Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus

Robert D. Kaplan, Author, Jason Epstein, Editor Random House (NY) $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-375-50272-9
In 1993, as the blood-letting in Yugoslavia's ethnic civil war entered its fifth year, Kaplan, a foreign correspondent, wrote a history of that tragic region that became an instant bestseller. The war and its elements of genocide paved the way for popular reception of Balkan Ghosts, but it is Kaplan's name that will secure readers for his newest travelogue. In many ways, this book is the sequel to Balkan Ghosts, telling the story of those other orphans of the Ottoman EmpireDthe lands of the Middle and Near East. Kaplan's intention is to introduce Tartary (known today as Central Asia) as a place that has more in common with the Western Balkan countries than with the Oriental images conjured up by its exotic name. Walking the streets of Baku in Azerbaijan, he sees images of the Romanian capital, Bucharest; both reside in the 100-year-old shadows of a cosmopolitan Ottoman boomtown, and in the more obvious decay and disenchantment that is the legacy of the shorter-lived Soviet empire. In relating his travels through Syria, Israel and Lebanon, Kaplan focuses less on the effects of communism and more on the way Turkey remains a historical link between Arab and European powers. Whether he is analyzing the basis for Turko-Israeli alliances or pondering the likelihood of an ethnic ""Balkanization"" of the Middle East, Kaplan is thinking in terms of a new ""seismograph of world politics in the twenty-first century."" His readers will be left with a rich supply of historic, geographic and cultural cross-references to apply when they read the news about some of today's most strategic hot spots. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/30/2000
Release date: 11/01/2000
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