"Buzzes with life and personality
an excellent first book for anyone interested in the subject" -- Publishers Weekly, May 16, 2005
"Pleasantly opinionated, informative, thought-provoking, occasionally witty ... a good book about an interesting people." -- The Columbus Dispatch, May 15, 2005
"The most comprehensive work on the Turks today
overflows with hilarious anecdotes and distinctive characters" -- The Economist, May 19, 2005
'Pope has ranged far and wide, listening and observing, and he recounts his experiences entertainingly and illuminatingly' -- Times Literary Supplement
The Turks and other Turkic peoples boast an extraordinary past. They have recently reclaimed the wide steppes and mountain ranges of their untamed, mineral-rich homelands. Many signs point to strong future progress. Yet the Turkic peoples remain some of the least understood nationalities on the planet. In this unique new book, Wall Street Journal correspondent Hugh Pope bridges this gap in our knowledge with a riveting account of 15 years of travels through more than 20 countries and communities of the Turkic world.
Above all, SONS OF THE CONQUERORS provides a new, coherent framework for understanding today's scattered descendants of the Turkic nomad hordes, or armies, who once vanquished China and the Byzantine Empire. Mixing tales from medieval chronicles with anecdotes from his own adventures, Hugh Pope shows the myriad connections that live on between Turkic peoples. These include rebellious Uygur Turks in western China's Xinjiang province, the post-Soviet nations of Central Asia, one quarter of the population of Iran, harassed minorities in Iraq and the Balkans, and the flourishing, controversial new immigrant communities of Europe, where Turkish can now be heard on every other street corner of Berlin. He even finds an American community in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States, the Melungeons, who have adopted a Turkic identity based on two lines of descent: one from native Americans who crossed the Bering Strait, and another line from Ottoman galley slaves abandoned on the American coast by Sir Francis Drake. Fanciful but sincere, the Melungeon's leader believes that his people prove that a Turkic thread literally girdles the world.
Along the way, SONS OF THE CONQUERORS explores the legacy of Turkic history, which has been bloody, glorious and rarely dull. For centuries, Muslim lands were ruled by Turkic dynasties like the Moguls who conquered India, the Safavids who laid the foundations of modern Iran and the Ottomans whose five-century-long empire encompassed Turkey, the Balkans and the Middle East. Turkic ascendancy was slowly broken in the past two centuries by the rising power of Europe, Russia and China, turning Turkic populations into refugees or unloved provinces of others' empires. To show how this still colors Turkic attitudes, Hugh Pope joined columns of refugees in Bulgaria and Azerbaijan, and experienced at first hand the fear of the oppressed Uygurs of China.
SONS OF THE CONQUERORS tells how Turkic peoples are building up momentum. Six independent states now have majorities who speak Turkic languages, and a number of other territories are winning measures of autonomy. Altogether, Turkic populations number some 140 million people worldwide. Pragmatic Muslims for the most part, they offer a readiness to work with the West, access to the new oil province in and around the Caspian Sea and examples of secular governance for the Islamic world. The most powerful and best-established Turkic nation, Turkey, hemmed in for half of the 20th century by its role as a front-line guardian of NATO, has emerged as the most democratic Muslim country and is now negotiating for full membership of the European Union. After a shaky start, the five Turkic states of the Caucasus and Central Asia set free by the end of the Cold War -- Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic -- are making an independent-minded comeback too.
One of the world's foremost experts on Turkey -- and acclaimed co-author of Turkey Unveiled (a New York Times Notable Book) -- Hugh Pope has criss-crossed the wider Turkic world to encounter and assimilate the many facets of this diverse, fascinating and ambitious ethnic group. He distils their opportunistic and prickly genius, shows a new convergence in language and governance, and argues that the basis has been laid for a commercial and cultural solidarity unthinkable before 1991. Weaving together the military legacy of nomad raiders under Attila the Hun, the era of the Great Game and today's wars and political upsets, SONS OF THE CONQUERORS is a compelling account of a long-neglected subject. It brings readers into closer contact with a culture that has shaped history, offers insights into developing countries everywhere and opens a refreshing new window on the Islamic world.