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Tag: Central Asia

Russia resumes natural gas imports from Turkmenistan

On April 15th, Gazprom announced that it had resumed natural gas purchases from Turkmenistan after a three year hiatus. The announcement comes at a critical moment, when Ashgabat desperately needs new gas customers to prop up its suffering hydrocarbon-dependent economy.

May 31, 2019 - Natalia Konarzewska

A new authoritarian succession model being tested in Kazakhstan

The news of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s resignation as president of Kazakhstan announced on March 19th 2019 sent shockwaves across Eurasia. No post-Soviet leader has attempted a similar transition since 1991.

March 21, 2019 - Mariya Y. Omelicheva

A battleground of identity

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the post-Soviet space has become a battleground for world and regional powers competing over economic, political and security dominance. This rivalry has been accompanied by a competition between different identity narratives, which are instrumentally used to attract, or intimidate, the societies in the post-Soviet states. The most illustrative region in this regard is Central Asia.

The collapse of the Soviet Union brought new opportunities to its former republics, now states, to integrate or ally with organisations and powers from outside the region. It also allowed them to build new co-operative projects with other post-Soviet states. Such co-operation, though, was not limited to economic, political and security relations. The most fundamental questions the newly independent states had to address, at that time, were those regarding their own cultural and national identity. Therefore, the public debate focused heavily on issues like religion, language, alphabet, historical heritage and state tradition. These topics generated serious emotions, including among ordinary people.

March 5, 2019 - Adam Balcer

The essence of Central Asia

A review of Buran. Kirgiz wraca na koń. (Buran. Kyrgyz gets back on the horse). By: Wojciech Górecki. Publisher: Wydawnictwo Czarne, Sękowa, Poland, 2018.

Wojciech Górecki, who is one of the most talented Polish reporters covering Eastern Europe and Central Asia, has just released a new book. Interestingly it comes out half a century after another Polish reporter, Ryszard Kapuściński (often nicknamed the “Cesar of reporting”) travelled to the most exotic republics of the then Soviet Union: Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In his ventures, Górecki visited the same places as Kapuściński.

January 2, 2019 - Zbigniew Rokita

Where did I park my Bentley?

Almaty, Kazakhstan - a travel portrait of a Central Asian flower in the steppe.

July 20, 2018 - Sandra Lambert

Kazakhstan’s new secularity

The upcoming congress of religious leaders  may offer the Kazakh government insights into better ways of fighting national security threats related to religion. If not, the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation built in 2006 especially for inter-confessional conferences may itself become a threat to Astana’s new definition of secularity.

February 13, 2018 - Boiko Hristov

Regional power shifts in Central Asia

Uzbekistan has a geopolitical potential to be the region's leader and solve its most pressing problems like water scarcity. Its central location makes it easy to reach out to all the Central Asian states. The future regional dynamics will depend on the relations between Tashkent and Astana, which geopolitically define the shape of Central Asia.

January 17, 2018 - David Erkomaishvili

The growing religiosity of Kyrgyz youth

The once Soviet-controlled atheist societies like that in Kyrgyzstan, which for 70 years were subject to forced secularisation, have been rediscovering Islam after the collapse of Soviet Union. This is especially true for young people, who are increasingly more religious.

The early morning call to prayer woke Kairat up. He got up with haste, as he was anxious not to be late. He wanted to make it to morning prayer in a community mosque located 700 meters from his home. As he put on his coat and heads out of the house on a chilly, late-November morning, he could not resist the feeling of guilt that he almost overslept. He returned from Bishkek quite late the night before and was very tired.

In Bishkek, Kairat and others were discussing sublime ideas of how Kyrgyzstan’s youth view the country changing by 2030. Their visions could easily be applied to Kairat’s home village of Kolduk in the Issyk-Kul region. “We are living in changing times,” he thought. Back in the Soviet times his village had not had a single mosque and today there are four in the tiny community. He and others believe that the growing religiosity in Kyrgyzstan is an issue that needs to be addressed.

January 2, 2018 - Keneshbek Sainazarov

Tajikistan: Between security and objectification of female body

After a long political struggle against the Islamic opposition, Tajikistan's government initiated a “traditional-national” policy, according to which women should wear “traditional-national” garments. This objectification of female body serves to perpetuate the political power of the ruling elite.

November 13, 2017 - Hafiz Boboyorov

The new Great Game that is not

The idea that Central Asia is the nexus of a Great Game between the world’s superpowers is, in the 21st century, largely exaggerated. Undoubtedly, the Central Asian republics are actively engaging with the great powers by relying on their sovereign prerogatives and pursuing their own strategic goals. But this should be seen rather as a strategy of the local players than a competitive game orchestrated from Washington, Moscow or Beijing.

It is not uncommon to hear from academics and pundits alike that Central Asia is now at the centre of a new Great Game between the great powers (namely, the United States, Russia and China), as it was two centuries ago. The term, popularised by Rudyard Kipling’s 1901 novel Kim and first used by Captain Arthur Conolly of the East India Company’s Bengal Army in 1840, directly refers to the 19th-century competition between the Russian and British empires for control over Central Asia. An example of the pre-eminence of the metaphor in today’s intellectual circles is one of the latest books published on international politics in Eurasia, edited by Mehran Kamrava, titled The Great Game in West Asia, which claims that there indeed is a new great game afoot in the region.

Though vigorously denied by those policy-makers actually involved in the politics of the region, and often criticised by more nuanced and context-aware regional observers, the Great Game is still a widely adopted and popular metaphor, rooted in geopolitical thinking and aimed at simplifying the reality. It refers to the competition between the abovementioned states to vie for influence over and in the region, as well as to the conflicts that their different strategies may elicit in the near future. In the Great Game narrative, the five Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are the board on which the game is played.

October 31, 2017 - Filippo Costa Buranelli

The self-made Apaches of Kyrgyzstan

In the south of Kyrgyzstan, locals work in old Soviet-era coal mines with horrific conditions and little hope of improvement.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the economies of many states of the former Eastern bloc found themselves in shatters. Soaring unemployment and poverty engulfed all the countries of Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan, people lost their jobs overnight, while Russians hastily abandoned the former Soviet republics to return to the fallen mother Russia. As they fled, they left behind their homes, jobs and factories. What remained was soon looted, including the railway tracks which were sold to Chinese scrap metal dealers.

October 31, 2017 - Magdalena Borowiec

How Central Asia understands democracy

Since gaining independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the republics of Central Asia have undergone a diverse process of nation and state building. However, some common threads in Central Asia have emerged, including a unique understanding of the concept of democracy.

Independence was thrust upon the Central Asian republics in the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, necessitating a series of fundamental processes, including state- and nation-building. While the process of constructing a national identity has been multi-faceted and contested, much of the nation-building concentrated on political regimes, who dovetailed this process to their efforts of consolidating power and legitimation. Twenty-five years later, new symbols of nationhood have replaced the old Soviet paraphernalia. Teams of national historiographers, ethnographers and political ideologues have developed new national narratives to valorise the nations. The content of the new national identities has been drawn from a variety of old and new identity markers: Muslim and Atheist, Turkic, Persian, and Slav, Eastern and Western, and modern and traditional.

October 31, 2017 - Mariya Y. Omelicheva

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