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Inside Central Asia: A Political and Cultural History of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz stan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Iran 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1590203330
ISBN-10: 159020333X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"For those who still get their "-stans" mixed up, Hiro's book provides a detailed and nuanced overview of the region of central Asia. He explains the ethnic tensions, religious intolerance and struggle for political identity in the lands caught between two behemoths the splintered Soviet empire and the rising Chinese one."
-Financial Times, Best Books of 2009

"Readers acquainted with Mr.Hiro's prolific writing about Asia and the Islamic world will be unsurprised to learn that Inside Central Asia is a conscientious guide to the region, full of dependable history-telling and analysis."
-The Economist

"Hiro's account provides a fast-moving and well-sourced genealogy of the Central Asian republics' political and economic trajectories, focusing on the post-Stalinist period up to the present day. It is unlikely that more comprehensive analysis of this period in Central Asia has been written, and it serves as a valuable update to Hiro¦s earlier Between Marx and Muhammad: the Changing Face of Central Asia."
-Issac Scarborough, n+1

About the Author

DILIP HIRO is an author, playwright, and journalist who has written 14 books about the Middle East and contributed to several others. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press; 1 edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159020333X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590203330
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This provides a thorough and often insightful account of the recent history of today's five Central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The main focus is on the post-Soviet history of the new nations, but Hiro begins with an introductory chapter on the history of the region, starting from the earliest times and then providing increasingly detailed coverage through the Tsarist and Soviet periods up to 1950.

Each of the five nations is then covered in its own chapter, starting with its development in the final years of the USSR, then with its leap to independence, and then the subsequent years of nation building. There are many common themes, including the struggles to reassert (or create) a unifying national identity, to create functioning economies after the post-Soviet economic collapse, the tensions of overlapping ethnic groups, the resurgence of interest in traditional Islam, and a strong tendency towards authoritarian one-party rule.

The last twenty years have not always been easy in this region, and Hiro is willing to be fairly hard-hitting in discussing some of the difficulties, including the outright megalomania of Niyazov's personal rule in Turkmenistan, the regional rivalries behind the Tajikistan civil war, and the allegations of high-level corruption in Kazakhstan. He explains the background and consequences of ethnic tensions and Islamic movements in the Fergana valley, including the tensions that led to the tragic Andijon incident.

As well as the chapters on the five Central Asian nations, Hiro also includes chapters on Turkey and Iran.
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Format: Hardcover
I read Dilip Hiro's "Inside Central Asia: A Political and Cultural History of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Iran" because I wanted to get a solid introduction to this region, and to this end the book was successful. Although Hiro discusses seven complicated countries, he manages to provide a very comprehensive and detailed overview. Some countries are discussed in greater detail than others (e.g., Uzbekistan gets 73 pages, Kyrgyzstan and Iran each get about 30) but all chapters provide a good starting place for those interested in studying any one country in greater detail. The "Summary and Conclusions" chapter was particularly useful.

Hiro's choice to include chapters on Turkey and Iran was logical, given the immense importance of these countries on the past, present, and future of the central Asian republics. Russia (and the Soviet Union), Afghanistan, the United States, and China are not given their own chapters, but they are intimately involved in all of the book's chapters. This is especially true of the Soviet Union, whose policies profoundly shaped Central Asia. The Soviet Union is discussed in detail, and I came away from the book with a much better understanding of its history and policies in the region. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Hiro explains how Russia continues to loom large in its so-called "near abroad" (especially relevant given the large number of Russians who migrated to the region during the Soviet era). The United States enters the picture forcefully after 9/11, and its often ambiguous relations with the nascent republics, primarily concerning military bases and human rights, are well discussed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Inside Central Asia", by Dilip Hiro, provides a good account of the "Stan" nations of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. There is a chapter on each of these nations. Each chapter gives a short history of the nation, but the focus of the narrative is on post World War II era politics and Post Cold War politics. It highlights the influence of the Soviet Union on the Central Asian nations while they were a part of the USSR, and their attempts to find individual paths after the fall of Soviet government in Moscow. It details the struggle of each nation's leaders with the renewed growth of Islam, and the influence from the Taliban in Afghanistan. He gives an excellent account of the mostly corrupt doings of the nation's leaders. Mostly, it explains the constant struggles between Russia, Turkey and Iran to wield overall influence in Central Asia. The book ends suggesting that Russian influence is again on the rise. While Turkish influence was greatest after the fall of the Soviet Union, their power to influence Central Asia waned as Islamism grew stronger in Ankara. Overall, this is a good read to understand modern Central Asia and its politics.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I know very little about Iran and Turkey and so I got this book to provide a base of knowledge, especially in geographical context. However, throughout the sections where I feel I have a pretty good understanding of the history (I have lived in Central Asia for most of the past 4 years) there are enough strange errors that I can't find myself vouching for the author's reliability. There is nothing egregious, but bits here and there that suggest a lack of research or exposure.

-The first is his labeling of those living in Kyrgyzstan as 'Kyrgyzes." Never have I heard of this label before, talking to both foreigners and locals while in Kyrgyzstan. A better term would simply be "the Kyrgyz" or "Kyrgyz people." Could he have written the book without traveling there?

-a statement like: "The endless empty spaces of the steppes of Kazakhstan provided the Tsar with an opportunity to channel ethnic Russians and Cossacks to the area and encourage them to grow crops, particularly much-needed cotton. In 1891, more than a million newly arrived Russians and Cossacks took to farming land in Kazakhstan adjoining Siberia" suggests that Russians and Cossacks were sent to northern Kazakhstan to grow cotton. Cotton has never been grown that far up in the country, and much of that land wasn't really claimed by Kazakhs anyway.

-placing Astana along the irtysh river.
-suggesting sausages play a significant role in Kazakh cuisine (I've never experienced an indigenous sausage in all my years there, both in rural and urban settings throughout the country.)
often referring to Russians/Slavs in a slightly derogatory manner, ie "[following the breakup of the soviet union] The disheartened Slav settlers came to accept stoically their secondary position.
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