Read The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire by Khassan Baiev Robert O'Keefe Online


When Chechen rebels took Moscow theatergoers hostage in October 2002, it tragically highlighted the ongoing conflict between Russia and its breakaway republic, Chechnya—a war that has claimed an estimated 200,000 Chechen lives in the past decade. Yet the true nature of the debacle lies behind the headlines. In The Oath, a heroic Chechen doctor relates his harrowing experieWhen Chechen rebels took Moscow theatergoers hostage in October 2002, it tragically highlighted the ongoing conflict between Russia and its breakaway republic, Chechnya—a war that has claimed an estimated 200,000 Chechen lives in the past decade. Yet the true nature of the debacle lies behind the headlines. In The Oath, a heroic Chechen doctor relates his harrowing experiences in the line of fire to bear witness to this international calamity, and illuminates his remarkable people and their culture.In 1994, when fighting threatened to break out in Chechnya, Baiev left his promising career in Russia to aid his countrymen. First, he worked in a Grozny hospital until it was destroyed by Russian shelling. Returning to his hometown of Alkhan Kala, he and his fellow villagers restored a clinic with his own funds, and he soon found himself the only doctor for 80,000 residents in six villages and 5,000 refugees. During the next six years, he worked without gas, electricity, or running water, with only local anesthetics, and at one point dressed wounds with sour cream or egg yolks when supplies ran out. He often donated his own blood for surgeries, and on one occasion performed sixty-seven amputations in forty-eight hours.Although he mainly treated civilians, Baiev also cared for Russian soldiers and Chechen fighters alike, never allowing politics to interfere with his commitment to the Hippocratic oath. He harbored Russian deserters and Chechen rebels at great personal risk and single-handedly rescued a Russian doctor who was scheduled to be executed. For this, Baiev was nearly killed by both the Russian special forces and Chechen extremists. Only when the Russian Army ordered him arrested for treating a wounded rebel warlord did Baiev finally flee Chechnya.Echoing through his memoir is the history of Chechnya, a Muslim nation the size of Connecticut with a population of one million. Baiev explains the roots of the Chechen- Russian conflict, dating back 400 years, and he brings to life his once-beautiful ancestral home of Makazhoi where his family clan goes back generations, steeped in ancient traditions that are an intriguing blend of mountain folklore—including blood vendettas, arranged marriages, the authority of village elders—and Muslim religious rituals. And he writes frankly about the challenges of assimilating into western culture and about the post-traumatic stress disorder that has debilitated him since the war began.The Oath is an important eyewitness account of the reality of the Chechen-Russian conflict, in which countless atrocities have been committed against average Chechens in stark contrast to the Kremlin's portrayal of the conflict. It is also a searing, unforgettable memoir that is certain to become a classic in the literature of war....

Title : The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781402564918
Format Type : Audio Cassette
Number of Pages : 402 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire Reviews

  • Mikey B.
    2019-03-16 23:41

    A very telling first-hand account of what has been happening in Chechnya. The author grew up there and speaks his native language as well as Russian. He lived and studied in various parts of the Soviet Union. His life, until the break-up of the Soviet Union was even somewhat privileged; he became an athlete and then a medical doctor.There were always undertones of discrimination because of his Chechen roots. This all literally exploded with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the break-up of its many republics. Whereas Moscow reluctantly said “Yes” to the autonomy of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine and several others; they said “No” to Chechnya. It tragically became another Afghanistan. The Russians responded with overwhelming military force destroying their capital Grozny and several villages in the countryside. As the author aptly demonstrates it is largely the civilian population who suffered the most – with lives lost and their houses and communities destroyed. Chechnya is now in a state of trauma. We feel this directly through the author who served as an emergency room doctor. There are many passages of severe treatments. This is a personal history of the devastating effects of war. The great strength of this book is that the author bears no malice to the Russian people. He treated Russian soldiers, some of whom were very bitter about their military occupation in Chechnya. Many Russians were living in Chechnya and their lives too have been shattered.Due to the Russian occupation and the many competing bands of Chechen militias the author was forced to flee. He now lives in the United States where his immediate family has joined him. We can only wish him well.This is an emotionally charged book where we are provided with yet another example of an invasion of a small state by a superpower.A memorable line in the book (on page 348): “If I did something bad to them, I would be no better than they are. I don’t want revenge. I want to be human. I don’t want to hate.”

  • Shelley Fearn
    2019-02-22 03:31

    The Oath was mentioned at the end of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. It was just by chance that the library owned a copy. It has only been out 4 times since its purchase in 2003. That should give you a good idea of just how little interest there has been in Chechnya.This is an important book. While it teaches a bit about Chechen history and traditions, it is best when it describes how one person can really make a difference (often at great cost to himself). If we all were a bit like Khassan Baiev, the world would be a much better place. He is one person we can strive to emulate.After reading this, I pondered the popularity of the apocalyptic genre in our popular culture. Perhaps we all would be better served reading books like this. The world is apocalyptic enough -- we certainly don't have to make it up.

  • John Brookes
    2019-03-18 02:39

    “The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire” tells the story of Khassan Baiev, a cosmetic surgeon living in the town of Alkhan Kala whose life - along with that of the rest of the population of Chechnya – is turned upside down by several wars with Russia during the 1990s as a result of Chechnya’s declaration of independence. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Chechen-Ingush Soviet Republic was split into two: the Republic of Ingushetia and Republic of Chechnya. The latter proclaimed the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which sought independence. Following the First Chechen War with Russia (1994-96), Chechnya gained de facto independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Russian federal control was restored during the Second Chechen War (1999 – 2007). Since then there has been a systematic reconstruction and rebuilding process, though sporadic fighting continues in the mountains and southern regions of the republic.The above factual paragraph however, does not go any way towards giving the historical context of the conflict, nor the scarcely believable human tragedies that these conflicts inflicted on all involved – civilian and military. Baiev’s book, however, depicts these elements in graphic detail and to great effect.Whilst this is very much the story of Baiev’s life it is also the story of the homeland that he loves so much. Indeed the fact that the horrific descriptions of war in this account are sandwiched between a prologue detailing Baiev’s idyllic rural childhood and his later life as a refugee in urban Boston (safe, but cut off from his nation and his extended family), only serves to highlight what has been lost to this nation – and the book’s author – through this conflict. Even during Baiev’s childhood it is apparent that as a Chechnyan he is an outsider in his “Russian” motherland. His father’s accounts of being denounced as a Nazi collaborator in WW2 because he was a Chechnyan – despite having fought with the Soviet Army at Murmansk - is particularly telling. Another example of disenfranchisement through his ethnic origin is seen in his being denied at the last minute of attending the World Judo Championships at the last minute, despite his prowess in the sport as a youth, by the KGB so as not to have Russia represented by a Chechynan. However, the above slight – though reprehensible – pales next to what Baiev and his countrymen endured after August 1994, when Russia massed thousands of troops along the border of Chechnya and Baiev, then 31, left his promising surgical career in Moscow to aid his Chechen countrymen.What follows is a harrowing and relentless account of Baiev’s forced move from cosmetic surgeon to wartime field surgeon. Whilst trying to keep a semblance of normality with his family and his staff, Baiev is faced with treating and ever growing conveyor belt of wounded – many from mine and shrapnel wounds – with ever diminishing supplies (even resorting to using sewing threat in operations). Baiev’s matter-of-fact narrative jars heavily (to great effect) with descriptions of 48 hour surgical sessions where he could no longer move his arms through the amount of amputational sawing he had to do, through to descriptions of himself and his staff having to work whilst feeling faint due to the amount of blood they had to directly donate to treat the wounded. His efforts to save lives in the midst of war are played out against a backdrop of constant shelling, threats to his life and – on several occasions (one resulting in him being in a coma for some time) the physical destruction of the hospital premises he is working in. This brings to mind a phrase that Baiev quotes on several occasions in the book: “The Russians destroy, Chechnyans rebuild.”And, in the context of this war, the Russian army does destroy: buildings (Baiev’s family home is targeted several times), cities (the capital of Grozny is literally razed to the ground), and indeed people. Time and again we hear of men, women and children – young and old – whose bodies are shattered by this conflict. And as builders rebuilt the cities it is surgeons who are left to rebuild the shattered bodies of the wounded. Sadly, just as some buildings and cities were bombed beyond repair – so some causalities could not be saved. And it is here that the mental toll of war begins to be inflicted upon Baiev – he is haunted by the images of friends, family and strangers who were simply beyond salvation despite his expertise. But this account is not just a litany of horror. What makes this book relevant and unique is the fact that Baiev – according to the Hippocratic Oath and his Muslim beliefs – treated each patient equally; be they civilian, Chechnyan fighter or Russian soldier. For this, he becomes vilified as a traitor by both sides – although there are individual flashes of humanity which provide a certain counterpoint of hope in the overall despair of the conflict. Not least among these is a Russian FSB (the former KGB) colonel who risks his own life to help Baiev escape to America at the point where his assassination by one side or the other has become inevitable. The ultimate fate of this brave individual, which we learn later, only adds to the poignancy of this act. If this account tells us one thing it is this – that war and interracial hatred is more about governments and regimes than individuals, who are capable of great heroism as well as hateful acts.I should also make it clear here that Baiev – whilst a patriot and a proud Chechnyan – is no apologist for the atrocities that were also carried out by the Chechnyan separatists, such as the taking hostage of a Moscow theatre audience of 850 people by 40 Chechnyan activists in 2002. Most of the Chechnyans and around 130 hostages died as a result – mainly from a gas pumped into the theatre by Russian forces. Baiev is unequivocal in condemning this. The book was published before the further outrage in 2004 where separatist took a school hostage. Ultimately, at least 334 hostages were killed, including 186 children. Hundreds more were injured and many were reported missing. One can only imagine that Baiev would have condemned this act also had it happened before publication. In summary then, this book shows two things – the human capacity for evil and the human capacity for good. Reading this book, one can feel lifted by the capacity for good in the worst of scenarios, but one does not hold out much hope of this the struggle between good and evil ever resulting in more than a stalemate. Still, to end on a positive note – a touching detail of Baiev’s later life (effectively in exile) in the US is that he was finally free to be able to compete in the World Sombo Championships (in Paris) in 2001. These are the championships the KGB denied him way back in 1983. He won – and was able to raise the Chechnyan flag on the winner’s podium.

  • Britta
    2019-03-21 01:46

    I really enjoyed this book. I wasn't sure I would at first, but it was informative learning about Chechnya and the conflicts going on there in RECENT years and that are still going on. It opened my eyes to what is happening in the world, as sad as it is, and how lucky I am in so many ways. So many people in the world are just trying to live good lives and yet they are bombarded by war and other evils. I think Khassan is one of those good men and I have a lot of admiration and respect for him and what he stood for; how he honored an oath taken in medical school no matter what and how he tried to do the best he could under his circumstances. I also learned a lot about the Muslim religion and culture. There is quite a bit of gore since he was a surgeon during war, but it wasn't hard for me to take in because it was his reality.

  • Belle Blackburn
    2019-03-09 23:40

    An engaging and important true story of a surgeon operating under the worst of conditions in war torn Chechnya. War is always hell but the Russians definitely are the devil in this book, though he lays plenty of blame on the Chechans also. I knew precious little of this region beforehand and found the culture fascinating. By the end of the second war he was operating under the most primitive of conditions, using household thread when he could get it, and was appalled upon visiting an American hospital for the first time at how they threw away so much stuff that would be so valuable back in Chechnya. A real insight into the politics and bribery rife in the area. We Americans are half a world away and sometimes know so little of such atrocities.

  • Johnsergeant
    2019-03-12 02:34

    Narrated By: Robert O’KeefeThis unflinching account of one remarkable physician’s experiences during the conflict between Russia and its breakaway republic, Chechnya, is an instant classic of war literature. Weaving the history of the Chechnya conflict and the heritage of his own family into the visceral narrative, Dr. Baiev tells a tale that is shocking, heroic, and impossible to forget.

  • Ellen
    2019-03-03 02:51

    Baiev is one of those rare breeds blessed with the bravery to carry himself through unimaginably grim circumstances. His story on its own is startling; however, what makes this book truly valuable is the rare insight it provides into Chechen culture and customs.

  • Joseph D. Walch
    2019-03-14 01:50

    My wife and I listened to this book borrowed from the Utah county Library on a trip. It's the tale of Khassan Baiev who is a plastic surgeon turned trauma/combat surgeon during the Russian offensive in Chechnya. He was the target of Russian military as well as Islamic insurgents who suspected he was sympathetic to the Russians. At three points in his life he escaped death by a razor's margin; once when he was picked up at a checkpoint during his travels by contratniki--paid irregular Russian militia who were usually ex-convicts, he described being forced into a room with a wall that was caked with hair, brains and blood and was about to be executed when he was barly saved by these hired barbarians by a Russian officer who knew that he had saved the lives of some of his soldiers. Another time, he almost died at the hands of Islamic terrorists and survived only because he saved the life of one of the top Islamist commanders who was shot in the face. On another occasion he narrowly escaped his home just before an attack helicopter razed it; destroying all his earthly possessions. Tales of Russians using biological weapons in Grozny that caused severe birth defects, as well as the brutal treatment on both sides are gripping and terrifying--especially when you realize this all happened just 10 years ago (1999).The cover was taken from a photograph of Dr. Baiev drinking a sugary tea drink after being awake for over three days operating on the never-ending flood of patients. He described the nightmares of of the non-stop flood of blood from vessels that he was never quite able to tie-off. It's a hair-raising book that will leave the reader with an indelible mark of compassion towards those people who suffer in war as well as a great grattitude for those who serve to protect (esp. the U.S. military) and heal in times of war.

  • Jenny Grieve-laing
    2019-03-11 01:46

    This is a strange book. It is a story of one surgeon's attempts to uphold the Hippocratic Oath by treating everyone who needs his help, Chechen and Russian, during the terrible conflicts in his homeland in the late 20th Century. As such it gives an horrific insight into war from the civilian and medical perspectives: the unrelenting and indiscriminate terror of snipers, bombing and kidnapping and the trauma and horror of trying to piece together broken bodies of men, women and children in the most basic of hospital environments. It is also a story of Chechen history and customs showing the importance of family and tradition in a Muslim society which has been constantly harassed by succeeding Russian governments. In all of this there is much to interest and absorb the reader. However, even with the help of two journalists, the book is poorly written. Many explanations of events are left half answered. Several times the author is in situations where his life is in immanent danger and yet he is saved at the last minute, often seemingly on a whim or coincidence which he simply puts down to the 'will of Allah'. In the end I found myself wondering, perhaps uncharitably, if these stories were actually true or had somehow been embellished to make a better story or make the author seem more important or heroic.

  • Kurt Kemmerer
    2019-03-10 22:29

    I truly feel privileged to have read this book, to have met the author and hear him speak (at the Northwest Book Festival in October 2003). I know of no modern book that brings home the horrors that citizens face during war, while offering the inspiration of the human spirit to go on in the midst of it all, like "The Oath." Baiev's horrific, personal story is worth the read in itself. However, the perspective he brings to the conflict and its origins is incredibly vital to the world situation today.Further, in my humble opinion, the atrocities that surrounded him must be witnessed by those of us who can spread word of what war is truly like. He was chased from his homeland because both the Russians and Chechnyans wanted to kill him for treating the wounded on all sides of the conflict -- and, yes, there are more than two sides to this conflict. Of course, most of the time he treated innocent civilians caught in the middle of it all. He also discusses the process that Putin used to curry President Bush's favor in ignoring Russian atrocities by labeling the Chechnyans as terrorists. In so doing, he shows how terribly abusive this label has become in today's world of politics. I can't recommend a book more than this one. It's a must read, in my opinion.

  • Cookie
    2019-03-07 00:54

    I received this book from a friend who was shocked when I wanted to read it, especially considering the fact that she was giving it to me with a fictional story of a girl in high school; the two books did not go hand-in hand, to say the least. What did I know about Chechnya before reading this book? Absolutely NOTHING! What I learned is invaluable and unbelieveable. Dr. Baiev's belief in the Hippocratic Oath allowed him to help all that needed it during both of the Russian-Chechan Wars (1994-1996 & 1999-2009).I don't want to write more - I don't want to give away all of the details of this grippingly amazing story. I

  • John
    2019-03-02 05:45

    I met him and bought his book after he spoke with our surgical and ER dept at Oregon. Obviously a remarkable person and physician. I think the main things to learn from this autobiography are the overarching authority and cruelty of the Soviet system in those days and the other-worldliness of the Chechyn culture in which he was raised. I think we all know what a cruel and terrible system the Soviets and now the Russians perpetuate in these indigenous areas but we should also know that Chechyna is not suburban, 'nice guys will eventually win if they work hard', United States of America. This is a rough part of the globe to which Americans cannot relate.

  • sabeen
    2019-03-17 04:36

    If you have even the slightest bit of interest in Chechnya I would highly recommend this book. There is very little written about Chechnya by Chechens and this book was written by a surgeon who lived and worked in Chechnya during both wars. This book gives you a human perspective into war, Chechen culture, history and the fragility of peace. I also deeply respected the writer sharing vulnerable aspects of his experience that would normally be considered shameful for a Chechen to disclose, it helps give a deeper understanding and helps me have much deeper respect and awe for him and his story.

  • Gail
    2019-02-25 21:51

    This is a well planned book that sets the stage clearly. It's difficult to get into it only because the atmosphere, names and culture are foreign, but once the reader understands the viewpoint of the author, it's easier to read. It is amazing what people will do to each other, and the lives these people were forced to lead show how strong humans can be. The only criticism I have is that it seems one-sided. Then again, it is told from a singular point of view. If I could give it another 1/2 star, I would.

  • Jonathan Bennett
    2019-03-15 03:55

    What a read!A story graphically showing the reality of war which liturally reaches out from the pages, grabs you by the collar and drags you kicking and screaming through page tourning drama and action.A brilliantly written book about a side of a war that is not often heard. What makes this better than just a history lesson is there is a story behind it and characters you really endear to.

  • Babs
    2019-03-09 01:35

    An absolutely amazing story of a surgeon in the Chechen war, who followed the Hippocratic Oath to the letter and treated whomever required his help - be they Chechen or Russian, military or civilian. As a result he was branded a traitor by both sides, and was threatened with execution on a number of occasions.Parts of the book contain graphic descriptions of the conditions and operations Baiev performed in Chechnya.

  • Susan
    2019-03-08 04:45

    Steven Sinclair is a caring, careful OB/GYN but now he's being sued by a couple who's child was born with serious birth defects. Charlie Mayfield is the prosecutor who must prove that Dr. Sinclair was at fault. If you love legal novels a whole lot, this one is probably a good one for you. I didn't find it as thrilling as the cover implied, but I never considered not finishing it either…

  • Sofia
    2019-03-03 22:50

    This is an autobiography of a Chechen Surgeon, whose dedication to his people and his profession, only deserves tremendous respect and admiration. He breaks all stereotypes in that war stricken part of the world and restores faith in humanity. Now, years after he wrote this book, he is able to go back to Chechnya for several months out of the year and operate on the children free of charge.

  • Natalie
    2019-02-23 23:52

    I really liked this book but got bored at the end (I still haven't read the last 20 pages, and I might not ever get to it). This book is about the war in Chechnya, which is especially interesting to me since I lived in Russia while this was going on. It was very educational and kept my interest most of the time. I would recommend it.

  • Chris Coppola
    2019-03-06 02:43

    I got to communicate with Dr. Khasan Baiev, a chechen surgeon who worked during the two conflicts with Russia. He actully moved to Boston as a politocol refugee: His willingness to treat any patient, often put him in danger. His book is an incredibly gripping account of operating even under personal danger.

  • Joanne
    2019-02-23 22:27

    I wanted to read this book after I finished the excellent A Constellation of Vital Phenomena and this book was mentioned as a reference to that one. Even after learning a lot about Chechnya from A Constellation, I wanted to know more. After reading this book I feel like I know a lot more about Chechen culture and the history of their struggle for independence.

  • Hans
    2019-03-04 22:48

    Amazing book. Gives both a good historical take of one man's struggle through the Russo-Chechnyan War and illustrates just how much good one devoted man can accomplish even when faced with the most horrifying of circumstances. Khassan's story is reminiscent of Paul Farmer's in Haiti and, if you enjoyed Mountains Beyond Mountains, is a must read.

  • Sabah
    2019-03-17 01:33

    A deeply horrifying tale of what life was truly like in Chechnya for a surgeon and Muslims from his rural village in the brutal years of the Russian War. Not for the faint of heart. It was co-written, but the writing style is still relatively simple.

  • Cynthia
    2019-03-01 05:53

    This book was a little slow at first, but once I got into it, it was an interesting read. It was from a Chechney doctor perspective during their wars with Russia. The time frame is the 90s, but while you are reading it, it feels more like this could only have happened in the early 1900s.

  • Tim Painter
    2019-03-02 02:46

    Another sad look into what war does to countries and the efforts of one man to save as many of those people as possible. Very poignant in the telling.This book gives the Chechyna side of the story of the war between Russia and Chechyna.

  • Jamie
    2019-03-09 03:41

    This book is not for the faint of heart. I picked it up from a random bookshelf at work on a random day when I had nothing else to read. I LOVED it. This is the true story of a real HERO! What a story and it happened within 20 years! A must read!

  • Jessica
    2019-03-13 04:42

    I thought this was an incredible book. It's another one of those biographies/memoirs that leave you completely amazed at what some people are able to endure. It was really interesting to learn more about the history of Chechnya and also the Chechen-Russian conflict.

  • Vishal
    2019-03-19 02:41

    A soul stirring read. This could very well be one of the few books that enables a reader to see the ugly side of war through the eyes of a surgeon (and a fearless human being) who upheld the Hippocratic oath at all times.

  • Interzone
    2019-03-20 22:41

    I actually just finished listening to this on cd. Didn't get to read but borrowed the cds from the library. Great book.

  • Leah
    2019-03-04 05:28

    this book is amazing! If you want a in depth look into the on ground situation during the latest Chechen conflict read it.