Troubles of collapsed empire

Troubles of collapsed empire

War correspondent Igor Rotar published the book titled 'Wars of a Collapsed Empire, from Gorbachev to Putin'. This is an eyewitness unique account of all armed conflicts in the the former Soviet Union since the Gorbachev era until the present. In terms of breadth of coverage - in time and location - there was no such book in Russian yet. In thirty years of work as a correspondent for Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Izvestia and many other Russian media outlets, as a member of public and human rights organizations, he traveled to almost all hot or potentially hot spots of the former Soviet Union and its environs.

Rotar knows a lot, he saw a lot. So he decided to write this book to sum up what he saw. It's not a publicistic essay, not a scientific monograph, not a book of reference, not a literary-artistic essay which is popular among war correspondents, but a collection of sketches and thoughts. Although, according to the author, his book "enables selective reading" - someone will be interested in the chapter describing the war in Kosovo, someone will be interested in Chechnya - nevertheless, the order of the chapters in the book is not accidental.

If Shakespeare is right, and all the world's a stage, then Rotar begins his narrative with the representation of the "actors" of the collapsed empires' wars, which, according to the author, despite their apparent radical differences, are similar to each other. Here is a story about the "dogs of war" - volunteers or mercenaries, about how nominal the difference between them is; about war journalists - which sometimes are very similar to volunteer mercenaries; about children and women in war; about the war of myths and stereotypes, which usually is the root cause of armed conflicts.

A separate chapter is devoted to a nostalgia for the Soviet Union. A longing for a lost past ("We lived like in paradise and did not even understand it," the author cited an unknown old men from a Tajik mountain village) is an important element of human nature of people, who went through a very tough experience against their will.

Then there are sketches from the zones of military conflicts. Donbass and Transnistria (the author considers them to be twin wars), the Caucasus, Abkhazia and the Chechen war that has changed Russia forever.

"Immediately after the Russian troops entered Chechnya (during the first Chechen war), I disliked Jokhar Dudaev and generally supported the federals," Rotar wrote, as if not about himself, but about the entire Russian society that had experienced a similar evolution in relation to those events. "The thing is that I have visited Chechnya and it strike me as an extremely dangerous for Russia gangster enclave. It was not possible to defeat Dudayev with the help of the Chechens, so we will have to intervene," I reasoned. "Alas, a man is a subjective being, and my attitude to the federals changed dramatically after I was the object of targeted strikes by Russian bombers. Like the majority of journalists, I stayed at the French House hotel in Grozny. In the evening we had a glass of vodka saying: "I hope we will make it through this night." After about three minutes, the roar of bombers was heard: "Lord, please not us," each of us thought, holding his breath.

Further, the book describes Central Asia with its complex present, past and possibly future hot spots - and the things seemingly not related to the affairs of the former Soviet Union: China, with its threat of Uygur separatism, the former country of Yugoslavia, and, which seems illogical at first glance, the United States.

An empire, however evil it may seem, has extraordinary magnetism - it frightens and attracts at the same time. In this sense, the US empire differs little from the Soviet Union empire. The author tried to convey a sense of love/hate for the most unusual and most important of the existing empires, the American one, in his sketches about life in the United States.

The apparent advantage of the book is the fact that it is easily readable. The author writes about what he saw, not bothering himself with complex stylistic refinements, which sometimes hides the intended meaning. Igor Rotar's book will be of interest not only to a sufficiently wide circle of specialists (political scientists, ethnologists, intelligence officers), but also to curious readers.