Tajikistan in the New Central Asia – Book Review

by Christian Bleuer on 3/10/2008 · 1 comment

Please forgive me for reviewing a book that was published two years ago. But very few books are published on Tajikistan. That means you may have to go back a few years when discussing published works on Tajikistan.

The book, Tajikistan in the New Central Asia: Geopolitics, Great Power Rivalry and Radical Islam by Swedish political scientist Lena Jonson, is a rather expensive affair at $85 on Amazon. You may want to visit the library for this one. At this price it barely made its way onto my bookshelf. For example, Matteo Fumagalli’s forthcoming book Violence, Resistance and Uncertainty in Uzbekistan is, at $145 on Amazon, beyond my means. But such is the pricing for books that are marketed towards libraries and institutions.

Tajikistan in the new central asia

Jonson sets out to primarily analyze the 5 years of Tajikistan’s foreign policy after 9/11 when the country was suddenly being visited by the likes of Donald Rumsfeld (that’s Rumsfeld’s plane on the front cover). The shortcomings of the book are outlined by Shirin Akiner in her review in the Journal of Islamic Studies. Akiner is particularly dissatisfied with the numbers of pages dedicated to the history of Russian and Soviet domination, as well as the first 10 years of independence. But Akiner reaches the conclusion that this book is nonetheless a useful addition to the literature. I agree. It is possible to fill in the missing pieces with other books and papers.

The only problems I had were with plowing through the International Relations theory at the beginning of the book and with a few minor factual disagreements (that do not affect the overall argument). And I should warn you, this book is not pleasure reading. It is dry and academic. Which is fine with me, but may not be your cup of tea.

The most valuable part of the book is the description of President Rahmon’s consolidation of power and state authority, as well as with Tajikistan’s new era of international relations that look beyond Russia (but still including Russia), includes many international organizations (UNODC for example) and business ventures (i.e., aluminum). Other interesting sections of the book focus on the state of political Islam and on ethno-nationalism.

Bottom line? This should be on the reading list of grad students, NGO, IO and State Department/Foreign Ministry types. After reading this book you should be able to jump right into 2006 and start researching from there to get yourself up to date.

Next up, at some point in the future, will be Paul Bergne’s The Birth of Tajikistan.


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– author of 22 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

I am currently a PhD candidate at the Australian National University.

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{ 1 comment }

Michael Hancock March 11, 2008 at 10:06 am

I guess I’ll have to pick up a copy.

Is it unrealistic to hope that when I begin my own academic writing career that I can do it succinctly, clearly, and entertainingly? I don’t think it’s impossible – there are many non-fiction writers I enjoy reading that don’t exist solely by use of parenthetical statements and snark side-quips. I think there if a person is skilled enough and puts in the time, even the history of Central Asia can sound interesting.

I hope, anyway…

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