Author and Academic Adventurer
Thomas Goltz (born 1954) is an American author, academic adventurer best known for his accounts of conflict in the Post-Soviet Caucasus region during the 1990s.
His Azerbaijan Diary (M.E. Sharpe 1998/99) is an account of Azerbaijan during the years after it separated from the Soviet Union, with a special focus on the Karabakh War and the rise/return of Heydar Aliyev.The book has been declared "Essential reading for all post-Sovietologists" (Tom de Waal, "Black Garden", et al), and is heavily cited by both academics and laymen visitors to Azerbaijan to this day.
Chapters have been translated into Farsi, French, German, Norwegian, Russian, Turkish and other languages.
While widely praised in Azerbaijan, the complete Azerbaijani language translation has been on hold for some ten years while censors try to figure out what to do with it.
But his interests are much wider than Azerbaijan.
For example, he is also the author of Chechnya Diary (St. Martin's Press/Tom Dunne, 2003) which is the story of the 1995 Samashki massacre in that blighted country.
His reflections on that awful event catipulted the concept of 'Samashki' on to the world stage first as an obscure documentary on late-night PBS channels in the USA, but making him a runner-up for the coveted "Rory Peck Prize" in 1996, resulting in a follow-up "Return To Samashki" piece for the BBC in 1997. (CF: 'Return to Samashki" in the 'Video/YouTube' links to this web-site.
That work also resulted in the aforementioned "Chechnya Diary" book (CF: "Chechnya" in "Reviews" in this web-site)
In addition to chapters or elements published in diverse journals in English and other languages, the "Chechen Diary" was translated and published as a whole in Turkish by Bilgi University press in 2006.
Goltz's Georgia Diary was published by his "publisher of last-resort" (M.E. Sharpe) in hardcover in 2006. It remained largely a 'cult' item until the Russian-Georgian war of August, 2008, when events predicted in the book made it a very live item. Traveling and blogging through the epicenter, Goltz was invited by his publisher to issue a new, paperback version of the book with corrections and a new Epilogue. This appeared in 2009, once again predicting the deep political issue facing not only 'mega-star' President Mikhail Saakashvili, but his post-Soviet 'wild horse' (pro-Nato) regime.
The Georgia book is currently under translation into Georgian by a fan who says "My father [who does not read English] needs to read this."
Assassinating Shakespeare: The True Confessions of a Bard in the Bush (Saqi Books, 2006) is Goltz's first book--an account of his early travels in Africa performing Shakespeare plays in the late 1970s. It took him 25 years to get it published. When it finally came out--to rave reviews (CF: "Reviews" on this site)--the extraordinary thing that it was almost nowhere available, and soon became an "orphan book."
This was truly sad--because a lot of folks have expressed the sentiment that while "Shakespeare" may not be Goltz's most 'profound' book, it is clearly his most accessible--particularly for that category of readers (mainly American circa mid-50s-folks) who fall into the 'Late Hipster' slot of "I did something as dangerous and silly as that but never thought of writing about it."
Strangely, perhaps, that theme got picked up by a very peculiar source (an old pal who saw one of the few stacks of 'Shakespeare' at a Barnes & Noble in New York), who decided to translate and publish the book into Hungarian, of all world languages!
When the rights to Shakespeare finally reverted to the author after truly world-class abysmal sales (‘one’ copy sold in 2011-ha!),” Goltz decided to cut off relations with the publisher and do the electronic ("Kindle") version himself, new cover and all.
Check it out at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008UZYMGK
An Oil Odyssey: Geopolitical Adventures Down the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline (via side-car motorcycle!) is another Amazon Kindle e-book, released in 2012; the experience was so weird and sort-of fun that it has its own separate page on this site.
A decade after organizing the Oil Odyssey, Goltz organized a different type of trip through some of the same territory: Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Called The New Silk Road--Adventures in Energy and the Environment (2010), this was a for-credit student trip from Baku to Tbilisi and then Istanbul, with student participants ("the cats") drawn from the United States, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia. (The New Silk Road also has its own page on this site)
The trip itself was the culmination of Goltz's work as a professor between the years of 2006-2013, first at the University of Montana and then Montana State University, raising up a debate team (at MSU) that three times went on to the National "Model Arab League" competition between 23 rival schools in Washington DC, and going up against such heavy-weights as West Point, George Mason, Northeastern and Nothwestern. Goltz's tenure as an unorthodox professor is covered on the page Academia on this site.
He is currently (2013) at work on a major documentary film about Azerbaijan between the 1913-2013, with the working title of "Azerbaijan Through Foreign Eyes" (the principles in the film are all former foreign ambassadors and experts), as well as drafting a retrospective "diary" about his 30 years of association with Turkey.
Born in Japan, raised in North Dakota and graduated from New York University with an MA in Middle East studies, he speaks German, Turkish, Azerbaijani, (neglected) Arabic and Russia. He now lives in Livingston, Montana.
Books by Thomas Goltz
Turkish Translation of Chechen book
Hungarian Edition of 'Shakespeare.'
(Oil Odyssey Cover needed)
(New Silk Road cover needed)