An unforgettable journey through Central Asia, one of the most mysterious and history-laden regions of the world.
Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan became free of the Soviet Union in 1991. But though they are new to modern statehood, this is a region rich in ancient history, culture, and landscapes unlike anywhere else in the world.
Traveling alone, Erika Fatland is a true adventurer in every sense. In Sovietistan, she takes the reader on a compassionate and insightful journey to explore how their Soviet heritage has influenced these countries, with governments experimenting with both democracy and dictatorships.
In Kyrgyzstani villages, she meets victims of the tradition of bride snatching; she visits the huge and desolate Polygon in Kazakhstan where the Soviet Union tested explosions of nuclear bombs; she meets shrimp gatherers on the banks of the dried out Aral Sea; she witnesses the fall of a dictator.
She travels incognito through Turkmenistan, a country that is closed to journalists. She meets exhausted human rights activists in Kazakhstan, survivors from the massacre in Osh in 2010, and German Mennonites that found paradise on the Kyrgyzstani plains 200 years ago. We learn how ancient customs clash with gas production and witness the underlying conflicts between ethnic Russians and the majority in a country that is slowly building its future in nationalist colors.
Once the frontier of the Soviet Union, life follows another pace of time. Amidst the treasures of Samarkand and the brutalist Soviet architecture, Sovietistan is a rare and unforgettable adventure.
Norwegian social anthropologist Fatland (The Village of Angels) details her eight-month trip through "five of the newest countries in the world" in this fascinating memoir. Traveling through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan the former Soviet republics that all became independent when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 Fatland details the peculiarities of "the Stans" (Persian for " place' or lands' "): "Turkmenistan is more than eighty per cent desert, whereas more than ninety per cent of Tajikistan is mountains; the regime in Uzbekistan is so corrupt it's comparable to North Korea, while the people in Kyrgyzstan have deposed two presidents." But what Fatland finds throughout her travels is a nostalgia for the "good old days" when "the world was red... the shops were full of tinned food." Anachronistic practices still exist, such as the problem of bride snatching in Kyrgyz villages, and there are several desolate places, such as Polygon in Kazakhstan, where the Soviet Union tested nuclear weapons. Ultimately, Fatland concludes that these nations are "still struggling to find their identity, bridging the span between east and west." Her remarkable look at the region serves as a solid introduction to an area that remains little traveled by those from the West.