Thomas de Waal

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Thomas de Waal
Thomas de Waal 2013.jpg
De Waal at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC, 20 June 2013
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Notable work
Black Garden (2003)

Thomas Patrick Lowndes de Waal (born 1966) is a British journalist and writer on the Caucasus. He is best known for his 2003 book Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War .

Caucasus An area situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea

The Caucasus or Caucasia is an area situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and mainly occupied by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus mountain range, which has historically been considered a natural barrier between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.


Life and career

Thomas was born in Nottingham, England. He is the son of Esther Aline (née Lowndes-Moir), a writer on religion, and Anglican priest Victor de Waal. He is the brother of Africa specialist Alex de Waal, barrister John de Waal, and potter and writer Edmund de Waal.

Nottingham City and unitary authority area in England

Nottingham is a city and unitary authority area in Nottinghamshire, England, 128 miles (206 km) north of London, 45 miles (72 km) northeast of Birmingham and 56 miles (90 km) southeast of Manchester, in the East Midlands.

Victor Alexander de Waal is a British Anglican priest. He was the Dean of Canterbury from 1976 to 1986.

Alexander William Lowndes "Alex" de Waal, a British researcher on African elite politics, is the executive director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Previously, he was a fellow of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative at Harvard University, as well as program director at the Social Science Research Council on AIDS in New York City.

Through his grandmother, Elisabeth de Waal née Ephrussi, Thomas de Waal is related to the Ephrussi family who were wealthy Jewish bankers and art patrons in pre-World War II Europe and whose fortunes started in 19th-century Odessa. He had done some research on the family's Russian branch, and helped in the researches on family history by his brother Edmund de Waal which led to the publication of the book "The Hare with Amber Eyes".

Ephrussi family

The Ephrussi family is a Russian Jewish banking and oil dynasty.

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Odessa Place in Odessa Oblast, Ukraine

Odessa or Odesa is the third most populous city of Ukraine and a major tourism center, seaport and transport hub located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea. It is also the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast and a multiethnic cultural center. Odessa is sometimes called the "pearl of the Black Sea", the "South Capital", and "Southern Palmyra". Before the Tsarist establishment of Odessa, an ancient Greek settlement existed at its location. A more recent Tatar settlement was also founded at the location by Hacı I Giray, the Khan of Crimea in 1440 that was named after him as "Hacıbey". After a period of Lithuanian Grand Duchy control, Hacibey and surroundings became part of the domain of the Ottomans in 1529 and remained there until the empire's defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1792.

Thomas de Waal graduated from Balliol College, Oxford with a First Class Degree in Modern Languages (Russian and Modern Greek).

Balliol College, Oxford constituent college of the University of Oxford

Balliol College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. One of Oxford's oldest colleges, it was founded around 1263 by John I de Balliol, a rich landowner from Barnard Castle in County Durham, who provided the foundation and endowment for the college. When de Balliol died in 1269 his widow, Dervorguilla, a woman whose wealth far exceeded that of her husband, continued his work in setting up the college, providing a further endowment, and writing the statutes. She is considered a co‑founder of the college.

He has reported for, amongst others, the BBC World Service, the Moscow Times , and The Times . [1] He was a Caucasus editor at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) in London until December 2008, and later as a research associate with the peace-building NGO, Conciliation Resources. Currently he is a senior associate in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, specialising primarily in the South Caucasus region. [2]

BBC World Service The BBCs international Chor radio station

The BBC World Service is the world's largest international broadcaster, which broadcasts radio news, speech and discussions in more than 40 languages to many parts of the world on analogue and digital shortwave platforms, internet streaming, podcasting, satellite, DAB, FM and MW relays. In November 2016 the BBC announced again that it would start broadcasting in additional languages including Amharic and Igbo, in its biggest expansion since the 1940s. In 2015 World Service reached an average of 210 million people a week. The English-language service broadcasts 24 hours a day.

<i>The Times</i> British daily compact newspaper owned by News UK

The Times is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register, adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers, since 1981 a subsidiary of News UK, in turn wholly owned by News Corp. The Times and The Sunday Times do not share editorial staff, were founded independently, and have only had common ownership since 1967.

Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Institute for War & Peace Reporting is an independent not-for profit organisation that works with media and civil society to promote positive change in conflict zones, closed societies and countries in transition around the world. It has coordinating offices in the United States and the Netherlands, and a global headquarters in London. IWPR supports local reporters, citizen journalists and civil society activists in countries in conflict, crisis and transition around the world. It trains, mentors and provides platforms for professional and citizen reporters; builds up the institutional capacity of media and civic groups; and works with partners to remove barriers to free expression, robust public debate and citizen engagement. IWPR works on the ground in more than 30 countries and runs programmes in, among other places, Afghanistan, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Iraq, the Balkans, Sudan, and Uganda.

He is the co-author of Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus (New York, 1998) and author of Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War (New York, 2003). [3]

In 2006 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia denied an entry visa to De Waal, who was due to attend in Moscow the presentation of a Russian version of his book on the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, citing a law that says a visa can be refused "in the aims of ensuring state security." [4] De Waal believes that his visa denial was retaliation for his critical reporting about the Russian war in Chechnya. [5] [6] De Waal wrote the introduction to Anna Politkovskaya's first book in English, A Dirty War.


De Waal's book on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict was generally well received. According to Foreign Affairs journal review of Black Garden, de Waal "offers a deeper and more compelling account of the conflict than anyone before.... one likely to exercise give-no-quarters partisans on both sides." [7] Transitions online analyst Richard Allen Greene added: "This book will undoubtedly infuriate partisans on both sides of the conflict. But for anyone who wants a thorough, sympathetic, readable, and fair account, it provides an essential introduction to a war that has left two countries in what De Waal aptly calls 'a kind of slow suicide pact.'" [8]

Time magazine reviewer Paul Quinn-Judge called Black Garden a "brilliant book," and added further that "De Waal's book will infuriate blind partisans on both sides, but for anyone who truly wants to understand what happened in this part of the Caucasus, it will not be surpassed for many years. He is cautious, meticulous and even-handed, and the breadth of his research is remarkable". [9]

Parameters journal review states: "Thomas de Waal, noted British journalist and specialist on the Caucasus, has ...[produced] a book that is both a poignant chronicle and a lucid, evenhanded analysis of the intricacies of this conflict". [10] Neal Ascherson in his review of Black Garden in The New York Review of Books refers to de Waal as "a wise and patient reporter", and the book as "admirable and rigorous". [11]


In January 2009 Thomas de Waal published an analytical report titled "The Karabakh Trap: Threats and Dilemmas of the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict". One of the main conclusions of the report was that "there is no ‘military solution’ to the conflict – fighting would be catastrophic not just for Armenia, Azerbaijan and NK but for the wider region and its overall economic and political development". [12]

In February 2009 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the unrecognised Nagorno-Karabakh Republic issued a statement criticising de Waal's "The Karabakh Trap" report because it was pointing to the growing wealth of the Azerbaijani republic as well as its military budget being three times those of Armenia. According to the Ministry, "de Waal had chosen 'scare tactics' as a means of persuading the Armenian party to the conflict" and "Thomas de Waal ... under the cover of an expert-peacemaker practically calls Azerbaijan to unleash a new big war in the South Caucasus. Meanwhile, it seems to him that he and his like will not be responsible for anything. But he is mistaken…" [13]

The President of the Armenian Academy of Political Research, Professor Alexander Manasyan, in reviewing Black Garden, wrote that de Waal "supports the point of view which is steered by the propaganda" of Baku. [14]

Tatul Hakobyan, an independent Armenian analyst and journalist, wrote that de Waal has quoted Serzh Sargsyan out of context in the Black Garden regarding the latter's comments about the Khojaly Massacre. [15]


Related Research Articles

Nagorno-Karabakh Disputed territory in Transcaucasia

Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, is a landlocked region in the South Caucasus, within the mountainous range of Karabakh, lying between Lower Karabakh and Zangezur, and covering the southeastern range of the Lesser Caucasus mountains. The region is mostly mountainous and forested.

Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Azerbaijan SSR of the Soviet Union, 1921–1990

The Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, abbreviated as Nakhichevan ASSR, was an autonomous republic within the Azerbaijan SSR, itself a republic within the Soviet Union. It was formed on 16 March 1921 and became a part of the Azerbaijan SSR proper on 9 February 1924.

Khojaly Massacre killing of ethnic Azerbaijani civilians in 1992

The Khojaly Massacre, also known as the Khojaly tragedy, was the killing of at least 161 ethnic Azerbaijani civilians from the town of Khojaly on 26 February 1992. According to the Azerbaijani side, as well as the Memorial Human Rights Center, Human Rights Watch and other international observers, the massacre was committed by the ethnic Armenian armed forces, reportedly with help of some military personnel of the 366th CIS regiment, apparently not acting on orders from the command. The death toll claimed by Azerbaijani authorities is 613 civilians, including 106 women and 63 children. The event became the largest massacre in the course of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Nagorno-Karabakh War armed conflict that took place in the late 1980s to May 1994

The Nagorno-Karabakh War was an ethnic and territorial conflict that took place in the late 1980s to May 1994, in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in southwestern Azerbaijan, between the majority ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan. As the war progressed, Armenia and Azerbaijan, both former Soviet Republics, entangled themselves in protracted, undeclared mountain warfare in the mountainous heights of Karabakh as Azerbaijan attempted to curb the secessionist movement in Nagorno-Karabakh. The enclave's parliament had voted in favor of uniting itself with Armenia and a referendum, boycotted by the Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh, was held, whereby most of the voters voted in favor of independence. The demand to unify with Armenia began in a relatively peaceful manner in 1988; in the following months, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, it gradually grew into an increasingly violent conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, resulting in claims of ethnic cleansing by both sides.

Armenian–Tatar massacres of 1905–07

The Armenian–Tatar massacres refers to the bloody inter-ethnic confrontation between Armenians and Azerbaijanis throughout the Russian Caucasus in 1905–1907.

Ghazanchetsots Cathedral

Holy Savior Cathedral, commonly referred to as Ghazanchetsots (Ղազանչեցոց), is an Armenian Apostolic cathedral in Shusha (Shushi), in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh). It is the seat of the Diocese of Artsakh of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Operation Ring, known in Azerbaijan as the Chaykend Operation was the codename for the May 1991 military operation conducted by Soviet Internal Security Forces and OMON units in the Armenian populated regions of Western Azerbaijan in the Lesser Caucasus mountains, the Shusha, Martakert and Hadrut regions of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, and along the northwestern border of the Armenian SSR in Noyemberyan, Goris and Tavush. Officially dubbed a "passport checking operation," the ostensible goal launched by the Soviet Union's internal and defense ministries was to disarm Armenian militia detachments that had been organized in "[illegally] armed formations." The operation involved the use of ground troops who accompanied a complement of military vehicles, artillery and helicopter gunships to be used to root out the self-described Armenian fedayeen.

This article focuses on ethnic minorities in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijanis in Armenia

Azerbaijanis in Armenia were once the largest ethnic minority in the country, but have been virtually non-existent since 1988–1991 when most either fled the country or were pushed out as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh War and the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. UNHCR estimates the current population of Azeris in Armenia to be somewhere between 30 and a few hundred people, with majority of them living in rural areas and being members of mixed couples, as well as elderly or sick. Most of them are reported to have changed their names to maintain low profiles to avoid discrimination.

Tatul Krpeyan Armenian hero

Tatul Krpeyan was an Armenian commander. He was the self-appointed leader of paramilitary units in Getashen and Martunashen villages in Shahumyan Region of Soviet Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. He was killed during Operation Ring by the Soviet Azerbaijani OMON.

Boris Sarkisovich Kevorkov (1932–1998) was the Secretary of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast from 1973 until his dismissal in February 1988.

Kamran Baghirov Mammad oglu, was the 12th First Secretary of Azerbaijan Communist Party.

Anti-Armenian sentiment in Azerbaijan

Anti-Armenian sentiment or Armenophobia is widespread in Azerbaijan, mainly due to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), Armenians are "the most vulnerable group in Azerbaijan in the field of racism and racial discrimination." According to a 2012 opinion poll, 91% of Azerbaijanis perceive Armenia as "the biggest enemy of Azerbaijan." The word "Armenian" (erməni) is widely used as an insult in Azerbaijan. "Negative stereotypes about Armenians are present in the majority of mass media outlets in Azerbaijan. Those stereotypes are somewhat shared by the public, and they definitely do not come out of nowhere. Stereotypical opinions circulating in the mass media have their deep roots in the public consciousness."

The anti-Azerbaijani sentiment in Armenia has been mainly rooted in the unresolved territorial conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. According to a 2012 opinion poll, 63% of Armenians perceive Azerbaijan as "the biggest enemy of Armenia" while 94% of Azerbaijanis consider Armenia to be "the biggest enemy of Azerbaijan."

<i>Black Garden</i> book by Thomas de Waal

Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War is a 2003 book by Thomas de Waal, based on the study of Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics, during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. It cuts between a careful reconstruction of the history of Nagorno Karabakh conflict since 1988 and on-the-spot reporting on its convoluted aftermath.

Igor Muradyan Armenian activist

Igor Muradyan was an Armenian political activist and politologist. He was one of the earliest leaders of the Karabakh movement, along with Zori Balayan, Silva Kaputikyan and Viktor Hambardzumyan.

Nagorno-Karabakh line of contact

The Nagorno-Karabakh line of contact is a militarized separation barrier that separates the Armenian forces and the Azerbaijan Armed Forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It was formed in the aftermath of the May 1994 ceasefire that ended the Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988–94). The mountain range of Murovdag (Mrav) is the northern part of the line of contact and is essentially a natural border between the two forces. The length of the line of contact is not well-defined. Its length is between 180 kilometres (110 mi) and 200 kilometres (120 mi).


  1. Russia bars UK reporter on security grounds by Oliver Bullough
  2. Thomas de Waal – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Archived 27 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Caucasus programme staff bios.
  4. British journalist denied entry visa, CJES/IFEX, July 2006 [ permanent dead link ]
  5. The St Petersburg Times, "Activists, Reporters Also Called a Threat" by Carl Schreck, August 8, 2006 (Issue # 1193)
  6. De Waal, Thomas. "Opinions: Barred by Moscow" Prospect Magazine, July 2006, issue 124.
  7. Foreign Affairs. Review by Robert Legvold Archived 4 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. "Transitions Online. Garden of Discord". Archived from the original on 2 March 2007. Retrieved 1 October 2007.
  9. Two Peoples, One Nightmare". Time Magazine.
  10. Parameters, US Army War College Quarterly – Spring 2005
  11. The New York Review of Books. In the Black Garden by Neal Ascherson. November 20, 2003, full text at the website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia
  12. Conciliation Resources: New paper – The Karabakh trap
  13. The Analytical Service of the NKR MFA. Commentary on Thomas de Waal’s report “The Karabakh Trap: Threats and Dilemmas of the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict”
  14. Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: on the Frontlines of the Information War, or the Last “Accord” of the Year, by Alexander Manasyan, 2007
  15. Hakobyan, Tatul (26 February 2018). "Խոջալուի մասին Սերժ Սարգսյանի խոսքերը Թոմաս դե Վաալը ենթատեքստից դուրս է մեջբերել". (in Armenian).