Author and historian Dilip Hiro's new book, Inside Central Asia, offers an invaluable overview of some of the most interesting, and misunderstood, countries in the world: Uzbekistan, Turkemenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, Turkey, and Iran.
Dow Jones Newswire notes: "The nations of Central Asia are often referred to as "the Stans," a shorthand term that implies obscurity and exoticism at the same time. The region falls through the cracks between the Middle East, Russia and South Asia; there are few well-known"Central Asian studies" programs in Western and Asian universities; and "Kazakh" and "Uzbek" are words that sound more like punchlines than actual languages and cultures with long, fascinating histories. When a newsworthy event from the region happens, experts hurry to the cable-news networks, and then the region sinks back into oblivion. Dilip Hiro's new book is an attempt to remedy that situation. An update to his 1995 volume Between Marx and Muhammad, Mr. Hiro's Inside Central Asia chronicles the 20th-century history of the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia, and brackets them with chapters on Turkey and Iran for context. A newcomer to Central Asia will find Mr. Hiro's book an approachable introduction that is free of both academic jargon and cultural stereotypes. . Mr. Hiro provides good coverage to all the issues, as well as to the political history of the period just before the breakup of the Soviet Union, which is crucial for understanding how the region ended up the way it did."