It was not until 1991 that Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan freed themselves from the firm grip of the Soviet Union. Although it is a relatively young country, this region is rich in ancient history, culture and landscapes that distinguish it significantly from the rest of the world.
Erika Fatland, as a true adventurer, travels this area alone. In Sovietistan, she takes us on an exciting journey and explores how the Soviet legacy influenced the democratic structure of those countries. In Kyrgyz villages, she meets victims of the tradition and customs of kidnapping brides, visits an abandoned military training ground in Kazakhstan where the Soviet Union conducted nuclear tests, meets shrimp collectors on the shores of the Aral Sea and witnesses the Turkmen President falling from his horse. Falsely presenting herself, she travels a country that is closed for journalists. She meets tired human rights fighters in Kazakhstan, German Mennonites who found their paradise on the Kyrgyz plains two centuries ago, as well as survivors of the Osh massacre.
Reading the book, we learn how ancient customs clash with modern natural gas exploitation and witness internal conflicts in states that increasingly look to their future through a nationalist prism. The marginal parts of the former Soviet Union today follow a different rhythm of life, although nostalgia is part of everyday life. Between a breathtaking landscape and brutalist Soviet architecture, Sovietistan is a rare and memorable adventure.
* * *
I got lost. Fire from the crater erased the starry sky and sucked all the light out of the shadows. Flaming tongues lick; there are thousands of them. Some are the size of horses, others are flames like a drop of water. Mild warmth caresses my cheeks; the smell is sweet and causes nausea. A few pebbles broke off the edge and fell silently into the fire. I take a few steps back, where the ground is firmer. The night in the desert is cold and odorless.
* * *
Today, "the stans" are at a crossroads. Will they get closer to Russia or China, or will they perhaps turn to the West? What interpretations of one's own history can one rely on? After 25 years of independence, these five nations are trying to find their identity, on the border of East and West, old and new, in the heart of Asia, surrounded by superpowers Russia and China, in the restless, turbulent neighborhood of Iran and Afghanistan.
- ISBN: 978-953-8075-99-5
- Dimensions: 142 x 205 mm
- Number of pages: 432
- Cover: paperback
- Year of the edition: 2021
- Original title: Sovjetistan. En reise gjennom Turkmenistan, Kasakhstan, Tadsjikistan, Kirgisistan og Usbekistan
- Original language: Norwegian
- Translation: Mišo Grundler