x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Book review: the real situation in post-9/11 Central Asia

Philip Shishkin chronicles the turbulent events in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan that followed the 9/11 attacks in Restless Valley.

Restless Valley
Philip Shishkin
Yale University Press

Former Wall Street Journal correspondent Philip Shishkin's account of the turbulent recent history of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan - former Soviet states that found themselves hosting US bases vital to its operations in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks - is the kind of book for which this region has been long underserved.

Based in Bishkek, Shishkin either witnessed most of the events described or was present in their immediate aftermath, which is why much of the text is skilled reportage in which he displays a fine eye for detail and particularly for the human touches that underscore major events. That's the strongest part of Restless Valley: Revolution, Murder and Intrigue in the Heart of Central Asia, but for all the lavish description, there is little analysis of the grander themes driving it all. It's up to the reader to conclude whether that means Shishkin credits them with the intelligence to let them reach their own conclusions or whether they're missing out on fully understanding the political and social currents and eddies that influence life in the "Stans".