First editions of the 542-page volume finally came off the press on Wednesday in preparation for the Frankfurt book fair.
The book is likely to be seen as a direct challenge to President Vladimir Putin.
Entitled People Live Here, a sign frequently posted by civilians over the rubble of buildings in the republic’s capital Grozny, the publication will be sold to the public at the German book fair from Sunday.
It covers abuses corroborated with witness accounts in Chechnya from July to December 2000 – a period in which Russia’s main push into the Caucasus republic was completed.
Author and political commentator Viktor Shenderovich, who contributed the back-sleeve summary, said the work was in part provoked by Putin’s comments over two years ago.
Shenderovich was referring to the president’s remarks during his October 2001 visit to Brussels, when a visibly agitated Russian leader brushed aside a reporter’s question about rights abuses in Chechnya.
Putin asked for names, and now
“Whose rights are we abusing”, Putin demanded. “Give me names, records, family names. We should be speaking the same language instead of using cliches,” Putin then said.
As if in answer to the challenge, the volume documents the cases of 489 Chechens killed during the six-month stretch – giving names and details.
400 civilian victims
This includes 70 rebels who died in fighting, but the book’s authors allege that most of the other 400 victims were civilians killed by federal troops.
It then lists the cases of hundreds of people abducted in the war and interviews with their families and other witnesses.
The authors said most of the abductions and killings had been officially confirmed by prosecutors, but for the large part never reported by the Russian media.
“This is not a work of literature – this is a book that was dictated to us by the people of Chechnya,” said one of the volumes co-authors Dmitry Grushkin.
“No on will ever be able to say anything more specific or tragic about Chechnya than this book,” Grigory Yavlinsky, a presidential candidate and head of the liberal opposition Yabloko party, told reporters.
The volume has a print run of 1020 copies, but its publishers expect to release a second batch of books by December.