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My byli na etikh voinakh : Svidetel’stva Uchastnikov Sobytii 1989-2000 [We were in those wars : Witnesses of survivors of military conflicts of 1989-2000], Sankt-Petersburg, Zvezda (with the support of Soros Foundation « Open Society »). Comp. by Ia. A. Gordin, V.A. Grigor’ev, 2003, 319 p.

Amandine Regamey

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1This book includes diaries and reports of eight participants (mostly Russian officers) of different "post-Soviet wars", beginning with Nagorny Karabakh and ending with the war still going on in Chechnya. The contributions have been collected on the web site www.ArtOfWar.ru, where there can be found literary texts as well.

2In charge of the defense of the USSR which will soon not exist, Soviet soldiers in Nagorny Karabakh appear as helpless witnesses of a war fuelled by Moscow decisions. They are abandoned to their fate by a military hierarchy anxious first of all to save its stripes (Iouri Girenko, V Soiuze vse spokoino, Armiia gosudarstva, kotorogo net).

3In the first testimonies, war and massacres appear as a background upon which develops the ordinary life of a military base. But the other stories take us into the heart of the war, especially the narration of  Mironov (Ia byl na etoi voine) recounting his experience in Chechnya with the style and rhythm of a war movie : panting movements of soldiers in Grozny where death can meet them anywhere in the ruins, the hanging of a Chechen sniper by soldiers in front of indifferent officers and the discovery of a Russian soldier, emasculated and crucified.

4The other three accounts (Valerij Gorban’, Dnevnik ofitsera OMONA ; A Agalakov, Khozhdenie za 3 goroda, Shalnaia pulia - slavnyi zvuk ; A. Zhembrovskij, Iz boevogo zhurnala) are testimonies of soldiers and officers stationed in an hostile Chechnya. In the first as well as in the second war, their life was made up of expectations : duties at checkpoints, long hours watching for enemies harassing them, a slow counting of the days before going back home.

5The life of these officers of the special forces appears to be a several-week parenthesis in the course of their "normal" life, thousands of  kilometers away from home (the authors of these testimonies come from Siberia or  the Far East). Their life is limited to the military base, isolated, in a hostile environment. The outside world can be summarized in a few words : dukhi (this Chechen fighters' nickname is the same as the one used to designate Afghans in the 1980’s), snipers, zelenka (wood and undergrowth hiding the whereabouts and movements of the dukhi).

6Relations with civilians are limited to the bare essentials : they have no knowledge of  the Chechen population, and it is only thanks to the civilians’ testimonies (who have lived through the war) that we get a glimpse of the local people. G. L Passarar (Nabludenia i razmyshlenia ochevitsa Chechenskoj Voiny) tells about the tensions between Chechens and Russian speaking peoples after Dudaev came to power, but also about the solidarity existing between neighbors. The most surprising report is the one written by Alexandre Akhanov (Poezdka v Chechniu) who, for one month, in march 2000, lived in Grozny, and was welcomed by people he met by chance (supporter of pro-russian mayor Gantemirov, university professors who had only their vegetable garden to live on) and lived as if war was only (once again) a background…

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References

Bibliographical reference

My byli na etikh voinakh : Svidetel’stva Uchastnikov Sobytii 1989-2000 [We were in those wars : Witnesses of survivors of military conflicts of 1989-2000], Sankt-Petersburg, Zvezda (with the support of Soro

Electronic reference

Amandine Regamey, « My byli na etikh voinakh : Svidetel’stva Uchastnikov Sobytii 1989-2000 [We were in those wars : Witnesses of survivors of military conflicts of 1989-2000], Sankt-Petersburg, Zvezda (with the support of Soros Foundation « Open Society »). Comp. by Ia. A. Gordin, V.A. Grigor’ev, 2003, 319 p. », The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online], Issue 2 | 2005, Online since 19 April 2005, connection on 28 March 2017. URL : http://pipss.revues.org/304

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About the author

Amandine Regamey

PhD in Political Science, Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Paris.

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Copyright

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

This text is under a Creative Commons license : Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic

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