Textbooks for Central Asian Studies
A course from The School of Russian and Asian Studies
and The London School of Bishkek

The following textbooks are used or are recommended reading for Central Asian Studies, a study abroad course offered by The School of Russian and Asian Studies in partnership with The London School of Bishkek. Not all books listed as required reading will need to be purchased - some are available from the London School library. Please check with us to see which books will need to be purchased. Students wishing to begin reading before the start of the course or who wish to keep books for their personal libraries after the course, can purchase them at anytime, but please be aware that delivery will be much easier to arrange before going abroad (purchase before you leave home!). We recommend purchasing used copies where available. You may click on the title for a link to the books' pages on Amazon. You should take care to acquire all required texts before your departure to Kyrgyzstan. 

 Study Abroad
in Eurasia!


Bringing a laptop, netbook, or iPad is additionally highly recommended for all students. The London School of Bishkek uses an electronic, online textbook. While Kindles are available from the school to access the material, most students report that accessing the text from a laptop computer is considerably more convenient. This will also make doing research, writing papers, maintaining your required journal, and staying in touch with friends and family back home that much easier. For more on taking your computer abroad, click here.  

Required Reading:

Inside Central Asia
By Dilip Hiro

The former Soviet republics of Central Asia comprise a sprawling, politically pivotal, densely populated, and richly cultured area of the world. In this comprehensive new treatment, renowned political writer and historian Dilip Hiro places the politics, peoples, and cultural background of this critical region firmly into the context of current international focus. This book covers the political and cultural history of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Iran.

Central Asia in World History
By Peter B. Golden

Central Asia has been called the "pivot of history," a land where nomadic invaders and Silk Road traders changed the destinies of states that ringed its borders, including pre-modern Europe, the Middle East, and China. This book provides an engaging account of this important region, ranging from prehistory to the present, focusing largely on the unique melting pot of cultures that this region has produced over millennia.

Culture and Customs of the Central Asian Republics
By Rafis Abazov

"[C]entral Asian culture remains relatively unknown to the West. The Culture and Customs of the Central Asian Republics provides a concise yet thorough overview of the region. The book is greatly enriched by Rafis Abazov's insider knowledge of dynamic changes in the post-independence era….Coverage includes thoughts and religions, folklore, literature, media, cinema, performing and visual arts, gender and marriage, festival and social customs. Evocative photos, a map, a chronology, and a glossary compliment the text; and the selected bibliography (resource guide), provides a resource for curious readers to conduct further studies. This is the best source for students and general readers to extensive insight into the jewel of Eurasia."

A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia (V1)
By David Christian

This is a history of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia from the time of the first inhabitants of the region up to the break up of the Mongol Empire in 1260 AD. Inner Eurasia, as the author defines it, comprises most of the former Soviet Union and Russia's huge territories in Siberia; Russia's former empire in Central Asia; China's central Asian empire; and Mongolia, both the parts within China and those within the Mongolian People's Republic. The author presents Inner Eurasia as a coherent region with an underlying unity in geography and history despite its cultural and ecological variety. This volume, the first of two surveying this region, charts developments from the Old Stone Age, through changes under such peoples as the Scythians, the Huns and the Turks, to the emergence of an identifiable "Rus" - the society from which modern Russia and Ukraine have evolved. The book sets political events in the broadest context of social and economic change, linking evolution to the vast geography of the territories it describes. Together with volume II covering the period up to the present, the work represents the most thorough, up-to-date study of this fascinating and much misunderstood region of the world.

  Books For
Central Asian Studies:

The New Central Asia: The Regional Impact of International Actors
By Emilian Kavalski

This book focuses on Central Asia's place in world affairs and how international politics of state-building has affected the Asian region, thus filling the gaps in ongoing discussions on the rise of Asia in global governance. It also attempts to 'generalize and contextualize the Central Asian experience' and re-evaluate its comparative relevance, by explaining the complex dynamics of Central Asian politics through a detailed analysis of the effects of major international actors - both international organizations as well as current and rising great powers.

A History of Inner Asia
By Svat Soucek

This accessible introduction to Inner Asia traces its history from the arrival of Islam, through the various dynasties to the Russian conquest. The contemporary focus rests on the seven countries that make up present-day Eurasia: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Sinkiang and Mongolia. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, renewed interest in these countries has prompted considerable debate. While a divergent literature has evolved, no comprehensive survey of the region exists. This book will fill the gap and become indispensable for anyone studying or visiting the area.

Recommended Pre-Course Reading (Optional):

The Great Game
By Peter Hopkirk

Peter Hopkirk, a former reporter for The Times of London with wide experience of the region, tells an extraordinary story of ambition, intrigue, and military adventure. His sensational narrative moves at breakneck pace, yet even as he paints his colorful characters--tribal chieftains, generals, spies, Queen Victoria herself--he skillfully provides a clear overview of the geographical and diplomatic framework. The Great Game was Russia's version of America's "Manifest Destiny" to dominate a continent, and Hopkirk is careful to explain Russian viewpoints as fully as those of the British. The story ends with the fall of Tsarist Russia in 1917, but the demise of the Soviet Empire (hastened by a decade of bloody fighting in Afghanistan) gives it new relevance, as world peace and stability are again threatened by tensions in this volatile region of great mineral wealth and strategic significance.

Recommended Reference (Optional):

Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of Central Asia 
By Rafis Abazov

From the Silk Road to the Great Game, Central Asia has long been a region of great strategic, political, and economic importance. Currently the home of large oil reserves, Islamic terrorists, and new democracies, Central Asia is of growing visibility to Americans. In this atlas, Rafis Abazov provides 50 two-color maps, each accompanied by a facing page of explanatory text, that graphically illuminate the region`s history tracing back to the 8th-7th centuries B.C. From the spread of Islam to the invasion of the Mongols, the area has been at the crossroads of some of the world`s most important developments, all succinctly explained in this book. Students will regard it as a useful reference, and general readers will value it for its clarity and wealth of information.

Other Interesting Reading (Optional):

Central Asia's Second Chance
By Martha Brill Olcott

Central Asia, a critical battlefield in the war on terror, is vitally important and still unfamiliar even to many foreign policy specialists. Regional expert Martha Brill Olcott highlights the deep contradiction running through U.S. policy toward Central Asia. Partnerships with antidemocratic regimes have created long-term security risks and the international community has remained complicit in its lack of effective engagement. As recent events in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan demonstrate, tensions in the region lie close to the surface: If we are to prevent these states from descending into chaos, the international community must identify solutions to the economic, political, and social challenges confronting them.

By Chingiz Aitmatov

The Second World War is raging, and Jamilia’s husband is off fighting at the front. Accompanied by Daniyar, a sullen newcomer who was wounded on the battlefield, Jamilia spends her days hauling sacks of grain from the threshing floor to the train station in their village in the Caucasus. Spurning men’s advances and wincing at the dispassionate letters she receives from her husband, Jamilia falls helplessly in love with the mysterious Daniyar in this heartbreakingly beautiful tale. A classic from the award-winning Kyrgyz novelist Chingiz Aitmatov.

Recommended Reading from the bookshelf of Dr. Eugene Huskey

SRAS asked Dr. Eugene Huskey, an expert on Central Asia as well as the Director of Stetson University's Russian Studies Program and a professor of political science, for his favorite books on Central Asia. Below is a list of the top books he keeps on his shelf.

Islam after CommunismIslam after Communism
Islam after Communism reasons that the fear of a rampant radical Islam that dominates both Western thought and many of Central Asia's governments should be tempered by an understanding of the politics of antiterrorism, which allows governments to justify their own authoritarian policies by casting all opposition as extremist. Comparing the secularization of Islam in Central Asia to experiences in Turkey, the former Yugoslavia, and other secular Muslim states, the author lays the groundwork for a nuanced and well-informed discussion of the forces at work in this crucial region.

Central Asia's Second Chance
Central Asia, a critical battlefield in the war on terror, is vitally important and still unfamiliar even to many foreign policy specialists. Regional expert Martha Brill Olcott highlights the deep contradiction running through U.S. policy toward Central Asia. Partnerships with antidemocratic regimes have created long-term security risks and the international community has remained complicit in its lack of effective engagement. As recent events in Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan demonstrate, tensions in the region lie close to the surface: If we are to prevent these states from descending into chaos, the international community must identify solutions to the economic, political, and social challenges confronting them.

The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia
Ahmed Rashid, whose masterful account of Afghanistan's Taliban regime became required reading after September 11, turns his legendary skills as an investigative journalist to five adjacent Central Asian Republics-Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan-where religious repression, political corruption, and extreme poverty have created a fertile climate for militant Islam. Based on groundbreaking research and numerous interviews, Rashid explains the roots of fundamentalist rage in Central Asia, describes the goals and activities of its militant organizations, including Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, and suggests ways of neutralizing the threat and bringing stability to the troubled region. A timely and pertinent work, Jihad is essential reading for anyone who seeks to gain a better understanding of a region we overlook at our peril.

Everyday Life Central AsiaEveryday Life in Central Asia
For its citizens, contemporary Central Asia is a land of great promise and peril. While the end of Soviet rule has opened new opportunities for social mobility and cultural expression, political and economic dynamics have also imposed severe hardships. In this lively volume, contributors from a variety of disciplines examine how ordinary Central Asians lead their lives and navigate shifting historical and political trends. Provocative stories of Turkmen nomads, Afghan villagers, Kazakh scientists, Kyrgyz border guards, a Tajik strongman, guardians of religious shrines in Uzbekistan, and other narratives illuminate important issues of gender, religion, power, culture, and wealth. A vibrant and dynamic world of life in urban neighborhoods and small villages, at weddings and celebrations, at classroom tables, and around dinner tables emerges from this introduction to a geopolitically strategic and culturally fascinating region.

Geopolitics and the Birth of Nations
During the anti-Gorbachev coup in August 1991, most communist leaders from Soviet central Asia backed the plotters. Within weeks of the coup's collapse, those same leaders — now transformed into ardent nationalists — proclaimed the independence of their nations, adopted new flags and new slogans, and discovered a new patriotism. How were these new nations built among peoples without any traditional nationalist heritage and no history of independent governance? Roy argues that Soviet practice had always been to build on local institutions and promote local elites, and that Soviet administration — as opposed to Soviet rhetoric — was always surprisingly decentralized in the farflung corners of the empire. Thus, with home-grown political leaders and administrative institutions, national identities in central Asia emerged almost by stealth. Roy's analysis of the new states in central Asia — Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikstan, Kirghizstan and Azerbaijan — provides a glimpse of the future of an increasingly fragmented and dangerous region.

Oasis Identities
Drawing upon extensive fieldwork in the Xinjiang oasis of Turpan, Justin Jon Rudelson assesses the factors that undermine the creation of a pan-Uyghur identity. He explains the historical and contemporary impact of the geography of the region, where oases are relatively isolated from one another; the fragmented visions and cross-cutting allegiances of the three major social groups (intellectuals, peasants, and merchants); and the inability of the Uyghur elite who spearheaded the nationalist movement to transcend their own provincialism, thereby engendering rival oasis identities andsubverting ethnic unity.

Land Beyond the River
In this book, Monica Whitlock goes far beyond the headlines. Using eyewitness accounts, unpublished letters and firsthand reporting, she enters into the lives of the Central Asians and reveals a dramatic and moving human story unfolding over three generations. There is Muhammadjan, called 'Hindustani', a diligent seminary student in the holy city of Bukhara until the 1917 revolution tore up the old order. Exiled to Siberia as a shepherd and then conscripted into the Red Army, he survived to become the inspiration for a new generation of clerics. Henrika was one of tens of thousands of Poles who walked and rode through Central Asia on their way to a new life in Iran, where she lives to this day. Then there were the proud Pioneer children who grew up in the certainty that the Soviet Union would last forever, only to find themselves in a new world that they had never imagined. In Central Asia, the extraordinary is commonplace and there is not a family without a remarkable story to tell. Land Beyond the River is both a chronicle of a century and a clear-eyed, authoritative view of contemporary events.

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