Reviews

Contrary to a majority of dictionaries published during the past decade on Central Asia, the present item responds to a genuinely modern encyclopaedic ambition.  In order to provide the largest possible vision in a modest volume, the editors have attributed a majority of notices to overall problems instead as to individual, more easily identified objects of knowledge.  Though of uneven length and precision, the notices, all written by specialists of international reputation, allow the readership to bring into focus the state of knowledge and research on a wide set of key issues in modern and contemporary Central Asian studies.  For instance: Eisener Reinhard, “Argarpolitik (sowjetische) [Agrarian Policy (Soviet)],” 19-21 (focuses on the respective destructuring impacts of Collectivisation in the 1930s, and of the New Lands Conquest of the 1950s in Northern Kazakhstan and Southwest Siberia); Albrecht Jutta, “Bildung [Education],” 37-9, tab., long bibliography (stresses the success of the Soviet struggle against illiteracy—through undiscussed statistics—before shedding light upon the newly independent states’ lesser investments during the 1990s, and the impact of this phenomenon on the rapidly declining percentage of children in full-time education, especially among girls); Geiss Paul Georg, “Clans und Clanstrukturen [Clans and Clan Structures],” 49-53 (introduces a tentative typology of tribal confederations in eighteenth and inneteenth-century Central Asia: ‘polycephalous’ supra-tribal as for the three major Kazakh Hordes and Khalkha Mongols; ‘monocephalous’ tribal as to the Kyrgyz and Karakalpaks; segmentary and ‘acephalous’ in the case of the Turkmens of the Trans-Caspian Region and the Pashtuns, before sketching the impact of nineteenth-century Russian colonisation, twentieth-century migration policies, and present-day privatisation on successive reappraisals of tribal and family kinship); Eschment Beate, “Grenzen [Boundaries],” 101-6 (provides a precise account of the ‘practical’ problems created since independence by the boundaries between former Soviet Central Asian republics, and of the solutions elaborated on bilateral bases since 1991); Muminov Ashirbek, “Islam in vor-sowjetischer Zeit [Islam in Pre-Soviet Time],” 119-24 (infra 482); Halbach Uwe, “Islam nach 1917 [Islam after 1917],” 124-32 (infra 474); Paul Jürgen, “Khanate und Emirate [Khanates and Emirates],” 147-52 (infra 279); Richter Elisabeth, “Kooperation, regionale [Cooperation, Regional],” 165-70 (introduces the Central Asian Cooperation, born in 2002 out of the failure of Central Asian states to integrate their respective international and military policies, and the Eurasian Economic Community created in 2000 on the basis of the customs union between Russia and Belarus and gradually enlarged to Central Asian states); Geiss Paul Georg, “Kultur, politische [Culture, Political],” 172-6 (infra 719); Kirchner Mark, “Literatur [Literature],” 181-4 (infra 514); Geiss Paul Georg, “Nationsbildung [Nation Building],” 201-5 (focuses on the reinforcement of the legal and political positions of titular national groups in former Soviet republics after independence, at the expense of other ethnic groups, especially the Europeans previously over-represented in the national state and party apparatus [Tajikistan being no exception from this viewpoint, contrary to what is assessed in the paper, whilst the essentialist notion of “regional clan”—applied to the ‘Khujandi’ faction in the Tajikistain apparatus—would have deserved clarification]; special paragraphs are devoted to Mongolia and Afghanistan); Bauer Birgit, “Ökologie [Ecology],” 214-8 (summarises the ecological problems created in Central Asia by the drying up of the Aral Sea, and by the nuclear and military biological heritage of the USSR; shortly describes the efforts made by the international community since the mid-1990s for coping with these difficulties); Geiss Paul Georg, “Rechtverständnis in vorsowjetischer Zeit [The Conception of Law in Pre-Soviet Time],” 229-33 (introduces the history of Islamic, Mongol, and varied kinds of customary law, and their mutual interaction in pre-modern times and under the Tsarist rule—with paragraphs on the impact of Russian and Cossack colonisation over the legal status of land in the northern part of the Steppe Territory); Kreyrenbroek Philip, Wendtland Antje, “Religionen, nicht-islamische [Religions, Non-Islamic],” 233-7 (infra 408); Sidikov Bahodir, “Seidenstrasse [Silk Road],” 245-9 (this rare foray into the long historical duration evokes the ‘invention’ of the Silk Roads by modern geography and archaeology; it also evokes the history of their varied branches, and their impact on civilisations); Rzehak Lutz, “Sprachen [Languages],” 252-7 (infra 516); Stadelbauer Jörg, “Städtebau und Städtentwicklung [City Planning and Evolution],” 359-61 (infra in 364); Halbach Uwe, “Terrorismus [Terrorism],” 270-2 [departing from the February 16, 1999 bombings in Tashkent, the author describes the succession of political and military measures taken by Central Asian administrations during the past eight years on the name of the struggle against terrorism; he also evokes the role played by countries like Russia and China in these measures, and rapidly sketches the role played by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the blossoming of political terror in Central Asia]; Sehring Jenniver, “Wasser und Wassermanagement [Water and Water Management],” 308-13 (depicts the water management policy implemented or projected in Central Asia during the late Soviet period, before shortly presenting the international measures adopted and institutions created since the mid-1990s).  More individualised items are attached to overall problems (e.g., Freitag-Wirminghaus Rainer, “Deutschland [Germany],” 57-9—casting light on this country’s specific political and scientific relationship with Central Asia).  Nonetheless, numerous geographical headwords have been retained:  Besides Central Asian newly independent states, Xinjiang, one find useful notices as varied as those on Turkey, Iran, Russia, India, Pakistan, China, Japan, the USA—all dealt with from the viewpoint of their present relation to Central Asia.  Curiously enough, if notices on Afghanistan, Tibet and Mongolia have been included into this catalogue, these entities are conspicuous by their absence in most of the dictionary’s remaining part.  Epistemological aspects have not been let aside, several notices providing intersting skimmings through key notions and issues (e.g., Stadelbauer Jörg, “Zentralasien als Begriff [Central Asia as a Concept],” 318-26, large bibliography [see supra 91]; Schönig Claus, “Zentralasien und Turkologie [Central Asia and Turkic Studies],” 326-8 [see supra 90]).  Each notice is followed by a short, but essential international bibliography.  In all, this dictionary modest by its size but successful by its scale provides the reader with a really handy tool for broaching (or refreshing one’s view on) Central Asia, as well as a rare global reference on the present state of Central Asian studies.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-1.3.C-111