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Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the… (original 2000; edition 2000)

by Robert D. Kaplan

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399926,786 (3.88)8
Member:holmes111
Title:Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus
Authors:Robert D. Kaplan
Info:Random House (2000), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:non-fiction, Middle East

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Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus by Robert D. Kaplan (2000)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Fascinating! Launched my interest in Central Asia and the Balkans and made me want to read books again. Kaplan is among my favorite authors. ( )
  ORFisHome | Jul 13, 2009 |
Since writing Balkan Ghosts — which was reputedly very influential in the Clinton White House during the Balkan conflict — Robert Kaplan has become famous for writing travel literature that is part travelogue and part foreign policy briefing. Most of his books are about parts of the world most Americans couldn’t pick out on a map, let alone say anything intelligent about. Even the supposed educated elite would be hard pressed to name a single factoid about places like Azerbaijan. The same can’t be said for someone who has read Eastward to Tartary.

In Eastward to Tartary, Kaplan starts off in what is often euphemistically called “New Europe,” otherwise known as “Eastern” or, perhaps more accurately, “Central” Europe. In Budapest he meets an eccentric man who posits the idea that the amount of democracy and “civilization” present in a country today is directly related to how close the country was geographically, socially and politically to Europe during the enlightenment. This theme, amended to include the influence of the Ottoman and Soviet Empires, is woven throughout Kaplan’s travels through Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Armenia.

To read the rest of this review, click here ( )
1 vote fernrichardson | Jan 19, 2009 |
I liked this book a lot. Kaplan's writing is best when he travels across territories and compares one with the others. This book is a lot like Ryszard Kapuscinski's writing. ( )
  dickcraig | Aug 18, 2008 |
Balkan Peninsula > Description and travel/Balkan Peninsula > History/Middle East > Description and travel/Middle East > History/Caucasus > Description and travel/Caucasus > History/Kaplan, Robert D., 1952- > Journeys
  Budzul | Jun 1, 2008 |
One of the best reads I've had i a while, and I've had some good ones. This book has really changed my thinking about many things: the downside when tyrannical empires end (Kaplan looks hard at the Soviet Union), the strange bedfellows of frontier politics (Israeli and Iranian oilmen in Central Asia), the role of the West, if any, in stabilizing the Balkans, the Near East, and Central Asia before it's too late (Iraq, maybe?), and the frequency with which good intentions cause horrific catastrophe, while bad intentions sometimes bring about a great gift to a neglected part of the world. I guess I'm not an anarchist any more, but if I was, Kaplan's work could have talked me out of it. ( )
  curiousblue | Apr 12, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Like V. S. Naipaul in his pessimism, Niccolo Machiavelli in his realism, and Herodotus in his Eurocentrism, Kaplan is an able practitioner of the travel literature genre.

 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert D. Kaplanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bordwin, GabrielleCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fuentecilla, EricCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
...it appears to me more appropriate to follow up the real

truth of a matter than the imagination of it; for many have

pictured republics and principalities which in fact have

never been seen and known, because how one lives is so far

distant from how one ought to live...
--Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
To know the worst is not always to be liberated from its

consequences; nevertheless it is preferable to ignorance.
--Isiah Berlin, "The Originality of Machiavelli"
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To Allen Pizzey and Dee Hemmings
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375705767, Paperback)

The master of the hardheaded travelogue, Robert D. Kaplan returns with a book on what he calls "the New Near East," an area stretching from the Balkans to Central Asia that "might become the seismograph of world politics" in the new century. That doesn't sound like good news: "The pitiless history of the Near East [is] dominated by marauding armies and earthquakes while peace treaties have merely formalized temporary stalemates on the ground." Kaplan has made a career of writing about the world's trouble spots "without illusions"--his books Balkan Ghosts and The Ends of the Earth are at once influential and pessimistic.

Eastward to Tartary is a fascinating exploration of places Kaplan has not written about in depth before: "Third World Europe" (Romania and Bulgaria), Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and the confusing conglomeration of countries and peoples in the Caucasus. Smart observations leap off almost every page. "In every Arab city I have ever visited, people were polite and honest, running after you to return a loose coin you have left at a soft-drinks stand," he writes. So why hasn't democracy taken hold in the Islamic world? "The very perfection of the Islamic belief system begot a naive absolutism that made the compromises of normal political life impossible." In an aside on ancient Assyria, Kaplan notes, "The theme is always the same: Highly militarized and centralized states and empires, so indomitable in one decade or generation, hack themselves to pieces or are themselves conquered in another." Then he reminds readers that Assyria once bestrode present-day Iraq and Syria--a "hauntingly appropriate" coincidence. And surprising facts abound: "Turkey represents the most stable governmental dynasty in world history, with the Turkish soldiery able to trace the roots of its power to the Roman emperors." Fans of Kaplan's previous books won't want to miss this one, and neither will new readers interested in this part of the world. --John J. Miller

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:42 -0400)

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