Restless Valley Revolution, Murder, and Intrigue in the Heart of Central Asia Philip Shishkin

Format:
Hardback
Publication date:
21 May 2013
ISBN:
9780300184365
Imprint:
Yale University Press
Dimensions:
328 pages: 235 x 156 x 29mm
Illustrations:
18 b/w illus.

It sounds like the stuff of a fiction thriller: two revolutions, a massacre of unarmed civilians, a civil war, a drug-smuggling highway, brazen corruption schemes, contract hits, and larger-than-life characters who may be villains . . . or heroes . . . or possibly both. Yet this book is not a work of fiction. It is instead a gripping, firsthand account of Central Asia’s unfolding history from 2005 to the present.

Philip Shishkin, a prize-winning journalist with extensive on-the-ground experience in the tumultuous region above Afghanistan’s northern border, focuses mainly on Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Both nations have struggled with the enormous challenges of post-Soviet independent statehood; both became entangled in America’s Afghan campaign when U.S. military bases were established within their borders. At the same time, the region was developing into a key smuggling hub for Afghanistan’s booming heroin trade. Through the eyes of local participants—the powerful and the powerless—Shishkin reconstructs how Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have ricocheted between extreme repression and democratic strivings, how alliances with the United States and Russia have brought mixed blessings, and how Stalin’s legacy of ethnic gerrymandering incites conflict even now.

Philip Shishkin was an award-winning staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal. A fellow at the Asia Society, he is now a freelance writer based in Beijing.

"Philip Shishkin's journalistic account of modern Central Asia is . . . an accessible introduction. . . . Sharp and entertaining. . . . [The stories] are vigorous and bold."—Wall Street Journal

"'The Stans'—as the far-off states of Central Asia are known in the White House, remain a lost world. But few of the old Soviet lands have fallen farther, or faster, amid plagues both ancient and modern: militant Islam, secular greed, a surging heroin trade, civil war, revolution and throughout it all the rule of dictatorships. Throw in the Pentagon's hunger for a staging ground to take on the Taliban, and you've got a dark maze. Thankfully, Philip Shishkin illuminates this tale with uncommon skill. Whether curious tourists or students of 21st-century geopolitics, readers would be hard-pressed to find a better guide."—Andrew Meier, author of Black Earth: A Journey through Russia after the Fall

"You'll finish the book with a greater understanding of Central Asia and the feeling that you yourself have been on a journey that you'll never forget, and made some friends along the way. Shishkin's writing evokes John Le Carre crossed with Raymond Chandler and the result is a mesmerizing read."—Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice

"This book offers an excellent account of everyday life in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, as well as very personal and highly nuanced depictions of some of the most important individuals behind the political changes in the region."—Erica Marat, Eurasia Expert, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program

"Shishkin shines as a reporter in his description of Kyrgyzstan's fresh change of regime. Skillfully weaving together many competing accounts of what happened, he provides the most coherent explanation of the forces behind the revolution and those who were responsible for the acts of ethnic violence committed in its wake. . . As an introduction to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan's complicated recent history, and more importantly as a primer on Kyrgyzstan's dynamic and often confounding politics, Shishkin unquestionably succeeds. "—Joshua Foust, Foreign Policy

"Absorbing. . . [Shishkin] succeeds, not by trying to provide a definitive or analytical account, but through an investigative eye for detail, probing interviews, biting wit. . .Compelling. . . [A] fine book."—Alexander Cooley, Quartz

"An engaging, enlightening look at a lesser-known, yet increasingly vital part of the world. . . Shishkin vividly explores, through first-hand experience, interviews, and public record, the sort of events which could fuel a dozen action movies. . . A fascinating expose from a man who knows the region intimately."—Publishers Weekly

"This one's a thriller . . . . Given the complex relations we have had in Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, and the other Central Asian republics since the war in Afghanistan began, when we greatly expanded and added to our military bases in these countries, and given the ongoing tensions throughout the region, this guide to recent (and longer term) history is an exciting and absorbing contribution."—LA Review of Books on KCRW

"A fast-paced, intricate and humanistic work of reportage."—Asian Review of Books

"Shishkin's book reads like a novel but is the stuff of hard-won journalism. Central Asia finally gets the treatment it damn well deserves."—Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan