Chechnya, a 6,000-square-mile corner of the northern Caucasus, has struggled under Russian domination for centuries. The region declared its independence in 1991, leading to a brutal war, Russian withdrawal, and subsequent "governance" by bandits and warlords. A series of apartment building attacks in Moscow in 1999, allegedly orchestrated by a rebel faction, reignited the war, which continues to rage today. Russia has gone to great lengths to keep journalists from reporting on the conflict; consequently, few people outside the region understand its scale and the atrocities—described by eyewitnesses as comparable to those discovered in Bosnia—committed there.
Anna Politkovskaya, a correspondent for the liberal Moscow newspaper Novaya gazeta, is the only journalist to have constant access to the region. Her international stature and reputation for honesty among the Chechens have allowed her to continue to report to the world the brutal tactics of Russia's leaders used to quell the uprisings. A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya is her second book on this bloody and prolonged war. More than a collection of articles and columns, A Small Corner of Hell offers a rare insider's view of life in Chechnya over the past years. Centered on stories of those caught-literally-in the crossfire of the conflict, her book recounts the horrors of living in the midst of the war, examines how the war has affected Russian society, and takes a hard look at how people on both sides are profiting from it, from the guards who accept bribes from Chechens out after curfew to the United Nations. Politkovskaya's unflinching honesty and her courage inspeaking truth to power combine here to produce a powerful account of what is acknowledged as one of the most dangerous and least understood conflicts on the planet.
In Chechnya, there is now just one lone Russina voice remaining to chronicle the lives of those embroiled in the killing and corruption that have become the hallmark of President Putin's efforts to bring the province under the control of Moscow. Her name is Anna Politkovskaya, and she is not about to give up the fight. David Hearst