In its first years of existence as an independent state, the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan was a prime example of post-Soviet chaos -- beset by coups and civil strife, and on the losing side of the Karabakh was of secession, with a fifth of its territory occupied by Armenian troops. Azerbaijan may be endowed with vast oil reserves, but it also bestrides one of the greatest ethnic, religious, and political faultlines in the world.
Thomas Goltz became an accidental witness to Azerbaijan's inglorious history-in-the-making when he was detoured in Baku in mid-1991 -- and decided to stay. This record of his years there quickly became an underground classic. Alternating in style between tragedy and farce, and with vivid portraits of individuals high and low, Goltz carries the reader from the battlefront to the voting booth, the negotiating table to the kitchen table. Throughout, the intensity of immediate experience is balanced by an astute awareness of contemporaneous events in Karabkh and Nakhjivan. Georgia and Armenia, Russia and Chechnya, Iran and Turkey, Washington and Houston.