Stephen M. Bland
Freelance Journalist, Award-Winning Author, Travel Writer, Researcher and Editor specialising in Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Book Launch Press Release
Does it Yurt?
Travels in Central Asia or How I Came to Love the Stans
Conjuring images of nomadic horsemen, spectacular monuments, breathtaking scenery and crippling poverty, twenty-five years after emerging from under the Soviet yoke, Central Asia remains an enigma. Home to the descendants of Jenghiz Khan’s Great Horde and a single nation of Persians, in the nineteenth century the once hugely important Silk Road states – as featured In the recent BBC TV hit series - became a pawn in the ‘Great Game’ of expansion and espionage between Britain and Russia. With Afghanistan left as a buffer between these two empires, the rest of Central Asia soon fell to Russian imperialism, disappearing for over a century behind what would become known as the ‘Iron Curtain’.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the five new nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were born, in most cases against their will. Propelled to the centre of a new Great Game through a combination of their strategic location and the discovery of vast oil and gas reserves, since independence Central Asia has seen one bloody civil war, two revolutions and seven dictators, one of whom presided over arguably the world’s most fully formed cult of personality ever.
Released through Hertfordshire Press in November 2016, in my award-winning new book, Does it Yurt? Travels in Central Asia or How I Came to Love the Stans, I take the reader on a voyage of discovery. A humorous mix of travel, history and reportage, the book explores the region’s rich folklore. Travelling to a desert sea, a collapsed Russian gas rig daubed the ‘Gate to Hell’ and along the ‘Heroin highway’ atop the roof of the world, I set out to explore these nations, unearthing the stories of the people and places behind these fascinating lands.
Winner of the Golden Laureate of Eurasian Literature, Moscow, Best Foreign Language Book, Moscow, September 2018
Winner of the “Breakthrough of the Year” Category at the Open Eurasia and Central Asia Book Forum and Literary Contest, London, November 2016
As featured in Book Authority's 7 Best Turkmenistan Travel Guide Books of All Time
‘Written sharply, vividly… If you're looking for an antidote to chirpy travel-guide descriptions of Central Asia, then this is the book for you.’ Sam Tranum, author of Daily Life in Turkmenbashy's Golden Age.
‘Packed with insights into every corner of the region.' Paul Wilson, Trailblazer Guides writer and author of The Alphabet Game.
'Weaves together my favourite elements of a travelogue: historical context and current observations mixed with a dry sense of humour and amusing anecdotes... Does it Yurt? will result in my journey to Central Asia being that much more rewarding.’ Ric Gazarian, author of 7000KM To Go and Hit the Road India; top 500 travel blogger.
‘Stephen M. Bland’s writing captures the magical whirlwind flavour of Central Asia in this very perceptive and insightful book. Those who have visited this wonderful part of the world will instantly recognise and reminisce on the many stories of potholed journeys by shared taxi, generous encounters with friendly locals and the inevitable run-ins with bumbling bureaucracy. Those who haven’t yet visited will be inspired to book their next adventure as soon as they can put the book down. A thrilling ride from start to finish.’ Nick Rowan, author of Friendly Steppes: A Silk Road Journey.
'Provides unrivalled insight into life within Central Asia today. Interwoven between the fascinating portrayals of everyday characters are illuminating details and observations; creating a story that as rich and expansive as the landscape through which [the author] journeys.' - Matthew Traver, filmmaker.
'Deserves to be shared among friends, as well as having a designated place on your shelves. Stephen M. Bland succeeds in bringing the region alive, and his story is an interesting and hard-to-decline invitation to join in his travels.' Eugenette Morin, travel writer.