Cover image for Chechnya diary : a war correspondent's story of surviving the war in Chechnya
Chechnya diary : a war correspondent's story of surviving the war in Chechnya
Goltz, Thomas.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
xii, 285 pages ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DK511.C37 G65 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Chechnya Diary is a story about "the story" of the war in Chechnya, the "rogue republic" that attempted to secede from the Russian Federation at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Specifically, it is the story of the Samashki Massacre, a symbol of the Russian brutality that was employed to crush Chechen resistance.

Thomas Goltz is a member of the exclusive journalistic cadre of compulsive, danger-addicted voyeurs who court death to get the story. But in addition to providing a tour through the convoluted Soviet and then post-Soviet nationalities policy that led to the bloodbath in Chechnya, Chechnya Diary is part of a larger exploration of the role (and impact) of the media in conflict areas. And at its heart, Chechnya Diary is the story of Hussein, the leader of the local resistance in the small town that bears the brunt of the massacre as it is drawn into war.

This is a deeply personal book, a first person narrative that reads like an adventure but addresses larger theoretical issues ranging from the history of ethnic/nationalities in the USSR and the Russian Federation to journalistic responsibility in crisis zones. Chechnya Diary is a crossover work that offers both the historical context and a ground-level view of a complex and brutal war.

Author Notes

Thomas Goltz is the author of Azerbaijan Diary and is currently resident in Livingston, Montana and Istanbul, Turkey.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

There have been plenty of memoirs written by journalists working in war zones, but rarely has the tacit death urge at the heart of war correspondence been as fully explored as it is here. It is foolish, Goltz writes, to describe a war correspondent as courageous, because a journalist deliberately places himself in the line of fire to get the story. This memoir focuses on the war in Chechnya, in particular the massacre at Samashki, the town that, in early 1996, was essentially wiped out by Russian troops. Goltz describes the violence and destruction vividly, but it is his concentration on individual people--including Hussein, the 46-year-old leader of the local resistance, and Isa, the author's streetwise guide--that makes the book memorable. Goltz focuses not on politics but on the people of Chechnya and on the brutality that has become a way of life there. --David Pitt Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Mortar fire booming in the distance, smoke pluming behind the hills and the just-out-of-camera-range repeat of machine-gun fire frustrate and enthrall freelance war correspondent Goltz as he chronicles his attempt to capture on videotape Russia's nearly decade-long war with the republic of Chechnya. Less an evenhanded exploration of the byzantine quilt of atrocity and retribution characterizing the post-Soviet conflict, this is more a personal tale of Goltz's relationship with one town (Samashki) and, in particular, one man: a fixer named Hussein who risks his life and, later, exile, in an effort to help the reporter (on contract assignment for ABC News at first) get the story. With a keen observational eye and an ear for characterizing detail, Goltz describes his encounters with the people of the small Chechen village, which suffered a brutal pounding at the hands of the Russian military in 1995. But the book's most compelling aspects are Goltz's ruminations on the impact he, as a Western journalist, has on the events that he set out to objectively report on. Citing as an epigraph a bit of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle-"the observer affects the observed"-the author proceeds to detail how his work with Hussein, and subsequent departure from Samashki right before a big Russian attack, helped cast him, in the eyes of the villagers, in the role of KGB agent and Hussein as a Russian collaborator. Details of his resulting trip to Hussein's home-in-exile in Kazakhstan round out the tale. Goltz's powerful conclusion: war leaves no innocents, let alone innocence. Photos not seen by PW. Agent, Diana Finch. (Oct. 24) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

These books provide excellent eyewitness accounts of a war fought in a place described as "the most dangerous place on earth." As journalistic accounts, they demonstrate their authors' consistent bravery and unswerving commitment to revealing as much truth as possible about a war whose breathtaking brutality is suspected but not well known. The threat of sudden death routinely confronts those who would report on the war. Although the two books differ fundamentally in treatment, they share a sympathy for people caught between the ruthless violence of Russian forces and the grim independence struggle of the Chechen "militants." Politkovskaya, a special correspondent for Novaya gazeta in Moscow, describes the conflict in a series of vignettes that move from the devastated lives of innocent villagers, through the brutality inflicted by rogue police on Chechen students in Moscow, and finally to a dramatic revelation indicating collusion between Russian armed forces and Chechen criminals. She also asserts that the "office-loving" Kofi Annan has avoided challenging Russia about Chechnya in exchange for renewed support of his mandate as UN secretary general.While Politkovskaya offers a general overview of the war, Goltz offers an equally dramatic narrative of a journalist seeking film footage demonstrating the "Chechen spirit." Readers may recall Goltz's excellent account of oil intrigue in Azerbaijan Diary; again, his persistence has given us a precise image of how Chechen irregulars brought a greatly superior fighting force to stalemate. The massive violence of Russian forces against hapless civilians in the city of Samashki confirms the worst violence reported by Politkovskaya. Goltz's personal experience is especially valuable for students of journalism who would report on the world's many local and ferocious wars. Clearly, both books deserve inclusion in all libraries, and if their account of the sheer destruction in Chechnya did not warrant their acquisition, their unrivaled detail and immediacy certainly would.-Zachary T. Irwin, Sch. of Humanities & Social Science, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.



Chechnya Diary PART ONE The observer affects the observed.   - ESSENCE OF THE HEISENBERG UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE CHECHNYA DIARY. Copyright (c) 2003 by Thomas Goltz. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N. Y. 10010. Excerpted from Chechnya Diary: A War Correspondent's Story of Surviving the War in Chechnya by Thomas Goltz All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.