These three volumes are part of a new growth industry--writing about the newly independent states of Central Asia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. By far the most intellectually stimulating book to emerge on this topic in the past year is the one edited by Banuazizi and Weiner. The editors explore the idea that the breakup of empires leads to civil wars and regional conflicts among successor states. There are plenty of historical examples. The breakup of the Ottoman Empire was accompanied by the Balkan wars. The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg empire triggered conflicts in both the Balkans and Central Europe. After the Second World War, the withdrawal of the British, French, Dutch, Americans, and Portuguese from their overseas colonies left unstable states and regional conflicts.
Among other insightful essays, Boris Rumer, a fellow at the Russian Research Center at Harvard University, cogently explores the relations between Russia and the new Central Asian states. Sabri Sayari, executive director of the Institute of Turkish Studies in Washington, writes about Turkey's role in the region. An informative essay by Martha Brill Olcott on the five elite groups in Central Asia today: the former functionaries of the Communist Party; the functionaries of the military-industrial complex and Russian elite more generally; the intellectuals; the religious establishment; and the participants in the "shadow economy." And there is a good concluding chapter by Nancy Lubin on the challenges Central Asia holds for the United States.
The Ferdinand volume is a solid collection of essays on the five new Central Asian republics sponsored by the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House in London. The book by Haghayeghi focuses on the Islamic revival in Central Asia, which it concludes is moderate and not anti-Western. But it warns that both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan could yet experience political turmoil with religious dimensions because of the governments' harsh treatment of Islamic forces.