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What Is Asia to Us? Russia's Asian Heartland Yesterday and Todayby Milan Hauner

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Middle East Journal
January, 1992
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What Is Asia to Us? Russia's Asian Heartland Yesterday and Today by Milan Hauner
Review by: Firuz Kazemzadeh
Middle East Journal, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Autumn, 1992), pp. 695-696
Published by: Middle East Institute
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4328510 .
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made claims to the contrary, attempted to
incorporatethe region into their empire by
essentially foisting Russian or Russianized
leaders and Russian culture, together with
Marxist-Leninistideology, on the Central
Asian peoples. The Soviet attemptto control
and develop CentralAsia from the center is
particularlynoteworthybecause it was a "totalitarian" approach that failed-the political, social, economic, and cultural
transformationthat was envisioned never
materialized. The Soviets did, of course,
bringaboutmanychanges, but those changes
were not desired, and most of the outcomes
were unexpectedand unwanted.As the book
went to press, the editor speculated on
whether the CommunistParty's attempt to
transform Central Asia was in its "last
stage." This was, he thought,the "beginning
of the end" (p. 5). The Soviet system disappeared within weeks of the publication of
these words.
Besides the foreword, introduction, and
conclusio; n, which affirm and elaborate on
this central theme, the body of the book
provides the factual and suasive arguments
on which these themes are based. The text is
organizedinto four parts. Part one examines
the general setting. In this section William
Fierman provides an historical overview,
bringingthe historyof the regionup to recent
events. Nancy Lubin discusses demographic
trends in the region and their importancefor
economic development. Boris Rumer discusses the economy, noting in particularthe
Soviet investmentin cotton monocultureand
the elaborate specialized infrastructurethat
was developed to supportit.
Part two addresses the political problems
of the Soviets in managingand controlling
Uzbekistan, presumablyas an illustrationof
similarproblemselsewhere in the region. In
this section, Donald Carlisle and James
Critchlowexplainhow Moscow's attemptsto
manipulatepolitics in Uzbekistan eventually
worked against the Soviet structureand underminedits own legitimacy.
In part three, which details the failure of
the Soviets to effect a meaningfultransformation in the culture of Central Asia, Ronald
Wixmandescribesthe attitudesand relations

betweenthe "native" populationsof Uzbekistan and the Russians. Azade-Ayse Rorlich
discusses Islam in Central Asian society.
Isabelle Kreindlerdescribes attempts to use
Russian-language instruction to inculcate
Russian culture, as a way to absorb Central
Asian peoples into the Soviet system. Part
four examines socioeconomicissues. Martha
BrillOlcott describesthe difficultsituationof
women in Central Asia. William Fierman
discusses the problems of youth education
and employment.
This volume makes broad and significant
claims supportedby persuasive documentation. Thatit presentsa view not sharedby the
Russianestablishmentensuresthat the issues
likely will be debatedfor a long time.
RobertL. Canfield,WashingtonUniversityin
St. Louis

What is Asia to Us? Russia's Asian Heartland Yesterday and Today, by Milan
Hauner. Boston, MA and London: Unwin
Hyman, 1990. xvi + 254 pages. Index to p.
264. $44.95.
Reviewedby Firuz Kazemzadeh
Two years can be a long time. Milan Hauner's fascinatingstudy of the Russian-Soviet
dominion,and particularlyof its centralAsiatic heartland,was publishedwhen the union
was still intact.Few observers,thereor in the
West, imaginedthat the last great empireon
earthwould collapse so rapidlyand, more or
less, peacefully. If one believes that history
has come to an end, one would have to say
that What is Asia to Us? is outdated, bypassed by events, and a commentary on
issues that no longerexist. That, of course, is
not the case.
Hauner investigates factors that change
more slowly than do politics and ideologies.
The red flag no longerflies over the Kremlin;
former constituent republics of the Soviet
Union have proclaimedtheir independence
and established diplomatic relations with
many states. Some have even been admitted
to the United Nations. Yet the land the old

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empire occupied, its terrain,rivers, soil, climate, naturalresources, and people, remain
in place. Russia'sgeographicpositionandher
politicalstrengthmade her a dominantpower
in Eurasia,and she will continuein one form
or anotherto exercise enormousinfluenceon
both continents.
Partone of the book exploresthe ideologyof
Russianexpansionin Asia. A galleryof statesmen, geographers,historians,and scientistsfor example,the greatDmitriiI. Mendeleievpass in review. Some are virtuallyunknownin
the West, althoughtheirideas were of crucial
importanceand helped shape Russia's southeasternadvance.Haunerbrieflyconsidersthe
Eurasianists,thinkerswho stressed Russia's
Asianheritageandsaw theircountry'sfuturein
a fusionof those EuropeanandAsianelements
thatwentintothe formationof Russianculture.
Yale University,an exponentof Eurasianism
in the United States.)
Parttwo addressesmore specifically"Russia's Central Asian Heartland," while part
three, the majorportion of the book, traces
the debate about "The Heartland,"a debate
initiated by Halford Mackinderand continued by KarlHaushoferand other proponents
of geopolitics, some of whom were Nazis.
Hauner shows that Stalinist ideologists rejected geopolitics with its materialisticdeterminism, a position perhapsinconsistentwith
Marxismbut consistent with Bolshevik voluntarism. Part three, although interesting,
providesless new informationthan partsone
and two.
In his conclusion Hauner asks questions
thatwere unanswerableonly two years ago"Where is the Soviet EmpireMoving under
Gorbachev?""Do the Forces of Nationalism
Representthe Main Threatto the Empire?"
and, last but not least, what are the prospects
for "Coherence?" Answers to these questions, except the last, can be readdaily in the
newspapers. Yet it is too early to bury the
Russian empire. Hauner'sprovocative book
shows why.

Al-Hind-The Makingof the Indo-Islamic
World, vol. 1: Early MedievalIndia and
the Expansionof Islam, 7th-llth Centuries, by AndrdWink. Leiden: E.J. Brill,
1990.viii + 360 pages. Bibl. to p. 375. Index
to p. 396. NLG165.00.
Reviewedby Juan R.I. Cole

AndreWinkhas produceda prodigiouswork
of scholarship that boldly challenges the
prevailingviews of early medievalIndia. Unfortunately, Wink only highlightsthe historiographicalimportance of his intervention
on pages 219-31. He arguesthat Hinduscholars of a nationalistbent and Western Orientalists infected by some form of Aryanracist
theory togetherdeveloped a view of Indiain
the period 600-1000 CE as beset by a dark
age of economic contraction, political fragmentation, and a debilitating onslaught of
Arab Muslims in the northwest (Sindh),
which allegedly blocked key trade routes.
The authorcontendsthat the developmentof
this view was analogousto that of older ideas
of the EuropeanDark Ages. He points out
that the long-discreditedPirennethesis-that
the early Islamic empires had a deleterious
effect on the economy of western Europehas more recently been altogether reversed
by European medievalists, who now argue
thatwesternEuropewas economicallyIslamized and benefited from the process. Wink
maintainsthat a similar encompassmentof
India in the early Islamic worldwidetrading
system also contributedto an economic efflorescence in this period.
Wink begins by describing the early Islamic conquests and the formation of the
Muslim state in the Middle East. He then
examines trade and tradingdiasporasin the
IndianOcean, includingMuslims, Jews, and
Parsis, drawingconceptuallyon the work of
PhilipCurtin.He details the political history
of Arab-ruledSindh,payingattentionto state
Firuz Kazemzadeh,Department of History, formation, political elites, indigenous reliYale University
gions, and economic developments. Finally,

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