The Angel of Grozny: Orphans of a Forgotten War

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We - Chechens - have them too, of course. Very strict rules, in fact. But when a society comes unravelled, the rules unravel as well; nobody pays attention, people have their own concerns, so sadists can find ways to sneak off and do their wicked deeds. Ready to attack or to defend themselves. Temperament simmers in the city. There is adrenalin in the air. No one trusts anyone else any more, because Putin had a stroke of genius: he let Ramzan Kadyrov do the dirty work. Are your children better than mine?

What is this barbarian doing here with us? Even in the puppet regime, the connection with the Russians is more one of need than of pleasure. Go ahead and read the book. Aug 03, Mark Sequeira added it. Okay, now at the end of the book, I will still say buy it and read it. Sad, unfortunate, desperate, will it ever end? Even though I borrowed it from the library, I will be buying it. I will have to come back and write a full review but more people should know about what's going on Okay, now at the end of the book, I will still say buy it and read it.

I will have to come back and write a full review but more people should know about what's going on in Chechnya and unfortunately so few do. Read it. It will keep you up at night. It will make you want to forget during the day. But you won't be able to. The best thing about this book is how you get a look at the changes happening in Chechnya, from Wahabis fighting 'traditional' Sufi-type Muslims to Chechens supporting Kadyrov killing Chechens that oppose Russian influence. So, it's been some months but as I said, I went out and bought the book because I wanted it in my library.

It's that good. Jun 30, Jule rated it really liked it Shelves: human-rights , political-science , geschichte. Seierstad, a Norwegian reporter, was 24 when she first left Moscow to go into Chechnya - it was her first year of working as a journalist - to report about the life and ongoings during the first war. Her account is a tremendous work that blends political with historical facts, offers a great insight into Chechen and Russian culture and last but not least documents her personal experiences during the first and second Chechen wars. Especially for her documentation of human tragedy in a time of vio Seierstad, a Norwegian reporter, was 24 when she first left Moscow to go into Chechnya - it was her first year of working as a journalist - to report about the life and ongoings during the first war.

Especially for her documentation of human tragedy in a time of violent political conflict her work is so important. Seierstad witnessed the first conflict closely and then secretly, i. For anyone who wants to learn about the Russian-Chechen conflict in political, cultural and historical context I find this a great read. I knew nothing of Chechnya before reading this book and, although it's dangerous to take any one account of such a complex situation as gospel, I do feel more informed. And that is one of the triumphs of this book - that it makes clear the lack of clarity, and the complexity, of ancient regional warfare.

Although there is great sympathy for the Chechens, Seierstad is careful to illuminate the stories of Russians too. Ultimately it's a bleak book, and there is no sign of resolution, but in the de I knew nothing of Chechnya before reading this book and, although it's dangerous to take any one account of such a complex situation as gospel, I do feel more informed.

Ultimately it's a bleak book, and there is no sign of resolution, but in the details of the stories of the individuals caught up in these conflicts run by the safe and the powerful, there is great humanity. Even in the devastated ruins of cities there are angels. Jun 28, E. Asne Seierstad was a freelance journalist in Moscow when the first Chechen war broke out. Acting under a poorly-understood compulsion to find out what was really going on there, she sweet-talked her way onto a military transport plane and ended up in Grozny.

She spent several months during the first war, and again during the second war, slipping around Chechnya, often disguised as a Chechen woman in order to avoid attention and get into places foreigners were forbidden to enter, so she could int Asne Seierstad was a freelance journalist in Moscow when the first Chechen war broke out. She spent several months during the first war, and again during the second war, slipping around Chechnya, often disguised as a Chechen woman in order to avoid attention and get into places foreigners were forbidden to enter, so she could interview people touched by the conflict.

Hosted by Hadijat, a woman running an unofficial orphanage in Grozny, she focuses heavily on the stories of women and children, but also speaks with others, including a couple of encounters with Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's infamous president. The result is a fascinating book in which interviews and Seierstad's personal experiences are woven into a more or less coherent narrative.

Seierstad's own story is riveting: she makes no claims to heroism, but she is obviously a tough and determined reporter, who doesn't hesitate to visit taboo families, such as the relatives of resistance fighters and even participants in the Dubrovka siege, or to ask Kadyrov probing questions, which he sidesteps with stunning barrages of word salad.

The picture she paints of Chechnya's current leader is grim: while she is slightly more sympathetic than, say, Politkovskaya, mentioning how he sits there doodling flowers with faces and looking sheepish when she asks tough questions, the ultimate impression is of someone utterly unsuited to uphold the dignity of office he represents, and who can't even sit still and speak in complete, coherent sentences, let alone tell the truth. The allegations of misconduct against Kadyrov are graver than those aimed at the US's own Donald Trump, but in character, they seem worrisomely similar.

But enough about that. A fluent Russian speaker and originally well-disposed towards Russia and Russians, Seierstad finds herself becoming increasingly appalled by the excesses inflicted by her adopted country on this tiny nation. At the same time, Chechnya and the Chechens are hardly angels themselves: Seierstad recounts horrifying stories of abuse, in which husbands attack their wives, men rape their children, brothers kill their sisters, and Chechens commit dreadful crimes against other Chechens.

Giving Chechens more control, in the form of the Kadyrovtsy, has had nasty side effects: under the guise of returning to their Chechen roots, the government has instigated widespread oppression of women, and people suspected of Wahhabism are grabbed off the street, tortured, and sometimes disappeared. All it takes is for a man to wear his hair slightly too long at the back for him to be whisked away, perhaps never to return; women have it even harder in some ways, since they are now forced to wear headscarves and dress modestly, but dressing TOO modestly and covering up TOO much of their hair can be taken as a sign of Wahhabism.

The book came out ten years ago, but if anything it seems that the situation in Chechnya has only gotten more dire, something the book foreshadows: it ends, not with a happy story of rehabilitated orphans, but on a warning note: Hadijat's orphanage is in danger of being shut down, and some of her children are totally out of control, enraging and endangering the others as they act out as a result of the trauma they have suffered.

One thing all of the disparate writers I've read on this and other wars agree about is that war reveals whatever a person's true character is, showing both their strengths and their weaknesses. Reading this book, I was struck by how true this seems not just for individuals, but for nations. Seierstad's book uncovers some of the pathologies at the heart of both Russia and Chechnya are they one nation or two? Both, it seems. Caught up in a sick, co-dependent relationship, both nations have retreated into nationalism and attempts to preserve their heritage in the face of external attack.

Unfortunately, the parts of their heritage they are trying to preserve are often the very things they should be most eager to throw away. Seierstad chronicles the rising xenophobia of Russian young men, who horrify their grandparents, survivors of WWII, by tattooing swastikas on their bodies, and records how young Chechen men retreat from their problems by attacking women--sometimes verbally, sometimes physically--and torturing dogs.

Sometimes nations respond to a terrible self-inflicted trauma by learning from it as they attempt to rise from the ashes: think Germany after WWII, or Rwanda after the massacres of the s. The Chechen wars could have had the same effect on Russia and Chechnya, but they have not. Perhaps they were not traumatic enough easy to believe for Russia; harder for Chechnya , or perhaps both nations have enough grievances against the other to avoid looking their own flaws square in the face, preferring instead to point fingers and lay blame everywhere but where it lies.

What will happen in the future is anyone's guess, but "The Angel of Grozny" does not give much hope for improvement any time soon, and neither do events since the book was published. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Chechnya, the Chechen wars, or post-Soviet Russia, or if you're just looking for a book by and about women affected by war.

May 08, Hans Brienesse rated it it was amazing. This was a grand book to read albeit quite depressing at times. It is written with the author's usual eye for the minutest details of the misery of the human condition in morally-, religiously-, and politically-repressed countries. From the abandoned children to the ignored soldiers to the honour killings to the simmering substrate of emotion that is identity, this is a tale of woe indeed.

A religious system that will not bend meets a political system that will not yield. How telling was it that the Chechen rebels did not admit to the brutalities administered to the Russian soldiers, and the average Russian citizen sees the Chechens as filthy rabble yet both were at great pains to portray their version as correct. All I can say is I am thankful we live in a more enlightened country with complete freedom of the press! The author as usual has been meticulous about making sure all the details are correct and also her characters get the chance to read what she has written before it is published thus ensuring there is no confusion.

If you have any interest at all in conflicts of politics and religon read this book. Nov 23, Gosia rated it really liked it. I only wish she was more present in those stories. Seierstad rarely confronts her interlocutors or so it feels in the book , even when their views go against core humanist values that the Western world is taking for granted.

But then again, provoking a guy who just confessed to killing her own sister over a gossip may not be the wisest strategy for a war reporter. Feb 17, Mary rated it really liked it. An eye-opener. I have great respect for Norwegian journalist Asne Seirstad and her research. Jacket blurb: In the early hours of New Year's , Russian troops invaded the Republic of Chechnya, plunging the country into a prolonged and bloody conflict that continues to this day. In the following decade An eye-opener. Jul 30, Noor rated it it was amazing.

The book definitely deserves no less than five stars! The gifted writer describes her experiences in Chechnya along more than fifteen years. During the first war, the second war, and in the recent times, under the presidency of Ramazan Qadirov. How much unknown pain was suffered in Chechnya!

How much suffering passed away without any one knowing about! How many people disappeared without a single person knowing where they have gone! The writer describes the atrocities of war in a way that leaves no space for any comments! Although she seems to throw some blame on the 'Islamic Fundamentalism' in the war complications, still, a huge difference can be seen between the way in which she speaks about war lords, where one can sense alot of respect and admiration, and the way in which she speaks about Ramazan Qadirov, the dummy president of Chechnya today.

The writer also seems to be aware of the dirty trick included in the appointment of Qadirov. I recommend the book for every one who wants to take a close insight about the terrifying war in Chechnya. Feb 27, Carol Harrison rated it it was ok. The rest of the book is mostly made up of accounts of the author's travels in Chechnya and Moscow and her interviews with soldiers, politicians, and citizens. While it certainly does focus attention on the horrors and injustice of war in general, and in Chechnya particularly, it doesn't do so in an especially coherent way--though maybe that in itself is another point about the situation: it is not tidy or rational.

Apparently the author lived at the children's home for a period of time. It would have been interesting and instructive to have learned more about that experience, and more about the individual children who also lived there.

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Toward the end of this book about the fallout of the Chechen wars, there is a section where author Asne Seierstad meets some Russians on a train who ask that she write about the positives of life in Russia as well as the negatives. Well, she failed. That one, while obviously devastating, nonetheless had humour, nuance and hope. Very, very sad, and thoroughly recommended. Torn between giving it a low rating or high one. Reason for that is that the writing style as well as the biased view of the author makes it kind of difficult to read. I love Chechnya so one could say I am biased too.

However, it is also hard to decipher what type of message the author tried to sent, if any. It certainly is not a war report. One of the other reviewers here had put it into right words: "A mix of diary, journalism, fiction and eye witness retelling, all in one. So you better read it. Aug 08, Brigid Gallagher rated it it was amazing Shelves: historical , war , chechnya. The author has written a well researched and impartial account of the recent wars in Chechnya and its impact on both Chechens and Russians.

She also examines the history of this region, meeting those who have been wounded, orphaned and traumatized. It is a sobering and heartbreaking read. Aug 21, Jennifer rated it it was amazing. Incredible insight, this book really shows just how far hatred can consume people. A majority of the characters in this book are blinded by their own distrust and anger at everyone around them and they will never be "free" until they learn to let themselves heal.

Mar 21, Haytham Mohamed rated it it was amazing. May 22, Taloot S.

All suffers from war but the worst amongst are children. Terrible stories. Aug 12, Eugenerose4gmail. Com rated it really liked it. Seirstad is a fantastic journalist and writer. This is a great book. Year When I watched Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis on DD-1 channel I was so surprised to know that such things could happen in Russia too. News from Chechnya was flowing since then but I always ignored it as conflicts happening inside former Soviet republics. Year Middle East once again in turmoil. Gulf War 3. I have started following western media after the successive insurrection of Islamic State and their conquest of Mosul in Iraq.

Initially, like Rus Year When I watched Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis on DD-1 channel I was so surprised to know that such things could happen in Russia too. But when Islamic State started appearing in tanks, armoured convoys and shooting down Iraqi army helicopters using MANPADS, world realized that the conflict has already been blown out of proportion. All these time a group of IS fighters were always outstanding in combat, strategy, discipline and winning the various fronts. Those were from Chechnya. What made these men so special in battle?

Chechnya was an independent country after the USSR collapse. Russia was not so fond of this north Caucasian mountain country with tough people and black barren earth, but its enormous oil resources was the reason. The calculated one week campaign became escalated to years leading to the death of thousands of Russian soldiers and destruction of more tanks they had lost in entire WWII. This time the war was between Russia and Separatist. Many of the children suffered horrible abuse at the hands of their relatives or became bony husks while living and starving on the streets.

Hadijat, among others in the book, sheds some hope on the bleak picture in Chechnya, the hope that people may one day be able to speak openly and expose the countless human rights violations occurring in the region. As with all journalistic work on regions riddled with war and ethnic conflict, there is always the ambiguity of truth. All that the world can ask is that both sides get the chance to speak. Connected to this is the deteriorating position of women, and the continued prevalence of "honour killings".

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On the other side, there is the upsurge of a form of Russian patriotism, whose slogan is "Russia for the Russians", which can become indistinguishable from racism. Chechens are an obvious target. Not only are they implicated in rebellion now, but they have been portrayed in Russian literature as dangerous and wild for generations. Virginia Rounding's 'Catherine the Great' is published, by Arrow. Outsiders - and everyone other than the natives is made to feel profoundly alien in Chechnya - should stay away.

It's a very dangerous statement of the obvious and, for many of those living there in recent years, hellish place not hyperbole. But anyone who has ventured there is both captivated and appalled. How could it be otherwise when today's world of massacres, a resurgent Russia, kidnapping and militant Islam collides so spectacularly with a world of blood feuds, clans, warlords and brigands that harks back centuries?

Of course, the blowhards from the fraternity of international war correspondents have passed through from time to time, hotfoot from the Balkans perhaps or en route to Afghanistan or Iraq. But few ever tarried long. The conflict was too risky to cover, too ambiguous, too impenetrable, too remote in every sense of the word. Their failure marked an opportunity for new talent, much of it that of women journalists who excelled at bringing alive the fighting and the suffering of civilians caught up in the middle of it.

The late Anna Politkovskaya, for example, paid for her efforts with her life: the only conceivable motive for her murder was her reporting on Chechnya.

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Shah Muhammad Rais always seemed perfectly agreeable to me, but then I never inveigled myself into the bosom of the bookseller's family to demolish the man's reputation. No, in case you're wondering, Seierstad is not the angel of Grozny of the title. That honour belongs to the heroic Hadijat, a protector of orphans and abandoned children amid the city's ruins.

But yes, here once again Seierstad performs feats of courage, empathy and journalistic enterprise to convey what it is to live under the terrifying rule of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin stooge who now runs Chechnya in despotic style, personality cult and all. Many of her fans will love this book. And it certainly succeeds in one thing: it allows the voices of ordinary Chechens, too little heard in the past, to sound beyond the desolate plains and ravines and foothills of the North Caucasus.

So far, so praiseworthy. But for this reader at least it fell far short of the book it could or should have been. I recount their stories,' the author tells us. Yes, but stories on their own tell us only so much about their narrators and the worlds they live in. Seierstad is a diligent journalistic digger who, for example, bags interviews with many of the now dead leaders of the Chechen separatist movement and Kadyrov himself. She is a good listener too.

But she rarely subjects what she hears to any critical interrogation. Flashes of insight are few and far between. And such rare passages are muffled by thudding prose such as 'the blood flows into the mud'. Yes, that's how the book really opens. Let's be charitable and blame the translation from the Norwegian. For all her vivid portraits of individuals, the backdrop against which they are painted is daubed in such broad brush strokes - and the colours used so washed out - that the overall effect lacks life, let alone depth.

A few lines earlier we are informed that 'the main reason for invading Chechnya was the political ambitions of Yeltsin and his inner circle'. Up to a point Seierstad is right about the 'political ambitions'. But in a book more than pages long the reader deserves more, as do the people of Chechnya and the Russians who have lost so many of their young men there. When everyone believes that they are a victim of someone or something else - and outsiders fail to challenge them on it - the result is a charnel house such as Chechnya has had the misfortune to be in recent years.

September 21, Orphans of a Forgotten War. By Asne Seierstad. Translated by Nadia Christensen. Basic Books. They steal, they hit, they kill dogs. And for New Year, they decorate the holiday tree in the backyard with the skeleton of a Russian soldier. After some 14 years of war, terror and lawlessness, the children of Chechnya have been damaged in ways outsiders can barely fathom.

Even now, with the war part of the war essentially over, Chechnya remains a place of hidden horrors, where life is fragile and exceedingly cheap. But Asne Seierstad forces us to look again, to confront the reality of a savage place, to recognize that a broken, brutalized people have only begun to figure out how deep the wounds really go. This remote part of the world, with its mix of nationalities, religions and languages, has long endured or rebelled against domination from Moscow, making it the tinderbox at the bottom of the Russian empire.

But the trials of these people last far longer than any particular burst of shelling or cascade of bombing. The fear and dysfunction of daily life after the wars, or between them, are no less profound. Seierstad was one of many Moscow correspondents who trekked down south during the first Chechen war, which lasted from to She did not return until , after the second Chechen war, launched by Putin in , had largely ended, won by Moscow not so much through force on the ground as by buying off enough of the other side and giving converted separatists free rein to rule as they wished so long as they paid official fealty to the Kremlin.

Even now, Chechnya remains a land of disappearances and destitution, torture and travail, reprisals and repression. As Seierstad prepares to enter the region in disguise, she is advised to stop smiling because of course no Chechen woman would have much to smile about. She tells the stories of victims from both sides, the traumatized Chechens and the disfigured Russians. The Russian hammered a nail into his shoulder, drove a pencil into his chest, pulled flesh out of his chest with tongs.

Another victim of the same lieutenant, Seierstad writes, demanded to speak to a lawyer when he was seized. The soldiers happily gave him a phone, but with wires connected to his ear and finger, so that when he dialed, the current was activated and he shocked himself. The procedure was called zvonok adv okatu — calling a lawyer. On the other side, Seierstad travels to the home of a Russian soldier blinded and maimed by a land mine and essentially forgotten by the country he served.

His mother cannot get the Defense Ministry to help the young man because records show he is still fighting in Chechnya. She spends time in the home of Hadijat and Malik, who have taken in orphans, many of them troubled or beaten down. One of the boys confides to Seierstad that he believes he has evil in his heart. Kadyrov denies having anything to do with the murder of the courageous Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya , asserting that she was killed by her own patrons.

For those of us who sidestepped body bags filled with children slain in the siege of the school in Beslan in , the romance of that resistance faded long ago. Still, Seierstad has produced a masterly and much needed call to attention for the international community. Her portrayal of a sophisticated man of letters who at home could be a cruel patriarch struck a nerve in the West. The bookseller eventually wrote his own volume rebutting hers. This time around, Seierstad writes, she showed Hadijat and Malik the portions of the book detailing their lives and those of the children they care for, gaining their approval for her accounts.

She says she changed the names of all the children and let the adults decide for themselves whether they wanted to be identified by their real names. However faithful the details may be, the portrait she offers is certainly reflective of larger truths in Chechnya today. Like their president turned prime minister, many Russians resent the judgment of outsiders and have little sympathy for the Chechens.

Seierstad encountered this bitterness on a train ride when the others in her compartment asked what she was doing in their country. Who, yes, have been dispossessed. Fortunately for us, and for her subjects, she has claimed that right anyway. And if there are few angels watching over the orphans of Grozny, at least they have someone to tell their stories.

The Angel of Grozny: Orphans of a Forgotten War by Asne Seierstad -

The Sydney Morning Herald. March 22, Grozny's lost boys. Asne Seierstad met Chechnya's victors and victims. It is the orphans she cannot forget, writes Jacqueline Maley.

The Angel of Grozny:Orphans of a Forgotten War

The room features a Persian rug and a mahogany desk laid with gilt pens, next to which sits, improbably, a cactus. Oddly, it is one of the only official places in Chechnya where there are no portraits of the President, and the centre of a huge cult of personality designed to bolster his hold on the country. The streets of the capital, Grozny, are lined with pictures of him, and the evening television features programs devoted to his virtues.

If Kadyrov is in his office he is likely to be lounging in his chair like a louche schoolboy, his feet on the desk, furiously sending text messages. In an ante-room outside the office sit his private bodyguards, the Kadyrovsky, fiddling with their guns.

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The Kadyrovsky are a group of heavies who have groomed their Islamic beards to look like their year-old leader, and who are accused of gross abuses of Chechen citizens. One human rights group, The Society for Threatened Peoples based in Germany, estimates they are responsible for 75 per cent of recent incidents of murder, torture, rape and kidnapping in Chechnya. Kadyrov denies the alleged abuses, just as he denies reports of a private prison on his family compound. He says Chechnya is "now the world's most peaceful place" and declares that tourists will soon be streaming in to visit its mountains.

He rejects reports of orphan hordes who prowl the bombed-out streets of Grozny, and he has closed all the state-run orphanages. It estimates that since to the present day about 25, children in Chechnya have lost one or both parents. An estimated , Chechens died or disappeared in the conflict, which began with the Russian invasion in and continued until the re-assertion of Russian-backed rule in Since then the insurgency, including bloody terrorist attacks on Russian soil, has claimed thousands more lives.

Kadyrov's rose-tinted vision of his country is at odds with the picture painted by the Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad, whose book examines the beleaguered region years after its wars officially finished and the world's attention moved on. The book, The Angel of Grozny , is an earnest, if sometimes disjointed, account of the lives of ordinary Chechens. It presents the splintered reality of life after war, in a nation where the bolsters of civil society - mutual trust, confidence in the rule of law and a sense of shared values - have been pulverised.

This social decimation wreaks the greatest havoc on the society's most vulnerable - its orphans, who are deeply traumatised, and who in many cases have learnt to survive through violence. Abused children who in some cases have become abusers themselves. You can argue about the numbers. You can count the maimed," she writes. In her book, Seierstad bears witness to these childhoods. She stayed for several months in the orphanage set up by the book's eponymous angel of Grozny, a stout, devoutly Muslim Chechen woman named Hadijat. Seierstad got to know the children, gradually piecing together their shattered, and shattering, stories.

This was not her first visit to the troubled region. She was 24 and working freelance for a Norwegian newspaper when she covered the first Chechen war in She spent a year moving between the Russian military lines and Chechen villages where separatist rebels were holed up. She went on to cover wars in Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq, but Chechnya, with its fierce, freedom-loving people, its wild, Sufi-influenced brand of Islam and its soaring mountains, nagged at her. Maybe there was some reason that all this experience had stayed with me. So I felt it was time to wrap it up.

In she returned to Chechnya twice, first in disguise as a peasant woman, and later as an official guest of the dubious Russian-backed Chechen government, where she experienced first hand the cavalier attitudes of president Kadyrov. But it was the troubled children whose story she most wanted to tell. There is Timur, 12, known as Little Wolf, who ran away from his abusive uncle and lived rough in the bombed-out buildings of Grozny, collecting pieces of broken concrete which he sold for a pittance.

This small, abused boy slaughters stray dogs, because it is the only thing that soothes what he calls his "evil heart". When Timur ran away, he told Seierstad, he left behind his little sister Liana, who was raped on a daily basis by their uncle. Eventually he went back for her, and after living rough for a while both children ended up in Hadijat's orphanage. Liana bonded strongly to Hadijat, but began to steal. She took trinkets from the other children, money from the purses of the orphanage's staff and, once, Hadijat's entire weekly bread budget.

She spent it on ice cream for the other children, in full knowledge that she would be caught. Liana is sweet and loving, Seierstad says, but struggles to master even the most basic language skills and arithmetic. Her classmates shun her because of her compulsive stealing. Instead, Seierstad has used some of the money from this book and her previous bestseller, The Bookseller of Kabul , to buy Hadijat some land. A bakery is being built next to the orphanage so the children will have bread and, later, a place to work.

She could become someone.

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It is a sickly weak ray of hope in a country where misery seems to be a way of life. Seierstad's book is swarming with tragic stories, painstakingly recorded years after more newsworthy conflicts have replaced Chechnya in the headlines. Seierstad has peered through both sides of the looking glass. She has met the victims and victors of the Chechen war.

There is the villager who lost five out of six of her children to war, the Russian soldier crippled on the Chechen front and forgotten by his country, and the story of the Chechen immigrant to Russia who suffers a racist bashing. The plight of Grozny's survivors is most stark when set against the excesses of the war's victors.

Chief among them are Kadyrov and his family. Seierstad, granted a rare interview with the President, saw a bullying and erratic man with the attention span of a toddler. He spent large parts of the interview praising Vladimir Putin, who put him in power, and held forth on the "value" of women and their place in the home. He laughed at suggestions he had anything to do with the murder of the Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. For Seierstad, the man who directs the future of this broken land offered little hope of change.