Reviews

This collective volume is the result of a seminar of comparative studies held in the SOAS.  It is divided into several sets of papers, each dealing with a specific period of the history of Central Asia since the end of wwi.  The first section is made of studies on the revolutionary and early Soviet periods (1917-1924):  After a paper on the role played by Mikhail Frunze in the organisation of the Turkistan Front, on the basis of Russian and Western primary narrative sources (Alexander Marshall, “Turkfront: Frunze and the Development of Soviet Counter-Insurgency in Central Asia,” 5-29), one finds a study on the impact of the lack of coordination between the government of the Emirate of Bukhara and the leaders of the Autonomy of Turkistan upon the failure of vernacular resistance to the Bolshevik takeover in Central Asia (Paul Bergne, “The Kokand Autonomy, 1917-18: Political Background, Aims and Reasons for Failure,” 30-44), then a paper curiously deprived of a critical apparatus of any kind about the mutual opposition of, mainly, Uzbek and Kyrgyz Communist leaders on the national delimitation implemented from 1924 onwards (Arslan Koichiev, “Ethno-Territorial Claims in the Fergana Valley during the Process of National Delimitation, 1924-7,” 45-56), followed by a contribution on the agrarian reforms of the 1920s in Central Asia, consisting in an overview of memoirs by Turkistani émigrés and of works by Western researchers (Gerard O’Neill, “Land and Water ‘Reform’ in the 1920s : Agrarian Revolution or Social Engineering ?,” 57-79).  This first section is followed by another one on the process on nation building at various moments of the history of the short twentieth century:  A first, comparative study reviews the scientific literature, mainly Western, about the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 and that of the Uzbek SSR in 1924; the author insists on the mutual opposition between, on the first hand, resolution and continuity in the action of the regime of Ankara, and on the other hand the overall aporia of the Soviet regime confronted in Tashkent, in the 1920s-30s, with the issues of nation building (Andrew Segars, “Nation Building in Turkey and Uzbekistan: The Use of Language and History in the Creation of National Identity,” 80-105); then comes a paper on the questions of collective identity of exogenous national groups in Kyrgyzstan (Robert Lowe, “Nation Building and Identity in the Kyrgyz Republic”, 106-131), followed by a very short study on the successive political uses of the historical reference to the uprising of the khan Kenesary (1837-47) in post-wwii Kazakhstan (Henri Fruchet, “The Use of History: The Soviet Historiography of Khan Kenesary Kasimov,” 132-145).  A last set of papers deals with the economic and social transformations of post-Soviet Central Asia.  The first one sketches, according to a classical scheme, paths for comparison between the economic and social development of Soviet Central Asia in the 1950s-90s and that observable during the same period in the European regions of the USSR and in the Near East (Alex Stringer, “Soviet Development in Central Asia,” 146-166).  It is followed by a paper that insists on the political use of the questions of ecology by present-day presidential administrations, and on the weak perspective of popular participation in the debates on these questions (Lars Jalling, “Environment Issues in Central Asia: A Source of Hope or Despair?,” 167-179).  The next contribution is a comparative study, based mostly on press releases, on the progression of political Islam in Kazakhstan and in Uzbekistan (Tom Everett-Heath, “Instability and Identity in a Post-Soviet World: Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan,” 181-204).  It is followed by a more substantial paper on the politicisation of neighbourhood units (mahallas) in Uzbekistan since the 1990s (Elise Massicard & Tommaso Trevisani, “The Uzbek Mahalla: Between State and Society,” 205-218).  The volume is concluded with two panoramic studies: the first one on the progression of “fundamentalism” in Central Asia, that consists merely in a comment of the recent bibliography in English language (Petra Steinberger, “‘Fundamentalism’ in Central Asia: Reasons, Reality and Prospects,” 219-243), the other one on hydraulic resources as a major economic and political stake of the decades to come in Central Asia (Kai Wegerich, “Water: The Difficult Path to a Sustainable Future for Central Asia,” 244-263).  The overall volume gives a general impression of synthesis work based for the most part on the existing Anglo-Saxon bibliography.  Good studies of undergraduate level neighbour with a more limited number of more complete papers based on a substantial fieldwork—both united by a common taste for theorisation.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-1.3.B-101