Reviews

Without claiming to be able to rival with Yuri Bregel’s sumptuous Historical Atlas of Central Asia (Leiden: Brill [Handbook of Oriental Studies: 8 / Uralic & Central Asian Studies: 9], 2003), this volume provides students in Central Asian history with a convenient, portable and financially accessible reference work on the historical geography of the five former Soviet Central Asian republics. (Such a choice to circumscribe the area covered by the atlas to these republics remains extremely common in ex-Soviet human and social sciences. It amounts to the retro-projection of a recently shaped political space towards more remote pasts. A more subtle choice could perhaps have been made than the lining up, by the author, of the same map frame from the first to the last page of his atlas, over twenty-seven centuries of history.) Preceded by a short and very simplified index of the variations of region and district names before and after 1991 (a more detailed assessment and the inclusion of city and village names ― with, in many cases, up to half a dozen different denominations in the course of the twentieth century ― would have necessitated a whole dictionary), the collection of fifty maps is divided into six sections of uneven significance: (1) introductory maps on the physical geography of the whole region, its natural resources and present-day demography; (2) early history, from the sixth century BC to the sixth century CE (pre- and proto-history have been completely omitted); (3) an Islamic ‘golden age’ [sic] from the Arab conquest of the seventh century to the collapse of Khwarezm in the early twelfth century (dynasty by dynasty, with one single map on Central Asia’s major trade routes during this whole period of time); (4) a long period of ‘decline’ from the early-thirteenth-century Mongol invasion to early modern Khanates and Hordes; (5) the Russian conquest and dominance, followed by the national delimitations of the early Soviet period; (6) a series of simple administrative maps of the independent states after 1991, with special items on the main territorial and border disputes of the 1990s-2000s. Each map is introduced by a short text of historical explanation. If many of the maps presented in the volume will appear excessively simplistic to many readers, notably for their ignorance of the sometimes significant variations in time of the territory of many Central Asian polities, the volume nevertheless fulfils a lacuna of the market and provides a wide potential readership with a convenient elementary introduction to the historical geography of Central Asia.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-2.1-65