The turbulent chronicle of an overland trip through six Moslem republics of the former USSR, undertaken by Uzbekistani poet/publisher Akchurin in mid-1990 as the Soviet state entered its final year. Leaving wife and home in Moscow, Akchurin drove southeast with a mechanic friend. Their first stop, in the Volga Basin, included a nightmarish encounter with one of the youth gangs raging out of control in that region, complete with brass knuckles and violence, near-rape and a daring escape. On difficult roads further south, the car was damaged, and the mechanic fled with it back to Moscow. Making full use of his Tartar heritage and a network of writer contacts, Akchurin pressed on, hitchhiking, taking trains and taxis, skirting the dying Aral Sea and passing through Turkestan, Alma-Ata, his former hometown of Tashkent, and other cities large and small before finally arriving in Baku. Along the way, the author found sickness and death among his friends, riots and massacres between formerly peaceful Kirghiz and Uzbek neighbors, and the temptations of a Barbie-doll-like state courtesan--as well as another close encounter with thugs in the form of demobilized, drunken soldiers. In the midst of such dangers and confusion, opportunities invariably arose to discuss the future of the Soviet Union, resurgent nationalism, or finer points of regional ancient history with fellow travelers and colleagues--resulting in this sophisticated travelogue of unique historical importance, a window on a region few modern Westerners have seen. Erudite and action-packed, poetic and personable: a must for anyone seeking an unadulterated view of life in the Central Asian republics, still being swept by change.