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Russia’s attempt to consolidate its authority in the North Caucasus has exerted a terrible price on both sides since the mid-nineteenth century. Michael Khodarkovsky tells a concise and compelling history of the mountainous region between the Black and Caspian seas during the centuries of Russia’s long conquest (1500–1850s). The history of the region unfolds against the background of one man’s life story, Semën Atarshchikov (1807–1845). Torn between his Chechen identity and his duties as a lieutenant and translator in the Russian army, Atarshchikov defected, not once but twice, to join the mountaineers against the invading Russian troops. His was the experience more typical of Russia’s empire-building in the borderlands than the better known stories of the audacious kidnappers and valiant battles. It is a history of the North Caucasus as seen from both sides of the conflict, which continues to make this region Russia’s most violent and vulnerable frontier.