Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review: Inside Central Asia

Inside Central Asia is a political and cultural history of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Iran. Besides maybe Turkey and Iran, the other countries have for years have been clubbed as one single entity in our psyche and not much has been written about them. Dilip Hiro through this book tries to bridge that gap.

These former Soviet republics of Central Asia comprise a sprawling, politically pivotal and richly cultured area. Yet they remain poorly represented in libraries and mainstream media. They have experienced tremendous socio-political change since their inception. But despite the growth of oil wealth, the arrival of western tourists, and the competition for influence by the US, China and Russia, the spirit of Central Asia has remained untouched at its core.
Not many have paid attention to the various ethnic groups that exist and who have now formed separate nation states post the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The author traces the history of these ethnic groups like the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Turks etc over the past 2000 years. The link that Central Asian countries share with the Indian subcontinent goes back almost five centuries. The Mughal Empire was founded in India in 1526 by Zahir Uddin Mohammed Babur. He was born in Andijan (the 4th largest city in present day Uzbekistan), he then went on to become the ruler of Fergana, and seized and lost Samarkand twice. Samarkand is today a thriving Uzbek metropolis. The author explains how India, because of its shared history, is at an advantage vis-a-vis other countries to build strong, mutually beneficial trade and Industrial links with these countries.
The author traces the history of these countries in the last thirty years. He also analyses the present-day politics, economics and peoples of Central Asia and its neighbouring areas in an international context. In the 70 years of the Soviet rule atheism was the central philosophy but post Independence the people of these countries are re-discovering their religion. Most of these countries are Islamist and in the near past have been battling with the rise of Islamic fundamentalists in their country.
Considering that not many books on these countries have been attempted before this book makes for an insightful reading for someone who is interested in Central Asian history. The author through this book proves his in-depth knowledge and understanding of these Central Asian countries

About the Author:

Dilip Hiro is the author of more than thirty books, including Blood of the Earth and War without End. He contributes regularly to the New York Times, the Guardian, the Washington Post and the Observer, and is a commentator for the BBC and CNN.

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