Saturday, January 16, 2010

the history of everything-stan

Yesterday I was reminded that it wasn't very long ago that I learned that the moonscape satellite Soviet republics (Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, etc.) were literally, for quite a long time, the hub of human civilization. Just a few years ago, as I was watching the Alias rebroadcasts all the way through, the main character (a spy) talks about a cover story of going to university in Baku, a large city in Central Asia, and thinking, "Where the hell is Baku?". It's the capital of Azerbaijan, which itself is probably meaningless unless you look at a map and look east to see Bukhara, Tashkent, and Samarqand, and then maybe look at a different map and see Balkh, just northwest of modern Mazar-e-Sharif; like most of Afghanistan, Balkh doesn't seem to be doing so well at the moment, but it was a flourishing city founded 4000 years ago.

Then I learned about Greco-Buddhist art, and the history of Zoroastrianism, and more about the millennia of cultural exchanges across Eurasia and North Africa.

This is why the Internet can make it difficult to get work done, and why your local library kicks ass.

Anyway, history is awesome. Take some time (it's long) and go read the essay, which ends on a sort of weak pro-free-trade argument but is 97% about the Golden Age of Central Asia and how it got to its current state, where a Golden Age is almost unimaginable.

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