De Waal is too modest. Calling his book “an introduction" to the Caucasus considerably understates how sophisticated and rich it is. The reader would be hard-pressed to find a more graceful, fair-minded, to-the-point, yet compact exploration of this fascinating, tormented, and utterly complex region. See it, he argues, in all of its many crosscutting intricacies and fault lines, not simply as the object of Russian and other great-power games. And start, he insists, with the history of Georgia’s and Armenia's ancient glories, their and Azerbaijan's colonial experiences, and the deep imprint of their recent Soviet past -- a history he offers in clear, compelling form. In its contemporary incarnation, the region struggles under the impact of multiple conflicts -- Georgia against its separatist territories, Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia's history-driven tension with Turkey, and the 2008 Russia-Georgia war and its aftermath. Each is a minefield of inflamed emotion, and de Waal carefully picks his way through them with candor and dispassion.
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