Saturday, September 1, 2007

couple of interesting articles about Ferghana

The Ferghana Valley is the nexus of the modern states of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan -- a crossroads or meeting place between Europe and Asia since at least 329BC when Alexander the Great founded the town of Alexandria Euschate ('the farthest'). In many ways, it seems like an even more profound junction than other transitional places -- Malta, Cyprus, and Sicily in the Mediterranean, Orkney and Shetland in the northern Atlantic -- perhaps because it isn't an island archipelago, perhaps because what may have been a genuinely fluid cultural zone in the pre-Islamic period is now disrupted by artificial boundaries of modern nationhood. (I chose 'pre-Islamic' as a breaking point because the battle of Talas in 751 between the Abbasids and the defeated Chinese marks a point of fracture that sees the Chinese leave this part of Central Asia.)

I'd love to see this part of the world, to see where the Silk Road passed. My brother-in-law has spent a significant amount of time in this part of the world and my wife's pictures from visiting him are pretty spectacular.

In any case, here are three recent articles on the Ferghana:

1) This past weekend's New York Times has a nice feature article on the Ferghana Valley.

2) Here's another nice piece about 'Russian' ghost-towns in the Ferghana.

3) Here's a final piece about relaxed visa restrictions for Uzbeks and Kyrgyz trying to visit the shrine at Shahimardan. Nice pictures, too.

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