In This Review

Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus
Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus
By Robert D. Kaplan
Random House, 2000, 384 pp.

Touted as the sequel to Kaplan's Balkan Ghosts, which reportedly influenced President Clinton's early policy thinking on the Balkans, Eastward to Tartary practices the same style. A fine attention to the meaningful minutiae of daily life is mixed with bold assertions about historical legacies that presumably still shape human behavior in these countries. Kaplan sees fault lines separating the "Europe" of Rome, Catholicism, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment from what lies to the East -- Byzantium, Orthodox Christianity, and Islam. More demonstrable is his depiction of how all these countries emerged from the breakup of Ottoman and Soviet empires, which shattered the multinational imperial culture of old. In most cases, the national culture -- and the nation-state -- remain unachieved. And he suspects that the real kulturkampf is within each country, between those tiny, increasingly rich, urban sectors linked to the world economy and the still impoverished and largely unchanged countryside. Like V. S. Naipaul in his pessimism, Niccolo Machiavelli in his realism, and Herodotus in his Eurocentrism, Kaplan is an able practitioner of the travel literature genre.