Central Asia has long stood at the crossroads of history. It was the staging ground for the armies of the Mongol Empire, for the nineteenth-century struggle between the Russian and British empires, and for the NATO campaign in Afghanistan. Today, multinationals and nations compete for the oil and gas reserves of the Caspian Sea and for control of the pipelines. Yet “Stanland” is still, to many, a terra incognita, a geographical blank.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, academic and journalist David Mould’s career took him to the region on Fulbright Fellowships and contracts as a media trainer and consultant for UNESCO and USAID, among others. In Postcards from Stanland, he takes readers along with him on his encounters with the people, landscapes, and customs of the diverse countries—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—he came to love. He talks with teachers, students, politicians, environmental activists, bloggers, cab drivers, merchants, Peace Corps volunteers, and more.
Until now, few books for a nonspecialist readership have been written on the region, and while Mould brings his own considerable expertise to bear on his account—for example, he is one of the few scholars to have conducted research on post-Soviet media in the region—the book is above all a tapestry of place and a valuable contribution to our understanding of the post-Soviet world.
“An illuminating travelogue through Central Asia…. As a genial travel guide, Mould, an academic who doesn’t write like an academic, shows how one should resist the temptations to stereotype a culture too easily and understand it too quickly.”
“Mould is the ideal author to demystify the region and its people…. (An) accomplished tome that covers topics ranging from culture and politics to history, the environment, economics, and human rights. Of particular interest are sections that probe national identity; the literary landscape of Semay, Kyrgyzstan; and his overall impression of Central Asia. VERDICT: With a sense of humor, Mould’s memoir will…stimulate interest in this lesser-known region.”
a stimulating, readable survey of the five countries that straddle Europe and Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan—targeted at those with little or no existing knowledge are few and far between. David H. Mould’s Postcards from Stanland promises to be a notable exception. …The western traveler to Central Asia is rare. One with the patience, enthusiasm and attention to detail to provide a considered and mostly vivid portrait…is rarer still. For that reason, Postcards from Stanland is a valuable contribution to the literature on the region.”
“Postcards from Stanland is an ambitious undertaking, encompassing the history, politics, sociology and local color of a part of the world almost unknown and often misunderstood outside the territory. We would all do well to study and learn more from Mould’s observations.”
“Postcards from Stanland is strongest when it discusses the subtleties of national and ethnic identity and the way the past affects the present.”
“An engagingly written exploration of a remote, multifaceted, strategically vital and intriguingly complex region of the world.”
Eric Freedman, coeditor of After the Czars and Commissars: Journalism in Authoritarian Post-Soviet Central Asia
“The book’s mixture of personal anecdotes, political analysis, historical background, and cultural commentary makes it both an enjoyable and instructive read. … With its rich depiction of life in Central Asia and authoritative yet accessible style, Postcards deserves a wide audience, from high school students to secretaries of state.”