Elaborated by a multidisciplinary team of predominantly young, though well-confirmed researchers in linguistics, history and social sciences of Central Asia, this attractively edited volume of the journal published since 1996 by the French Institute of Central Asian Studies (Tashkent) answers to a double ambition: (1) introducing the Tian Shan, the Pamir and the Hindu Kush in their historical, cultural unity—rarely assessed by modern research because of the historical confrontation between the Russian colonisation from the north and its British counterpart from the south; (2) questioning stereotypic representations on mountain zones as, for instance, sanctuaries of ‘archaism’ or ‘authenticity’.  Several contributions insist on particular on the diversity of the population of the Central Asian mountain zones, others reveal a world confronted, especially during the past decades, with deep and rapid transformations.  Between the revival of the Isma‘iliyya in Tajikistani Badakhshan—now exposed to a new-brand proselytism, in which economy underlies behind the spiritual dimension—and projects for the creation of an “ethnic and cultural reserve” in the Yaghnob Valley (A. Gunâ [Gunya], “Dynamique et stabilité de la communauté montagnarde du Yaghnob (Tadjikistan du nord) [Dynamics and Stability of the Mountain-Dweller Community of the Yaghnob (Northern Tajikistan)],” 161-78), “it becomes rather obvious the mountain-dweller communities are more than ever threatened by the schemes that the global society tries to impose upon them” (foreword by Svetlana Jacquesson, 11).  

The unifying theme of articles devoted to the agro-pastoral economies of Central Asia is the redefinition of the place and role of mountain and of its resources at the end of the Soviet period.  One of the most interesting questions consists of assessing whether the current re-appropriation of mountain areas goes with a “return” to the pastoral practices of old.  The reappearance of an agro-pastoral economy in the mountains of Uzbekistan (Alain Cariou, “Résistance et adaptation de l’économie agropastorale des montagnes d’Ouzbékistan [Resistance and Adaptation of the Agro-Pastoral Economy of the Mountains of Uzbekistan],” 179-202), the restoration of pastoral breading in Kyrgyzstan (Svetlana Jacquesson, “Au cœur du Tian Chan: histoire et devenir de la transhumance au Kirghizstan [In the Heartland of the Tian Shan: History and Evolution of Transhumance in Kyrgyzstan],” 203-44) are achieved nowadays at the family scale.  This is event more easily observable in western Mongolia, where traditional schemes have been less drastically changed during the Soviet period (Peter Finke, “Le pastoralisme dans l’ouest de la Mongolie: contraintes, motivations et variations [Pastoral Life in Western Mongolia: Constraints, Motivations and Variations],” 245-65).

The other contributions have been reviewed separately in varied chapters of the present volume: François Jacquesson, “Les langues indo-iraniennes du Pamir et de l’Hindou Kouch,” 15-60 (infra 558); S. N. Abašin, “Le culte d’Iskandar Zu-l-Qarnayn chez les montagnards d’Asie Centrale,” 61-86 (infra 452); Alexandre Papas, “Soufis du Badakhchân: un renouveau confrérique entre l’Inde et l’Asie Centrale,” 87-102 (infra 489); V. I. Buškov & T. S. Kalandarov, “Le passé et le présent des populations du Pamir occidental,” 103-18 (supra 133); Sarfaroz Niyozov, “The Realities of Being a Woman Teacher in the Mountains of Tajikistan,” 119-60 (infra 649).  Beyond a rare thematic and disciplinary diversity, all the articles gathered in the volume perfectly responds to the general problematic of the openness of mountain areas and of their permanent evolution, ‘accelerated’ by the transition from socialism.  From this viewpoint, beyond its subject the present volume brings a significant contribution to the necessary reappraisal of collective representations on Central Asia’s mountain areas and mountain-dweller communities, and more generally to the issue of the relations between mountain-dweller communities and the global society.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-2.4-138