Books + Reviews

The Circassian: A Life of Esref Bey, Late Ottoman Insurgent and Special Agent by Benjamin Fortna

The Circassian: A Life of Esref Bey, Late Ottoman Insurgent and Special AgentFReviewed by İrem Gündüz-Polat

The Circassian is a successful attempt in two ways. Firstly, Fortna’s chronological design of the account allows the reader to follow Eşref’s different activities step by step. Each chapter covers a mission, a war, or a specific case. This helps the author to create a holistic account. The book is informed by Fortna’s detailed knowledge of the context and the world around his subject. The second strength comes from Fortna’s management of an array of sources, which include the diary of Pervin (Eşref’s second wife), archival material from several countries, personal letters, travel accounts, encrypted telegrams, and secondary literature. The author is scrupulous in his use of primary sources.

Kuşçubaşızade Eşref (d. 1964) is probably one of the most complicated and elusive figures in the transformation period spanning the end of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the Republic of Turkey.

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The Circassian Diaspora in Turkey: A Political History by Zeynel A. Besleney

The Circassian Diaspora in Turkey: A Political History by Zeynel A. BesleneyReviewed by F. Tutku Aydın

This book is the long-expected first book on the politics and history of the Circassian diaspora in Turkey in English that covers an ambitious time frame, ranging from the last period of the Ottoman Empire to 2011. Besleney not only brought in the advantages of having an insider understanding of culture, he also did field work in various countries, where the Circassian diaspora communities are located, i.e. Turkey, the U.S., Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Adyghea, and Abkhazia. Therefore, this work is a unique contribution to diaspora studies and Circassian studies, as well as Turkish and post-Soviet studies. In this “political history,” Besleney largely provides a history of ethnic organizations founded by the Circassians in Turkey, and their relations with the hostland and homeland organizations.

Insight Turkey Fall 2016 / Volume 18, Number 4

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Atlas of the Ethno-Political History of the Caucasus Arthur Tsutsiev, Nora Seligman Favorov

Atlas of the Ethno-Political History of the Caucasus
Arthur TsutsievJune 10, 2014 
240 pages, 14 x 11 57 
color maps 
ISBN: 9780300153088 Cloth

Arthur Tsutsiev is the senior researcher at the Center for Social Studies at the Vladikavkaz Institute of Management. He lives in Vladikavkaz, Russia.

The Atlas of the Ethno-Political History of the Caucasus is a magnificent collection of fifty-six original maps with commentaries that detail the ethnic, religious, and linguistic makeup of the Caucasus—the region located between the Black and Caspian Seas that contains Europe’s highest mountain—from the eighteenth century to the present. The highly detailed maps and text untangle the exceptionally complicated history of this area, poised between Europe and Asia, which has been marked by ethnic conflicts and changing political borders. The Atlas illuminates the conflicting historical visions of homelands and borders, and provides a comprehensive reference tool for scholars, geographers, and historians.

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Book Review: The Circassian Genocide by Walter Richmond, 2013

The Circassian Genocide by Walter RichmondReviewed by Sufian Zhemukhov | The George Washington University

The Circassian Genocide
By Walter Richmond. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2013. 218 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Maps.

How should tragedies of the past that still echo in our time be (re)evaluated? In his outstanding contribution to the Caucasus studies, Walter Richmond argues that we can more clearly see such an enduring history through the prism of modern moral and legal standards. Richmond implements this approach from the beginning, by quoting a resolution passed by the Parliament of Georgia in 2011 that defined the “preplanned” mass killing of Circassians by the Russian Imperial Army in the 1860s as genocide. Using newest materials from the archive in Tbilisi, combined with well-known sources and extensive literature in several languages, Richmond provides a superb study of a subject significantly under-researched in the English-language literature and mostly ideologically inflected in the Soviet and post Soviet historiography.

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Nart Sagas From The Caucasus, by John Colarusso

Nart Sagas From The Caucasus, by John Colarusso Nart Sagas from the Caucasus: Myths and Legends from the Circassians, Abazas, Abkhaz, and Ubykhs

Reviewed by Eric Eller

If our lives are to be short,
Then let our fame be great!
Let us not depart from truth! Let fairness be our path!
Let us not know grief!Let us live in freedom!

So starts the first saga of the Narts in John Colarusso’s compilation of the myths and legends of the Circassians, Abazas, Abkhaz, and Ubykhs of the Caucasus region. The valor and determination of the Narts in this response to God’s question about how they wanted to spend their lives is reflected in the durability of their stories.

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