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A Journey to the Land between Christianity and Islam

A rugged land between the Black and Caspian seas, the Caucasus is a battle ground for a fascinating and formidable clash of cultures: Russia on one side, the predominantly Muslim mountains on the other. In Caucasus, award-winning author Nicholas Griffin recounts his journey to this war torn region to explore the roots of today’s conflict, centering his travelogue on Imam Shamil, the great nineteenth century Muslim warrior who commanded a quarter-century resistance against invading Russian forces.

Delving deep into the Caucasus, Griffin transcends the headlines trumpeting Chechen insurgency to give the land and its conflicts dimension: evoking the weather, terrain, and geography alongside national traditions, religious affiliations, and personal legends as barriers to peaceful co-existence. In focusing his tale on Shamil while retracing his steps, Griffin compellingly demonstrates the way history repeats itself.

256 pages | 9 halftones, 1 map | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 2001

History: Asian History, Military History

Religion: Islam


"This enthralling ride through the past before arriving in the present, through legend before fact, this deft retelling of the tragedy of these mountains conveys a great deal about life in the Caucasus today."

Vanora Bennett | Times Literary Supplement

"This engaging book--part travelogue, part history--attempts to chart [Shamil’s] life and his legacy, offering valid insights en route into this flashpoint

Daily Mail

"This is an often mesmerizing account of the quest to decipher the power of the enigmatic Talisman of Chechen resistance against Russia, Imam Shamil. . . . A wonderfully wrought work which interweaves past and present."

Jonathan Spence | The Herald (Glasgow)

"[Griffin] wonderfully weaves historical facts and compelling characters in this adventure through the Caucasus region. . . . An excellent and richly detailed look at an important but relatively little-known geopolitical region."

Publisher's Weekly

"Griffin is a fine writer with a sharp sense of both humor and irony. This memoir of his journey is filled with revealing episodes that are both amusing and sometimes frightening. This work is part history, part travelogue, and part lament for people who cherish their past but remain imprisoned by it."

Jay Freeman | Booklist

"Griffin, in this fine part-travelogue, part-historical and mythic tale, evokes and describes the Caucasus so well that I can see and feel the place. Alas, it reveals the same tribal terrors of other lands, in a remote realm of splintered mountains, inaccessible stone villages, savagery, bloodshed, violence, dismemberment, blood feuds, and the like. This doesn’t detract from Griffin’s stirring book, but he once again conjures up the cruel clashes and brutal assaults that lie at the heart of darkness that is human history."

Sam Coale | Providence Journal

"A near perfect recipe to whet the appetite of any vicarious traveler."

Washington Times

"A complicated book, a carefully sculpted book, a disturbing book (think kidnappings and beheadings), a darkly comic book. All these statements are true about British novelist Griffin’s nonfiction account of his trek through the troubled tribal mountain regions between the Caspian and Black seas."

David Armstrong | San Francisci Chronicle

"Historians are likely to respond with respect and admiration for Griffin’s ability to make history come alive for the educated reading public beyond academia. His belief in the importance of history is also a welcome contribution in a time when the threat of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism tends to eliminate any public attention to the historical background to our cotnemporary world."

Austin Jersild | Russian Review

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments and Thanks
1 Jagged Land
2 Based in Baku
3 Back in Time
4 Reverberation
5 Living History
6 Born in the Land of Splintered Stars
7 Three Hundred Tongues
8 The First Imam
9 Heading North
10 The Consolidation of Power
11 Lying in Wait
12 Gambits and Guile
13 Staggered Borders and Soft Lands
14 Titled Characters
15 Georgian Nights
16 Hostages of Worth
17 Walking over the Past
18 Guests of the Mountains
19 The Highwire of History
20 Towards Freedom
21 Tours and Travels
22 Driven from the Mountains
23 The Echoes of Blood
24 Into the Black Garden
25 The Shadow of Shamil
26 The History of Hostafes
27 The Resurrection of Shamil
28 A Time to Leave
Bibliography and Further Reading

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