Kazakhstan, Kirgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have all become independent states in central Asia, following the break-up of the USSR. All have Muslim majorities and ancient histories, but are otherwise very different. This book provides an introduction to the region. Rashid gives a history of each country, including its incorporation into Tsarist Russia to the present day. He provides basic socio-economic information and explains the diverse political situations. He focuses primarily on the underlying issues confronting these societies: the legacy of Soviet rule; ethnic tensions; the position of women; the future of Islam; the question of nuclear proliferation; and the fundamental choices over economic strategy, political system and external orientation which lie ahead.
'Ahmed Rashid writes concisely, keeping up a rapid pace starting with the historical background of the region, looking in turn at its five republics - Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - and finally at their common interests and rivalries… Rashid's book is eminently dispassionate and unideological.' - International Herald Tribune