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Azerbaijan Diary: A Rogue Reporter's Adventures in an Oil-Rich, War-Torn, Post-Soviet Republic [Paperback]

Thomas Goltz
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 1998 076560244X 978-0765602442 New edition
In its first years as an independent state, Azerbaijan was a prime example of post-Soviet chaos - beset by coups and civil strife and astride an ethnic, political and religious divide. Author Goltz was detoured in Baku in mid-1991 and decided to stay, this diary is the record of his experiences.

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From Library Journal

Azerbaijan is surely among the most complex of Soviet successor states, save Russia itself. Goltz enjoys the distinction of being probably the only Western correspondent whose personal courage and linguistic skill made possible this unique witness to the country's first years of independence. He takes us from his "illegal" entry during the last phase of Soviet rule through accession of former KGB chief and Azeri President Heydar Aliyev. As sheer adventure, the account stands by itself as compelling reading, but the scholarly minded will benefit as Goltz moves from the poverty of postindependence Baku through the chaotic war involving Armenia and the "Black Garden" of Nagorno-Karabakh. Excursions to Tashkent, Teheran, and Grozny add perspective with emerging Turkish-Iranian rivalry for influence. But the book's crowning feature is the author's interviews with the republic's three presidents and the reemergence of the opposition "Popular Front" against Aliyev. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.?Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ. Erie
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Eyewitness reporting of the post-Soviet aftermath Oct. 25 2003
Thomas Goltz spent six years as a reporter in and around Azerbaijan, starting in 1991. He saw the collapse of the USSR and the start of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, and filed many war-zone reports. The result is fascinating, though a little uneven in places: Goltz is a fine war reporter, but not the best historiographer in the world.
Despite the title, the book is not quite a diary, although there is a good detail of day-to-day detail about life in Azerbaijan (he spent most of his time in Baku). The book's two main foci are the political history of Azerbaijan during this period, and the conflict with Armenia. The political history is done very well -- Goltz introduces a large cast, keeps them fairly distinct, and through his personal acquaintance with almost all of them brings them to life. It's clear that Goltz acquired a good deal of affection for the Azerbaijanis, and he is enraged by the corruption and indifference of many of the Azerbaijan political class. When, in the end, the old Soviet-era fox Heydar Aliyev wins power and actually gets the Caspian oil (and concomitant money) to flow via deals with international oil companies, Goltz is grudgingly respectful -- Aliyev may be lying about his democratic credentials, but he did achieve some benefit to Azerbaijan, which is more than most of his predecessors did.
As I said, Goltz is fond of the Azerbaijanis, and this does come through in his reporting of the war, which as a result feels a little less even-handed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just for Those Interested in Azerbaijan! Aug. 14 2002
While I agree with most of the other reviews (I would take the one that trashs his book with a grain of salt as my guess is that he is an Armenian/NK national that is offended by this book which is very critical of Armenia) I also want to stress that this book should be read (and will be enjoyed) by anyone interested in foreign affairs.

It's true that this book is essential for anyone interested in the Caucasus (as an American working here it was a great introduction to the recent history), the book, in addition to being an interesting story, is also a fascinating look into the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union and the new role of Russia in the region, ethnic conflict, and how international news gets reported and covered. The book definitely opened my eyes and made me a lot more skeptical about everything I read in the paper. If NK is anything to go by, what happens and what gets reported are two extremely different things.
While it's probabably true that the book could have used a bit more editing (you can sort of sense that it is collected from news stories he wrote during the years), that's really only a minor problem. Don't let the size of the book daunt you, it's a relatively quick read.
I would also recommend that the next edition have a list of names! It was a little hard to keep track of all the names so a listing at the front of the book would have been helpful.
Finally, if you want more information on Azerbaijan an the conflict in N-K, check out the following website....
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1.0 out of 5 stars Azerbaijan Diary: Book of Myth April 28 2002
This book is an absolute myth; as in half-truth. It was written by a journalist who was paid off from organizations sponsoring anti-Armenian sentiment. ... The fact is during the last decades of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijani forces began massacring the Armenian minority in Azerbaijani SSR. Soviet troops entered the territories trying to end the bloody conflict. All hell broke loose and then Armenia and Azerbaijan were at war. Thousands of people were killed on both sides.
Azerbaijan now claims Armenians as being the aggressors in the decades-old conflict. Bull! Azerbaijanis started a mini-genocide against Armenians and when the Armenians defeated them, whilst liberating Armenian land thus forming the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, they began ... campaigns trying to influence intolerance of Armenians. It hasn't worked.
Why didn't this book write about the massacre of Armenians prior to the war between the two former Soviet Republics? Why didn't it mention that Karabakh had always been Armenian land until Stalin forcefully seceded Karabakh from Armenian SSR and incorporated it to Azerbaijani SSR? Why didn't this book print pictures of centuries-old Armenian churches in Karabakh? Why didn't it present all the historical evidence pointing Karabakh as part of Armenia?
It doesn't make sense to me how a journalist can travel to a foreign country for a couple days and almost instantly become intelligent on a subject concerning two rival nationalities. ...
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3.0 out of 5 stars Solid and useful Jan. 28 2001
Azerbaijan Diary details in microcosm the difficulties of building a functioning modern nation. The author was a reporter in Azerbaijan during its difficult first years of statehood in the early Nineties and had enough high-level access to give us a personal view of the significant events of its political development, describing the forces at work and the people upon whom they worked. We get vivid descriptions of the problems of pandemic corruption, the temptations of totalitarianism, the difficulties of remaining independent as the nation is wooed by nation after nation with varying interests in Azerbaijan (particularly its rich oilfields), and the poison of ethnic and nationalist strife which leads to a grueling war that could doom the nascent state in its infancy. These pressures make nation-building different everywhere, but Azerbaijan had and advantage over, say, Haiti, in that Azerbaijan has a wealth of natural resources, which gives other nations, potential trading partners, a reason to support it in its quest for stability. This one chance, however, is not necessarily enough to save it from its self-imposed problems, much less the ones visited upon it from without.
Much has been made of the author's pro-Azerbaijan stance on that proto-nation's war with Armenia over the Nagorno Karabakh region. Speaking as someone with no stake in the region, I think Goltz revealed his bias clearly enough to allow us to read his work critically, and I don't know how one might expect someone who lived in Baku, Azerbaijan's capitol, for years not to become partial to his friends. However, accusations that Goltz is a liar, paid spy, collaborator, and propagandist seem unfounded, and the outlandish venom with which they are expressed make it hard for me to take them seriously.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Great Great
All I have to say is that he was in an overloaded helicopter escaping from a soon-to-be overrun village and they cleared a mountain pass by 5 feet. Read more
Published on July 7 2004 by John Buflod
1.0 out of 5 stars For a good laugh
I don't know what I was thinking when I bought a history book written by a journalist, but I certainly got what I deserved.
Published on June 25 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly accurate book
Finally, a writer who is not afraid to tell the truth. If you listen to all the pro-Armenian propoganda, you would think that all Azeris are monsters. Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2004 by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Big lies by Thomas Goltz
One question that I have to Thomas Goltz is how much money was he paid by Azeri propaganda machine?
I am a refugee from Karabakh, Shahumyan region, which was completely... Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Completely one-sided/Lacking historical insight!
This book is a completely bias/one-sided perception of the events in and around Nagorno-Karabagh. How can Karabagh be claimed by Azerbaijan when it contains CENTURIES old churches... Read more
Published on Nov. 20 2003 by AH
5.0 out of 5 stars Strangely enough, fair journalist from the West
Although many "reviewers" here might disagree with me, but this is a pretty neutral, fair, clear and well-explained story about Azerbaijan's Independece. Read more
Published on Sept. 19 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars adventures from the crumbing edges of the Soviet Empire
Gotlz was on the front line of a nasty little war that few in the West took much notice of. His time in Azerbaijan got him a front row seat to the crumbling edges of the Soviet... Read more
Published on May 4 2002 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely useful
As a scholar, studying and teaching the history of military conflicts in the Caucasus, I found the book extremely useful. Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars Truth according to Goltz
It is known that no war is just, for every party that is at war thinks that its truth is the only credible one. Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2001
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