Central Asia: Five New Nations Ask WHO ARE WE?

The Muslim republics search for an identity somewhere between radical Islam and Western secularism

On a rugged, snow-mantled mountainside above Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Joloi Beishenov tends his flock on horseback, as his ancestors did centuries ago. During the cold season he shelters his 70 sheep in two traditional canvas yurts and lives alone in a spartan wooden shack until the warm weather brings his family up from the lowlands. This spring there is another new season, the opening out of the former Soviet Union; Beishenov has heard about new economic reforms, and hopes to rent from a neighboring state farm the strip of stony pasture he uses for grazing. But he is unmoved...

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