Central Asia: The new geopolitics

Central Asia: The new geopolitics

Brief Reviews CENTRAL EURASIA by Vladimir Tismaneanu Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History. By Robert D. Kaplan. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 199...

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by Vladimir Tismaneanu Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History. By Robert D. Kaplan. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993. 287 pp. $22.95. Seething ethnic rivalries, massacres, and attempts at genocide come alive as one follows Kaplan’s journey through Croatia, Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece-with glimpses of Turkey, Austria, and Hungary. (Kaplan makes a compelling case for considering Greece a Balkan state.) Yet Balkan Ghost.sis much more than a macabre travel guide. Recounting the role that monarchists, fascists, nationalists, and communists have played in Balkan history, while displaying a keen sense for religious and ethnic outlooks and an eye for national symbols, Kaplan offers the reader an impressive understanding of the deep ethnic, religious, and historical patterns that underlie the region’s current troubles. Kaplan’s keen instincts and grasp of the big picture, combine with a flavorf61 prose style rooted in wisdom. “Communism,” he says wryly, “would exit the world stage revealed for what it truly was: fascism, without fascism’s ability to make the trains run on time.” Or again, of the Romanian peasants, he observes that they “are like mamaliga (corn mush) they can be boiled forever without exploding.” Or one final example: Kaplan has discerned a way to tell Serbs from Croats. Ask how many Serbs were killed at Jesenovac, the World War II extermination camp near Zagreb. If the response is less than 60,000, he is a Croat. If it is 700,000 or more, he is a Serb. Only such irony and humor keeps the reader from sadness, especially as Kaplan implies that the Balkan’s current wars will likely spread to Macedonia, and perhaps beyond. Paul D. Dickler Central Ash The New Geopolitics. By Graham E. Fuller. Santa Monica: RAND, 1992. 86 pp. $7.50 (paper). Despite Central Asia’s fast-moving pace, Fuller’s report on a trip to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan in July 1991 stands up very well two years later, for his observations are grounded in a well-developed historical understanding. The subject matter ranges from an analysis of the National Museum of the Kazakh People to speculations about the struggle for the Muslim soul of Central Asia. As such, Fuller’s shalt, well-written study provides the best overall introduction to the region’s current SihiatiOn. Why does Central Asia matter to Americans? Because its emergence onto the scene of world politics “exerts a strong ripple effect on such states as Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and others, potentially unleashing regional conflict, wars, separatist or irredentist movements, and religious extremism that affect the broader stability and security of the surrounding states.” In other words, oil and other resources aside, this is an area of danger more than of opportunity. Kazakhstan’s nuclear weapons have portentous implications. Maltreatment of the Russians who live there could spur Moscow to violence. (“Any Kazakh government has to be prepared for the possibility of confrontation 480 I O&s

Brief Reviews with Russia, possibly including even the use of force.” > A union of Tajiks living in Tajikistan and Afghanistan could set off a chain reaction of ethnic consolidation which might affect Pakistan, Iran, and even India. D.P. The Church and the Left. By Adam Michnik. Chicago, Ill.: The University of Chicago Press, 1993. 301 pp. $24.95. Many argue that the collapse of communism in Poland occurred because of the coalition between Catholic and secular intellectuals and activists, and that the pope’s being Polish had much to do with this. But before this coalition could take shape, deep prejudices had to change. They did, in part thanks to Michnik’s 1976 book, i%e Church and the Lefl, in which he sensitized his colleagues among the secular intelligentsia to the new trends within Catholicism. Michnik argues that the secular intelligentsia behaved foolishly when it derided the Church during the Stalin&t campaigns to weed out religiosity from Polish life. Hostage to its dialectical sophistries, the secular Left did not realize the seditious potential of the Christian teachings: “The Bible belongs to no one.” Most important, the book demonstrated that conventional, reductionist visions had to be adjusted to a reality that had little to do with the ideological polarizations and idiosyncrasies of pre-World War II Poland. Why read Michnik’s book now, seventeen years later? Well, for one thing, it is newly available in English. For another, it contains the essay “Troubles,” which Michnik wrote in 1987, summing up his pessimistic vision of the world to come: a Poland run by angry inquisitors, intolerant and fanatic, “combining nationalist xenophobia with that special kind of Catholicism that embraces lies and hatred in public life while promoting biblical virtues in private life.” The 1987 essay was added to the English translation of the book. Taking into account the ongoing debate in Poland about abortion and the church’s attempt to legislate its moral values, Michnik’s book remains timely and thought-provoking. A Feast in the Garden. By Gyorgy Konrad. Translated by Imre Goldstein, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992. 394 pp. $23.95. Konrad, one of East-Central Europe’s leading intellectuals and a former dissident, uses the medium of an autobiographical novel to explain the region’s political culture and intellectual tradition, He succeeds admirably; indeed, A Feast in the Garden teaches more than many works in the social sciences and humanities. The beauty and horrors of twentieth-century Hungary-that country’s rural landscape, the lush hills of Buda, the ominous walls of the Jewish ghetto in Pest-form the novel’s background. The story recounts the Konrad figure’s love affair with a country that refuses to recognize him as mely Magyar (a true Hungarian) because of his Jewishness. Konrad offers insights not limited to the communist era nor to Hungary. Despite significant changes in the regimes of the East-Central European region, the profound antagonisms described in the novel-particularly those between populists and “urbanites” (or liberals&are clearly evident in the current political debates of the region. Istvan Csurka, a vocal member of Hungary’s governing Magyar Democratic Forum party, can be heard today in Budapest, but voices Summer 1993 I 481