(Book Review) Over a five-year period in the 2000s, Central Asia’s Fergana Valley saw two revolutions, the bloodiest government-ordered crackdown on protestors since China’s Tiananmen Square, and a wave of authoritarian abuses. The time was laced with geopolitical intrigue: The US had military bases in the region for the entire period, erected as supply hubs for the war in Afghanistan.
In his absorbing Restless Valley: Revolution, Murder and Intrigue in the Heart of Central Asia, Philip Shishkin reconstructs these events and others through the eyes of its participants. He succeeds, not by trying to provide a definitive or analytical account, but through an investigative eye for detail, probing interviews, biting wit, and insights refreshingly informed more often by references to contemporary popular culture than to the 19th-century travelogues that writers of such regional primers tend to fall back on. […]
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