji Murat moved from narrative short story toward polemical history. Thus, each writer stretched a familiar genre in an unfamiliar direction, producing a hybrid form adapted to the curious subject matter of the mountain war. Neither writer lived to see his final report of the Caucasus war into print: al-Qarakhi entrusted the manuscript of The Shining of Daghestani Swords to his son Habibullah, while Tolstoi turned the manuscript of Hadji Murat over to his literary executor, V G. Chertkov.
Second, in spite of their formal differences, al-Qarakhi's Shining of Daghestani Swords and Tolstoi's Hadji Murat mapped in exquisite detail the power constellations operating during the mountain war. From al-Qarakhi we learn how Imam Shamil exercised personal authority from the initial campaign to impose Islamic law in Daghestan to the political showdown with Hadji Murat in 1851, and from thence to the climactic defeat of the insurgency by Russian forces in 1859. We see that the imam's charismatic leadership depended on a remarkable command of the military art, on conspicuous personal bravery, and dogged persistence against heavy odds, but also on the capacity to collaborate with senior Muslim divines and to coexist for long periods with headstrong rivals like Hadji Murat. Meanwhile, Tolstoi's history sketched precisely how senior Russian officials reacted to significant events in the mountain conflict and asserted their will in the warring region. Hadji Murat gives us a chilling but accurate guide to Russian field officers' legendary cruelty toward the insurgents, the generals' casual disregard for casualties among their own serf soldiers, and to imperial ministers' cynical palace intrigues over these matters of life and death. Tolstoi's painstaking study of Tsar Nicholas I and of the making of Russian military plans for the Caucasus informs us that bureaucratic authority in an absolute regime necessarily entailed systematic deception, arbitrariness, and irrationality. Under Tolstoi's sharp pen, Nicholas assumed the guise of (self-)deceiving, murderous megalomaniac, for, in Tolstoi's opinion, only such a personality could have presided over Russia's (self-)destructive war effort. Hadji Murat's characterization of Imam Shamil was no less devastating, but we may read it not only as criticism but as Tolstoi's backhanded acknowledgment that, in tough-mindedness, in political resourcefulness and manipulative theatricality, the imam was fully the match of the All-Russian Emperor. Whatever al-Qarakhi's and Tolstoi's subjective judgments of the war leaders, their descriptions of power relations on the two sides are uncannily apposite.
Third, all similarities now aside, two unlike texts may in fact provide an opportunity to mark cultural dissonance, even to plumb the gap between two divergent civilizations. Al-Qarakhi's Shining of Daghestani Swords limned a religious movement that aspired to order collective life by maximizing individual self-control, that awarded social prestige to the most nearly selfless individuals, that promised the community's eternal gratitude to individual martyrs. In embracing otherworldly ideals, al-Qarakhi's Daghestani swordsmen did nothing they thought out of the ordinary: they subjected themselves to God's will just as their forebears had done and just as other Muslims will do so long as the world persists. The stronger the Russians' intrusive presence in the Caucasus and the greater the peril to the mountaineers' religious autonomy, the more attached the mountaineers became to their Muslim ways. Indeed, if we listen closely to alQarakhi's chronicle, we may hear the historical hammer blows forging a militant Islamic identity.
In Hadji Murat Tolstoi observed the mountaineers' peculiar customs, including their religious behaviors. The text represents villagers at prayer, murids during their ritual ablutions, Imam Shamil meeting with his spiritual counselors. Yet, as we shall demonstrate below, Tolstoi did not capture the mountaineers' distinctive religious sensibility. On the one hand, he strove to identify in Islam the ethical principles he presumed to be common to all religions. On the other hand, he censured Islamic leaders' resort to political violence, finding in such coercion an immoral, inauthentic, corrupt use of religion comparable to the misguided Russian Orthodox sponsorship of state violence. In both respects, Tolstoi reduced Islam to a this-worldly phenomenon. But Islam (like Christianity and Judaism) is more than a code of ethics or vehicle of power: it is a way to approach an omnipotent God, whose will shapes the universe and governs human destinies. By diminishing religion to its mundanity, by domesticating al-Mumit, God the Giver of Death, Tolstoi made it impossible for himself and his future readers to grasp what drove the mountaineers' insurgency.
We believe that, at the source of Islamic civilization, there is a particular religious code, a set of beliefs about God's nature and human beings' necessary relationships to God that, in one way or another, constitutes itself in the fabric of Muslim society and imposes distinctive intellectual parameters on believers. If we do not comprehend that code, we shall not understand the civilization dependent upon it. Tolstoi's failure of religious intuition, we argue, marred Hadji Murat, a fictional history that was in so many other respects remarkable for its empathetic embrace of mountain ways. Nor was Tolstoi's lapse of sympathetic insight unique to him: we think it symptomatic of the Russian governing and political elites' inability or unwillingness to understand the indigenous peoples of the Caucasus. In other words, we discern in Hadji Murat a pattern of failing to recognize what was most distinctive about Russia's Caucasian Other.
Methodologically, the present book combines traditional tools of philology, textual criticism and comparative intellectual history with certain techniques of post-modernist inquiry. For example, we approach the Caucasus war as a clash between a hegemonic power and subaltern peoples, a collision of alterities, a war of worlds. We see Hadji Murat himself as a liminal figure whose movements between belligerent camps enabled Tolstoi to write about the symmetries of power constellations on both sides of the conflict, while simultaneously exploring the asymmetry of the power actually wielded by the warring groups. We assume that the mountaineers' Islamic identity was, in large part, encoded in privileged religious texts, but we also demonstrate that, in considerable measure, that identity was historically constructed: its "genetic" component was gradually actualized in the mountaineers' defensive responses to Russian incursions into the Caucasus. We do not contend that our methods are the only ones appropriate to studying the Caucasus. Still less do we pretend to make prescriptive theoretical claims on its behalf. We do assert, however, that our methods of analyzing al-Qarakhi's Shining of Daghestani Swords and Tolstoi's Hadji Murat are appropriate to the material at hand and helpful in carrying out our research enterprise.
This book consists of three parts. The first part contains substantial portions of al-Qarakhi's Shining of Daghestani Swords with brief introductory remarks about the text and its author. The second part includes a new translation of Hadji Murat preceded by a short introduction. The object of these two parts is to offer readers direct access to both translations without the encumbrance of lengthy prefatory materials. Part III is a long commentary on the two texts. The commentary locates each document in its specific biographical, literary, and historical context, then analyzes each text as a representation of the mountain war. The commentary assumes its readers' acquaintance with The Shining of Daghestani Swords and Hadji Murat, otherwise, it is written for general readers possessing no prior knowledge of the Caucasus.
Our intention is to put in the reader's hands a book that can be used in various ways, according to that reader's particular interests. Those interested in the Caucasus itself, in Arabic literary culture, in Islam, and the Middle East may want to refer only to the al-Qarakhi chronicle; meanwhile, Russophiles and Tolstoi enthusiasts may choose to move straight to the new translation of Hadji Murat. Specialists in the fields listed above will probably find it worth their whiles to study the commentary. In it they will find nothing new on the mountain war from conventional political or military perspectives. However, we think that we have provided new insights into the al-Qarakhi chronicle, into the mountain insurgency as a defensive cultural movement, and into the relationship between Imam Shamil and Hadji Murat. We also believe that our analysis of Tolstoi may lead researchers into some productive new ways of conceptualizing his so-called religious conversion and to new avenues for thinking about his late fiction. Post-modernist historians of culture may see in our arrangement of material suggestive new techniques for representing alterity. By organizing our material in untraditional fashion-first al-Qarakhi, then Tolstoi, then a commentary almost equally divided between the two texts—we try self-consciously but not arbitrarily to de-center our investigation. We attach equal weight to the "unknown" alQarakhi and the "master" Tolstoi, equal weight to the indigenous belief systems of the Caucasus and to the Russian (mis)understanding of them. We employ these techniques neither to advance any ideological agenda of our own nor to promote ourselves as experts of any sort. We know well that the Caucasus has been hard on ideologues and self-professed experts. Our only goal is to facilitate in some small measure the understanding of that beautiful region's tragic past.
The Bariqat al-Suyuf al-Daghistaniyya fi Ba`di al-Ghazawat al-Shamiliyya (The Shining of Daghestani Swords in Certain Campaigns of Shamil), written not in a language of the Caucasus but in Arabic, reflected the Islamic education of its author: Muhammad Tahir al-Qarakhi (died 1882). Al-Qarakhi, presumably from the area around Qarakh in Daghestan, served as Shamil's scribe and adviser from about 1850 until the death of his own father later that decade.1 He produced this work to present Shamil's story as an inspiration for Muslims struggling to live a righteous life and build a good society.
The Shining of Daghestani Swords joined a long series of Muslim biographies that began with the Sira (the main account of Muhammad's life written in the eighth century CE). The earliest depictions of great military campaigns conducted in God's name (ghazawat) were the stories of Muhammad's initial confrontations with unbelievers who had attacked him and his followers. This work also bears resemblances to another classic Islamic literary genre: the manakib accounts of holy men's virtues and excellences, particularly those about great Sufis. Shamil was a leading figure (although not formally considered a spiritual master) of the Naqshbandi Sufi order, which had spread from Ottoman lands into the Caucasus at the beginning of the nineteenth century and remains strong around the world today, particularly in Turkey and South Asia. More than some other Sufi groups, the Naqshbandis believed that the best way to achieve the ultimate Muslim goal—union with God—was to emphasize strict obedience to Islamic law in all actions. With its greater focus on action than contemplation, Naqshbandi doctrine easily became a rallying force for native Muslim resistance to Russian expansion in the Caucasus, which began to accelerate in the 1820s.
Shamil was a disciple and distant relative of Ghazi Muhammad, who had been recognized by the Daghestanis as their first imam (Muslim spiritual/ political leader) in 1829. When Hamza Bek, the second imam, was killed, Shamil became the third imam in 1834 and remained this community's leader until 1859. In .that year, he surrendered`to the Russians, but was considered to have remained the imam until his death in 1871 on a pilgrimage to the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Shamil was buried in Medina.
It is not surprising that The Shining of Daghestani Swords portrayed Hadji Murat, Tolstoi's hero, as unreliable, since he fled to the Russians after being sentenced to death by Shamil. An intriguing aspect of the work is how it differs from previous ghazawat accounts by celebrating Shamil's peaceful surrender to the Russians. His surrender was not depicted in this work as a shameful capitulation but as the reasonable response of a wise man to a difficult situation. Shamil was shown retaining his dignity and honor as he experienced the modern wonders of St. Petersburg, hardly the way earlier accounts of Muslim warriors had ended. Shamil was shown, after his death, being brought to Medina to rest among the great Muslim holy men--a happy repose for someone who had struggled so hard to promote justice for those of his faith. The reader must evaluate these selections from The Shining of Daghestani Swords to assess whether al-Qarakhi, at the end of his work, was simply resigned to Shamil's defeat by superior modern forces, whether he was consoled by Shamil's success in reaching Medina, or whether Shamil's quest for God in the next world had transcended military defeat in this world. With such uncertainty, The Shining of Daghestani Swords conveyed some of the unease felt by the Muslim world as it encountered the juggernaut of Western expansion during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
It took several decades after its composition for The Shining of Daghestani Swords to be circulated widely. Al-Qarakhi's son Habibullah put it into final form after his father's death. Habibullah almost succeeded in getting it published in Daghestan after the turn of the century but was stopped by Russian imperial censors. At that time, the text was seized by tsarist authorities and did not reappear until 1934, when scholars at the Soviet Academy of Sciences located four versions of it. The entire text and its Russian translation were published by 1946.2 Versions of al-Qarakhi's work appear to have been circulated earlier in the Islamic world, given its several Ottoman and modern Turkish translations, the most recent of which was published in 1987.3 The selections included here are all based on the version of the text from the oldest extant manuscript (dating from around 1872) discovered by A. M. Barabanov, a promising young Soviet scholar from the Caucasus who was killed in World War II soon after he had completed his thesis on al-Qarakhi and published a Russian translation of the text in the spring of 1941. His academic mentor, I. lu. Krachkovskii, edited and published Barabanov's original edition of the Arabic text after the war in 1946. Barabanov's Russian translation of al-Qarakhi was used extensively in the preparation of this edition.
The work should not be read as a linear history in the modern Western sense. It portrayed Shamil as a leader by recounting particular stories in great depth without always providing information about everything that happened. The Shining of Daghestani Swords covered Shamil's whole career by focusing on episodes that revealed how Shamil embodied the Naqshbandi Sufi ideal of the leader. Al-Qarakhi showed him as a man mystically in touch with God but also very faithful to the letter of Islamic law. Hence, we urge the general reader not to get lost in the swirl of place and personal names, but rather to focus on what the stories reveal about the mountain peoples' conception of the nature of the struggle and about the nature and source of Shamil's legitimacy as imam.
The Shining of Daghestani Swords told a number of dramatic stories about how Shamil demonstrated his right to rule in many episodes through his career. One good example can be found in its description of how he was nearly mortally wounded at a battle in Gimrah, yet survived to continue battling the Russians until he could pause to bury the first imam, Ghazi Muhammad. This point of this story Was not to focus on the narrative details of exactly what had happened between the Russians and Shamil's forces in Gimrah, but rather to show how Shamil's survival of a mortal wound, his escape to fight another day, and his supervision of the burial of Ghazi Muhammad all revealed him to be a man who embodied the union of mystical and orthodox Islam throughout his career.
For this reason, only a few selections from al-Qarakhi's entire text are presented here. These are accounts of key points in Shamil's career, such as when he became the imam, to illustrate how al-Qarakhi, the devoted follower, portrayed his master, Shamil.
The tragic drama of Chechen and Daghestani resistance to Russian military conquest in the nineteenth century is the inspiration for Hadji Murat, the last work by one of the greatest novelists in the history of world literature. Lev Tolstoi was close to seventy years old when the project that became Hadji Murat began to gestate in his creative consciousness. The full mastery of his powers is still evident in his penetrating characterizations and his deft imparting of mood and scene. It is an astonishing accomplishment.
Tolstoi labored over this task for eight years, finishing it in 1904. It was not published until after his death in 1910. It is worth noting that ten drafts of the novel exist and that an "authoritative version based on Tolstoi's manuscripts was established only in 1950 for the ninety-volume jubilee edition of the author's works."' This final, posthumous work of the great master is, we feel, unjustifiably obscure in the West. This no doubt stems from the fact that the commonly available English translation by the English adept of Tolstoi, Aylmer Maude, is seriously flawed as a translation project and is based on an earlier, incomplete draft of the novel. There is no need to cite chapter and verse of the shortcomings of Maude's translation in this Introduction, but a brief example will give a sense of the problem. Maude translates the Russian word buket, which is a direct transliteration of the French original bouquet, as "nosegay." More serious than the many, to our ears, odd examples of early twentieth-century British that are peppered throughout his translation are his renderings of conversations, which frequently are quite meaningless. A far cry from Tolstoi's Russian original, which is in the words of one critic, "Crystal-clear, exciting and supremely well narrated, it has claims to belong to that category of universal literature which Tolstoi prized so highly in his treatise What is Art?; for ... its pathos is grounded in what Tolstoi called 'those very simple, everyday feelings accessible to all'—the feelings of family solidarity and of compassion for human life." It is this Tolstoi that we have sought to capture in our translation.
Here, in sharp contrast with The Shining of Daghestani Swords, the narrative structure matters a great deal. As the existence of ten drafts indicates, Tolstoi was not rendering a "true" historical narrative of the defection of Hadji Murat, the sometime naib of Shamil, to the Russians and then his attempt to return to the "mountain" side of the conflict. What we have is a carefully structured and meticulously researched and written tale, expressive of the tortured, anti-imperialist conscience of Tolstoi. R. F Christian has noted that the action moves from inanimate nature, through the lower ranks of the Russian social hierarchy to the imperial chambers in St. Petersburg and back down again to the natural setting of Hadji Murat's death and the ploughed fields of the narrator's setting This is not the place to discuss Tolstoi's philosophy of history, but, as the reader will see, Tolstoi believed that imperial power corrupted the very souls of the ruling classes. Meanwhile, the common people—for example, Hadji Murat's messenger Bata and the common Russian soldier Avdeev can and do have much in common. Whether Tolstoi's moral universalism and his dart to salve his tormented conscience would have been received sympathetically by the Chechens and other mountain peoples who fell under Russian rule is one of the questions for the reader of these texts to resolve.
One of our goals in presenting these works is to present them to the reader in as direct and unfiltered a way as possible, so we will end these introductory remarks by mentioning the two central metaphors of Hadji Murat. The first is the "beautiful raspberry thistle in fill flower—the kind our folk call Tatar,"' the pointless destruction of which inspires the narrator to tell his tale. The other is the Tavlinian tale of the capturedfakon, which attempted to return to its own kind, but was rejected by them, because it still wore the fetters and bells of its captivity. Using these two literary devices, Tolstoi presents the fates of both the mountain peoples in general and of Hadji Murat in particular to the reading public in the linear and secular fashion characteristic of the European novelistic tradition for much of the nineteenth century. This is a profoundly different mode of presentation and matrix of understanding of what the conflict represented than that offered in al-Qarakhi's The Shining of Daghestani Swords. The reason we have put these two texts together is so that the reader can decide whether Tolstoi's empathetic understanding of the conflict from, he thinks, the perspective of the mountain peoples is actually shared by them or whether the radically different presentation and focus of al-Qarakhi's work constitute a root-and-branch rejection of all Russian points of view, however sympathetic. If you will, whether Harold Bloom is right, when he asserts that `Tolstoi holds Hadji Murad in his hands, as if indeed he held the man, and not a fiction. "4 Regardless of how the individual reader resolves those questions, we hope that we have succeeded in translating for the English-speaking reading public "the greatness," again in Bloom's words, "almost beyond the reach of art, of Hadji Murad."
War and Revolution in the Caucasus: Georgia Ablaze by Stephen F. Jones (ThirdWorlds: Routledge) The South Caucasus has traditionally been a playground of contesting empires. This region, on the edge of Europe, is associated in Western minds with ethnic conflict and geopolitical struggles. In August 2008, yet another war broke out in this distant European periphery as Russia and Georgia clashed over the secessionist territory of South Ossetia. The war had global ramifications culminating in deepening tensions between Russia on the one hand, and Europe and the USA on the other. Speculation on the causes and consequences of the war focused on Great Power rivalries and a new Great Game, on oil pipeline routes, and Russian imperial aspirations.
This book takes a different tack which focuses on the domestic roots of the August 2008 war. Collectively the authors in this volume present a more multidimensional context for the war. They analyze historical relations between national minorities in the region, look at the link between democratic development, state-building, and war, and explore the role of leadership and public opinion. Digging beneath often simplistic geopolitical explanations, the authors give the national minorities and Georgians themselves, the voice that is often forgotten by Western analysts.
This book is based on a special issue of Central Asian Survey.
TThe history of independent Georgia must appear to distant observers as an improbable melodrama: a spectacle of larger-than-life characters, explosive passion, revolutions, wars, and the destruction of the state. Mass resistance to Soviet rule in the late 1980s led to vicious repression in April 1989, the rise of a charismatic but unstable leader, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, independence when the USSR collapsed, civil and ethnic war, a coup d'etat, the invitation to the former Communist chief, Eduard Shevardnadze to return to Tbilisi — and this was only Act I. The next decade was marked first by the consolidation of state power, although only in part of the country — Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Achara remained independent of Tbilisi — and later the erosion of the promised democracy, economic hardship, and rampant corruption and criminality. Act III began with a revolution of roses, the bold entrance of a tall, confident reformer, Mikheil Saakashvili, new promises of democracy and the rule of law — this time many of them fulfilled ... for a time.
The play is not over, and it is not yet clear if this is the last act for Georgia's third president. His years in power took the shape of an arc — rising in the first three years and then steadily declining in the last few. From his election in January 2004 through to 2006, isha, as everyone calls him, was extraordinarily popular. He fired the traffic police and ended the ubiquitous practice of bribe-taking. The 'thieves-in-law' connected to past governors were arrested and forced to pay, literally, for their crimes. Achara was brought back under Tbilisi's control. However, in place of the semi-anarchy of the Shevardnadze years, the new regime concentrated power in the presidency, emasculating parliament and the independent media. Building the state took precedence over establishing democracy. Corrosive nationalism, always available for exploitation in Georgia, was deployed ever more frequently as the president failed to achieve his goal of reintegrating South Ossetia and Abkhazia into Georgia. Even the minority nationalities within Georgia proper — the Armenians of Javakheti and the Azerbaijanis of Kvemo Kartli — were either neglected or subjected to Georgianization. Relations with Russia worsened. Confrontation instead of negotiation with the great neighbor to the north went along with closer affiliation with Europe and the United States.
The Georgian government wagered on the West, believing that membership in NATO and a close relationship with the neo-conservatives of the George W. Bush administration was a winning hand in its conflicts with Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia's internal wars became a factor in the global struggle between a rising regional hegemon, Putin's Russia, and the global ambitions of the Americans. Ever a gambler, Misha risked everything on 7 August 2008, when he launched a massive rocket and artillery barrage against Tskhinvali. Putin and Bush were in Beijing at the Olympics; Medvedev was cruising on the Volga; perhaps his American-trained army could take South Ossetia before the locals or the Russians could effectively resist. He seriously miscalculated. The war was lost; the army disintegrated; and Russia soon recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. The dream of integration, of NATO, of Georgia in Europe was gone.
Losing a war that one has initiated has serious political consequences, as American and Israeli leaders have recently learned. Georgians turned rapidly against their president. The opposition decided that instead of democratic elections, the place to change rulers was in the streets —as had already happened twice before. Those who confronted Saakashvili had no coherent programme, no real alternative, except to get rid of Misha. Isolated like Coriolanus, the Georgian president decided to make a stand and not go quietly as his immediate predecessor had. The audience, both in Georgia and elsewhere, waits for the denouement.
The cool, detached, scholarly articles in this collection tell in detail the sad story of a beautiful country that deserves better. Yet, as dire as the situation seems at the moment of this writing, the experts here also give us signs of some hope. Georgia has survived nearly 20 years of division and devastation, but at the same time it has emerged from various forms of authoritarianism into a more open — and potentially democratic — polity. Civil society has developed its own voices; individuals have found novel ways of expression. While political parties remain weak, political consciousness and interest in the fate of the country has grown stronger. The pernicious legacies of the Soviet past fade steadily into the background, and the efforts of Western NGOs, the openness to the outside world, and the multiple contacts with world culture give promise that younger generations will think and act more responsibly than their elders. Culture and history matter, and Georgia has vast resources in its long and rich historical experience on which to build a different future. This is a country that faced annihilation at several points in centuries past, yet forged a national consciousness and sense of self under a variety of empires. Georgia's fate is now in the hands of its own citizens.
Most visitors to Georgia leave the country with memories of a supra, that festive moment celebrating Georgian generosity and inclusion. Mound the table laden with unique dishes and glasses of local wine, toasts are given for family, friends, lost loved ones, the motherland, strangers and those not present. The symbolism of that table, so central to Georgian culture, may contain within it the sense of empathy and shared fate required to find solutions to seemingly irresoluble problems. Only time will tell if the pernicious virus of national chauvinism will win out or whether the better angels of tolerance and hospitality on which Georgians pride themselves will triumph.
`David and Goliath' and 'Georgians in the Kremlin': a post-colonial perspective on conflict in post-Soviet Georgia by Laurence Broers
This article presents a post-colonial perspective on post-Soviet conflict in Georgia. Patterns of group classification and incorporation in the tsarist and Soviet eras are charted, to argue that Soviet Georgia was incorporated as a series of layered peripheries, differentiated not only by ethnic affiliation with titular groups, but also by the mode of incorporation into the wider political unit of which they formed part. This produced contrasting articulations of the link between language, identity and power among Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians, mediating conflicting reactions to the prospect of post-Soviet devolution. Finally, the nature of the post-Soviet sovereignty attained by Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia is considered.
Managing ethnic diversity in Georgia: one step forward, two steps back by Jonathan Wheatley
This article attempts to explain how the Georgian state sought to manage ethnic diversity at the same time as (re-)building state institutions within a (nominally) democratic framework, from the collapse of Soviet power to the present day. It is suggested that the explanation for the slow and uneven progress in accommodating national minorities within the Georgian state derives from four principal factors: first, the collapse of the Soviet state and the consequent inability of the newly independent state to provide basic public goods; second, the lack of a 'civic' model for the accommodation of minorities; third, the continuation of the Soviet norm of arbitrary exercise of power by leaders, which is ill-suited to accommodating diversity and resolving conflict; and, finally, the Soviet legacy of ethnofederalism, which carved out three autonomous territories —Abkhazia, Achara and South Ossetia — from within Georgia that would (violently, in the case of Abkhazia and South Ossetia) resist the encroachments of the new Georgian state, and would later (in the case of South Ossetia) provide a pretext for military conflict between Russia and Georgia.
The dangers of reform: state building and national minorities in Georgia by Julie George
Was the South Ossetian war of August 2008 inevitable? Although conditions between the Georgian, South Ossetian and Russian political leadership had hardened into seemingly intractable positions from 1991-2008, the manner and timing of the August war were not certain. Analysts of the events, seeking to show Georgian culpability, argue that the personality and authoritarian style of Mikheil Saakashvili led to a nationalistic policy that aimed to undermine the interests of Georgia's national minorities. While the Georgian national minority policy was not overtly chauvinistic and certainly not indicative of a full-scale crackdown on the secessionist territories, particular centralizing characteristics of Georgia's state-building programme, some of them necessary reforms after over a decade of political stagnation under Shevardnadze, contributed to the increasing tensions that were part of the lead up to the South Ossetian war.
The August 2008 war in Georgia: from ethnic conflict to border wars by Vicken Cheterian
Following the five days' war between Georgia and Russia, a highly politicized debate began about 'who started the war'. While this debate is far from over, it is important to analyse whether the 2008 war marks an important evolution in the series of conflicts that started in the Caucasus simultaneously with the weakening and collapse of the Soviet Union. While in the late 1980s and early 1990s the conflicts were the result of mass mobilization around the banner of the nation, marking a revolutionary period of paradigm shifts, the 2008 war was much closer to classical wars between states and their centrally commanded armies. The direct Russian military intervention, Moscow's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as 'independent' states, further modifies the nature of the Caucasus conflicts. The 2008 war also reveals how much the Georgian state has evolved since the Rose Revolution, from one described as 'weak state' to a state capable of surviving a military defeat without internal collapse.
Compromising democracy: state building in Saakashvili's Georgia by Lincoln Mitchell
This article argues that the since the Rose Revolution, the Georgian government led by President Milcheil Saakashvili has created a false dichotomy between democracy and state building. They have prioritized the latter. Initially, in areas such as reducing bureaucracy, combating petty corruption, improving tax collection, service delivery and infrastructure, the government succeeded in rebuilding the Georgian state. However, because issues of democracy were ignored, efforts to strengthen the Georgian state were not as successful as they might have been. Moreover, the absence of sufficient democracy has contributed to poor decision making, most notably in the runup to the August war, which ultimately has undermined the major state building accomplishments in Georgia since 2004. Accordingly, any efforts to repair the damage from that war and rebuild the state will be unsuccessful unless they incorporate meaningful democratic reforms.
Saakashvili in the public eye: what public opinion polls tell us by Nana Sumbadze
Change of power through elections remains an unattainable goal of Georgian democracy. To a great extent, presidential power depends on public support. How does the public view Saakashvili? What changes occurred during his rule? To what extent has he fulfilled his promises? What are the views of the supporters of different political actors? This analysis uses surveys carried out by the Institute of Policy Studies prior to and after Saakashvili's elections. It reveals certain achievements in state building and the crystallization of a positive orientation towards the West. But many hopes have turned into disappointments. Disrespect for individual rights, inequality before the law, fear of a renewed war, poverty and the loss of homes are realities. Democracy has not been built. Disillusionment and the existence of the two realities, one seen by Saakashvili supporters and another by all others, is obvious. Integration of these two visions must be the goal of the government.
Georgia's economy: post-revolutionary development and post-war difficulties by Lado Papaya
The article discusses the problems of the successes and the failures of Georgia's postrevolutionary economic development. Amongst the positive results, the significant increase of national budget revenues and the overcoming of the energy crises should be emphasized, both of which were achieved by`the fight against domestic internal corruption. At the same time, mistakes in terms of both the building of a democratic state and economic policy were made. Making the judiciary an appendage to the General Prosecutor's Office and the executive branch, the government's control of the media and its defiance of property rights, including extra-judicial decisions to demolish privately owned residential houses, are among the most serious errors of Georgia's post-revolutionary development. Despite its anti-Russian rhetoric, the new government has openly welcomed Russian investments into Georgia's economy. After the Russian aggression and under the impact of the global financial crisis, Georgia finds itself in a more complicated situation. International financial aid of US$4.55 billion, which was pledged at the international donors' conference held in Brussels in October 2008 for the reconstruction of post-war Georgia, may enable the country to avoid the banking and currency crisis.
Corruption and organized crime in Georgia before and after the 'Rose Revolution' by Alexandre Kukhianidze
The Soviet collapse in 1991 led to political turmoil, armed conflicts, rampant corruption, and to the growth of organized crime and smuggling in post-Soviet Georgia. Professional criminals called `kanonieri kurdebi' ('thieves-in-law' ) captured the state, and criminalization of the government and law-enforcement structures caused a deep political crisis in the country and finally, revolutionary change of the political leadership. Massive arrests of most corrupt government officials, 'thieves-in-law', and other key criminals followed the Rose Revolution in 2003-2005. The new leadership implemented anti-corruption policies and law-enforcement reforms. The crime rate was reduced significantly. Yet, despite anticorruption reforms, there continue to be repeated accusations of top government officials' involvement in 'elite corruption'. The lack of democracy and threats coming from Russia are the main reasons why Georgia remains a country of high risk, vacillating between stability and turmoil. Turmoil generates corrupt government and provides professional criminals with opportunities.
The view from Abkhazia of South Ossetia ablaze by Paula Garb
The Abkhazian and South Ossetian perspectives on the fighting between Georgians and South Ossetians in August 2008 could not be heard above the noise generated around the geopolitical implications of the larger Russian—Georgian clash. The population of Abkhazia experienced the violence in South Ossetia as though it was occurring on their own territory. This confirmed their complete lack of trust in the Georgian government's commitment to peaceful resolution of the conflicts. In addition, they were disappointed with what they regarded as the international community's absence of criticism of Georgia's actions and lack of concern for the safety and well-being of the South Ossetians. Russia's recognition of South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's independence has taken the question of Georgia's territorial integrity off the negotiation table indefinitely. It also has set back the formal peace process with both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. An essential way forward, toward establishing trust as a necessary foundation for progress in the political negotiations, would be for the US and other interested countries to engage with the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia at all levels, demonstrating credible and consistent concern for the safety and well being of all the people affected by the conflict.