A podcast from the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, hosted by Masha Udensiva-Brenner
All eyes turned to Chechnya in early April, after the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta exposed the kidnapping, unlawful detention, and torture of more than 100 gay men by the Chechen authorities. How did these purges start? What is missing from the prevailing media narrative? And how has Russia’s relationship with the republic affected what is going on there now?
In the second episode of Expert Opinions, Masha Udensiva-Brenner sits down with Columbia University’s Harriman Institute alumna Rachel Denber, deputy director of Europe and Central Asia Division at Human Rights Watch, to discuss some of the misconceptions about the purges. She then speaks to journalist Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, about his 1996 book “Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus,” co-authored with Carlotta Gall.
De Waal recently donated to the Harriman Institute his interview tapes not just from this book, but also from his book “Black Garden” – the only work to date that examines the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan from both sides. The Thomas de Waal Interviews Collection will be available at Columbia Libraries starting in July and will provide the opportunity for scholars and journalists to listen to hours of eyewitness testimony from two of the most complicated conflicts to have plagued the post-Soviet region.
Rachel Denber, Deputy Director of Europe and Central Asia Division at Human Rights Watch, specializes in countries of the former Soviet Union. Previously, Denber directed Human Rights Watch's Moscow office and did field research and advocacy in Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Estonia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. She has authored reports on a wide range of human rights issues throughout the region.
Thomas de Waal is a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe, specializing in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region. He is the author of numerous publications about the region. His latest book is “Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide.” He is also the author of the book on the Nagorny Karabakh conflict, “Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War” and of “The Caucasus: An Introduction.”
Editor’s Note: Masha Udensiva-Brenner is Communications Coordinator at the Harriman Institute, where she edits and writes for Harriman Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, the New Republic, and Tablet, among others