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Tag: Central Asia

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

Central Asia and water: No time left for squabbles

A combination of rapid population growth and climate change, which some believe may lead to the vanishing of much of the region’s river-feeding glaciers within the next half century, is going to pose the greatest challenge Central Asia has ever confronted in its history.

October 31, 2017 - Peter Leonard

The complex reality of radicalisation in Central Asia

An interview with Bhavna Davé, a senior lecturer in Central Asian politics with the department of politics and international studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Interviewer: Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska

October 31, 2017 - Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska Bhavna Davé

The crawling threat of the Crimea scenario

Kazakhstan staunchly sides with Russia in global affairs and supports many of its integration initiatives in the former Soviet space. However, following the annexation of Crimea the fear that Kazakhstan's ethnic Russian regions might share the peninsula's fate has returned.

Kazakh citizens arriving at the railway station in the northern sleepy town of Petropavlovsk may find it puzzling that the clocks on the station’s walls show a time different than the local time zone. The oddity stems from the fact that the Petropavlovsk station, as well as many other Kazakh stations in North Kazakhstan region, lies along Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway and is operated by the Russian Railways company – hence, the clocks show Moscow time, which is three hours behind the local time. North Kazakhstan is also one of the two Kazakh regions, along with the neighbouring Kostanay region, where ethnic Russians still outnumber ethnic Kazakhs, despite the continuing depopulation processes caused by the emigration of ethnic Russians to Russia and higher birth rate among ethnic Kazakhs.

October 31, 2017 - Naubet Bisenov

A looming humanitarian crisis in the land Orwell forgot

Turkmenistan, a desert republic of 5.6 million people and widely considered to be one of the world’s most repressive states, is heading towards a humanitarian catastrophe the effects of which could be geopolitically significant.

October 31, 2017 - Christopher Schwartz

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