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Sovietistan: A Journey Through Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
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January 2020 > Sovietistan: A Journey Through Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan

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message 1: by Men (last edited Jan 15, 2020 07:27AM) (new) - added it

Men Blazers (meninblazers) | 26 comments Mod
This masterpiece is one of the most engrossing, witty, perceptive travelogues I have engaged with in a long, long time. Fatland, a Norwegian anthropologist, is an incredible storyteller. The territories she covers are mesmerizing. The translation is phenomenal. It really captures the personal tone of the authors voice as she travels around these 5 Central Asian nations that I knew so little about. All 5 were part of the Soviet Union for 70 years. They have all become independent or quasi-independent and developed different personalities. Some are oil rich. Some are grimly poor. Some are terrifyingly autocratic. Some are toying with democracy. At the heart of it is the balance between nomadic tradition, modernity, and an author hellbent on opening the readers eyes to a world we know so little about (so embarrassingly little about for me). This is a must read. A must read.

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Jamie Weis | 1 comments The chapter on Turkmenistan was absolutely fascinating. It is unthinkable how absolute power can transform a person (dictator) into believing they are a God.

Aaron Bumann | 1 comments Absolutely loved this read, a great recommendation. First off, as a pediatric dentist I did not know there were dentist dictators, what a mind blow for me! Though certainly not someone to aspire to be like, it was a shocking and interesting way to start the book. Overall I found myself time and time again thinking to myself, “I am glad we do not have the burden of history that these cultures have.” To have once been the pinnacle of world thought and civilization (Ibn Sina, Ibn Musa, Biruni, and so many others) to now be impoverished either monetarily or morally would be a hard blow for any culture to handle. Not only that, such long histories breed long standing stories of loss and distrust. It was lovely to read the glimpses and glimmers of personal hope in the midst of what was often a tragic trip through Central Asia, what interesting characters she was able to run into. In the end I think travel is really about broadening your perspective and then allowing that perspective a place in your day to day life. My perspective and hope is that we are able to overcome our own history of loss, mistreatment, and mistrust, and that this book can be our guide to what can happen if we do not.

message 4: by Gabriel (last edited Mar 17, 2020 06:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gabriel | 4 comments This is a book that would not have made my short list if not for Rog's recommendation (though I will admit a fascination with post-Soviet countries), and I'm so glad I read it. A perfect balance of travelogue and history lesson of five countries that, after being yanked into the Soviet Union are still struggling to find their identities and are unsure if that means going forward, or back to the past. The writing is approachable and illustrative, and the translation wasn't noticeable. I flew through the book even quicker than I expected and could not recommend it more.

Given that there is an entire chapter an Uzbekistan, and Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek, has a good relationship Everton... I cannot recommend to Kopites. #UTFT

message 5: by Eric (new)

Eric Brinkmann | 1 comments I completely agree with Gabriel - I probably would have never found this book, and it was amazing! A fascinating window into a part of the world I knew nothing about, and so well written. Thanks Rog!

Patrick Tarbox | 1 comments Just finished this and really enjoyed it, so well done Rog!

The chapter in Tajikistan was my favorite, it was a very human and uplifting chapter, which is needed in a book that while entertaining and interesting, also has its dark and difficult sides (the stories about bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan was an important, but difficult read).

I am a traveler, and have been fortunate to see a lot of the world. These are five countries I have never been to and probably never will go to (reading about the hurdles to get into Turkmeninstan makes getting into Russia seem like traveling from Nebraska to Iowa), but the author does a wonderful job bringing these places to life and what they are about and what they are trying to be.


Valerie | 13 comments Great read! I especially like the part about Mennonites in Kyrgyzstan—a part of history that I only recently learned about even though my own ethnicity is Mennonite. My people came to Pennsylvania in the 1730s. I knew about Mennonites being invited to Russia by Catherine the Great but did not know that after many left for Canada, South America and the US west, others went to Kyrgyzstan.

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