Until just recently, Central Asia had all but disappeared from the world’s consciousness. Swallowed up by the Soviet Union in the early part of the 20th century, places like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan simply vanished anonymously from the world stage.
After gaining their independence towards the end of the century and struggling through a period of economic hardship, however, the ‘Stans of the former USSR are back in the spotlight thanks to oil deposits and large Muslim populations.
Back in the spotlight, you ask? When was a place like Kazakhstan ever in the spotlight?
Central Asia was actually a major center of conflict and interest in the 19th century as Russia and Britain fought over the region in a long running series of affairs known as the Great Game. While this conflict has mostly been forgotten by the modern world, one amazing author has struggled to keep it alive through a series of commanding books that are some of the finest historical reads you’ll ever come across. Author Peter Hopkirk has written a handful of novels dealing with the Great Game which are now, according to The Telegraph (UK), being re-released due to increased interest in the region.
Hopkirk’s finest work, appropriately titled The Great Game, is such an amazing read involving spies, espionage, and double-agents that it is almost impossible to accept the fact that everything mentioned is true. If you’re planning on traveling through the region, be sure to read it; Hopkirk referenced nearly ever place I visited in Uzbekistan. If you become a fan, and you will, you can move on to Foreign Devils on the Silk Road and Trespassers on the Roof of the World-two books whose alluring titles should whet your appetite for more.