M41 – A Portrait of the Heart of Asia

Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – the Heart of Asia.

Several ethnic groups mercilessly mixed up living in each other’s countries. The Tajiks, related to Persians, live in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Kyrgyz people, divided by a border from their northern brothers, the Kazachs, make up the majority in eastern Tajikistan. Uzbeks living in southern Kyrgyzstan leave no peace to their hosts.

This is one of Stalin’s legacies. The way he designed the region ensured that it would regularly be shaken by inter-ethnic violence. When he drew lines on a map to form new Soviet republics in the 1920s he created minorities that were bound to make them unstable. With the collapse of communism the notional internal borders of the USSR became real international borders, which exacerbated the difficulties of minorities caught on the wrong side of the lines.

The history of the region itself is a never ending plot of wars, conquests and falls of emperors. From Alexander the Great through the audacious Genghis Khan, Tamerlan, and Babur, to the British and Russian invasions. And most recently the presence of international security forces. All connected by one – the M41.

It begins on a crossroad in the middle of the desert, near Mazar-i Sharif in Afghanistan and ends close to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. Along the way it cuts through Uzbekistan and loses itself for a long while on the sub-celestial highlands of Pamir in Gorno-Badakhshan, an autonomous republic in Tajikistan.

“M41” is a portrait of people, societies, cultures, customs that are spread along the road that crosses four countries in the Heart of Asia. This visual series is not meant to emphasize differences, borders, never ending conflicts in the region. Its objective, rather, is to search for a common denominator in this dismembered melting-pot of Asia.

Route map
Thank you for sharing!