The Oath is the story of Khassan Baiev who was a surgeon in Chechnya during the Russo-Chechen wars of the late 90s. The book tells of his experiences treating Chechan citizens, and Russians, and of the atrocities he saw both during the wars and after. The experiences he lived through and tales of heroism will keep you turning page after page without wanting to stop but about 2/3 of the way through the book, it may start to sound more like fiction than a memoir to you, as it did to me.
Baiev does a great job of humanizing the conflict and combating the pro-Russian point of view that seems to dominate the media. Anyone who reads the book will be moved the plight of the Chechans and understand that there is more to the conflict than meets the eye. It's also abundantly clear that those whom he assisted were extremely fortunate to know him. However, throughout the story Baiev seems to just scrape through too many close calls and have a little too much luck compared to the average man. In addition, he toots his own horn a little too much, which might spoil some of the compassion you feel for this man. I won't spoil the book by giving specifics, but I think it will be obvious if you read it.
While there can be no doubt that Baiev is a hero to his countryman and a great humanitarian, overall the book left a "too good to be true" impression on me. Unfortunately, when there is so much truth that appears be exaggerated, the whole story loses credibility, at least for me.
I still recommend this book as a good read, but if you don't know anything about the Russo-Chechan wars, don't take it as your primary source of factual information. The book gives an important perspective on the war, but is likely as biased as any propaganda the Russian media prints about war.
What did you think of this review?