ABSTRACT

The self-referred ‘Austrian military author’ Friedrich von Hellwald’s musings on Central Asia point simultaneously to the region’s obscurity and importance. Historically and as a discrete geographic region, Central Asia has often disappeared, submerged into bigger political and geographic areas. In 1994, a historical study of Central Asia commissioned by UNESCO (Dani and Masson 1992 : 19) acknowledged that ‘the role and importance of the various peoples of Central Asia are often inadequately represented in university courses, to say nothing of school textbooks’. In another author’s view, the area seemed to be simply receding out of view altogether until very recently, falling into a sort of geographical black hole ‘between disciplinary cracks’ (Gross 1992 : 17). In the same year, André Gunder Frank ( 1992 ) was also to refer to the ‘black hole’ of Central Asia. As John Schoeberlein (2002: 4) writes, however, we do not need to be ‘among those who hope for things to get worse so that others will recognize the importance of this region’.