Mirsky, a Russian and one of his country's ablest specialists on the Middle East, has lately turned his attention closer to home. His knowledge of Islamic cultures gives him a special advantage when touring the trouble in the Caucasus, including Chechnya, and Central Asia. He converts a career's worth of travel and lecturing there and in Ukraine, a detached and somewhat quizzical eye, and a recent but intense study of Western literature on ethnicity and nationalism into potent tools for separating real from improbable threats among all the tinder. But it is less his time in Western libraries than his sure and fair-minded finger-tip sense of peoples and circumstances that lends this succinct book its authority and utility.
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