In This Review

Restless Valley: Revolution, Murder, and Intrigue in the Heart of Central Asia
Restless Valley: Revolution, Murder, and Intrigue in the Heart of Central Asia
By Philip Shishkin
Yale University Press, 2013, 328 pp

Corruption, repression, drugs, and economic wreckage hardly count as news in Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan. But rarely does an outsider get to see and feel them as intimately as Shishkin, a Russian-born journalist who writes for Western media and who has made his way into virtually every turbulent moment in the recent history of these countries. He was in the streets of Bishkek during Kyrgyzstan’s 2005 Tulip Revolution and in the White House -- the seat of executive power in the country -- as rioters ransacked the place. He snuck through police cordons to see the carnage Uzbek troops wrought in Andijon during the 2005 antiregime protests. He returned in the wake of the 2010 Kyrgyz revolution that chased from power President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, whose regime had more than trumped the corruption of its predecessor. And Shishkin stayed for the micro civil war between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz that erupted in the Fergana Valley region soon after. He traveled the heroin-smuggling route from Afghanistan to Central Asia, and he interviewed victim after victim of the murder, torture, and corruption favored by too much of Kyrgyz and Uzbek officialdom. It is an unattractive but vibrant picture.