The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire by Khassan Baiev - review by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Simon Sebag Montefiore

Mercy Mission

The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire


Simon & Schuster 354pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

WE ARE NOW familiar with the horrors of the two world wars and of the breakup of Yugoslavia; but the two Chechen wars of the mid-to-late 1990s, std continuing into the twenty-first century, are truly a foreign country to us, despite some excellent books by journalists who covered the conflicts. They are important for various reasons. The nature of Russia is always significant to us and its treatment of the Caucasus is always a reflection of the state of freedom in Russia itself. But more than that, it is a human story, and the killing of innocents must always matter to us. Yet none of the books on the war has quite caught its full dystopian horror and brought it to the attention of Western readers. and I think the heart-rending tale of the Chechen surgeon Khassan Baiev might change all that.

Baiev's The Oath is not merely a work of brilliant storytelling, a fascinating historical record of the Chechen war and an introduction to Chechen culture; it is also a luminous tribute to humanity, a tale of medical heroism and, above all, a classic book on the nature of war itself.

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