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Sons of the Conquerors: The Rise of the Turkic World Paperback – International Edition, October 31, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Delving deep into a world most westerners are shamefully ignorant of, this highly readable collection of essays about Turkic people from Virginia to Xinjiang, China, buzzes with life and personality even as it explains topics as obscure as the inner workings of Azerbaijani politics. Pope, who also wrote (with Nicole Pope) Turkey Unveiled and is the Istanbul correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, has a knack for storytelling and an inexhaustible store of novelistic details-the pop of a weld torch, for example, as an Istanbul ironworker explains that UFOs are proof that Americans have djinns (evil spirits) instead of souls. The only real flaw in this appealing, affectionate portrait of the Turkic world (a term that includes all Turkish speakers, not only those who live in Turkey) is that all this vivid reporting can't compensate for a relative lack of big-picture analysis. The book's dozens of otherwise deft capsule histories of obscure corners of the world have an oddly free-floating quality, unmoored from any clear geopolitical understanding. It is perhaps this that gives some of Pope's conclusions a tossed-off feeling. "Bulgarian Turks still do not really trust the Bulgarians," he writes in a chapter about the persecution of the former by the latter, before breezily concluding, without offering any supporting evidence, that "the edge is off the conflict." Pope's gift for accessible writing make this an excellent first book for anyone interested in the subject, even if its dearth of analysis means it shouldn't be the last.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

With the end of the Soviet Union began independence for a half-dozen Turkic countries, where Istanbul-based reporter Pope has made forays for the past 15 years, traveling in both presidential airliners and faltering taxis. Pope does not organize his trips chronologically, but, rather, according to what he believes are the seven collective characteristics of Turkic peoples. One is the "military vocation" epitomized by Turkey itself, whose military is regarded as the guardian of secularism; a concomitant trait is predilection for the political strongman. None of the new Turkic states is a liberal democracy, and none less so than Turkmenistan, home to a shambolic personality cult devoted to its dictator. Pope's talks with officials are always revelatory of local and international politics, but readers will most value his perceptiveness about Turkic culture when he, speaking fluent Turkish, meets ordinary people. Some of these are Uygurs, the Turkic minority suppressed by communist China, and others are part of the Turkic diaspora in Europe and America. A sensitive presentation of how Turks view themselves and their future. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books (October 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158567804X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585678044
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #616,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Matlock on June 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Turkey is the keystone between the Middle East of Syria, Iran and Iraq, and on the other side is Greece and the European Union. The broader Turkic World, those countries or regions where Turkish is the predominant language, lies to the northeast of Turkey and make up the region that lies between China and Russia.

In this book, Mr. Pope who heads the Istanbul bureau for the Wall Street Journal, gives a report of his travels throughout this part of the world. He reports on the transition in the countries that were previously part of the Soviet Union. He reports on the religious aspects of a country viewed with suspicion by the Christian West because of their Muslim religion, and shunned by their co-religionists in the Islamic world for its alliance with the Christian West.

This book is more of a chronicle of Mr. Pope's travels and experiences through this world than a true history. The years since the collapse of the Soviet Union have been years of drastic change in this region. Countries like Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and others are visited and some of their story told.

This is a region previously hidden in the monolithic Soviet Union. Now it is opening up to be a part of the rest of the world but independently. This book brings this region to light in a light and easily understood manner.
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Format: Hardcover
Hugh Pope has travelled from one end of the Turkic world to the other to write a magnificent survey of the Pan-Turanian world he calls Sons of the Conquerors. Now Istanbul bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal,, Pope has lived and travelled in Turkey for some twenty years. He speaks Turkish, Persian, and Arabic, as well as English. As a result, he can talk to anyone from a bazaar merchant, to a police chief, to a businessman, to an imam, to a president. And he does so in this book.

Anyone who has been to Istanbul knows that the vibrant country Pope describes is already a reality. What he is saying is that even if pan-Turanianism cannot succeed as a political movement, Turkic qualities of Turkic states will give them a solid foundation to follow in Turkey's footsteps to modernity-as Sons of the Conquerors.

The author of Turkey Unveiled certainly knows Turkey, the Turks, and Turkish culture. Pope takes an almost anatomical interest in Turkey's people, as well as Turkic brothers and cousins scattered around the globe. He describes the realities of the Turkish Republic, its relation to the Balkan States and Azerbaijan. He visits the humming factories and gleaming offices of the new Turkish entrepreneurs, as well as the dusty agricultural towns of central Anatolia.

He understands Turkic psychology, too. His second section, on Turkic politicians, is entitled "Save us, Father!" It begins with a profile of Ataturk and his secular revolution, and continues to explore Turkmenbashi, Aliyev, and Nazarbaev's political debt to the Turkic leader. Finally, he tracks down the ghose of Isa Beg, and his Uighur pan-Turanian legacy. His descriptions of Kashgar and Urumqi are priceless.
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Format: Hardcover
This book aims to examine developments in the newly independent Turkic-speaking states of Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kirgizstan, and Kazakhstan, in the post-Soviet era, particularly in their relations to the Republic of Turkey. Because of their wealth in natural resources and their importance since 2001 in the "War on Terror," it is a region that has newfound importance for an American audience.

There are a number of concerns I have about this work. I think it overstates the importance of the Turkish Republic as a player in the region and that it overstates the saliency of "Turkic cultural" values as a way of understanding the region's politics.

But these concerns are more than balanced by Pope's familiarity with the main political actors, by his talent for using a telling anecdote to demonstrate his point, and by his sophisticated analysis of a whole series of regional issues, ranging from kleptocracy and oil wealth, to state-building, to Islam and human rights.

For those looking for a history of the region or more scholarly analysis, Carter V. Findley's The Turks in World History is a better bet. For those interested in the region's recent past and its place in contemporary politics, one could do worse than this engaging and informative book.
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Format: Hardcover
Hugh Pope's "Sons of the Conquerors" is an interesting read - particularly for those interested in the Turkic world or those interested in literature about far-flung places (how many people do you know who've been to Xinjiang, for example?). "The Turkic World", for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is the part of the world inhabited by Turkic peoples - a belt stretching roughly from western China to the Balkans and including, as well as the Turks of Turkey, the Azeris, Kazakhs, Turkmens and Uighurs among others.

Pope, a journalist based in Istanbul, professes at the outset to have had little knowledge of the broader Turkic world until being told to cover a demonstration by Uighurs in China. As the Soviet Union collapsed, however, he found himself well-placed to investigate some of the newly-independent states of Central Asia, most of which are Turkic-majority.

What follows, then, is a series of travelogue-style pieces as Pope traverses this under-analysed part of the world. He wanders through bazaars in western China, meets with the President of Kazakhstan, crosses the Caspian Sea, interviews refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh and even gets to talk to some Bulgarian Turks thinking about returning to the motherland.

Entertaining and informative as all of this is (English-language books on any aspect of Central Asia still being a developing market), Pope's analyses frequently lack context. His discussions of the Turkmen and Kazakh leaders seem to fall too easily into the standard lines (the former is a dictator, but an amusing one, the latter could do with being more democratic but seems a nice guy).
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