Stephen M. Bland
Freelance Journalist, Award-Winning Author, Travel Writer, Researcher and Editor specialising in Central Asia and the Caucasus.
I am a freelance journalist, award-winning author, travel writer, researcher and editor specialising in Central Asia, the Caucasus and South-East Asia. A board member of the Eurasian Creative Guild, my debut book, Does it Yurt? - Travels in Central Asia or How I Came to Love the Stans was released by Hertfordshire Press in November 2016. Five years in the making, I'm currently putting the finishing touches to a book about the Caucasus.
Does it Yurt?
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.
In my 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.