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Murderers in Mausoleums: Riding the Back Roads of Empire Between Moscow and Beijing Hardcover – January 27, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tayler (Siberian Dawn) takes readers on an extraordinary adventure across the largest landmass on earth, from Russia through the Caucasus into South Ossetia and Georgia, on to Central Asia and Kazakhstan, and across Xinjiang and Mongolia. Equal parts history, politics, economic theory and anthropology, he brings into sharp focus the ordinary lives behind the news headlines. Of particular interest are two recurring discoveries he makes—replacing totalitarian dictators with democratically elected (often U.S.-backed) leaders opens the door to enormous corruption, and that where there is electricity, there is always a disco. Tayler marshals hundreds of years of history, from the conquests of Genghis Khan through the dislocation caused by WWI and WWII to the Chinese Communist revolution and the glossy, urban China of today. While the author's approach to exploration is haphazard at times, his impressive ability to build instant rapport and cull local knowledge in a remarkably short span of time gives his journey steady momentum. Tayler conveys his encounters in prose that is as richly textured as the stories he gathers in some of the remotest places imaginable. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Tayler, a talented journalist with the soul of an intrepid nineteenth-century explorer, is particularly fascinated by the world’s most remote borderlands (the Sahel in Angry Wind, 2005; Siberia in River of No Reprieve, 2006; among others). Here, the author covers the lands conquered by Genghis Khan in a 7,200-mile overland journey, from his home in Moscow south through the Caucasus to the Caspian Sea, then east across the deserts of Kazakhstan and Inner Mongolia, all the way to Beijing. It’s a harrowing journey, characterized by bad roads, bribe-seeking officials, and harsh climes (not to mention the liver-destroying local hospitality), but the author is fortified with historical knowledge of the region and a desire to witness firsthand the new geopolitical frontiers of Central Asia. And so, through encounters with taxi drivers, Cossack patriots, club-going teenagers, and a few affectionately described female guides, Tayler documents the lingering effects of the Soviet era, the chaotic emergence of modern capitalism, and the persistent stirrings of tribalism. Part sociopolitical inquiry, part adventure story, this selection brings an often-overlooked region to life. --Brendan Driscoll
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1St Edition edition (January 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618799915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618799916
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,322,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If one has been harboring a desire to travel through Mother Russia of long ago, as well as, experience the current Russia, after the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991, but has been afraid to do so becuase of language barriers, this is the guide. Armed with this book, a good map, a dictionary of all the languages and dalects of Russia, all is possible.

This is the largest land mass on our planet. All climates, all terrains, all levels of education, all levels of ignorance to what we know as civilization having not touched some of these people since the days of Genghis Khan.

Jeffrey Tayler starts his journey by train in Moscow. He covers all nations and peoples from that point to Beijing, China. The boundaries, histories and peoples of Chechna, the Tatars, the Yakuts, the Ingus. The lands of history of the Kazaks are discussed at great length. The Greeks brought Christianity to the people of Ossetia and Georgians. Facts such as: the Ural River being the waterway that to according to Russian tradition divides Europe from Asia. Descriptions of Suleyman Mountain and Kyrgyzstan's cpital Osh.

Mention of many writers on the classic list of Russian's elite, such as Turgenev, Pushkin, Lermontov and most interesting the ballet dancer Boris Gudonov having been born a Tatar. Aside from these little tidbits of history and geography " Murderers in MMausoleums " holds a wealth of informtion useful to the amateur or the serious scholar of Russia, students of its former satellites and current crop of countries which have seceaded from Soviet Union.

The book also has a chapter on Karaganda, the architectually ugly site built by the Soviets, made even more ugly in terms of human decadence of the soul. A place that was used as a Gulag during the Soviet Regime.
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Format: Hardcover
I hope that someday a great writer will chronicle the fascinating life of Jeffrey Tayler- a brilliant expatriate American writer that travels to some of the world's most difficult and dangerous places and manages to convey the essence of these places that most of us will never visit. Tayler speaks Russian, Arabic, Turkish, French, and spends his "vacations" in places like Chad, Dagestan, the Congo and Siberia, rather than Provence and Tuscany. In this new book, which may be his finest to date, Tayler takes us to obscure, little visited muslim republics in Russia like Dagestan, and then cuts across Central Asia and into western China.

Unlike other journalists that breeze into a hotspot on an expense account and get a few cliche'd quotes from their cab driver and someone at their hotel, Tayler gets down and dirty with the locals in their language. He's not afraid to tell us about nights of drunken debauchery, where desperate people bare their souls to him to the sounds of "I like to move it, move it!"

This is a great read, but sadly, Tayler is too good for this gengre- why people would rather read Eat, Love and Pray over Tayler's adventures is beyond me. An exhilirating read- highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Disappointed--that's how I felt after finishing Tayler's saga of his trip from Moscow to Beijing. His premise is very interesting, to find out the attitudes of peoples in the vast areas of the Caucasus and Central Asia, and he visits cities off the usual Silk Road, such as Makhachkala, Atyrau, and Astana. However, Tayler seems to converse mainly with disgruntled minorities, Cossacks, Kabardin, Uygurs, and mainly in bars. By the end I was fed up with reading repetitively about how much he drank and wondered why he didn't spend more time talking to the occasional food shopper, small businessman or local politician. His abrupt "summary/conclulsion" on the last two pages was the last straw. "Murderers in Mausoleiums"--a great title for a mediocre book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a very timely book to read while the crisis is unfolding now in the Ukraine.

One of the reasons this area is a powder keg are the natural resources.

“..energy resources and their conveyance to markets dominate the new Great Game unfolding in Central Asia. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan recently announced plans to build a gas pipeline connecting with Russia’s network, for subsequent re-export to Europe, thwarting a U.S. project for a pipeline that would bypass Russia; in fact, Russia now controls all of Central Asia’s westward-flowing gas exports. Gazprom will soon be able to exert powerful political pressure over countries such as Ukraine… Central Asian oil will also strengthen Russia’s hand” especially Kazakhstan which has the world’s largest oil field discovered in the past 30 years, and where 40% of the people are Slavic and mostly Russian.

Tayler suggests that China and Russia are natural allies: “China needs energy land and water, all of which Russia has in surplus. Might the two countries form an alliance?” He concludes that “One has to ask, Why shouldn’t Russia, China, and the countries in between form an anti-American alliance? What has the west offered them, besides criticism of their deficient human rights records, the expansion of a military alliance around their borders, and the prospect of facing ever-more-sophisticated weapons systems? Why shouldn’t Russia sell its fuel to China or use it to intimidate its rivals? What else does it have?” This is one of the many themes in the book.
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