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ISBN:0814719449
Author: Thomas de Waal
ISBN13: 978-0814719442
Title: Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War
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ePUB size: 1649 kb
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Language: English
Category: Humanities
Publisher: NYU Press (May 1, 2003)
Pages: 360

Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War by Thomas de Waal



Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2003Black Garden is the definitive study of how Armenia and Azerbaijan, two southern Soviet republics, got sucked into a conflict that helped bring them to independence, bringing to an end the Soviet Union, and plaguing a region of great strategic importance. It cuts between a careful reconstruction of the history of Nagorny Karabakh conflict since 1988 and on-the-spot reporting on its convoluted aftermath

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Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War is a 2003 book by Thomas de Waal, based on the study of Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics, during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. It cuts between a careful reconstruction of the history of Nagorno Karabakh conflict since 1988 and on-the-spot reporting on its convoluted aftermath. Much of de Waal's analysis is concerned with the Caucasus region, focusing on the exercise of power on the Eurasian landmass in a post-Soviet environment.

Black Garden is the definitive study of how Armenia and Azerbaijan, two southern Soviet republics, got sucked into a conflict that helped bring them to independence, bringing to an end the Soviet Union, and plaguing a region of great strategic importance. It cuts between a careful reconstruction of the history of Nagorny Karabakh confl Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2003. Part contemporary history, part travel book, part political analysis, the book is based on six months traveling through the south Caucasus, more than 120 original interviews in the region, Moscow, and Washington, and unique primary sources, such as Politburo archives.

De Waal's book significantly contributes to this purpose and establishes itself as one of the standard works for understanding this conflict. De Waal a wise and patient reporter. The book also contains a useful chronology of important events. Thomas de Waal has reported on Russia and the Caucasus since 1993 for the Moscow Times, The Times of London, The Economist, and the BBC World Service. He is currently Senior Associate, Caucasus at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His publications include, most recently, The Caucasus: An Introduction.

De Waal reveals a fascinating historical context for the conflict, including how it precipitated the end of the Soviet Union and thrust an entire region into disarray

Black garden : Armenia and Azerbaijan through peace and war, Thomas de Waal. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Personal testimony is of course subjective, so I have tried to balance my reconstruction of events from as many sources as possible. The problem is that the written record on the subject is also frequently unreliable, partisan, and incomplete.

Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2003

Black Garden is the definitive study of how Armenia and Azerbaijan, two southern Soviet republics, got sucked into a conflict that helped bring them to independence, bringing to an end the Soviet Union, and plaguing a region of great strategic importance. It cuts between a careful reconstruction of the history of Nagorny Karabakh conflict since 1988 and on-the-spot reporting on its convoluted aftermath.

Part contemporary history, part travel book, part political analysis, the book is based on six months traveling through the south Caucasus, more than 120 original interviews in the region, Moscow, and Washington, and unique primary sources, such as Politburo archives.

The historical chapters trace how the conflict lay unresolved in the Soviet era; how Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders exacerbated it; how the Politiburo failed to cope with the crisis; how the war began and ended; how the international community failed to sort out the conflict.

What emerges is a complex and subtle portrait of a beautiful and fascinating region, blighted by historical prejudice and conflict.

Reviews: 7
Talrajas
I delved into this book and the history of the region. I normally do not like such depressing books- but the history is just so fascinating.

The author does a good job of showing how complicated a seemingly straightforward situation can be. A must read for anyone who thinks historical rifts are easily fixed.
Thetalas
Maybe it was just me, but it was a slower and boring read. The book details from the Soviet dissolve to the modern Armenia and Azerbaijan territorial dispute. The account of the political and ethnic tension in the region was insightful but was a little on the dull side for me.
from earth
This is a great non-biased book documenting the war that took place in 1988-1994 between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I can't say i enjoyed reading it because it contains war stories that no one wants to live through.
Oparae
The book represents independent, comprehensive and up-to-date research of one of the most disastrous modern wars in the Caucasus region. It can definitely serve as a good reference point for anybody who is interested in the post-Soviet development of South Caucasus countries. Numerous references, original interviews with top officials of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey and other courtiers offer an invaluable piece of information, which could not be found anywhere else.
At the same time, however, the book has single but fundamental flaw. Apparently, in pursue of not being accused of siding with either party of this conflict, the Author obstinately balances the "pro-Armenian" and "pro-Azeri" facts with each other in order to create some facade of neutrality. In most of the cases it is expressed in improper comparisons, putting accents on incomparably important aspects of the conflict and sometimes even bringing about unchecked (if not dubious) information in order to counterbalance the well-known facts. As a result the truth is often obscured, hidden or even compromised. After all, the reality is much more uneven than 50-50 formula adopted in the "Black Garden...".
First of all, one of the greatest misleading simplifications (hopefully, not intentional) is equalization of Turkey-Azerbaijan with the Russia-Armenia ties. Turkey-Armenia relationship can only be wished to be better. Turkey spends millions of dollars every year to deny the fact of 1915 Genocide. It refuses to have any diplomatic relationships with Yerevan; it keeps the land border locked damaging badly Armenian economy, and sometimes even retreats to open bullying of Armenia. Meanwhile Russian-Azerbaijani ties, even at the worst point, included diplomatic, economic and military aspects (e.g. Gabala radar station). Today Russians' attitude to Azeris is hardly less favorable than to Armenians. The Russian president Vladimir Putin in a friendly gesture (rarely ever made to others) is planning to attend Azeri president's birthday party. Russian oil companies have heavy share in developing Azeri oil and Russian language, TV and newspapers are still very popular in Azerbaijan. At the same time, the level of Azeri-Turkish relationship is often expressed as "two countries - one nation" by top officials of both countries.
Perhaps the most astonishing example of the Author's strictly enforced "complimentary policy" is the chapter covering the pogroms of Armenians in Sumgait. Apparently, he considered the section - for obvious reasons - too "pro-Armenian". In order to somehow "neutralize" such impression, he went as far as trying to console Azeris by citing cases of similar atrocities committed by other nations widely recognized as civilized, such as English. As if it wasn't enough to "smooth away the differences" between the sides, the Author, in another part of the book referring to the same timeframe, quotes the "study" made by an Azeri about scores of Azeri victims of pogroms on the territory of Armenia. This information, never confirmed by any independent source, seems highly doubtful since in 1988, under relatively well-organized Soviet Government, it was practically impossible to violently kill 127 people without any trace in official statistics. Although throughout the book the Author seems to be very reluctant to rely on information given exclusively by either side of the conflict, in the above part - evidently to "balance" Azeri pogroms of Armenians - he decided to depart from this logic.
Less significantly, but equally unfair is "matching" of Ziya Buniatov and Zori Balayan. The first "discovered" and propagated a completely bogus (as the Author confirms himself) theory of Karabakh being historically Azeri land belonging centuries ago to "Caucasian Albania" - and consequently Armenians being only guests there. Today this theory is still the moral foundation of Azeri side of the conflict, thus Buniatov's role in instilling the hatred over Armenians is indeed tremendous. In turn, Zori Balayan's biggest sins are cited to be connecting dots between the 1915 Genocide and the pogroms in Sumgait, calling Turks "an enemy" (if they are not, then tell me what "enemy" means) and Arax river "Armenian" (which it may be called as it runs not only on Azerbaijan's border, but also on Armenia's). Sometimes it looks like the facts in the book are really stretched to fit each other...
Many other examples could follow. Most importantly, however, the Author seems to fail recognizing (or at least to properly illustrating in the book) the significant political, demographic and territorial differences between the sides of the conflict. With the history of narrowly escaping the full physical extermination 88 years ago - Armenians still seem to battle with the same dreadful perspective. Less than three millions of Armenians with 80% of their borders blocked by hostile neighbors since the independence are scrambling to survive in today's eventful reality. It takes looking at the map to understand that any potential change in great powers' stance is prone with the deadliest consequences for Armenians (taking into account that Turks are so much stronger, and still never even apologized for the Genocide of 1915 - who would guarantee Armenians' security?). On the other side are eight millions Azeris - with 15+ millions more in Iran - have open access to the sea, plenty of oil (which seem to have hypnotizing effect on Western democracies, too), and with 60 millions Turkey (the second strongest NATO army in the region) as their staunchest ally. The asymmetry is obvious, and it is impossible to understand the history of Karabakh conflict without recognizing it. Not by coincidence, Andrey Sakharov, the prominent Russian scientist and dissident, a person with huge personal moral authority, was quoted to say "Karabakh is a matter of honor for Azeris, but matter of survival for Armenians". It seems, the Author - who spent so much time studying the history of the region - would agree with such statement, but is very unwilling explicitly acknowledging it in the book.
Despite of the above-mentioned weaknesses the book is definitely worth your time and money, especially if you are able to read between the lines, use your judgment and not fall into "all-balancing" trap skillfully set by the Author.
Priotian
After being introduced to the author's writing through a naïve-Westerner-written article titled "Abkhazia's Dream of Freedom" on Open Democracy's website, there was a good amount of skepticism when Black Garden was begun. Could Mr. deWaal write a book on the Nagorny Karabakh conflict and present both sides as equally and fairly as possible? Yes he could, and yes he has.

It is precisely this neutrality that gives Black Garden its strength. DeWaal's book is not a historical account but is deceptively similar. Black Garden blends history and extensive journalism--the culmination of his numerous forays into the Nagorny Karabakh Republic (NKR) statelet, Armenia and Azerbaijan--and presents a delicately balanced look at the frozen post-Soviet conflict. Thoroughly researched and deeply studied by the author, a journalist and not a historian, the full but obscure history of this little-known conflict is brought to light and common misconceptions are debunked. Nagorny Karabakh was not about ancient hatreds; for one, it was and remains the result of callous Soviet policies that could never have lasted without a constant and brutal overlord-state to maintain them.

Black Garden does well as a one-stop overall introduction to the NKR conflict. From here, readers can at least have some background with which to pursue further study, be it from the Armenian perspective or the Azeri. It would have been easy for the author to take a side. The fact that he didn't is what makes Black Garden a solid foundation for learning about the Nagorny Karabakh conundrum.
Qwne
The dispute over Nagorno Karabakh is a complicated issue between Armenia and Azerbaijan. What de Waal has done here is present a neutral account of the war, without favouring either side, a rarity in conflicts like this. He presents clear facts for both sides, while stressing the humanitarian issues at stake, namely the hundreds of thousands of refugees on both sides who are victims of the decades long conflict. Its a great read, and is quite detailed in explaining the origins of the conflict, possibly the best English-language source on the subject.