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Thomas de Waal

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Thomas de Waal

Thomas de Waal
De Waal at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC, June 20, 2013
Born Nottingham, UK
Nationality British
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Occupation journalist
Notable work(s) 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.

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.

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

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, specializing primarily in the South Caucasus region.[2]

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]

Criticism from Armenia

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 unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic issued a statement criticizing 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]

Ephrussi family

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".



  1. ^ Russia bars UK reporter on security grounds by Oliver Bullough
  2. ^ Thomas de Waal - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  3. ^ Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Caucasus programme staff bios.
  4. ^ British journalist denied entry visa, CJES/IFEX, July 2006
  5. ^ The St Petersburg Times. Activists, Reporters Also Called a Threat
  6. ^ De Waal, Thomas. Opinions: Barred by Moscow" Prospect Magazine, July 2006, issue 124.
  7. ^ Foreign Affairs. Review by Robert Legvold
  8. ^ Transitions Online. Garden of Discord.
  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 Republic 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

External links

  • Thomas de Waal's "Black Garden": a critical review by Alexander Manasyan
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