Review: “Central Asia in Modern Times: A History from the Early 19th Century” – Devendra Kaushik

“Central Asia in Modern Times: A History from the Early 19th Century” by Devendra Kaushik is a history of Central Asia since the Russian conquest in the mid-1800s. As a Marxist-Leninist from India who studied the national archives in Russia, India, and Uzbekistan, Kaushik’s perspective is very much of an outsider looking in. This outsider perspective distinguishes this book from other books published by Progress Publishers about Central Asia. The material itself is not that remarkable; there are far better Marxist-Leninist books on Soviet Central Asia. A Marxist Model of Social Change: Soviet Central Asia, 1917-1940 by R. R. Sharma, another Marxist-Leninist scholar from India, or W. P. Coates’ Soviets in Central Asia, offers more empirical data. However, neither Sharma’s nor Coates’ book was published by Progress Publishers. This makes Kaushik’s book incredibly unique. Despite being published by Progress Publishers, Kaushik is highly critical of Soviet historians and historiography in Central Asia, which is highly unusual. There is an eclectic mixture of orthodox Soviet Marxism-Leninism typical of Progress Publishers and an anti-imperialist, Third World ideology that is independent of Soviet Marxism-Leninism and is even critical of it in some respects while sharing many of its basic tenets. A fascinating combination for a book on Central Asia.

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