A gripping journey through some of the planet’s most remote and challenging terrain and its peoples, in search of why democracy has yet to thrive in lands it seemed so recently ready to overtake Across the largest landmass on earth, in lands once conquered by Genghis Khan and exploited by ruthless Communist regimes, autocratic and dictatorial states are again arising, growing wealthy on petrodollars and low-cost manufacturing.
More and more, they are challenging theWest.
Media reports focus on developments in Moscow and Beijing, but the peoples inhabiting the vast expanses in between remain mostly unseen and unheard, their daily lives and aspirations scarcely better known to us now than they were in ColdWar days.Tayler finds, among many others, a dissident Cossack advocating mass beheadings, a Muslim in Kashgar calling on the United States to bomb Beijing, and Chinese youths in Urumqi desiring nothing more than sex, booze, and rock ’n’ roll—all while confronting over and over again the contradiction of people who value liberty and the free market but idealize tyrants who oppose both.
From the steppes of southern Russia to the conflict-ridden Caucasus Mountains to the deserts of central Asia and northern China,Tayler shows that our maps have gone blank at the worst possible time.
Tayler (Siberian Dawn) takes readers on an extraordinary adventure across the largest landmass on earth, from Russia through the Caucasus into South Ossetia and Georgia, on to Central Asia and Kazakhstan, and across Xinjiang and Mongolia. Equal parts history, politics, economic theory and anthropology, he brings into sharp focus the ordinary lives behind the news headlines. Of particular interest are two recurring discoveries he makes replacing totalitarian dictators with democratically elected (often U.S.-backed) leaders opens the door to enormous corruption, and that where there is electricity, there is always a disco. Tayler marshals hundreds of years of history, from the conquests of Genghis Khan through the dislocation caused by WWI and WWII to the Chinese Communist revolution and the glossy, urban China of today. While the author's approach to exploration is haphazard at times, his impressive ability to build instant rapport and cull local knowledge in a remarkably short span of time gives his journey steady momentum. Tayler conveys his encounters in prose that is as richly textured as the stories he gathers in some of the remotest places imaginable.