The ‘Stans’ Turn 30

Is Kazakhstan 30 or 556 years old? As the five states of Central Asia celebrate three decades of independence, they prefer the glories of the ancient past to the legacy of Soviet rule. 

Tractor with Stalin’s portrait, Uzbekistan, c.1940 © Max Penson/Getty Images.

A horde of whooping warriors hurtled through a craggy mountain pass and galloped down onto an enemy encampment on the plain below. With a thunder of hooves and a shower of arrows, the horsemen burst through the fortifications and, swinging their swords, hurled themselves into combat with their foes. Perched on an escarpment, a shaggy white camel cast a baleful eye over the battlefield as a female fighter dressed in furs and a headdress, a quiver of arrows strapped to her back, texted rapidly on her mobile phone. First impressions notwithstanding, this was no medieval battlefield, but a filmset in a far-flung corner of Central Asia where a dramatic recreation of a glorious past was in full swing.

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