In This Review

Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys Among the Defiant People of the Caucasus
Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys Among the Defiant People of the Caucasus
By Oliver Bullough
Basic Books, 2010, 528 pp

Not many people have heard of the Circassians or know of their horrific end in 1864, when the imperial Russian military literally drove them into the sea from the upper Black Sea coast, including much of contemporary Abkhazia. Pockets of the survivors' descendants are spread across Jordan, Syria, even Israel, and in particular Turkey -- and some are in various corners of the North Caucasus. Bullough has visited many of these communities and vividly conveys what remains of their historical memory and cultural legacy, weaving their story into a detailed history of what actually happened. It is a story seriously misremembered on the Russian side of the Caucasus, in part because of romanticized nineteenth-century accounts by the likes of Aleksandr Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov. Bullough also examines the fate of other peoples from the region -- the Karachays, the Balkars, and the Chechens -- covering Stalin's deadly depredations, the mass deportations to Central Asia during World War II, the violent colonization of the nineteenth century, and, completing the litany, Russia's recent wars in Chechnya. What makes the book particularly compelling, however, is not the macro statistics or the composite history but rather the poignant tales of the individuals Bullough met on his travels.