The cover of Central Asia: A New History from the Imperial Conquests to the Present, with its photo of the massive walls of the Ark Fortress in Bukhara, is something of a bait and switch. The book flies through that period implied by picture: the “imperial conquests” of the subtitle are not those of Genghis Khan or Timur, but rather the later ones by China and Russia: conquests of Central Asia, not by.

The scene is Turkey in the mid-to-late 70s. A young male college student hops onto a bus. He sits next to a cute female student from his class, but before they can strike up a conversation, they see a right-wing passenger, walk up to another passenger and hit him on the head with a hammer. The young woman screams. The two students get off the bus, only for the female student to call the male student a “disgusting fascist” and leave in anger.