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The former Soviet republics of Central Asia comprise a sprawling, politically pivotal, densely populated, and richly cultured area of the world that is nonetheless poorly represented in libraries and mainstream media. Since their political incorporation in Stalin's Soviet era, these countries have gone through a flash of political and economical evolution. But despite thes The former Soviet republics of Central Asia comprise a sprawling, politically pivotal, densely populated, and richly cultured area of the world that is nonetheless poorly represented in libraries and mainstream media. Since their political incorporation in Stalin's Soviet era, these countries have gone through a flash of political and economical evolution. But despite these rapid changes, the growth of oil wealth and U.S. jockeying, and the opening of the region to tourists and businessmen, the spirit of Central Asia has remained untouched at its core. In this comprehensive new treatment, renowned political writer and historian Dilip Hiro offers us a narrative that places the modern politics, peoples, and cultural background of this region firmly into the context of current international focus. Given the strategic location of Central Asia, its predominantly Muslim population, and its hydrocarbon and other valuable resources, it comes as no surprise that the five Central Asian republics are emerging in the twenty-first century as one of the most potentially influential-and coveted-patches of the globe.


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The former Soviet republics of Central Asia comprise a sprawling, politically pivotal, densely populated, and richly cultured area of the world that is nonetheless poorly represented in libraries and mainstream media. Since their political incorporation in Stalin's Soviet era, these countries have gone through a flash of political and economical evolution. But despite thes The former Soviet republics of Central Asia comprise a sprawling, politically pivotal, densely populated, and richly cultured area of the world that is nonetheless poorly represented in libraries and mainstream media. Since their political incorporation in Stalin's Soviet era, these countries have gone through a flash of political and economical evolution. But despite these rapid changes, the growth of oil wealth and U.S. jockeying, and the opening of the region to tourists and businessmen, the spirit of Central Asia has remained untouched at its core. In this comprehensive new treatment, renowned political writer and historian Dilip Hiro offers us a narrative that places the modern politics, peoples, and cultural background of this region firmly into the context of current international focus. Given the strategic location of Central Asia, its predominantly Muslim population, and its hydrocarbon and other valuable resources, it comes as no surprise that the five Central Asian republics are emerging in the twenty-first century as one of the most potentially influential-and coveted-patches of the globe.

30 review for Inside Central Asia: A political and cultural history of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Iran

  1. 5 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    Despite being a long-time fan of much of Hiro's work, I found this one to be a densely-packed and ultimately confusing attempt at writing a history writ large of this ultimately confusing region. Partly, it is not Hiro's fault. Central Asia is very complex and confusing and I don't think it lends itself well to the kind of interstitial and universal history that Hiro is attempting here. Structurally, though, and this is Hiro's mark on the work, it could've been handled a lot better. The entire h Despite being a long-time fan of much of Hiro's work, I found this one to be a densely-packed and ultimately confusing attempt at writing a history writ large of this ultimately confusing region. Partly, it is not Hiro's fault. Central Asia is very complex and confusing and I don't think it lends itself well to the kind of interstitial and universal history that Hiro is attempting here. Structurally, though, and this is Hiro's mark on the work, it could've been handled a lot better. The entire history of the region up until around WWII or Khrushchev is crammed into an introductory paragraph, so it starts off muddy. He then peels away and treats each country in turn, trying to link them across each other, build tangents and so on. It ends up being overly-detailed, thick-kneed, and confusing, especially when dealing with bits like Tajikistan's civil conflicts and the role of Islam and minority populations in each country. I think the region would be better handled in individual histories to give the reader time to sink their teeth into the meat of the thing, the details, before moving on to the next one. Hiro's attempts at contextualizing are clumsy and not very helpful, ultimately. He also has a strange propensity to randomly shift into non sequitur discussions of cultural mores such as diet and social niceties in the middle of political discussions, his attempt to justify the "cultural" in the title. Unfortunately, there still isn't much out there on Central Asia, so readers'll be hard-pressed to find anything better than this.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Caleb

    This book reads like a history book for the class I never took in college. That is a compliment at times. It's very thorough and it achieved one of my goals in reading it--understanding at a deeper level the five central Asian countries (the ones that end in "-stan") that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. To boot, Hiro adds chapters on Turkey and Iran as the two outside (non-Russian) cultural and political influences on the region, which both help broaden the context of the five republics This book reads like a history book for the class I never took in college. That is a compliment at times. It's very thorough and it achieved one of my goals in reading it--understanding at a deeper level the five central Asian countries (the ones that end in "-stan") that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. To boot, Hiro adds chapters on Turkey and Iran as the two outside (non-Russian) cultural and political influences on the region, which both help broaden the context of the five republics and also are useful primers on those countries as well. That said, this book is very dry, going through the thousand year history of each place. Hiro also includes the Russianized version of all the names, plus the date of a sovereign's reign, or a person's birth date. It's a little overwhelming. Add to that the fact that there are a staggering number of typos and other errors (including a page of text virtually repeating a previous page!) and this seems rather baffling considering this book is apparently an update of a previous book from the mid 1990s. So, if you have a burning need to learn more about Kazakhstan than what Borat offered, consider a read. If not, you'll be no worse for the wear if you won't be able to explain the difference between Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    A well informed book on the recent history of Central Asia and two of its neighbors with historical ties. If you are at all interested in the Tajik Civil War, this book is one of the best books I have found on the subject in English. A must read for anyone interested in the region

  4. 4 out of 5

    Audrey E

    I cannot believe I finally finished this damn book. Now I just have to carry it around for the rest of the summer.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Inside Central Asia by Dilip Hiro. Published in 2009 by Overlook Duckworth This book is a great overview of Central Asia from the rise of the Soviet Union to 2009. This book discusses Turkey, the Central Asian states, and Iran. It picks up where Rashid’s book left off. While Rashid focused mostly on Central Asia immediately after the Soviet Union disintegrated, Dilip focuses on how the countries tried to rebuild themselves after the fall of the wall. Hiro organizes his book based on country influ Inside Central Asia by Dilip Hiro. Published in 2009 by Overlook Duckworth This book is a great overview of Central Asia from the rise of the Soviet Union to 2009. This book discusses Turkey, the Central Asian states, and Iran. It picks up where Rashid’s book left off. While Rashid focused mostly on Central Asia immediately after the Soviet Union disintegrated, Dilip focuses on how the countries tried to rebuild themselves after the fall of the wall. Hiro organizes his book based on country influence. He starts the book with Turkey, discussing how it went from a secular republic to an increasingly Islamic republic, traveling through the Central Asian states, and ending with Iran, creating a bookend of influences in Central Asia. This is an interesting way to weave a story together, creating an insightful examination of how the ancient Turkic and Persian influences continue to affect Central Asian culture and politics. It also paints an interesting picture of how interconnected the region still is, despite the Soviet’s attempts to shatter the tribal relationships. That was the most interesting aspect of the book was how much survived the terror that was the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union tried to destroy tribal relations by creating states (taking territories from other tribes to encourage rivalries) by replacing it with the communistic version of tribalism. Yet, this didn’t destroy the tribal system, it just forced it underground. Additionally, the Soviet Union claimed that they destroyed Islam in Central Asia, but again, they only forced it to the underground, laying the foundation for the Islamic Extremism that would be seen in the 21st century. Reading this book and Rashid’s book, makes me realize how much the U.S. failed after the fall of the Soviet Union. A lot of the extremism that the U.S. deals with today comes from Central Asia. While the U.S. made a lot of mistakes, they seemed to have exasperated the problem left behind by the Soviet Union. The Cold War created an environment were the choice was between capitalistic democracy and communistic society. Many of the people in Central Asia turned to Islam as a third decision. Thus, the two countries made Islam a political tool that the U.S. will turn into a cause for war in the 21st century. Pros: A very insightful look into a region that is mostly ignored in the U.S. but is a vital region for the 21st century. The shape of the narrative also provides a keen understanding of how the region has been influenced over the years and how remnants of its past survived the Soviet Union. It also poses the question: can authoritarian regimes truly destroy culture and religion, or can it only force it to the underground? Cons: It assumes that the reader has some familiarity with the region’s history. Also, while it is a useful overview of the region, it isn’t an in-depth insight into the region. It barely discusses the human rights offenses that are being committed on a daily basis, it discusses women’s rights but only briefly, and it doesn’t discuss any culture or literary developments.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mallory Giger

    Well-written overview of some of the less well-documented Central Asian countries. Good amount of brevity balanced with main events. Easy to consume and would be good for the classroom. However, some of the language is confusing and the construction of the book in a traditional essay format makes it seem a bit forced.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    While I agree with other reviews that the book can read like a textbook, it is full of great information about this region, which is often lacking. I wish it had a bit more historical (ancient), cultural, and topographic information, as it mainly focuses on politics. It was very interesting and I am glad I read it. However, I was somewhat disgusted/disheartened by the stories on repeat of how greedy people can be and what they will do to maintain power at the expense of the rest of the country. While I agree with other reviews that the book can read like a textbook, it is full of great information about this region, which is often lacking. I wish it had a bit more historical (ancient), cultural, and topographic information, as it mainly focuses on politics. It was very interesting and I am glad I read it. However, I was somewhat disgusted/disheartened by the stories on repeat of how greedy people can be and what they will do to maintain power at the expense of the rest of the country. Especially, as my own country is currently having its own political scandals. Perhaps that is just politics, but I found it a tad sickening and sad. But overall it is a great book and I'm much more knowledgeable about the area.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Autumn

    I was looking for a general book about Central Asia. This book did give me a general overview of the region. However: It is filled with spelling and grammatical errors The introduction and conclusion are essentially the same The maps are terrible and a good map would have been invaluable The book recites a lot of facts and dates, but does not do a good job of comparing, contrasting, or drawing conclusions from said facts

  9. 4 out of 5

    Austin Wright

    Typos aside...as well as the slightly superfluous chapters on Turkey and Iran... ...this was an amazing read!!!!!! Highly recommended. I finished the 400 pages in about 2 days.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sajith Kumar

    As the title deservedly implies, the book provides a definitive political and cultural history of the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Iran. The last two are not central Asian in geography, but shares the same cultural mindset as those who are. These states passed through three distinct phases from medieval tribalism to the present time. Pre-revolutionary Tsars forcefully annexed the states that underwent a radical change under t As the title deservedly implies, the book provides a definitive political and cultural history of the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Iran. The last two are not central Asian in geography, but shares the same cultural mindset as those who are. These states passed through three distinct phases from medieval tribalism to the present time. Pre-revolutionary Tsars forcefully annexed the states that underwent a radical change under the Communists. The countries’ Muslim population lost their religious moorings in the surge of atheist propaganda. But the Islamic spirit lay dormant under the skin which erupted when state oppression melted away with glasnost and perestroika. At present, these states maintain an uneasy balance between autocracy and theocracy. The link between all the central Asian states is still strong, as seen from the close similarity in the socio-political fields among all of them. All this is presented in a vibrant way by Dilip Hiro, who is based in London and writes for many newspapers and magazines. Being the author of more than thirty books, he is an acknowledged commentator on Islamic and west Asian affairs. The bulk of the text covers the two decades from 1988 to 2008, that is, the onset of Soviet Union’s unraveling and the firm establishment of regimes professing democratic spirit of the ‘central Asian variety’! Hiro successfully paints the portrait of the politically downward-going nation of Turkey. The country possesses a strange admixture of moderate Islam and fundamentalist secularism sown by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Turkey is a secular, democratic republic by all outward appearances, but what is apparent from the author’s insightful narrative is that secularism runs only skin deep in the modern Turkish society excepting a bunch of die-hard secularists having vested interests in the continuation of the regime – the military, for example. Since the country imposes strict conditions on its citizens’ freedom of expression, the true democratic spirit is also wanting. The extra-democratic sword of the military and its ally, the Constitutional Court, hovers above the free debates and polls of the Turkish parliament. Whenever the parliamentarians decide on a policy that is not approved by the military, it enters the picture, sometimes forcefully, to get the decision annulled and the erring politicians debarred from public life for extended periods. As per the country’s constitution, no citizen is allowed to indulge in activities that weaken the secular fabric of the nation. However, this noble guideline is extended arbitrarily to suppress even personal freedom as to ban the use of women’s head scarves in universities and other government offices. Two-thirds of Turkish women use head scarves while out of their homes. How can you call the regime a democracy that deny the right of a significant share of its women to appear in an attire of their choice, in which they are comfortable? We condemn ISIS and Taliban when they forcefully impose the veil against the wearer’s will. By the same token, the Turkish secularists’ prescription of removing the veil against the wearer’s will should also be condemned. However, it can’t be doubted that the Islamists are gaining more and more ground with each general election, and it is likely that those who are now on the defensive may switch over to an offensive posture in a not-too-distant future. Militant Islam is clever enough to hold its tongue when a strong administration is in place, as is seen in the other chapters when the Communists held the Islamists on the palm of their hands in the central Asian republics. Perhaps the day is not far off when Turkey finally bows its head to the crushing yoke of Sharia law. Hiro correctly identifies the reason for the downfall, even though the society was given an impressive headstart by Ataturk. The factors zeroed in are the absence of universal education, aggressive advocacy of nationalism even at the expense of cultural minorities, corruption in government and the autocratic bent of the state machinery. The chapter on Turkey is very illuminating and provides a warning note to Turkish people of the dangers ahead. When the Communist regime in Soviet Union under Gorbachev floundered, the central Asian republics promptly parted ways with the Russian masters and declared independence on their own. As soon as the overlordship was removed, party bosses in the provinces assumed executive power, hesitatingly at first, but after that with full autocratic paraphernalia. The book narrates several instances spanning all the five former Soviet states – in which the dictator, who was also a party boss just a few years ago – systematically curtailing freedom of expression and the right to form associations. Some of the methods described are quite novel and authoritarian regimes around the world may get a lesson or two, harping on to the ideas practiced. In order to form a political party, the organizers have to prove that all regions, religions and races are represented in their membership. They tour the provinces and collect signatures as a pre-condition to contest elections. What would happen if an organized gang suddenly pounce upon the collection of signatures and destroy it, with hardly a few days left to register for the elections? This unlikely scenario indeed did happen in central Asia more than once! Surprisingly, the requirement of multi-regional presence had been the sharpest weapon with which the authorities cut down on political freedom. Hiro shows the condescending attitude exhibited by the western powers towards the leaders of central Asian states, with reference to the lack of personal freedom and democratic institutions under their administrations. The British ambassador to Uzbekistan reached the height of insolence when he publicly chided the president of the country, Islam Karimov, in a function marked to honour visiting European delegates. To the consternation of Uzbek authorities and on live television, the ambassador went on a tirade against the autocratic practices, with the president squeaming in his chair in the dais. When Turkmenistan’s president Niyazov wanted to visit the U.S, it failed to extend diplomatic invitation citing the country’s poor human rights record. Niyazov made the trip as a private visit, in which he was not even allowed entry to the White House. The Turkmen regime forged photos that depicted their president having a chat with the U.S president to show off to their people their ruler’s international clout. This immature step on the part of western powers however cost them dearly. All the central Asian states were thus driven into the open arms of Russia and China. They lost a great opportunity to ensure the contribution of the erstwhile socialist Muslim states in the fight against terror or in extracting oil and precious metals from the resource-rich republics. Readers get a revealing picture of the Turkish identity that is a common legacy for all the central Asian states and Turkey. The saga of the hunting people in the Altai Mountains of western Mongolia who came to dominate a large part of Asia is still unsung. Except the chapters on Iran and Tajikistan, all others tell the story of how pan-Turkism is a repeating rhythm in the socio-political lives of the nations. Hiro deftly ends each chapter with an idea that points directly to the next chapter, thereby keeping the chain of interest unbroken. The text is enriched by the author’s visit to the places which he describes and the readers are rewarded with a hearty sketch of the exotic places. The book also dispels a deeply routed faith of most Indian readers that the Mahabharata is the world’s longest epic poem with 200,000 lines of verse. Kyrgyzstan boasts that the Epic of Manas comprise of 500,000 lines of verse, helping it occupy the pole position. The Introduction and Summary and Conclusions form the limits in which the text of the book is sandwiched. The book has a good index and an impressive list of books suggested for further reading. The Notes impart authenticity to the ideas and attests to the effort that had gone in research. Notwithstanding all these, it cannot be denied that a subtle trace of repetitiveness runs throughout the text, but the blame should not be heaped solely on the author. Autocratic governments, violence-ridden political activity, widespread corruption, revival of political Islam and the rush between the West, Russia, China and the regional powers to claim stakes in the central Asian economies – the scenario is the same everywhere you turn to. Once you have seen one, you have seen all. The maps included are very crude that don’t serve any useful purpose. The book could also have included a few colour plates of the land and people of central Asia to elicit more interest from readers. The book is highly recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alastair Heffernan

    This book offers possibly the most focused modern history of the five central Asian republics (the ‘stans) available, with each country getting a dedicated chapter of between thirty and seventy pages in length. These five country-specific chapters are the book at its best, giving detailed insight into each country with a depth I have not seen in other titles. These chapters on the Central Asian countries offer a brief overview of the associated Soviet Socialist Republic (e.g. the Uzbekistan SSR) This book offers possibly the most focused modern history of the five central Asian republics (the ‘stans) available, with each country getting a dedicated chapter of between thirty and seventy pages in length. These five country-specific chapters are the book at its best, giving detailed insight into each country with a depth I have not seen in other titles. These chapters on the Central Asian countries offer a brief overview of the associated Soviet Socialist Republic (e.g. the Uzbekistan SSR) followed by a description of the transition to independence in 1991 and the subsequent evolution of the (primarily) autocratic regimes that have filled the post-Soviet ideological void. They are, accordingly, pleasingly narrow in scope - confining themselves to just the last twenty years or so. The chapters both contain lots of fascinating information to take in as well as containing some interesting anecdotes. These first-hand stories demonstrate the author’s on-the-ground familiarity with his subject matter and help lighten up the sometimes dense procession of facts. The remaining half of the book comprises far less interesting chapters on Turkey and Iran as well as a difficult-to-follow introduction detailing, in highly condensed form, the twentieth century history of USSR. While the introduction is clearly of interest to those determined to learn more about Central Asia, the sixty-plus page chapter on Turkey just after the introduction is a truly baffling inclusion. While the book mentions the ethnic relationship between the Turks of Turkey and the Turks of Central Asia, it is otherwise not at all obvious why a detailed history of modern Turkey has a key position in this history of Central Asia. That it wasn’t until page 125 that I was reading about a specific central Asian country is a serious problem for this book. Aside from the unnecessary chapter on Turkey, the other key fault of this book is the incredible number of spelling errors and sentences that just stop randomly (such as those lacking a verb or missing a crucial clause). I found myself wondering whether the book was originally self-published by a struggling author, but this is simply not the case – the editing is just atrocious. In short, if you want to read a brief history of one or two ‘stans of interest (and can stomach the proliferation of errors), then I would recommend this book. As a work of history to read straight through, however, I could not recommend it since the sections not devoted to particular ‘stans are poorly justified and integrated into the otherwise reasonably well-told stories of post-independence Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Perhaps a comprise reading of this book would involve missing out the chapters on Turkey and Iran entirely (and possibly the introduction as well) and just reading the five chapters on the countries of Central Asia - which is presumably what you are interested in if you picked up a book entitled “Inside Central Asia” in the first place!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Justin Lepper

    Although this book is coined as a "Political and Cultural History" of Central Asian countries (with the addition of Turkey and Iran), I found this book to be focused heavily on the political and historical aspects of these countries. The preface and introduction provided an in depth account of the social and political conditions during Sovietization and the resulting turmoil after the collapse of the USSR. I read this book specifically to learn more about the cultural and historical background o Although this book is coined as a "Political and Cultural History" of Central Asian countries (with the addition of Turkey and Iran), I found this book to be focused heavily on the political and historical aspects of these countries. The preface and introduction provided an in depth account of the social and political conditions during Sovietization and the resulting turmoil after the collapse of the USSR. I read this book specifically to learn more about the cultural and historical background of Kyrgyzstan. While I feel like I have a greater understanding of the political situation in the country, - both present and past - I found the cultural aspect of this book to be significantly lacking.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eitental

    Overall a very interesting and informative overview of the political history of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan from the 1950s onwards. The differences and similarities between the regimes are highlighted intelligently, as are the roles of competing powers (Russia, USA, Iran, Turkey and China) and the war in Afghanistan. Main themes include the transition to market democracy; autocrats playing lip service to democracy; tug-of-war between nationalism and Islamism; corruption a Overall a very interesting and informative overview of the political history of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan from the 1950s onwards. The differences and similarities between the regimes are highlighted intelligently, as are the roles of competing powers (Russia, USA, Iran, Turkey and China) and the war in Afghanistan. Main themes include the transition to market democracy; autocrats playing lip service to democracy; tug-of-war between nationalism and Islamism; corruption and cronyism; ethnic tensions; and attempts to exploit natural resources and strategic location. Importantly, I didn’t detect any particular ideological bias or agenda, other than an understandably cynical view of US and Russian involvement in the region and perhaps a desire to prove that Iran isn’t as evil as Western governments make out. Central Asian actors are portrayed with balance, giving due weight to repression and atrocities while also making clear the various pressures the leaders were under. The 44-page introduction provides a decent summary of the region’s history from Alexander the Great up to Stalin’s death (though bear in mind this is just intended to provide you with the background information necessary to understand later events – if you want a detailed history of the Soviet or pre-Soviet period, this isn’t the book for you). The opening chapter is a succinct summary of Turkish history, providing a valuable backdrop for the events in post-Soviet Central Asia. The closing chapter briefly explains and describes Iran’s Islamic revolution and then details the extent and nature of Iran’s relations with the Central Asian republics. Both are valuable inclusions. I do however have a handful of criticisms of the book. Firstly, while the majority of the book is a straight account of political history, every now and then Hiro abruptly switches to something more akin to a travelogue, recounting his own personal experiences in the region. I understand that he is trying to provide a more “human angle”, but it is usually unnecessary and often confusing: for example, when he starts talking about Kumush Narziyeva and Akmurad Musayev on p. 194 it initially seems as though they are important historical figures, but it turns out that they are in fact just two ordinary Turkmens that he happened to meet. In a similar vein, Hiro occasionally includes bizarre and irrelevant sections on cultural matters, for example the inexplicable paragraph about yoghurt on pp. 108-109 or the lengthy descriptions of Bukhara and Samarkand’s historic monuments on pp. 178-181. Occasionally it seems that he oversimplifies or brushes over certain issues; though of course this is necessary to an extent in such a broad overview, I would like to point out a few shortcomings in his treatment of ethnic issues. In my opinion he underemphasizes the extent to which the Central Asian ethnic/national identities were arbitrarily and artificially constructed in the twentieth century, which is vital for understanding contemporary ethnic conflict. He repeatedly makes the claim that Timur (Tamerlane) was not an Uzbek, without clarifying what exactly he means by that – the fact is that “Uzbeks” in the sense that we understand the term today cannot very accurately be said to have existed in the 14th century at all. He mentions the fact that Turkmens live in Iraq but doesn’t acknowledge that, despite sharing a name with the Central Asian Turkmens, they are more closely related to Azeris. He mentions the 1989 rioting between Meshketi Turks and Uzbeks in the Fergana Valley without explaining who the Meshketi Turks were (other than confusingly referring to them as “Tatars”) and he does not mention that the reaction to the rioting was to deport almost all of the Turks to the Caucasus. His chapter on Kazakhstan creates the impression of a population divided between Russians and Kazakhs, with very little mention of other ethnic groups (which collectively accounted for some 20-25% of the population for most of the 20th century). No mention whatsoever is made of Karakalpaks, despite the fact that their autonomous republic covers over a third of Uzbekistan's territory. A final criticism concerns the quality of the writing. Though generally clear and easy to read, Hiro does not have great style. He sometimes uses awkward-sounding constructions and strange word choices. There are also a surprising number of typos. He is inconsistent with his use of diacritics (using them for Gül, Bahçeli and Gökalp but not for Atatürk, Kavakçı or Erdoğan). One particularly grating feature is Hiro’s practice of introducing all major figures with a superfluous pseudo-literary physical description, which generally read as if they’re taken from a pop-fiction novel. The section titled “Summary and Conclusions” is literally just a summary of the main section of the book, often lifting passages from the main body verbatim. It provides no extra analysis or conclusions and is thus not at all worth reading. The epilogue provides valuable coverage of developments between the book’s original publication in 2009 and the release of the new edition in 2011, with especially interesting use of diplomatic cables made available by WikiLeaks. That said, it would have been better if these later events had been integrated into the main body of the text, at the ends of the relevant country chapters, rather than all stuck together as an epilogue. The two maps at the start of the book are more-or-less useless.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ameya

    Central Asia had been on my bucket list of reading and travel for a very long time and this book was a good introduction to the region before I moved to some of the other books on Kazakhstan. I liked the way the introduction is - how the names /surnames were derived, their background and then going country by country. Turkey and Iran looked a little out of place, but that is probably my way of looking at the "Stans" Would recommend the book for anyone who needs to have an overview of the central a Central Asia had been on my bucket list of reading and travel for a very long time and this book was a good introduction to the region before I moved to some of the other books on Kazakhstan. I liked the way the introduction is - how the names /surnames were derived, their background and then going country by country. Turkey and Iran looked a little out of place, but that is probably my way of looking at the "Stans" Would recommend the book for anyone who needs to have an overview of the central asian countries.

  15. 5 out of 5

    M.J.

    I started this book years ago during a summer spent working and traveling throughout Central Asia and Turkey. Its an important, beautiful, and fascinating region, politically, culturally, and economically. This provided a broad political overview of the different countries, but much of the information is rather dated and the book reads rather dryly. It would have been more fascinating had the author traveled to these countries and conducted interviews with people from all segments of society to I started this book years ago during a summer spent working and traveling throughout Central Asia and Turkey. Its an important, beautiful, and fascinating region, politically, culturally, and economically. This provided a broad political overview of the different countries, but much of the information is rather dated and the book reads rather dryly. It would have been more fascinating had the author traveled to these countries and conducted interviews with people from all segments of society to capture the thoughts and feelings of the people living in the region.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

    A rather dull exercise of a book, which is more just a tickertape recitation of events rather than a thoughtful analysis. There are moments of insight, but they’re sparsely found. (To be fair, I skipped some of the country sections — I focussed only the countries I’ll be visiting shortly — but I can’t imagine the Turkmenistan section really would change my opinion.)

  17. 5 out of 5

    John Mondragon

    Mediocre, but worth a look if you are particularly interested in the recent history of the region. Takes current political boundaries as the organizational structure for the book, which isn't necessarily that compelling. Often in need of a better editoras it can tend to drone on with excessive detail that's not very illuminating. Perspective can also read as a bit old fashioned and colonial. Mediocre, but worth a look if you are particularly interested in the recent history of the region. Takes current political boundaries as the organizational structure for the book, which isn't necessarily that compelling. Often in need of a better editoras it can tend to drone on with excessive detail that's not very illuminating. Perspective can also read as a bit old fashioned and colonial.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    I thoroughly enjoyed this short, but detailed and well-explained study of the former Soviet Central Asian republics, Turkey, and Iran. Hiro shows in-depth knowledge and understanding of the region's complex history and cultural traditions and maintains a level of fairness and empathy that many other authors lack. I thoroughly enjoyed this short, but detailed and well-explained study of the former Soviet Central Asian republics, Turkey, and Iran. Hiro shows in-depth knowledge and understanding of the region's complex history and cultural traditions and maintains a level of fairness and empathy that many other authors lack.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David Feitzinger

    A well-researched book, which enables the reader to understand the complex challenges which the countries of Central-Asia are facing. The author goes into extensive detail when describing historic, economic and political issues and sheds light on cultural and religious matters. Unfortunately, the book is in dire need of an 'update' since the rise of China and its influence in the region is not considered yet. A well-researched book, which enables the reader to understand the complex challenges which the countries of Central-Asia are facing. The author goes into extensive detail when describing historic, economic and political issues and sheds light on cultural and religious matters. Unfortunately, the book is in dire need of an 'update' since the rise of China and its influence in the region is not considered yet.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jenel

    Central Asia is complex and so is this book. Very helpful for those who have the context of living in these countries. It’s not written chronologically, but by country, which is both helpful and sometimes confusing.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gök Börü

    a vast but brief book about what has been going on in central asian countries...this book tries to summon up the cultural political history of 6 countries in a narrative manner and it has not been bad at that, but we all know there are complexities when it comes to ex-soviets and democracy at all.

  22. 4 out of 5

    TJ Petrowski

    A very poor, bourgeois history of Central Asia.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bruno Quadros

    Very dense and engaging reading, with typos and some grammar mistakes as minor pitfalls.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Margie

    Very dense political history but I'm glad I read it. Very dense political history but I'm glad I read it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Al

    Too dense and needed a stronger narrative push. The final chapter does provide a go overview.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    This book reads like a weakly edited textbook, lacks analytical depth or synthesis, is rife with minor errors (factual and typographic), and often makes opinionated statements wholly unsupported by fact or even relevant evidence in the text. That said, if you are looking for basic background on key political developments in the region during the late Soviet and the post-Soviet periods, this is a tolerable - albeit basic - foundation. You will get an overview of the key individuals, parties, poli This book reads like a weakly edited textbook, lacks analytical depth or synthesis, is rife with minor errors (factual and typographic), and often makes opinionated statements wholly unsupported by fact or even relevant evidence in the text. That said, if you are looking for basic background on key political developments in the region during the late Soviet and the post-Soviet periods, this is a tolerable - albeit basic - foundation. You will get an overview of the key individuals, parties, political events, and hints at economic and political events that shaped political outcomes in the countries reviewed.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patrick McCoy

    I was looking for background reading on Central Asia on a recent trip there and came across Dilip Hiro's Inside Central Asia (2009). I had previously read his account of Iran, The Iranian Labyrinth, and was impressed with his research and narrative acumen. This book reflects his knack for explaining complex historical narratives and giving a sense of how the region has evolved over the last century. The introduction sets the historical context of Central Asia most well-known for the dominance of I was looking for background reading on Central Asia on a recent trip there and came across Dilip Hiro's Inside Central Asia (2009). I had previously read his account of Iran, The Iranian Labyrinth, and was impressed with his research and narrative acumen. This book reflects his knack for explaining complex historical narratives and giving a sense of how the region has evolved over the last century. The introduction sets the historical context of Central Asia most well-known for the dominance of Genghis Khan and up to the rise and fall of the Soviet Union that had a major impact on modern day Central Asia. My first stop on my trip was Istanbul which coincided with the first chapter, "Turkey: From Militant Secularism to Grassroots Islam." I had also been reading Tom Bissell's memoir/travelogue of Uzbekistan, Chasing the Sea, so the next chapter, "Uzbekistan: The Complex Hub of Central Asia," expanded on a lot of the history that was introduced in Bissell's book. This was followed by "Turkmenistan: Molded by a Megalomaniac," which gave much insight into one of the lesser known Central Asian states. Chapter 4-"Kazakhstan: Rising Oil State Corrupted by Big Powers," tells the story of Central Asia's plight against corruption from within as well as from outside. Chapter 5-"Kyrgyzstan: The Tulip Revolution,a False Dawn," was of particular interest, since it was my second destination on the recent Central Asian trip-also my second visit. Another obscure nation is analyzed in Chapter 6-"Tajikistan: The Rise and Fall of Political Islam." The final chapter is, "Iran: The Geopolitics of the Islamic Revolution." Hiro pulls it altogether in the last two sections: "Summary and Conclusions" and "Epilogue." Another well researched look at a fascinating region.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Somewhat useful history fo the 5 former Soviet Central Asian nations plus Turkey and Iran through the mid-2000s. Proofreading errors were annoying.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    This book provides a great contemporary history of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. The chapters go from country to country, explaining the complex political, religious, and social changes resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Dilip Hiro goes into great detail comparing how each country found its post-Soviet identity, and for the most part it was very fascinating. Some parts can be somewhat boring and dry, especially when explaining the specific dates, numbers, and politic This book provides a great contemporary history of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. The chapters go from country to country, explaining the complex political, religious, and social changes resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Dilip Hiro goes into great detail comparing how each country found its post-Soviet identity, and for the most part it was very fascinating. Some parts can be somewhat boring and dry, especially when explaining the specific dates, numbers, and politics reflecting each country's economic ventures and endeavors of those in power. Overall, it's a great insight into an unfortunately overlooked yet crucial part of the world. I do wish the book moved chronologically among the featured countries, rather than each chapter dedicated to the countries in focus. However, I can say I learned a lot!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paulo Jan

    Finally , after reading some superficial and tendentious books about Central Asia , I found a solid and consistent one , that allowed me to get a good approach about that area.(Ok I can't guarantee it isn't tendentious too...) The chapters are very well written , but some of them contain an excess of informations that made the lecture slower , in order to be followed as well. Iran and Turkey couldn't stay apart , and their importance to an overall understanding of the Central Asia questions as a w Finally , after reading some superficial and tendentious books about Central Asia , I found a solid and consistent one , that allowed me to get a good approach about that area.(Ok I can't guarantee it isn't tendentious too...) The chapters are very well written , but some of them contain an excess of informations that made the lecture slower , in order to be followed as well. Iran and Turkey couldn't stay apart , and their importance to an overall understanding of the Central Asia questions as a whole was crucial. I never had read a so complete description of post-Ataturk age. I agree that the structure of this book reminds a scholar one , but couldn't be different. The last chapter mixed recent informations of all the countries , in order to update all.”

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