More Good Reads, Relevant Links

EightPiecesOfEmpireLawrence Sheets covered the demise of the former Soviet Union for NPR. He writes his memoir in a brisk, non-academic style that's just right for the interested lay person. It's a quick read; Took me only a weekend and Monday. He includes what must be all his greatest hits, his quick trip to Afghanistan, a trip to Sakhalin Island in the Russian far east, visiting the Chernobyl exclusion zone, but I'm particularly drawn to his Caucasus reporting.

He makes my modest story on the southern Caucasus, recounted in CS&W, appear callow, and I appreciate him for it. It's exciting to get background on some of the places we visited a few years after he did, in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia (even a tiny place we visited, Dzoroget in Armenia, athough he visited under entirely different circumstances). His coverage of Abkhazia's succession from Georgia is admittedly maybe not general interest, but I loved it.

He reported that little war along with his friend and fellow reporter Thomas Goltz, who has written his own books, and if you read their accounts alongside each other, you get a real, exciting sense of what went on at that fraying edge of the Soviet empire.

The books:

Eight Pieces of Empire by Lawrence Scott Sheets
Georgia Diary by Thomas Goltz

Similarly, you can read Sheets on Armenia alongside Christopher de Bellaigue's Rebel Land, (earlier post) which is set just across Armenia's western border in Turkey, for a richer understanding of the Armenian genocide question, and Sheets on Armenia alongside Thomas de Waal's richly reported Black Garden (that's what "Karabakh" means), which is set just across Armenia's eastern border in Azerbaijan for a better understanding of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Go ahead and polish off your expertise about the southern Caucasus with:

Bread and Ashes by Tony Anderson. Travels in Georgia.

Also in the region, see
Towers of Stone by Wojciech Jagielski, reporter for the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza,
The Man who Tried to Save the World by Scott Anderson, about aid worker Fred Cuny in the north Caucasus, 
Chienne de Guerre by Anna Nivat, incredibly brave war reporting from Chechnya,
Beslan: The Tragedy of School Number 1 by Timothy Phillips on the nightmare in North Ossetia,
– Thomas Goltz's other books Azerbaijan Diary and Chechnya Diary,
– Thomas de Waal's other book The Caucasus: An Introduction,
– and Christopher de Bellaigue's In the Rose Garden of  the Martyrs , a memoir of Iran. de Bellaigue writes beautifully, and after all, Iran borders Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh.

Finally, to stay up to date, there's the International Crisis Group's North and South Caucasus reporting. (Lawrence Sheets is ICG Project Director for the South Caucasus these days) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Caucasus section


Big Displays Up North

The big blast from the sun on Thursday, known scientifically as a coronal mass ejection, may bring some excitement for skywatchers today and tomorrow. Having stalked the aurora last month in Lapland, I can testify that it's a thrilling, thrilling moment when you spot the beginning of a display.


Just on the off chance that you can't travel to the far north tonight, here are a couple of web resources: AuroraMAX, from the Canadian Space Agency, has a live, 180 degree view of the sky over Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. And I learned something in Lapland – use Here's its aurora gallery for this month.

Blog Recommendation

Got a blog to recommend, from a fellow named Jake, who's working his way around the circuit in Cambodia right now. His blog is called My Alternative Life. I've put a link in the sidebar on this page under "Worth Your While," because it is.

Go spend a little time with Jake when you get a chance.

Check out what's on his front page right now, for example. Shooting big, swaggery weapons, Angkor Wat and a great, fascinating and very photogenic place, Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake. What's not to like?

His Tonle Sap experience brings back memories. Here's one of the photos from our visit. Just a couple of guys, standing around, cruising the lake:


Links for the Weekend

A travel blog centered on Eastern Europe: Argophilia. Note their advice on TripAdvisor.

The people at Anna.Aero have been in touch. It's a site for Airline Network News and Analysis, hence ANNA. (A natural partner for the Airline Route Updates blog. If you've GOT TO KNOW that Eastern Airways is to Start Glasgow – Stavanger Service, or Air Mauritius from 30MAR12 is introducing its 4th weekly service between Mauritius and Mumbai, then Airline Route Updates is for you.)

And most importantly, big big Lakhs for Big Babus.