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Journalist highlights conflicts in Caucasus

Sonia Rao | Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Journalist Thomas Goltz highlighted the many aspects of conflict in the Caucasus in what he referred to as a “potpourri presentation” entitled “The Chechen National Disaster and Other Conflicts in the Post-Soviet Caucasus” at the Snite Museum of Art Monday.

Using a PowerPoint presentation, film clips and his 20 years experience as a freelance journalist, Goltz relayed his knowledge on violence in a territory that is “hellishly complex in terms of ethnicity and nationalism.”

Much of the conflict in areas like Chechnya, Goltz said, is a result of “the concept of self-determination against the territorial integrity of the existing state.”

As a war correspondent, Goltz traveled to a small town in Chechnya, placing himself at the heart of violence between Chechens and Russians at a time where there were no cell phones or audio radios.

“I could go deep and be out of radio contact for weeks at a time,” he said.

Goltz shared the footage he filmed of the violence that ensued as the small Chechnyan farm town tried to preserve its independence from the encroaching Russian army.

“You had to get as close to the coal face as possible, even if that meant risking your life,” he said.

In addition to sharing knowledge about the post-Soviet Caucasus through his journalistic work, Goltz also showed a PowerPoint presentation he uses at the University of Montana, where he works as a visiting scholar.

The presentation included a brief history of the Caucasus region, photographs from Goltz’s expeditions and plugs for several books on the subject, including Goltz’s own “Azerbaijan Diary,” “Chechnya Diary” and “Georgia Diary.”

He also showed photographs that depicted major events within the region.

Goltz, who at one time traveled as a one-man Shakespeare show through Africa, said he didn’t start out with the intention of being a war correspondent but became one by default as “little conflicts between people began getting larger.”

Goltz has written for major publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The Program in Russian and East European Studies sponsored his presentation, with help from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures and the Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy.