In This Review

The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus
The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus
By Charles King
Oxford University Press, 2008, 320 pp

The title of this book comes from Aleksandr Pushkin's poetic evocation of the Caucasus as the outsider's romantic dream of freedom. King uses this as the main thread for his account of the region's enormously complex, star-crossed history from its incorporation into the Russian empire in the first quarter of the nineteenth century to the unsettled present. He stresses, in particular, the region's place in the imagination of foreigners, beginning with the Russians. Both parts of the Caucasus -- the northern portion still in Russia and the three countries to the south that are uneasily joined by the ferociously independent people of the mountains -- receive his careful attention. 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. Because he is equally comfortable as a historian of the wider Black Sea region and as a historian of the Balkans, his sense of what matters has a scale that a narrow history of the region would lack.