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The Transformation of Central Asia: States and Societies from Soviet Rule to Independence Paperback – November 14, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (November 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801488427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801488429
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,140,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"During the long period of communist control of Central Asia, this region was treated largely as a peripheral part of the Soviet Union. Consequently, despite its rich culture and historical achievements, the region received scant scholarly attention in the West. The downfall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent independence of the former Soviet republics elevated Central Asia from obscurity in the West, and the region has been catapulted . . . into the forefront of the 'war against terrorism.' . . . All chapters of this book are well informed and create a united whole. . . . Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above."—Choice 41:10, June 2004

"Luong and her colleagues challenge basic assumptions said to have guided earlier studies of Central Asia: that the Soviet system only superficially penetrated traditional cultural norms and organizations, that Islam was a force waiting to be unleashed, and that the Central Asian republics were more colonies than an integral part of the Soviet Union. In a series of detailed essays examining the situation of women, the role of nongovernmental organizations, center-regional relations, and the place of culture and language, the contributors contend that the Soviet legacy looms large, regional divisions rather than clans or tribes define the political arena, leaders exploit rather than subscribe to pre-Soviet traditions, and Islam is tamed and localized."—Robert Levgold, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2004

"In this superb collection of essays eight scholars bring new data and fresh insights to key questions of the relationship of state and society in post-Soviet Central Asia that require us to rethink conventional understandings of the region. Instead of a simple rejection of the Communist past and a return to traditionalism or Islam, the transformation has incorporated large doses of the Soviet experience. What look from afar like powerful centralized authoritarian states are on closer examination weak states in disaggregated societies. Rather than being opposed by the cultural elite, the 'non-transition' to democracy is explained in part by intellectuals' collaboration with the heirs of the ancien regime. The Transformation of Central Asia is based on extensive field work, deep local knowledge, and conceptual sophistication. It is a major contribution both to our knowledge of Central Asia and to the theoretical discussion of the state."—Ronald Suny, University of Chicago

"The contributors to this volume compare state-building and state-society interactions in the five post-Soviet Central Asian states. In the process, they offer us some surprising and compelling insights about national, religious, gender, and regional identities in Central Asia; about political and economic relations between the center and the regions; and about the impact of the international system on the development of these states, societies, and economies. This story of a Soviet past that shapes politics, culture, and economics is a convincing one, because the scholars writing in this volume combine deep knowledge of the region with a commitment to comparative theory."—Valerie Bunce, Professor of Government and the Aaron J. Binenkorb Professor of International Studies, Cornell University

"At a time when we are starved for information about these newly independent countries, The Transformation of Central Asia makes a welcome contribution with rich, thoughtful essays on diverse aspects of political and social life. The authors, all experts with extensive research experience in the region, share their insights into the many ways that Central Asian states, societies, and state-society relations have and have not changed since independence."—Philip G. Roeder, University of California, San Diego

"Pauline Jones Luong teases out numerous important theoretical issues raised by the authors, juxtaposes them with the state of the art in the extant literature on Central Asia and comparative politics, and skillfully weaves the whole together. This is a pathbreaking collective effort in the emerging scholarship on Central Asia."—Douglas Blum, Providence College

From the Inside Flap

"Pauline Jones Luong teases out numerous important theoretical issues raised by the authors, juxtaposes them with the state of the art in the extant literature on Central Asia and comparative politics, and skillfully weaves the whole together. This is a pathbreaking collective effort in the emerging scholarship on Central Asia."—Douglas Blum, Providence College

"At a time when we are starved for information about these newly independent countries, The Transformation of Central Asia makes a welcome contribution with rich, thoughtful essays on diverse aspects of political and social life. The authors, all experts with extensive research experience in the region, share their insights into the many ways that Central Asian states, societies, and state-society relations have and have not changed since independence."—Philip G. Roeder, University of California, San Diego --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on December 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book combines a number of interesting topics. Especially important is the topic of bride-kidnapping, but like everything else in modern academia this has to be white washed, therefore kidnapping and forced marriage and rape is called "non-consenual" which is a nice civilized term, but it implies the typical view of elite westerners, that no one is ever allowed to judge the 'other'. Therefore bride kidnapping is explained, which is better than not analyzing it, but there is no context, there is no voice of the woman and there is no analysis of why such a practice is inherently wrong.

Secondly there is an interesting discussion of language policy in Kazakhstan, but again there is little context of this. The Soviets transformed central Asia, they built states out of gatherings of tribes, they deported millions of Germans, Poles, Russians and Koreans to these lands, millions of Russians immigrated and most all the Soviet union gave written languages where only dialect had been, they also gave women equal rights and a say in the state. But they had their shortcomings, they maintained local elites by transforming local chiefs into soviet commisars.

But there is no context for this in these essays, there is no history, nothing that ties these countries to together. There is not one word about Islamism and the rise of terrorism, there is not one word on the fate of minorities, especially in Tajikistan. So in the end this book is mostly a failure, either that or it is mis-packaged, it should have just been called 'insights' into central Asia.

Seth J. Frantzman
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jeff on June 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was assigned this book as part of the reading for a class I took at Princeton on Central Asia. I have very mixed feelings about it.

Each section is written by a different author. Some are almost unreadable. Most chapters focus on very small (and often, seemingly unimportant) issues in state and society. At times it seems the authors are more concerned with citing each other (as indeed, every one of them does) than with teaching the reader about Central Asia

But worse, reading this book will give you no insight into the actual transformation of the region. If I had to single out the biggest problem with the book, it is the misleading title. Nowhere in this book will you find the history of Central Asia dealt with in a comprehensive--much less, thorough--way. I did not come away from it with a sense of the "transformation" of Central Asia.

What this book is good for, is learning about the contradictions and problems faced by the societies of the Central Asian Republics. All the same, I would counsel you against spending your money on this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sam on July 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
The odds are good that if you are even looking at this book you'll be interested in something written in it. Its hard to know for sure though so let me ask you some questions.
Can you even name the five Post Soviet Central Asian countries?
Can you name 3 or 4 of the leaders from this region in the past 20 years?
Do you ever read academic texts?
Are you going to read this for fun instead of for class?
Can you stop reading a book, pick up another, and then go back to reading the first one?

If you answered no to any of these questions, I do strongly recommend you look at a version in your school or main public library before you buy it on Amazon. Its a dense book, even for people who are obsessed with the region and who like history and academic books.
That being said, the discussions that takes place are interesting and relevant, and if you are reading it for class is a great place to start getting ideas for papers (the Center Periphery stuff is great future research paper beginning every page or two).

If you do read this for fun you will probably enjoy it, because you enjoy finding out anything about the region. If you are reading it for class and do not know a whole lot about central asia, you will learn, but you may end up not wanting to study the region again.
But what do I know, the region wasnt on the menu when I was in college.
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