Articles by Thomas de Waal



Sochi's Ghost Haunts Baku

If Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev had intended the inaugural European Games in Baku to be the occasion on which the world finally showered admiration and attention on his country, he will be disappointed.

KadyrovТs Menace Casts a Shadow Over Moscow

In June 2004, a few weeks after the assassination of pro-Moscow Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya sought out his son Ramzan in his home village of Tsentoroi.

20 Years On, Chechnya Still Traumatized by War

Today marks 20 years since the beginning of the First Chechen War, when Russian forces launched a three-pronged attack on Grozny, the Chechen capital, on Dec. 11, 1994.

Peace for Our Time in Nagorno-Karabakh

Call it a sleeping volcano, the elephant or perhaps even the mammoth in the room. The Armenian-Azeri conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is the longest-running unresolved dispute in the former Soviet Union, dating back to 1988.

A Forever Smoldering Conflict in the Caucasus

As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Baku and Yerevan, an old issue will again dominate her discussions: the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The latest push for peace in the area, unfortunately, comes as more and more people are talking war.

Mysterious Shifts in Chechnya

Like one of those dark mysterious beech forests of the Caucasus, Chechnya still contains many secrets and most of what is going on there is hidden from outside view.

Playing a Losing Game

Late last month, Moscow quietly returned its ambassador, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, to Georgia.

The Georgia Factor

Two fascinating books look past superpower politics to show that Georgians have a mind of their own.

The Georgia Factor

Two fascinating books look past superpower politics to show that Georgians have a mind of their own.

The Life and Death of a PR Terrorist

In Shamil Basayev, public relations and terrorist cunning met in a diabolical combination. He cultivated his image as Russia's public enemy No. 1.

Kosovo Talks Much More Than Kosovo

For most people, being a state citizen is as much a reality as having parents, but the international order also has its orphans.

It's Time to Worry About the North Caucasus

The shock of the horror of Beslan will linger for a long time, but the local repercussions are only just beginning. It is time to start paying serious attention to the North Caucasus.

A Forgotten Conflict

Ten years ago today a cease-fire halted a conflict that most of the world has now forgotten. But the decade of quiet emanating from the Armenian-Azeri front line around Nagorny Karabakh should not deceive us that there is lasting peace there.

Beyond Politics

Reporting from ground level, four new books on Chechnya come as a welcome corrective to a decade of hollow politicking and distant theoretical debate.

Beyond Politics

Reporting from ground level, four new books on Chechnya come as a welcome corrective to a decade of hollow politicking and distant theoretical debate.

October '93: A Loss of Innocence

The bill for October 1993 came late perhaps, but Russia is paying it still.

Azerbaijan's Gathering Storm

  • 28 August 03
  • The Wall Street Journal
Everything is calm in Azerbaijan at the moment. But it is time for the outside world to pay more attention to the storm that may be gathering in this oil-rich corner of the South Caucasus.

Chechen Referendum Is Road to Nowhere

The upcoming referendum can hardly bridge the abyss Moscow has created between itself and Chechnya.

Chechnya's Forgotten Majority

Little has been heard from ordinary Chechens among the voices that have sounded since the hostage crisis.

The Broader Crisis

Vladimir Putin may have brought an end to the Moscow hostage crisis, but he now faces the wrath that follows the death of more than 100 citizens.

The Ins and Outs of the War in Chechnya

It is possible to think of Chechnya not so much as a separate state, but as Russia's subconscious.

Into the Georgian Quagmire

I wonder if the 50 or so U.S. soldiers who arrived in Georgia last weekend knew what they were stepping into.

Peace in the Caucasus

Since the idea of a ""Stability Pact"" for the Caucasus was first discussed at the OSCE summit in Istanbul in 1999 Ц and it has widely been dismissed as an impractical panacea.

What Follows Victory?

Portrait of 2 Warlords

In retrospect, the moment that I ran into Khattab was a terribly revealing one about the fate of Chechnya. In June last year I made a brief and furtive visit to the Chechen capital Grozny. I went to the house of Shamil Basayev in the south of Grozny, looking for an interview with the man who was still the prime minister of Chechnya. He was loitering outside his gate with a group of men, wearing a turquoise T-shirt and a military-style khaki cap. One of the crowd was someone I recognized from photographs, a man with a swarthy face, long black hair snaking Medusa-like to his shoulders. I went up to Khattab and asked him in English (somehow it felt more polite not to speak Russian to a man who had spent 10 years fighting the Russians) if he would give the BBC an interview. He said he'd give me a few words after I had talked to Basayev. I talked to Basayev. He was provocative, evasive, jesting, far more a thirtysomething fighter than a prime minister.

Grozny's Thankless Task

Chechnya is in the news again. And yet there are few if any people in Moscow who have any understanding of this perpetually misunderstood land. It is as if the Russian analysts are staring at it through the wrong end of a telescope, getting all their calculations awry. I was forcibly struck by this during a two-day visit to Grozny last month, my first since the presidential elections of January 1997. I left in a state of increased confusion and with a humble appreciation of how complex and impenetrable Chechnya now is. This was in striking contrast to the confident simplifications I was reading in Moscow. In particular, I read that Chechnya was on the brink of some kind of ""civil war."" In fact, the rebels in Chechnya are not a political opposition but scattered local chiefs. Some fairly substantial places like Urus-Martan have lived pretty much independently for the last seven years, irrespective of whoever is in power in Grozny just a few miles away.

Analyzing Russia for the Confused

Ex-Captives Plead for British Hostages

An Eccentric Outpost of Christianity

Debunking the Myths of Nationalism