Of Lumps, Places, and So Forth

by Nathan Hamm on 4/23/2004 · 5 comments

I always applaud people who test the sandy, brackish waters of Central Asia, so welcome to Scout, who brings us Bloggin the Stans. If too many others start covering the region, our only claim to uniqueness in the blogosphere will be that we are the only Central Asia blog with rotating banners. Well, that, and with my occasional (I think I’m down to twice per week) rants, this is probably by far the most conservative of all blogs regularly focusing on Central Asia.

I can almost guarantee that I’ll rarely agree with someone who has a Chomsky link on their roll. Something about being too free and loose with the facts and suggesting connections that don’t exist really gets to me.

Jeremy’s post on this new addition mentions that he has quibbles with the idea of lumping together all the “stans.” I do as well. This blog often gets tagged as an Uzbekistan blog–for good reason. It’s what I know, it’s where I lived. However, many who have read for a while may notice that I tend to talk about Georgia a lot, Azerbaijan has popped up occasionally, and I love to make fun of Turkmenbashi. This is really more of a “southern former Soviet Union” blog. Sure, I mention Afghanistan from time to time. But, even though it’s got tons of Tajiks and Uzbeks, I wouldn’t say it’s a place that fits my experience.

Uzbekistan may be just north of Afghanistan, but at all like the Taliban (I know, the permalinks don’t work right), not a chance (and this has since been noted).

I guess my point is that the Soviet experience makes “Russian Turkestan” a very different place than, say, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. Whether hoary old orientalist, journalist, or average joe, it’s important to remember that known categories don’t really apply to this part of the world. And, as long as we’re coming from a blank slate perspective, let’s drop the tired old notion that America’s to blame for everything wrong there, OK? (I’d go into that more, but, I’m not even going to be sly about this, it’s bait–maybe I’ll get a chance to write a practice essay for the Foreign Service Exam–which is Saturday, wish me luck).

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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scout April 23, 2004 at 3:39 am

I am blogging the stans because I am curious about them, not because I am an expert, so your blog keeps that degree of uniqueness. ๐Ÿ™‚

As to why I chose the “stans” to be lumped together, it’s because I wanted to cover the region without getting into too many countries, so this seemed like as good a way as any to isolate a set number of states and still cast a pretty wide net culturally and by way of governmental styles.

I don’t blame America for “everything bad that is going on over there”, I don’t even know what is going on over there yet. I will look at the region with an eye on what America’s interests kick up, which I think will inevitably be a mixed bag.

Nathan April 23, 2004 at 7:52 am

I’m glad to have more people covering them. It’s good to limit, otherwise, you’ll get like me and eventually cover places like Georgia, which you had no intention of doing in the first place ๐Ÿ™‚

The blame comment is pretty much from the uranium dealy. I’m a little skeptical that we get much, if any of our uranium from them. Nukem was mentioned as a source of a loan in the Interfax piece, not necessarily a purchaser. I would think that they still mostly supply Soviet reactors, but I certainly could be wrong.

As a little aside, I used to live near that facility.

Tatyana April 23, 2004 at 10:03 am

Soviet experience do makes Central Asia a very special place indeed. I suspect 70 yrs ago Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan and Turkmenia were very much like Afghanistan today. Hey, have you ever had a chance to see a comedy by Motyl’),
WHITE SUN OF THE DESERT (Beloe solntse pustyni) Russian 1970 (could be sent on loan here)
A soldier of the Red Army named Sukhov has been fighting in the Russian Civil War in Russian Asia for many years. Just as he is about to return home to his wife, Sukhov is chosen to guard and protect the harem of a guerilla leader (Abdulla). Abdulla is wanted by the Red Army and left his harem behind because the women hindered him. Sukhov’s task proves to be more difficult than he imagined…

As an aside, too – I used to live in Chirchik when was of mature age of 1 to 2 y.o. – right next to ‘Lead-Magnium Combinat’, then very new and puffing away the smokes of “industrialization”…

PF May 1, 2004 at 10:52 pm

Tatyana, that’s a great movie.

Nathan May 2, 2004 at 12:34 am

Though I can’t think of any real strong selling points for Chirchik, I have one helluva strong attachment to that city. I did a lot of my training there, got viciously drunk on many things (including port wine from a carton) at and around the Chemical College, and had my (empty) wallet stolen there. One of my best friends in the Corps lived there with a great family and it was always fun to visit them a live like little khans, just eating and sleeping and taking our time with everything.

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