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Alone Through The Forbidden Land

Journeys in disguise through Soviet Central Asia

Gustav Krist

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A review in the UK newspaper The Independent in 1992 said "The book is a marvellous evocation of a bygone age that will never return and can never be experienced again".
read the full review here
During the First World war the legendary lands of Central Asia became almost impossible for Europeans to visit. The Russian government, which controlled much of the area, refused to allow any foreigners entry on 'political' grounds. After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution this policy was followed even more ruthlessly than before, with anyone who daed ignore it risking being summarily shot as a spy.

The Viennese Gustav Krist had become a carpet merchant in Persia after fighting and being captured in the area during the war and then finding it impossible to adjust to life in post-war Austria. A chance meeting left him with the desire to revisit the lands of Turkestan and Bokhara, only to be told by the Soviet authorities that this was strictly prohibited. Despite this, and a sentence of death ordered by a revolutionary tribunal in 1920, Krist disguised himself and, using borrowed papers, entered the Soviet territories.

This book follows Krist on what grew from a month-long trip which he planned to a sixteen-month odyssey. He travelled to the holy city of Bokhara and to Samarkand, crossed the desert with a Turkoman camel train and probably experienced what was probably the last migration of the free nomadic tribe, the Kirghiz, before they became subject to Soviet power. During the course of his perilous journey he was recognised and arrested by the Soviets, and yet survived to describe his travels and the peoples of Central Asia with an intimacy and affection which few Westerners could ever hope to emulate. Includes 20 original photographs by Krist and 5 diagrams.


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